Two Stormont ministers have failed in a legal bid to force police in Northern Ireland to assist in removing a contentious loyalist bonfire.

Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and SDLP Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon took proceedings against the PSNI over its decision not to intervene on the bonfire in the loyalist area of Tiger's Bay in north Belfast.

The police declined to offer protection to removal contractors, citing concerns that their intervention could lead to disorder.

The ministers' bid to compel the police to act failed at emergency High Court proceedings today.

More than 230 bonfires are expected to be lit across Northern Ireland this weekend, ahead of the 12th of July celebrations.

The one built in a sensitive interface area between the loyalist Tigers Bay and nationalist New Lodge is a source of great controversy.

Residents in New Lodge claim they are living in fear and that their homes have been attacked by missiles from the bonfire site.

Responding to the failure of her legal challenge, Ms Hargey said: "I am disappointed with the decision. It remains my view that this illegal bonfire is not appropriate at this interface location.

"Local residents have the right to live free from attacks on their homes and free from intimidation and anti-social behaviour.

"In 2021 those people living at community interfaces should not have to tolerate illegal bonfires which threaten their properties and safety."

Earlier, Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill said that government ministers "shouldn't have to take the PSNI to court to do their job".

Stormont's Deputy First Minister added: "The PSNI should move in to remove the bonfire. Bonfires are not a celebration of culture and they should not be put into an interface area that heightens tensions and causes bother."

But loyalists have rejected suggestions the location of the bonfire was deliberately provocative and have accused nationalists and republicans of whipping up tensions.

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Jeffrey Donaldson said the bonfire should be allowed to go ahead and he called the potential legal action an "unfortunate use of Ministerial Office".

The DUP leader said that "controversial, significant or cross-cutting matters" should be considered by the Northern Ireland Executive as a whole rather than individual minister.

He said that Sinn Féin and the SDLP needed to dial down "anti-loyalist rhetoric" and display "some level of tolerance".