Bonfires: Belfast Councillors meet to discuss bonfire plans

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Bonfire builders who removed tyres from two sites in east Belfast have told the BBC there is now no need for the city council to take action. Loyalist representatives from east Belfast met the PSNI on Tuesday morning. Belfast City Council had decided to remove materials from both sites due to environmental concerns. Councillors are meeting again to reconsider their plans to remove bonfire material in Belfast.

  • Staff ‘threatened’ at Belfast leisure centre
  • Bonfire builders remove tyres from Belfast sites

On Monday, those that built a bonfire at Ashdale Street near Connswater Shopping Centre moved it voluntarily. The material was moved to King George’s Playing Field, close to the Oval football ground. At Avoniel Leisure Centre a bonfire is being rebuilt after tyres were voluntarily removed. The action comes after contractors, acting on behalf of the council, removed 1,800 tyres from a site in south Belfast on Sunday.

‘Talk to me’

Speaking after meeting with police, Robert Girvin, from the East Belfast Cultural Collective, which represents a number of bonfire builders, said he would meet with councillors from any party to address concerns over the Avoniel bonfire.

“Have dialogue with us. Tell us exactly what your issue is with this bonfire,” he said.

“It follows Northern Ireland Fire Service guidelines. The tyres have been removed.

“Talk to me. Or talk to the collective. And let us know exactly – apart from your attempts to erode our culture – what is the issue?” Tensions have been building ahead of bonfires being lit before the Twelfth of July marches. Bonfires are lit in some Protestant areas in Northern Ireland on 11 July, the night before Orange Order members commemorate the 1690 Battle of the Boyne with parades across Northern Ireland.

‘Celebrate our culture’

Bonfire builders in Avoniel decided to remove the tyres and rebuild their bonfire before the council’s decision, community representatives said. However, Sinn Féin councillor Ciaran Beattie insisted the problem was just not the tyres but the height and mass of the bonfires and the threat posed to nearby buildings. While welcoming the relocation of materials from Ashdale Street, he insisted the council should still take action at Avoniel.

“Nothing has changed as far as we are concerned, bar the tyres being removed,” he said.

“There is still a dangerous bonfire on that site.”

Senior Orangeman Rev Mervyn Gibson called for Belfast City Council to “respond with common sense and positivity” and claimed the Avoniel bonfire was not a danger to any buildings. “What would increase tensions again is if people moved in to take the wood now. Local people don’t want that,” he added.

‘Beggars belief’

In Portadown, the local council is expected to resume discussions with emergency services to finalise an action plan around an unsafe bonfire beside flats at Drumilly Green Residents have been advised to leave their homes before the fire is lit later this week.

A special meeting of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council was held on Monday to discuss residents’ concerns and councillors were told a contractor could not be found to remove firewood from the bonfire. Afterwards, Sinn Féin councillor Catherine Nelson said it “beggars belief”. “We’re asking those people to evacuate their homes so that a bonfire can be lit – if they don’t evacuate their homes, their lives are at risk,” she said. “That’s not acceptable in 2019.”

Bonfires: Belfast Councillors meet to discuss bonfire plans 1
Materials were moved from Ashdale Street near Connswater Shopping Centre to a green site near to the Oval

On Sunday, tyres from the Lismore Street bonfire were removed under police guard and taken from the area. Avoniel Leisure Centre was closed the same day as the entrance was barricaded by men acting in a “threatening” way towards It is estimated there are 80-100 bonfires in Belfast this year, with 35 signed up to an official scheme funded by the city council staff.

Bonfires: Belfast Councillors meet to discuss bonfire plans 2
Bonfire builders voluntarily removed tyres from the Avoniel site

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