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Belfast bonfire collections start six months ahead of Eleventh night

By Claire Williamson

Bonfire builders have started collecting wood six months ahead of the Eleventh Night.

Collections of wood pallets have started at two places in east Belfast.

The piles of wood can be seen at Connswater Greenway and the Cregagh estate.

Bonfires across Northern Ireland can get thousands in funding from councils through bonfire management programmes.

The bonfire management programme provides funding to host family-friendly events. Not every bonfire organising committee in Belfast is signed up to it.

It has a set of rules that they must abide by - including that collections can't start until June.

UUP councillor Jim Rogers told the BBC Nolan show said that a "heavy hand" response from authorities would make the situation worse.

He called for the materials to be removed and stored.

He said: "It has happened before. Community workers are talking to people who have been involved, pointing out that it's much too early.

He added: "We are serious, we can't go in with a heavy hand. You simply can't, otherwise you are going to make the situation much worse.

"These are young people who want to celebrate their culture.

"I support bonfires but all I'm saying is it's much too early.

"We need to get the source of where the pallets are coming from.

"We won't turn a blind eye. The council cleansing staff finds out who actually brought the pallets they will take action, make no mistake about that."

PUP councillor John Kyle said "confrontation" would alienate those in the community.

Mr Kyle said: "This is a long held tradition for decades that young people build bonfires.

"January is far far far too early. We all agree with that and you have to deal with it but with engagement with young people and removal and storage of the pallets.

"If you create confrontation and alienate then the whole situation is all going to get worse."

A Belfast City Council spokesman said: "We are aware of reports of pallets being deposited on sites at Avoniel and Cregagh.  We will work with local elected representatives and other partner agencies to minimise any issues arising.

"Our inter agency group will also continue to work with communities across Belfast to improve the way bonfires are managed.”

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