Belfast Telegraph

Belfast bonfire tower block residents get pledge

By Cate McCurry

Residents of a 10-storey tower block damaged by an Eleventh Night bonfire were last night assured it will not be allowed to happen again

Statutory agencies met with around 30 residents of the apartments at the Victoria Place building in Sandy Row to address the issues surrounding the controversial bonfire. Windows were cracked and scorch damage was caused on Tuesday week ago as fire fighters battled to prevent the blaze from spreading.

Those attending the meeting included representatives from Belfast City Council, Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and the PSNI.

Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough Brown praised those who attended the meeting.

"Residents angry but agencies agreed to do more and try harder," he tweeted.

He further stated that a meeting would be arranged in September for an update on how the issues raised were being addressed.

"We cannot allow residents to bear the risk of contentious issues alone," he added.

It's understood there was no unionist representation at the meeting.

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna described it as a "constructive" meeting.

"Residents are very frustrated but they are also very reasonable and they put their case to the agencies," she said.

"They have been around the block over the years trying to get their property protected.

"The agencies left with no doubt they will have to act on this.

"It's my view that we need fresh legislation on this as no individual land owner should have to challenge their way through this political mess."

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill said that the racism and sectarianism surrounding some of the Eleventh Night bonfires were an "ugly reminder" of the difficulties Northern Ireland still faces.

One resident told UTV: "Coming out of your home on a ninth or 10th storey, less than a month after Grenfell (Tower tragedy in London) and seeing the Fire Brigade running upstairs with hoses and sandbags is a terrifying experience - and not one residents should have to put up with."

Those living there are being forced to pick up the bill.

An NIO statement said that the issue of bonfires is "complex", and involves a number of organisations operating within the devolved administration, such as the council and land owner.

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