Belfast Telegraph

Bonfire injunction: 'What is the council and PSNI going to do... take about 700 of us to court?'

 

By Brett Campbell

Bonfire builders remained defiant yesterday after a High Court injunction forbidding more material to be used on pyres at four contentious sites in east Belfast sparked anger.

Tempers flared at the Avoniel Leisure Centre site yesterday as local organisers warned they had no intention of complying with the court order granted to Belfast City Council, which also prohibits people staying on-site.

But the lack of a police or council presence at any of the locations raised questions about how it will be enforced.

"If someone dumps wood then they dump wood: what are we meant to do about it?" asked one bonfire builder.

"We certainly won't be turning anyone away, and what are they going to do about it - take about 700 people to court?"

The young man, who is suspicious of the council's actions, claimed that no one from Avoniel Leisure Centre had ever raised an issue about the bonfire.

"This isn't happening anywhere else. We are being singled out because they are trying to take the bonfire away from east Belfast," he said.

Dumping continued at another controversial bonfire site at Inverary playing fields, which lay deserted yesterday afternoon.

One person described it as the "quietest it has ever been".

However, a sign reading 'dump wood here' remained in place as one man unknowingly breached the injunction.

"I'm not from around here. I'm just doing a bit of gardening for a lady and she asked me to dump the wood here," he said.

At a third site on Ravenscroft Avenue at the Bloomfield walkway, residents were hard at work from yesterday morning in a community effort to tidy up the area ahead of a family fun day.

Despite the anger, residents were doing their best to comply with the court decision and turned away anyone who wanted to add to the bonfire.

However, they said they were baffled as to why the council had not showed up to enforce it.

"We think they should be here. They went to court to argue that this is their land yet they have no presence here," one resident said.

"We hate them for what they have done. It was a dirty deed, but any talk of a threat against council staff is nonsense."

Residents have blocked vehicle access to the car park and put up a sign warning people against dumping bonfire materials at the site.

The Belfast Telegraph witnessed one female resident turn away a van driver who pulled up hoping to offload rubbish.

"No more, we have enough," she told him before he drove away looking confused.

Speaking afterwards, she said people "just want peace" but insisted that authorities must accept "bonfires are part and parcel of our culture".

Pointing to Naomi Long's Alliance Party office, the resident said no one relied on politicians.

"Look what they did - they got our flag taken down, so why would we go to her?" she said.

No one was available for comment at the Cregagh Park East site.

Meanwhile, residents in south Belfast who proudly boast the city's biggest bonfire, described a very different experience and praised the council for being "more than helpful" at the Roden Street site.

"They helped us seal off a hole in the fence to stop kids getting out onto the busy road," one man said.

"The council only want to keep everyone happy and that is our aim as well.

"It's a community effort and we are now ready for our big night."

He said it took two weeks of "blood, sweat and tears" for 25 men to erect the 8,000-pallet structure.

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