Belfast Telegraph

Bonfires: police attacked as council staff dismantle internment pyre in west Belfast

By Claire Williamson

A 13-year-old boy was arrested after a petrol bomb was thrown following a stand-off during the removal of wood from a republican bonfire.

Police were at the scene as council workers removed wood from the anti-internment pyre in the Cullingtree Road area of west Belfast.

The boy was arrested along with a 19-year-old man yesterday morning at Albert Street on suspicion of riotous behaviour and possession of a petrol bomb.

They were later released on police bail pending further enquiries.

The council staff had removed part of the bonfire when it is understood wing mirrors were ripped off their van.

A spokesman for the PSNI said: "Police are always willing to progress community concerns on a broad number of issues, including bonfires. Whilst not the lead organisation on the issue of the sitting of bonfires, we understand we have a role to play and will assist other statutory bodies to carry out their duties if called upon.

"We always advise that organisers ensure they have sought permission from relevant landowners and that bonfires are safe, pose no threat to life or property, and are not likely to prompt a breach of the peace or any other offence.

"Whilst the physical removal of bonfires is not a matter for police, local neighbourhood officers can and do attend when requested to do so by agencies involved in bonfire removal." The removal came one day before bonfires are due to be lit to commemorate the introduction of internment without trial in 1971.

On Sunday a republican parade through Belfast city centre that sparked major rioting last year will take place.

Belfast City Council explained it does "sometimes assist" in the removal of bonfire material, but only "upon request from communities and their representatives, and each request is considered on a case by case basis".

It said, in most cases, a third party carries out the removal if it is agreed. A spokeswoman said: "The council does not have a policy on the removal of bonfire materials in Belfast.

"Our community safety team works closely throughout the year with the police, local residents and community groups on all community safety and anti-social behaviour issues including bonfires."

She added: "Over the past few weeks we have worked with local residents and community organisations to help them with the removal of material from nine sites across Belfast.

"The costs for the removal of bonfire materials have not been calculated yet – any further community requests for the removal of bonfire material will be considered on an individual basis."

Sinn Fein MLA Fra McCann said: "Many community representatives all work tirelessly to try and bring people away from the bonfires and to try and get them to put their energy into positive things."

SDLP councillor Colin Keenan said: "There is always concerns that anti-social elements within the community use these bonfires as a beacon to bring that trouble to people's doorsteps.

"The best way to deal with this is to invest the money used in the removal of wood in the use of diversionary activities – working with the youth of the area to find more constructive activities to engage in."

Further reading

Fury as structure's proximity forces disabled centre to shut

Sinn Fein councillor: Return stolen Union flag now

Gerry Adams effigy hangs from loyalist Ballycraigy bonfire in Antrim

Burning of Sinn Fein posters 'is voodoo, not culture'

Return the stolen Mary statue, says DUP man

In Pictures: Twelfth of July bonfires across Northern Ireland

Orange Order: don't burn tyres on bonfires

Mike Nesbitt calls for removal of election posters placed on loyalist bonfires

Alliance's Anna Lo 'disgusted' by loyalist bonfire posters

Loyalists urged not to burn Pope effigies on Eleventh night bonfires

£30k for purpose-built bonfire site in Ballyduff estate ‘abuse of ratepayers’ cash’  

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