Belfast Telegraph

SF says bonfire next to Belfast flats 'not wanted and dangerous'

By Christine Carrigan

Anger has flared over the construction of a nationalist bonfire close to high-rise flats and a children's nursery in the New Lodge in north Belfast.

Sinn Fein has criticised builders of the anti-internment pyre at Victoria Parade, off North Queen Street, branding it "anti-social" and a "misery" for residents.

Sinn Fein councillor JJ Magee condemned the bonfire and voiced concerns for the safety of locals, saying they were "totally against it".

To demonstrate the potential hazards of the bonfire, which is being built in a confined area, Mr Magee pointed to the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London and an apartment building that was damaged in Belfast's Sandy Row on the Eleventh Night.

He told the Irish News: "It brings it all home to everybody how dangerous these bonfires are, not just what happened in London but what happened in Sandy Row.

"It is not just a myth that these bonfires are dangerous."

The councillor revealed that hundreds of pallets destined for the pyre and thrown into residents' gardens had already been removed by the community.

He said: "We have lifted over 300 pallets from people's back gardens, people living in fear of them getting lit overnight.

"We have lifted some from around the tower blocks. It is a constant game of cat-and-mouse."

He urged local youths to be mindful of their neighbours and of their homes.

Bonfires are lit annually in some nationalist areas to mark the anniversary of the introduction of internment on August 9, 1971. Locals were reluctant to comment on the anti-internment bonfire when approached by the Belfast Telegraph yesterday afternoon.

Meanwhile, residents of the 10-storey Sandy Row apartment block damaged by a loyalist bonfire were assured on Wednesday night that it will not be allowed to happen again.

Windows were cracked and scorch damage was caused on Tuesday a week ago as firefighters battled to prevent the blaze from spreading.

Statutory agencies met with around 30 residents of the Victoria Place building to address the issues surrounding the controversial bonfire.

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

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