Tensions mount as High Court injunction halts the building of four bonfires on council land
Tensions between a number of bonfire organisers and Belfast City Council increased last night after the council obtained a High Court injunction preventing any further material being brought to four sites on its land.
The injunction covers a bonfire site at Ravenscroft Avenue/Bloomfield walkway which hit the headlines last month when it emerged that the council had been storing material for the pyre.
The other sites are Avoniel Leisure Centre car park, Inverary playing fields and Cregagh Park East. The injunction is intended to prevent the existing bonfires becoming any larger before they are ignited on the July 11, and also prevents anyone from staying on the sites.Pictured: Fire Service dealt with blaze at controversial Northern Ireland bonfire site for almost 12 hours
The injunction states: "If you disobey this order you may be found guilty of contempt of court and may be sent to prison, fined or your assets may be seized."
However, there appeared to be some confusion last night over how the injunction would be enforced.
A Belfast City Council spokesman said responsibility for enforcing the ruling fell to the PSNI.
However, yesterday evening the PSNI did not appear to be in attendance at any of the four sites.
In statement a spokeswoman said the PSNI was committed to working with Belfast City Council on the issue, and had written to the council in regard to the injunction.
A spokesperson for one of the bonfires named in the injunction told the Belfast Telegraph last night that they will not talk to the media.
Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson said he has been working with a number of the affected bonfire groups and said that organisers were angered by the injunctions.
"It is inflammatory, it is dangerous and it is a gross breach of faith. I would call - and many loyalists in east Belfast have voiced their agreement - on all loyalists to seriously consider relationships with statutory agencies," he said.
"This is a broad injunction and the strategy appears to be to preclude a challenge by ensuring that whoever identified themselves as a 'defendant' would be de facto taking upon themselves liability for the bonfire. The bonfire groups will naturally be responding to this outrageous move in a considered, measured and strategic manner."Sinn Fein on a witch-hunt over pallets, says Rodgers
A number of unionist councillors in Belfast who were contacted last night were either unavailable or did not wish to comment on the situation.
Nationalists welcomed the move by the council.
Sinn Fein leader at Belfast City Hall Jim McVeigh said the council should remove material from the bonfire sites.
"Sinn Fein called for injunctions such as these to be taken this week in order to protect council property," he said.
"The gathering and storing of materials has disrupted the use of some of these sites, and by burning of these large pyres council property would be further destroyed. It is critically important that the PSNI and Belfast City Council act upon these injunctions to ensure that the dangerous material already gathered at these sites is safely removed to protect the people, homes and property in the vicinity of these illegal bonfires."
SDLP councillor Tim Attwood tweeted: "I welcome the fact that BCC have injuncted four bonfire sites.
"It's vital that we take every step to clear sites and protect homes from illegal bonfires."
Earlier, Belfast City Council confirmed a threat to its staff had been reported to police and as a result some staff have been restricted from carrying out duties in some parts of east Belfast.
"We take the safety of our staff extremely seriously and we have encouraged any member of staff with specific concerns to report them to their supervisor or manager immediately so that the appropriate support can be provided," the council said.
"We cannot comment further, as this is now the subject of a police investigation."