West Belfast bonfire forces disabled centre to shut
Calls have been made to remove a bonfire in west Belfast that has forced the closure of a day centre for vulnerable adults.
The anti-internment bonfire is situated close to Mica Day Centre in Beechmount, which is attended by around 40 people with learning difficulties.
The bonfire is due to be lit this evening, prompting the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust to close the centre for one day today on the grounds of safety.
A spokeswoman for the trust said: "We have taken the decision to make alternative arrangements for the provision of day services for adults with learning disabilities who attend Mica Drive for Friday, August 8 only.
"The decision has been taken in an effort to reduce anxiety and to maintain the safety and well-being of service users and staff who attend Mica Day Centre." However, local politicians have called for the bonfire to be removed, saying the community does not want it.
Sinn Fein MP for West Belfast Paul Maskey said bonfires were symbols of the past and that all of them should be banned.
"This bonfire is not just forcing the closure of a centre for vulnerable adults for one day, but is messing up their families' schedules," he said.
"The community does not want this bonfire and I would call for it to be dismantled ahead of tonight. There is absolutely no need for it."
Mr Maskey added: "All bonfires should be removed as they are things of the past.
"They attract an anti-social element, destroy the environment and costs hundreds and thousands of pounds to resurface."
SDLP MLA Alex Attwood also said that bonfires were not wanted in the area.
"The disruption and anxiety caused by west Belfast bonfires has only one remedy – that is they should be taken down and if not, there should be acceptance that bonfires should not be built again," he said.
"Bonfires are not what the community want, they create health and safety issues, they are hostile to the environment and they could be a magnet for anti-social activity.
No one at the day centre was available to comment.