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City centre bonfire reckless and stupid

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 05/07/2016

The controversial Chobham Street bonfire last year
The controversial Chobham Street bonfire last year

The siting of another large bonfire near a hotel close to Belfast city centre again brings this manifestation of unionist culture into focus.

There is no suggestion that bonfires should be banned, or even limited in number. After all, bonfires are a time honoured way of showing appreciation or marking a special event as happened when pyres and beacons were lit around the UK and in some Commonwealth countries to celebrate both the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and her 90th birthday this year.

It should also be pointed out that most of the bonfires set ablaze on the Eleventh Night in Northern Ireland are non-contentious.

But there are some which cause concern. Last year it was a massive one at Chobham Street in east Belfast, which threatened the homes of several people and required the attendance of firemen to keep the buildings from overheating.

The site of that fire has been moved this year but is still causing problems because it is near a newly opened children's playground. The bonfire in central Belfast is also problematic because of its proximity to the hotel and to one of the city's main thoroughfares.

It seems some bonfire builders want to demonstrate that they can flout the law even if it means that their actions can only harm or endanger people who share the same loyalties and culture as themselves. Such behaviour seems both reckless and stupid.

Just what the residents of the nearby hotel will make of Belfast when they open their windows and see this huge blazing edifice practically on their doorsteps is anyone's guess. But there is a fair chance that unless they have come to the area specifically to take part in Eleventh Night festivities they will be less than impressed.

Ideally, there should be an over-arching policy on bonfire building covering such elements as siting, the materials that can be burned and the height of the structure. In the absence of a province-wide set of rules or guidelines then local agreements should be made well before the bonfires are built.

If properties or people are endangered the police and other statutory agencies including local authorities should remove the offending bonfire and bring the organisers to book. Otherwise it sends out a signal that those who build bonfires are beyond the law, and is also an insult to ordinary law abiding citizens.

Belfast Telegraph

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