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Will it take a death for politicians to finally do something about bonfires?

 

All right-thinking people will have been appalled at the loss of life and anguish caused by the Grenfell Tower fire.

In the days that have followed, it is clear that the concerns of residents about the possibility of such a disaster happening were pressed time and again with the local council and other departments and agencies of government, but it appears that their warnings went unheeded.

In Northern Ireland, every year on July 11, massive structures up to 80ft high that we still refer to as 'bonfires' are set alight in loyalist areas in close proximity to houses. Last year, because of a bonfire, homes in Hopewell Square in the lower Shankill area were gutted, making families homeless and costing £90,000 to repair.

In 2015, we had the grotesque spectacle of residents being evacuated from houses in Chobham Street, east Belfast, and properties being boarded up by authorities to facilitate a similar loyalist towering inferno.

In 2013, in Articlave, Co Londonderry, Northern Ireland Electricity had to remove overhead power lines serving 300 homes because of fears about a bonfire built with utter disregard for community safety.

Every year, despite the hand-wringing of councils, politicians, the PSNI and government departments charged with the preserving the health and safety of our community, these pyres are built with impunity and set alight.

What will it take to finally galvanise the authorities into taking action? Is it only when someone dies as a result of these monstrosities to culture being burned that sense will prevail?

NAME AND ADDRESS WITH EDITOR

Belfast Telegraph

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