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Coronavirus: Bonfire builders to hold Eleventh Night discussions

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Bonfire builders stockpiling pallets in Orangefield Park in preparation for their annual 11th night bonfires

Bonfire builders stockpiling pallets in Orangefield Park in preparation for their annual 11th night bonfires

Bonfire builders stockpiling pallets in Orangefield Park in preparation for their annual 11th night bonfires

Bonfire builders in Belfast are set to hold "pragmatic discussions" within loyalist communities before deciding on whether Eleventh Night pyres will be built this year.

It comes after the Orange Order yesterday announced that there would be no Twelfth of July parades because of the ongoing fight to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.

Jamie Bryson, who acts as a spokesman for the East Belfast Cultural Collective, told the Belfast Telegraph: "Bonfires have local community ownership so it's not really as straightforward as any umbrella group making an overriding decision.

"However, certainly in East Belfast, North Down and Ards - and I would presume other areas as well - there will be sensible and pragmatic discussions with bonfire builders.

"Thus far, many bonfire and community groups have undertaken fantastic work within their local areas, including delivering food and essentials to the elderly and making donations to help in the fight against Covid-19.

"The young people deserve immense credit for all their hard work and I think it's only fair that is reflected as many of the same young people are often demonised during the July period each year.

"I do not think there is anyone within the loyalist community who would seek to place their own neighbours and wider community at risk.

"I think we must be guided by the public health advice and, in that vein, if there remains even the slightest risk to the community from Covid-19 then I think you will see a sensible, mature and pragmatic approach from all bonfire groups."

The East Belfast Cultural Collective represents 15 bonfires and was formed in recent years to defend those that have courted controversy in the area.

Last year, Belfast City Council objected to the bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre and attempts were made to move it before a contractor pulled out after graffiti threats appeared nearby.

The bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre had been contentious because tyres had been placed on it to be burnt and it was built on council property without permission.

Hundreds of people gathered to protest against the council's decision to remove the bonfire despite builders voluntarily removing tyres after contractors removed 1,800 from another bonfire nearby.

But local loyalist sources have told this newspaper it is likely that, following discussions, bonfires will also be cancelled this year after the decision made on the Twelfth of July parades.

Orange Grand Master Edward Stevenson said the decision was taken in light of the ongoing pandemic and current government health advice on restricting gatherings.

Belfast Telegraph