Belfast Telegraph

Apartment block damaged by loyalist bonfire 'is fully insured'

A Belfast apartment block damaged by a loyalist bonfire is fully insured and repairs will be undertaken, the MP for the area has said.

Emma Little Pengelly also pledged to work with the community in Sandy Row to ensure the incident would not be repeated.

Windows in the high-rise building in central Belfast shattered and other scorch damage was sustained during the bonfire on Tuesday night.

Firefighters spent the night dousing the tower on Wellwood Street with water in an effort to prevent it catching fire.

Affected residents have demanded accountability and questioned who will pay for what is likely to be a significant repair bill.

The Government and Belfast City Council have ruled out offering compensation.

Democratic Unionist MP for South Belfast, Mrs Little Pengelly said she had spoken to the property manager and he was endeavouring to get the building repaired quickly.

"I will be in regular contact with him to ensure this happens," she said.

"This building is fully insured and these repairs will happen."

The politician said many residents were "worried, upset and fearful" during the bonfire.

"That is wrong and should not happen," she said.

On Friday, the Northern Ireland Office countered speculation that the Government could pick up the repair tab.

"The Northern Ireland Office does not operate a bonfire compensation scheme," said a spokeswoman.

"The issue of bonfires is complex and often involves a number of organisations operating within the devolved administration such as the local council and the respective landowner.

"Where an individual is seeking compensation for damage to property, the specific circumstances of each claim will define the process."

Belfast City Council said it also did not operate a bonfire compensation scheme.

A spokesman said: "The council works with a range of partner agencies and communities to mitigate the most negative impacts of bonfires. However, it has no role in relation to the bonfire itself."

Huge bonfires burned in loyalist areas across Northern Ireland on Tuesday night and into the early hours of Wednesday to usher in the main date in the loyal order marching season - the Twelfth of July.

Firefighters in the region dealt with 40 bonfire-related incidents - up 21% on last year - on a night when they received 213 emergency calls in total and mobilised to 133 incidents overall - a 49% hike on 2016.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) described the night as "exceptionally busy", with crews dealing with 95 operational incidents between 10pm and 1am.

Homes were boarded up at a number of bonfire sites amid concerns around safety and risk to property.

The towering bonfires, most built with stacks of wooden pallets, are ignited each year to herald the Twelfth of July, when loyalists and unionists commemorate Protestant King William of Orange's victory over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland in 1690.

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