| 10.7°C Belfast

Belfast council debate less heated over bonfires... but caution remains

Close

Bonfire under construction at Antrim

Bonfire under construction at Antrim

Photopress

Bonfire under construction at Portadown

Bonfire under construction at Portadown

Photopress

Bonfire under construction at Newtownards

Bonfire under construction at Newtownards

Photopress Belfast

Bonfire under construction at  east Belfast

Bonfire under construction at east Belfast

Photopress

Bonfire under construction at Antrim

External contractors remain on standby to remove contentious Eleventh Night bonfires in Belfast, the Belfast Telegraph understands.

A special meeting of Belfast City Council's Strategic Policy and Resources Committee on Thursday afternoon is understood to have considered the issue of loyalist bonfires on a case by case basis, but the meeting was much less heated than in previous years.

The council is still working with community leaders around several sites in the Belfast area where bonfires have been constructed for the traditional celebrations, with only a couple of sites causing concern. Officials will continue to monitor the situation over the weekend.

While the council is unwilling to identify those sites, it is understood a bonfire constructed on the Tigers Bay side of Duncairn Gardens is one of those being closely monitored.

Another bonfire at Holywood Arches in the east of the city has already been relocated.

Concern was expressed that the events around the funeral of leading republican Bobby Storey will cause flashpoints in areas where tensions are already high.

But engagements with community representatives will be continuing over the weekend, and there was praise for the work already done by community representatives in attempting to ease those tensions.

Close

Bonfire under construction at Portadown

Bonfire under construction at Portadown

Photopress

Bonfire under construction at Portadown

In previous years, outside contractors have come under attack when moving to dismantle contentious bonfires in several areas of Belfast.

Orange Order Grand Secretary Rev Mervyn Gibson urged those planning to attend a bonfire to do so safely. "I've already made my position clear and I won't be attending a bonfire this year," he said. "I urge others to do likewise."

He added: "I would prefer it if there were no bonfires taking place this year at all, but I appeal to organisers to ensure that all precautions are taken around social distancing. Bonfires which do go ahead will be a lot smaller than usual."

It had been expected that no bonfires would be taking place because of Covid-19, but the Executive is now permitting outside gatherings of up to 30 people.

The PSNI urged people to participate safely and responsibly in Twelfth events, and to do so from home if possible.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: "We understand that many people will be looking forward to events over the weekend, many of them planned to take place virtually, and it is vitally important that everyone continues to be mindful of the serious risk that Covid-19 still poses to our health. Online events will give people the opportunity to participate in celebrations while staying at home.

Close

Bonfire under construction at Newtownards

Bonfire under construction at Newtownards

Photopress Belfast

Bonfire under construction at Newtownards

"For anyone who is leaving their home I would urge them to continue to maintain safe social distancing and increased hygiene measures.

"I would also ask everyone to be respectful of others and maintain a safe environment for everyone and give thought to the impact that excess drinking and disorderly behaviour may have on the emergency services at this time."

Close

Bonfire under construction at  east Belfast

Bonfire under construction at east Belfast

Photopress

Bonfire under construction at east Belfast

East Belfast Cultural Collective said it would not seek to prevent loyalists attending bonfires but urged everyone to adhere to public health regulations.

Belfast Telegraph