Belfast Telegraph

Belfast council to meet again on Avoniel bonfire as leisure centre remains closed

Loyalists held a rally at Avoniel Leisure Centre on Tuesday to protest against the council decision to demolish it (Liam McBurney/PA)
Loyalists held a rally at Avoniel Leisure Centre on Tuesday to protest against the council decision to demolish it (Liam McBurney/PA)

Belfast City Council is set to meet for the third time in three days to discuss the bonfire outside Avoniel Leisure Centre.

The leisure centre remained closed on Wednesday following a large protest outside the facility on Tuesday night.

It is understood council's Strategic Policy and Resources Committee will meet again on Wednesday afternoon to consider the situation.

On Monday and Tuesday, a majority of members voted for contractors to move in to demolish the structure and take away bonfire materials and flags erected on council property.

Bonfire builders voluntarily removed tyres from the structure on Monday, but councillors gave the go-ahead for the structure to be removed from council-owned land.

A number of paramilitary flags have also been erected around the leisure centre.

Hundreds of loyalist protestors gathered at the bonfire on Tuesday evening following the vote.

Robert Girvin of the East Belfast Cultural Collective, which represents bonfire builders, said the Avoniel pyre would be lit on the Eleventh night, as planned.

"This bonfire is going nowhere and is being lit. I give you a guarantee that there will be a bonfire here on the Eleventh. We will be there to celebrate our culture, not defend it," he added.

Jamie Bryson, who also represents the bonfire builders, said there was no community or political support for its removal.

The chained and barricaded entrance gates to Avoniel Leisure Centre (Liam McBurney/PA)
The chained and barricaded entrance gates to Avoniel Leisure Centre (Liam McBurney/PA)

"This bonfire poses no risk to life or property and those who have built it have done everything to ensure that it will be peaceful and a positive celebration of culture," he added.

Speaking on Wednesday morning Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown said that he was hopeful the bonfire material would be removed.

"At the end of the day there are standards which need to be set in terms of behaviour of people in the city and if people are willing to burn tyres, menace private property and destroy council facilities then we can't put up with that," he said.

The leisure centre initially closed early on Sunday after bonfire builders blocked the entranceway to the facility amid claims that staff and members of the public felt threatened and intimidated.

It then reopened on Monday before closing early once again on Tuesday as the row over the bonfire n the car park raged on.

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