Belfast Telegraph

Bonfire builders to hold 'cultural celebration' overnight at Avoniel Leisure Centre - they want flute bands 'to play throughout the night'

Loyalists make their feelings known at the Avoniel bonfire in east Belfast
Loyalists make their feelings known at the Avoniel bonfire in east Belfast

Bonfire builders have announced they will be holding a "cultural celebration" outside Belfast's Avoniel Leisure Centre on Wednesday night.

The East Belfast Cultural Collective said they will hold the event overnight into Thursday morning.

They called on "loyalists across Northern Ireland" to attend and encouraged flute bands to play through the night.

In a statement the group thanked the public for the support they had received.

They also issued a warning to police relations would become "irreparably damaged" if they move in to help contractors remove the bonfire wood, but stressed they did not want confrontation.

 "We have been absolutely astounded by the levels of support from across the country and the help being provided by people making sandwiches, bringing tea or simply standing in solidarity with the unionists of Avoniel who are standing in defence of our culture and traditions," the statement read

"We reiterate our consistent position. Loyalists do not want confrontation with the PSNI. Any proposed invasion of Avoniel has no community or unionist political support.

"There is no threat to life or property, no tyres and no community support for the removal of this cultural bonfire. As such there is no legal necessity to invade the area and such an action would be completely disproportionate."

The statement said the group wanted to meet with political representatives.

"Should the Chief Constable (Simon Byrne) decide to allow the PSNI to become pawns of nationalists and republicans and invade our community without any unionist support or consent, then relationships with the PSNI will be irreparably damaged," it said.

"Our group would again ask to meet with representatives of all political parties to allow them the opportunity to explain their aggressive actions towards our community."

Belfast City Council is meeting on Wednesday afternoon to consider the situation with the bonfire, built on council-owned land.

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 protesters gathered at the bonfire on Tuesday evening following the vote.

Loyalists make their feelings known at the Avoniel bonfire in east Belfast
Loyalists make their feelings known at the Avoniel bonfire in east Belfast

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