Belfast Telegraph

Bonfire on Department for Infrastructure Belfast land ‘completely unacceptable’

The pyre has been built in the New Lodge area of north Belfast to mark the anniversary of the introduction of internment in 1971.

The controversial bonfire in the New Lodge area
The controversial bonfire in the New Lodge area
Sinister graffiti
Police are under pressure to act over threatening graffiti around a bonfire in north Belfast (PA)

The Department for Infrastructure has slammed a bonfire in north Belfast as “completely unacceptable”.

The pyre in the New Lodge area is due to be lit on the night of August 8 to mark the anniversary of the introduction of the controversial policy of internment on August 9 1971.

Politicians from both Sinn Fein and the SDLP have said the people in the area do not want the bonfire.

It is currently on land owned by the department, but it has declined to say whether it has any plans to step in to remove it.

Instead a spokesman said it will “continue to work with its statutory partners to identify the best way of supporting the local community and ensuring the safety of road users, staff and contractors”.

Sinister graffiti appeared close to the bonfire on Tuesday, threatening that if the structure is removed then a nearby community centre will be targeted.

The graffiti is set to be removed by council workers.

A spokesman for Belfast City Council told PA: “Council will endeavour to remove the contentious graffiti as soon as practicably possible.”

SDLP councillor Paul McCusker said people in the New Lodge do not want the bonfire.

“If there are threats made towards anybody, the job of police is to keep people safe, to ensure that these threats are investigated and also people are being protected, particularly buildings which are an important resource to the New Lodge, there’s a family centre there,” he told the BBC’s Nolan Show.

“There are serious concerns around the level of threat here, serious concerns in terms of the level of criminality, and when that happens no one can deal with that, only the police.

“I will be speaking to police today to see what they plan on doing.”

Sinn Fein MLA Caral Ni Chuilin called for the removal of the bonfire.

She said the bonfire “isn’t wanted” and should be removed, and “all the criminal behaviour needs dealt with”.

PSNI Chief Inspector Kelly Moore said police are investigating the graffiti.

“Just before 8am yesterday we received a report about graffiti which has been painted on the walls of a property in the Queens Parade area of north Belfast some time overnight,” she said.

“Officers are currently investigating and I would ask anyone with any information to contact us on 101 quoting reference number 267 06/08/19.”

The Department for Infrastructure spokesman said: “The use of a public road in New Lodge for the construction of a bonfire and the threatening graffiti are both completely unacceptable.

“The department will continue to work with its statutory partners to identify the best way of supporting the local community and ensuring the safety of road users, staff and contractors.”

The situation comes weeks after a row over a loyalist bonfire in east Belfast.

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A graffiti-covered wall near the Avoniel bonfire site in Belfast (PA)

Belfast City Council voted to remove the July 11 pyre in the car park of Avoniel Leisure Centre.

However no action was taken after graffiti appeared threatening the contractors tasked with removing the bonfire.

PA

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