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Builders meet minister after letter speaks of ‘willingness to engage’

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Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon. Credit: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon. Credit: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon. Credit: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

Bonfire builders in the Tigers Bay have met with Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon about a controversial pyre placed close to a north Belfast interface.

Ms Mallon confirmed that she has received the request.

The Belfast Telegraph understands that she held an online meeting with the Tigers Bay loyalists last night .

A five-person delegation that included loyalist Jamie Bryson met with the minister, arguing that as a controversial issue it requires Executive approval.

The bonfire at Adam Street is close to homes on the nationalist side of the once volatile flashpoint.

This is the second year the bonfire has been placed in the controversial location.

The land the bonfire sits on falls under the responsibility of North Belfast SDLP MLA and Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon.

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It is for the landowners to take action against anyone trespassing on their land and pay for the contractors required to remove any bonfire material.

Police say they can only act in a supporting role.

Previous negotiations resulted in the bonfire being moved to within the Tigers Bay estate. However, the land was redeveloped and the bonfire moved to the more controversial location.

Residents have complained of loud music playing until the early hours of the morning and attacks on homes and cars with missiles being launched from the bonfire.

A video posted online appears to show a teenager standing on top of the bonfire using a golf club to knock golf balls over the interface.

In a letter to Ms Mallon, the group, represented by Mr Bryson, said they are “willing to engage in an open and positive manner with a view to finding a practical solution to the current situation being stirred up around the cultural event planned for July 11”. It adds: “Given your public indication of your commitment to dialogue, it would be somewhat surprising if this genuine offer of meeting directly with representatives of the cultural group were to be rejected.”

The letter also claims that there are no “health and safety risks or danger to property greater than any other bonfire within Northern Ireland, so as per your public commentary the only grounds for your resistance to the bonfire is that it is ‘at an interface’.

“There is no legitimate reason to interfere with the Article 10 and Article 11 rights of the cultural group on this basis.”

The letter added: “In light of the above, and the huge tension within the community — which the bonfire group are keen to work with you to resolve for the benefit of all — I would ask for a speedy response to the request for a meeting.

“Moreover, if you are considering taking formal legal action then please serve notice of this on the bonfire group in order that they can take legal advice and consider their options in regard to resisting the interference in their Article 10 and Article 11 ECHR rights.”

A senior DUP delegation, led by party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and deputy leader Paula Bradley, also met with PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne in relation to the bonfire at Tigers Bay, expressing concern about the “media hype being created by nationalist parties”. Ms Bradley, a North Belfast MLA, said: “By focusing on this small community bonfire, Sinn Fein have made it an exemplar of their own cultural intolerance, which will not be accepted by the wider unionist and loyalist community.”

Sinn Fein MLA and New Lodge resident Caral Ni Chuilin said: “I have written to the Minister for Heath, the Minister for Education, the mental health champion and the Children’s Commissioner.

“There are 11 children in two streets close to the fire with autism diagnoses. Two are non-verbal and they have, for the last fortnight, been subjected to rave music that starts at 11pm and goes on until at least 3am.”

Residents in the area also have taken legal advice in relation to the fire and are considering asking the High Court to force the minister to take action to remove the bonfire material.


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