Belfast Telegraph

Graffiti threats ramp up internment bonfire tensions

The controversial bonfire in the New Lodge area
The controversial bonfire in the New Lodge area
Sinister graffiti
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Sinister graffiti has appeared on the side of a community centre in the New Lodge area of north Belfast as tensions remain high over a bonfire planned for tomorrow night.

The bonfire, to mark the beginning of internment in 1971, has been a focal point for several nights of rioting over the last week, with police coming under attack with petrol and paint bombs as local residents barricaded themselves in their homes.

The graffiti writers have threatened to destroy a local community centre should any attempt be made to remove the contentious bonfire.

Further graffiti appeared on a wall at North Queen Street Community Centre targeting a local Sinn Fein councillor who has previously branded the bonfire "unwanted".

Alliance Party councillor Nuala McAllister said the writing, which states that if 'our wood goes this centre goes', and 'contractors beware', must be condemned "in the strongest possible terms".

"Those behind it need to remove it immediately, along with the graffiti," she said.

"The people of north Belfast do not want this bonfire, especially with the assorted violence and anti-social behaviour which goes with it.

"I call on the builders to remove it and let local people get on with their lives in peace."

DUP councillor Dale Pankhurst also said the threats were "wrong" and "must be condemned".

"A tiny group of anti-social elements spurred on by those still involved in terrorism are holding the New Lodge to ransom and giving North Belfast a bad name," he said.

"The PSNI must be commended for putting their lives at risk to protect the community and I sincerely hope the anti-social elements along with the terrorist elements spurring them on find themselves behind bars."

Sinn Fein has not yet responded to the appearance of the graffiti, but last week Councillor JJ Magee said the anti-social behaviour "is directly related to the unwanted bonfire".

He added: "It needs to stop. It affects the quality of life of all the residents young and old who live in the area."

Police say they 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 sometime overnight," said Chief Inspector Kelly Moore.

"Officers are currently investigating and I ask anyone with any information to contact us on 101 quoting reference number 267 06/08/19 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."

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