Belfast Telegraph

'No doubt' UVF were involved at Avoniel bonfire says PSNI

Belfast City Council had voted to remove the bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre (Liam McBurney/PA)
Belfast City Council had voted to remove the bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre (Liam McBurney/PA)

There is 'no doubt' the East Belfast UVF were involved in the controversial bonfire outside Avoniel Leisure Centre, police have said.

Assistant Chief Constable Barbara Gray gave an update on policing operations during the Eleventh night on Friday morning.

Ms Gray was asked if leaked information regarding contractors engaged to remove bonfire material outside the leisure centre may have come from within the PSNI.

Contractors pulled out after their names were mentioned in threatening graffiti near the council-owned site. Belfast City Council were left with no choice but to allow the bonfire to go-ahead.

"It is highly unlikely that that happened, but if that is the case at any point that absolutely will be the subject and matter of investigation by the Police Ombudsman and that will be within their remit," she said

Ms Gray added that the past week had been "frustrating" for the police.

"I have no doubt that at Avoniel there was influence from East Belfast UVF, I have absolutely no doubt about that," the Assistant Chief Constable said.

She insisted that police had been "ready to go" and escort contractors into the site before the company pulled out of its arrangement with the council.

Asked why police did not move against the bonfire builders when the council asked the PSNI to investigate allegations of aggravated trespass, Ms Gray said police had "no powers to remove anybody."

She said police had to comply with "complex legislation" and had undertaken evidence-gathering at the site.

People attend an 11th night Bonfire in the Sandy Row area of Belfast. Photo credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People attend an 11th night Bonfire in the Sandy Row area of Belfast. Photo credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People attend an 11th night Bonfire in Cluan Place, Belfast, as hundreds of bonfires were set to be lit at midnight, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 11, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Bonfires. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Members of the fire service work to contain an 11th night Bonfire in Cluan Place, Belfast, as hundreds of bonfires were set to be lit at midnight, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 11, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Bonfires. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People attend an 11th night Bonfire in Cluan Place, Belfast, as hundreds of bonfires were set to be lit at midnight, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 11, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Bonfires. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People attend an 11th night Bonfire in Cluan Place, Belfast, as hundreds of bonfires were set to be lit at midnight, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 11, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Bonfires. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Members of the fire service work to contain an 11th night Bonfire in Cluan Place, Belfast, as hundreds of bonfires were set to be lit at midnight, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 11, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Bonfires. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People attend an 11th night Bonfire in the Sandy Row area of Belfast, as hundreds of bonfires were set to be lit at midnight, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 11, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Bonfires. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People attend an 11th night Bonfire in the Sandy Row area of Belfast, as hundreds of bonfires were set to be lit at midnight, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 11, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Bonfires. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People attend an 11th night Bonfire in the Sandy Row area of Belfast, as hundreds of bonfires were set to be lit at midnight, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 12, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Bonfires. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Members of the fire service work to contain an 11th night Bonfire in Cluan Place, Belfast, as hundreds of bonfires were set to be lit at midnight, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 11, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Bonfires. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People watch from hotel rooms an 11th night Bonfire in the Sandy Row area of Belfast, as hundreds of bonfires were set to be lit at midnight, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 12, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Bonfires. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People attend an 11th night Bonfire in the Sandy Row area of Belfast, as hundreds of bonfires were set to be lit at midnight, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 12, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Bonfires. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People attend an 11th night Bonfire in the Sandy Row area of Belfast, as hundreds of bonfires were set to be lit at midnight, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 11, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Bonfires. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2019 Pictured: Avoniel Bonfire, East Belfast Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
The Craigyhill bonfire in Larne is lit on July 12th 2019 celebrating the victory of King William over King James during the battle of the Boyne (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The Craigyhill bonfire in Larne is lit on July 12th 2019 celebrating the victory of King William over King James during the battle of the Boyne (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The Craigyhill bonfire in Larne is lit on July 12th 2019 celebrating the victory of King William over King James during the battle of the Boyne (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The Craigyhill bonfire in Larne is lit on July 12th 2019 celebrating the victory of King William over King James during the battle of the Boyne (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The Craigyhill bonfire in Larne is lit on July 12th 2019 celebrating the victory of King William over King James during the battle of the Boyne (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The Craigyhill bonfire in Larne is lit on July 12th 2019 celebrating the victory of King William over King James during the battle of the Boyne (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The Craigyhill bonfire in Larne is lit on July 12th 2019 celebrating the victory of King William over King James during the battle of the Boyne (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The Craigyhill bonfire in Larne is lit on July 12th 2019 celebrating the victory of King William over King James during the battle of the Boyne (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2019 Pictured: Sandy Row bonfire, South Belfast Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2019 Pictured: Avoniel Bonfire, East Belfast Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2019 Pictured: Sandy Row bonfire, South Belfast Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2019 Pictured: Avoniel Bonfire, East Belfast Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th July 2019 Pictured: Sandy Row bonfire, South Belfast Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Assistant Chief Constable Gray added that any police action also had to be "proportionate".

"None of this is easy and the resolution to these challenging issues does not rest with the police," she said.

She noted that a Stormont-established working group set up to examine ways to deal with the thorny issues of flags, identity, culture and tradition has still not reported three years on from its inception.

"We still wait any proposal from that commission," she said.

Ms Gray said the offensive material on the bonfire in Lisburn was related to election campaigns.

Bonfire builders have faced criticism in the past for placing election posters belonging to nationalist and republican politicians on the fires and burning them.

Police officers came under attack from petrol bombs at a community interface area in Belfast on Thursday night.

Two arrests were made in the nationalist Springfield Road. 

An individual has also been charged in relation to the placement of offensive material on a bonfire in Lisburn, Assistant Chief Constable Gray said.

Ms Gray said disorder was not on the scale witnessed in past years on the Eleventh Night.

"I am relieved that over the past 24 hours we haven't seen a repeat of the violence we witnessed on our streets this time last year," she said.

"There is absolutely no doubt that there has been challenges over the last week, not just for us as a police service but for other public services."

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