Orangeman appeals for calm over 'stupid' decision on Belfast bonfire
A senior Orangeman has called on residents in east Belfast not to react to the "stupidity" of Belfast City Council's decision to dismantle pyres.
Rev Mervyn Gibson described Monday night's vote to remove materials from a controversial bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre as "regrettable" and appealed for calm.
"It's regrettable that they took this decision. It sends the wrong signal out to the whole community," he said.
"Tyres were removed, which was the main issue, but unfortunately that doesn't satisfy some overzealous councillors.
"This is people who don't even live in the area who have decided to raise tensions unnecessarily for selfish political reasons.
"I call for common sense to prevail and for no one to react to the stupidity of this decision."
He made the comments after a delegation of loyalist bonfire builders met police to urge them not to intervene to support the removal of the contentious pyre.
Bonfire builders have already removed hundreds of tyres from two bonfires, including the Avoniel site, and have said there is no need for the council to take action.
But the council's initial decision to remove bonfire material has not been reversed.
Following Monday's vote, Mr Gibson took to social media to announce that the "major complaint about bonfires in east Belfast" had been addressed. "I hope dealt with for good," he said in a tweet.
"Some might say it's too late, but it's never too late for the right decision.
"Let's hope it's not too late for common sense and others will respond accordingly #leavethewood."
Last night he issued another tweet in which he questioned the council's approach.
"Avoniel bonfire is 21 feet high, with no tyres, no threat to any building," he wrote.
"It meets the fire service guidelines.
"It is no longer a dangerous bonfire.
"What excuse are councillors now using to remove wood?"
Avoniel Leisure Centre closed early yesterday while the pyre was rebuilt without the tyres.
The centre also closed early on Sunday after its entrance was barricaded by men acting in a "threatening" manner towards staff.