Belfast Telegraph

Report on east Belfast bonfire 'not accurate'

By Staff Reporter

The PSNI has hit back after a leaked report suggested that Stormont's Department for Infrastructure (DfI) was a "reluctant participant" to police involvement in the dismantling of two controversial loyalist bonfires.

The Irish News reported that the confidential report was compiled after masked contractors were drafted in this past July to remove wood from the Eleventh Night pyres in east Belfast.

The report, said to have been prepared by independent mediators for Belfast City Council, revealed that in the days before the operation, police had told mediators that there were no plans to remove wood from the sites.

However, the High Court ruled on July 10 that an "out of control" bonfire in east Belfast must be reduced to a maximum height of three metres. A judge directed DfI to take immediate steps amid claims the controversial 80 pallet-high construction at Bloomfield Walkway posed a serious threat to surrounding homes.

The ruling came in emergency proceedings brought by Belfast City Council.

However, loyalists set the pyre ablaze on the morning of July 11.

A bonfire at Cluan Place was not subject to the injunction, but was built on DfI land. The report revealed a departmental official told mediators for that site at around 11.15am that they could have until noon to reduce the pyre's size as "council and police wanted to move without delay".

However, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said it was "simply not accurate to categorise this as police action in which others were reluctant participants".

He said that no interventions had been planned ahead of the bonfires being lit, but "as the direct result of a court order, the landowner DfI asked for police to support their contractors in the removal of materials".

Mr Todd added: "It is simply not accurate to categorise this as police action in which others were reluctant participants. At all times police made it clear that their role was to provide for the safety of any contractors tasked by the landowners in response to public safety concerns, in the event that the landowner decided to intervene."

Belfast Telegraph

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