Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein accuses Belfast City Council of 'facilitating an illegal bonfire' after staff and vehicles used to move pallets from Sandy Row site

Council removed 1,500 pallets and is expected to return them before July 12

Sinn Fein has said it is concerned that Belfast City Council staff and vehicles were used to transport bonfire materials from a site in the Sandy Row area of the city.

The council removed 1,500 pallets from the site close to Wellwood Street and Hope Street and is keeping them in storage. It is expected to return them before July 12.

In recent years hundreds of pallets have been amassed on land beside the Holiday Inn hotel in the weeks before the Eleventh Night.

Sinn Fein's Jim McVeigh said the council is "facilitating an illegal bonfire".

The Belfast councillor said: "I have spoken to both the Director of People and Communities and the Chief Executive of Belfast City Council today to express my deep concern that Belfast City Council staff and vehicles have been used to transport illegal bonfire materials.

"Sinn Fein will be meeting with the Chief Executive and People and Communities Department Director tomorrow in relation to this.

"Sinn Fein was not consulted on this and this is completely unacceptable.

"We will be objecting to bonfire materials being brought back to this site and facilitating an illegal bonfire.

"We will also be demanding to know if this use of council staff and vehicles has happened on any other occasion.

"We have witnessed the damage to homes and property these illegal bonfires have caused over many years.

"Bonfires are illegal and the law needs to be applied rigorously in this regard.

"Belfast City Council must ensure that it is also rigorous in performing its duties properly and without facilitating illegal acts."

Hotel guests near the bonfire site have complained in previous years about groups of youths gathering in the area in the run-up to the Eleventh Night.

One visitor commented in a TripAdvisor review: "Setting up the bonfire did nothing to improve stay or view from room. Noise continued late into the night, smell of smoke did not help."

Another guest wrote: "Not a pleasant experience, place was noisy, not such a nice area, drunks, verbal abuse, guys with Union flags. Looking forward to leaving Belfast."

A council spokesman said it was aware of the "negative impact of bonfires on communities" and said it is "seeking to work with other statutory agencies and communities to minimise negative issues at bonfire sites in so far as is possible".

"As part of this ongoing work, the council, in agreement with the local community, last weekend removed some 1,500 pallets from the site at Wellwood Street.

"No arrangements have been made as yet for the return of the material back to the bonfire site."

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