Belfast Telegraph

Tyres pile up as talks over contentious bonfire in the Bogside go on

A large number of tyres being stored under the Lecky Road flyover in the Bogside
A large number of tyres being stored under the Lecky Road flyover in the Bogside
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

More than 100 tyres have been stockpiled in Londonderry's Bogside as preparations continue for a controversial bonfire.

Talks are currently under way to ensure the bonfire - which has hit the headlines in recent years after being placed in the middle of a main road and had poppy wreaths and the names of murdered police and prison officers placed on it - passes off peacefully.

The fire is to be lit on August 15. Bonfire builders are currently stockpiling pallets and other materials against a derelict building at Meenan Square, although the exact location of the bonfire is yet to be confirmed.

In previous years it was set ablaze at the derelict building, placed in the middle of the Lecky Road blocking traffic, and up on the embankment near an old people's home.

Yesterday residents expressed concern over tyres near the site. One, who did not want to be identified, said that the community was disgusted and hoped that a compromise is worked out to remove the tyres.

"I and many other residents would be disgusted if they were put on there and set alight. Tyres are toxic and dangerous," he said.

"There are older people with lung cancer and emphysema who live right beside the bonfire.

"Burning tyres there would be just pure disregard for them and everyone who lives around here."

He said that he hopes that things will be quiet this year.

"There doesn't seem as much tension this year as in previous years," he said.

"It's very quiet here at the moment and we just hope that it stays that way."

Independent republican councillor Gary Donnelly said talks were ongoing to find a peaceful outcome to the situation.

"There is a process ongoing. It is a sensitive process and I don't want to say anything further to jeopardise this. I am confident that things will go in the right direction with regards the tyres."

The SDLP's Brian Tierney is chairman of the council's bonfire committee. He said work is continuing on the ground to ensure a peaceful bonfire this year.

"There is a lot of time between now and when the bonfire is actually lit and we will be working extremely hard with our statutory partners, community partners, and bonfire builders that this fire - if it has to be lit - passes off as peacefully as we can manage and as environmentally friendly as we can manage."

A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council said it has been working with relevant agencies and the community to find solutions to ongoing bonfire issues.

"The situation is currently being monitored and people are asked to be mindful of the serious health risks of burning hazardous materials such as tyres on bonfires," they said in a statement.

"A cross-party bonfire working group is currently working alongside a multi-agency partnership involving local statutory agencies and will also be engaging with local communities to raise awareness and resolve a range of cultural and environmental issues around bonfires."

Meanwhile, the Department for Infrastructure has slammed a bonfire in north Belfast as "completely unacceptable".

The pyre in the New Lodge is due to be lit tonight to mark the anniversary of the introduction of the internment in 1971.

It is currently on land owned by the department, but it has declined to say whether it has any plans to step in to remove it.

Instead a spokesman said it will "continue to work with its statutory partners to identify the best way of supporting the local community and ensuring the safety of road users, staff and contractors".

Sinister graffiti appeared close to the bonfire on Tuesday threatening that if the structure is removed then a nearby community centre will be targeted. The graffiti is set to be removed by council workers.

A spokesman for Belfast City Council said: "Council will endeavour to remove the contentious graffiti as soon as practicably possible."

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