Belfast Telegraph

Would this happen in south Belfast? Sinn Fein MLA slams anti-internment bonfires

Teen girl injured in hit-and-run near anti-internment bonfire in Belfast

By Claire Williamson

A senior Sinn Fein MLA has said Belfast residents have been let down over anti-internment bonfires saying they would not be allowed to happen in other parts of the city.

MLA Caral Ni Chuilin said residents in the New Lodge area had been "let down" by statutory bodies responsible for dealing with the "illegal bonfires".

She told the BBC Stephen Nolan show: "Basically this is the fifth year of unwanted bonfires in the New Lodge and along with residents and representatives of communities we have been meeting with statutory bodies

She continued: "I've been speaking to them almost on a daily basis about getting the material removed.

"Some lifts were successful but clearly what happened is some of the hardcore young people involved were able to go down lift pallets, stop traffic on North Queen Street in view of everybody and bring material to a housing executive site and build a bonfire.

"And despite repeated assurances to residents from the likes of Belfast City Council and Housing Executive that they would do their best to remove them - they failed."

The Sinn Fein North Belfast MLA claimed that there would be a different response from those statutory bodies in south Belfast.

She said: "First of all, these bonfires are unwanted.

"Would this be tolerated in the leafy suburbs of south Belfast? I don't think so I represent constituents in this area, I believe we as rate payers and tax payers deserve a better service that what we are getting. The statutory bodies let us down.

"It wouldn't happen in south belfast. It wouldn't happen in the Malone Road I don't think so. It would be removed and the council would find the resources.

She added: "It's an anti-community, anti-social event and has nothing to do with politics."

The Alliance party also hit out at the fires saying it was unacceptable that Union flags were placed on them.

MLA Trevor Lunn said: "It is disrespectful to burn any national flag on a bonfire or anywhere else. It is a crime that does nothing but raise tension and promote division.

“It is also not acceptable to burn tyres on a bonfire, as the dangerous toxins they contain could damage the health of those in the surrounding area."

Meanwhile a teenage girl was left with a suspected broken leg following a hit-and-run at an east Belfast bonfire.

Police are investigating the Mountpottinger Road incident which happened in the early hours of Tuesday, August 9.

It is reported to have occurred at around 2am and left a teenage girl with a suspected broken leg when a black car struck her near a bonfire site.

A council spokeswoman said: "The Council has been working with multi-agency partners and engaging with locally elected Councillors as well as MLAs throughout July and August to address issues around bonfires.

"We have been aware of concerns raised in relation to this bonfire, along with a number of others and have been actively working in the interests of communities to remove a considerable amount of materials at this and other sites over recent weeks.

"Securing the necessary contractors to do this work is challenging given the environments and community tensions which often exist around bonfires. Belfast City Council will continue to do all it can working with partners, and our politicians to address the issues around bonfires, and will continue to do so in the months ahead."

Enquiries into the incident are ongoing and police would ask anyone with any information to contact officers at Strandtown on 101.

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