Judge orders that east Belfast bonfire be reduced in size
Hundreds of fires will be lit on July 11.
A High Court judge has ordered that a controversial bonfire in east Belfast be reduced in size.
The pyre at Bloomfield Walkway is one of hundreds across Northern Ireland being built to be burned on July 11 as part of the annual Battle of the Boyne commemorations.
But it has caused controversy in recent years due to its proximity to houses.
This year the site of the bonfire was moved to be further from homes.
On Tuesday morning, Belfast City Council urged the bonfire builders to remove excess material, saying it had been measured and it was too tall.
The council applied to Belfast High Court for an injunction to force the Department for Infrastructure, which own the land the bonfire is built on, to reduce the height of the bonfire.
Mrs Justice Keegan directed the department to take immediate steps amid claims the controversial 80 pallet-high construction poses a serious threat to surrounding homes.
The order will apply unless any last-minute, community-based resolution is reached and agreed on before it is due to be lit on Wednesday night.
In a statement, a spokesman for Belfast City Council said the injunction also requires the department to remove all excess materials from the immediate vicinity of the existing bonfire.
The judge also said she will not condone unlawfulness which puts lives and properties at risk Belfast City Council
“The judge made the order taking into account a number of factors,” the council spokesman said.
“These included elected representative concerns, community fear and apprehension, and significant risk to property and life.
“The judge emphasised that she hoped the community initiative would continue and that the people building the bonfire would see sense.
“The judge also said she will not condone unlawfulness which puts lives and properties at risk.”
The spokesman said the council recognises efforts made by council officers, councillors, mediators and community representatives in trying to resolve issues around bonfires this year.
“All parties in City Hall had agreed to work to improve the situation from last year,” he said.
“There has been some success in this regard, which is welcome; however, the situation at the Bloomfield Walkway has continued to prove difficult.
“Despite efforts, the bonfire is not at an acceptable safe height within the guidelines of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.”
In 2015 more than 50 homes close to the Walkway bonfire were boarded up to protect them from the heat generated when it was lit.
Reacting to the decision, a spokesman for East Belfast Community Initiative called for calm.
“ EBCI are extremely concerned about the potential ramifications of tonight’s judgment.
“We have worked tirelessly to try and deliver workable and positive solutions.
“A fact even recognised by Belfast City Council within their latest statement.
“ We regret the actions of Belfast City Council officers and a select number of elected representatives who have undermined community mediation in favour of an extremely provocative attempt to aggressively force a confrontation.
“We stand ready to engage in another round of talks commencing in the morning and we urge interested parties to respond positively to that initiative.
“We would appeal to all loyalists to remain calm in the face of this enormous provocation and we again want to reaffirm our commitment to ensuring a peaceful and safe summer for all.”
A small pile of wood beside the main pyre was set alight around 10.45pm.
A large number of people including children were in the area with dance music playing amid a relaxed atmosphere.
Two fire crew attended the scene and hosed down a wall close to the blaze to cool the structure.