Police attacked by petrol bombers at Belfast bonfire site

Connla Young

POLICE came under attack from petrol bombers at a west Belfast bonfire site yesterday as contractors attempted to remove hundreds of pallets from the area.

Tactical Support Group officers escorted two unmarked trucks into the area shortly after 8.30am to remove a mountain of material strewn across waste ground near Cullingtree Road which is adjacent to the Westlink - Belfast's main arterial route.

Dozens of toxic tyres and other material littered the site which is also close to a number of family homes.

Police came under attack as they attempted to leave the area.

A 13-year-old and a 19-year-old man were arrested "on suspicion of riotous behaviour and possession of a petrol bomb".

Both were later released on police bail pending further enquiries.

Authorities are under pressure to remove the material from the site and other nationalist areas across Belfast.

The bonfires are due to be lit this weekend to mark the anniversary of the introduction of internment in August 1971.

Both pro and anti-Good Friday Agreement republicans have said they are opposed to the lighting of bonfires to mark the anniversary.

Police came under attack shortly after contractors, who were masked to protect their identity, collected two truck loads of pallets before leaving the area.

Belfast city council last night confirmed that the contractors were working on their behalf.

Pictures taken by the Irish News this week show that even after material was removed from the site yesterday, more pallets and tyres remained piled up in the area than the day before.

The material was later moved by the youths to another site on the lower Falls Road, again adjacent to the Westlink.

Earlier this week the Irish News reported that Mica Day Centre near Beechmount Drive, was being forced to close today over fears of anti-social behaviour connected to a bonfire built on nearby waste ground.

The centre is used by up to 45 vulnerable adults each day.

A spokeswoman for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said the decision was taken to "maintain the safety and well being of service users and staff who attend Mica Day Centre" "

A spokeswoman for Belfast City Council last night said: "A number of individuals remain on the site in Mica Drive and in the interests of health and safety it is not appropriate to remove these materials at the present time."

Speaking about the site in the lower Falls area, the spokeswoman said: "This morning there was some resistance to the removal of material from the Divis area. However, we will continue to work with the local community to resolve the situation."


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