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Northern Ireland news

Belfast art gallery complains of 'intimidation' from bonfire builders

East Belfast contemporary art gallery Framewerk posted the message on its social media profiles
Brendan Hughes

AN east Belfast art gallery has spoken out about being "verbally harassed for money" by bonfire builders.

Framewerk also claimed that one of its volunteers was told to "go back to her own country".

It criticised the city council's handling of bonfire issues and called for better regulation.

The contemporary art gallery is located on the Upper Newtownards Road, across the street from a controversial loyalist bonfire blocking a public car park.

The Bloomfield Walkway site at Comber Greenway has been at the centre of controversy after The Irish News revealed that the council was storing thousands of pallets for the bonfire.

The pallets held in storage were later stolen from a council site, prompting a police probe. It has been suggested the UDA removed the pallets.

In a post on its social media profiles yesterday, a person from Framewerk said: "So today I have been verbally harassed for money by the bonfire builders.

"One of the gallery volunteers has got told to go back to her own country on their way down the Greenway.

"I've had to clear smashed glass from the front of my premises. When I asked the young man closest to a load of strewn rubbish to at least bag it, I got told that it was being kept there so the council could not get through.

"I've seen around 10 business vans fly-tipping.

"I've had to run out and save a kid from being knocked down struggling with a pallet across the road. I saw a man pick a flyer from the ground, stick it to a bucket to pretend that he is collecting for a kid's party.

"I am refusing this intimidation."

They encouraged people to complain to their local political representatives "if you think this unacceptable and have had anything similar happen to you".

They added: "Or if you even disagree with the way it has been handled by the council, or it setting fire to a newly built play park or it being built illegally on council property close to houses meaning no-one can park anywhere near the Holywood Arches.

"It's unlikely anything will come of it this year, but unless there a record of complaints this will continue."

An investigation has been launched by the council into its decision to store pallets.

The council has previously said it is "aware of the negative impact of bonfires on communities" and works with others to "minimise negative issues at bonfire sites in so far as is possible".

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