Northern Ireland news

Anti-internment bonfires lit amid extra police patrols

 A car on fire in North Queen Street in north Belfast before anti-internment bonfires were lit. Picture by Jonathan Campbell

ANTI-INTERNMENT bonfires were lit on Tuesday night as extra police patrolled the streets following violent scenes on Monday.

The bonfires were lit in some nationalist areas to mark the anniversary of the introduction of internment in the north in 1971.

There were fears of more violence after a car was set alight on North Queen Street - close to the New Lodge bonfire -after 10pm on Tuesday.

Following disturbances on Monday, including attacks on cars in the Markets area of south Belfast and attacks on police and the torching of a disused credit union building in west Belfast, Belfast City Council decided to close some community centres early on Tuesday.

Community centres in the New Lodge, Divis and Markets areas of the city closed at 5pm.

And some street cleaning and bin collections were restricted in the same areas.

Earlier on Tuesday, a Belfast City Council staff member sustained a cut to the head after stones were thrown at his van, breaking the windscreen. Another van was also attacked in a separate incident.

Several windows at the Welcome Centre in west Belfast, which helps people who are homeless or vulnerable, were boarded up ahead of last night's bonfires.

A spokeswoman for the Housing Executive said: "The Welcome Centre in Belfast provides support to some of the most vulnerable individuals in society and is funded through the Housing Executive's Supporting People programme".

"An approach was made by the Centre to board up a number of windows and we have agreed to this request," she said.

An Ulster Unionist election poster is placed at the New Lodge bonfire in north Belfast

Meanwhile, Chief Constable George Hamilton has vowed that arrests will be made after property was torched and his officers were attacked during violent scenes on Monday night.

The removal of wood from bonfire sites in the nationalist Markets area in south Belfast and the New Lodge in the north of the city by Belfast City Council-hired contractors triggered the violent scenes.

A derelict credit union building and cars were set alight in west Belfast and officers were targeted by a petrol bomb, bricks and bottles.

Mr Hamilton said children as young as 12 were involved.

"These were largely young people involved in causing destruction and mayhem in their own communities," he said.

He added: "People engaged in this are responsible for their actions but parents have a responsibility too in all of this."

He insisted arrests would follow.

"We are gathering evidence and there will be arrests and those responsible for this behaviour will be brought to justice," he said.

Tensions have been high summer amid efforts by the council to take action against unregulated bonfires.

Last week the council supported a Sinn Féin proposal to allow the seizure of material from dangerous bonfires.

Sinn Féin leader Michelle O'Neill denied her party's actions had exacerbated tensions.

"The community don't want to see that action and it is the action of a small number of people," she said.

"It is not something the community want to be involved with, it is not something that is a wider problem.

Paint bombs and rocks gathered at the New Lodge bonfire in north Belfast No Byline.

"I believe that it is time for strong political leadership. Sinn Féin have not been found wanting in that regard, particularly in the last number of days.

"Tackling these issues is a policing issue on one hand, but it is also a political problem on the other hand."

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