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Northern Ireland news

Resident fears loyalist bonfire 'too close to homes'

The bonfire being constructed on Bloomfield Walkway in east Belfast
Brendan Hughes

A WOMAN living near a notorious loyalist bonfire has spoken out against it, warning that it is "far too close to people's houses".

The east Belfast resident fears her home could be damaged by the Eleventh Night pyre which is being constructed along Bloomfield Walkway.

For years the prominent bonfire has sparked safety fears and last July was the subject of a landmark court injunction following concerns over its size.

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Loyalists announced an agreement in May to move the bonfire from Ravenscroft Avenue car park to Bloomfield Walkway, saying it was being moved to a "safe space".

However, its new location is still just yards from people's homes as well as a public play park.

Pallets stacked on the Bloomfield Walkway in east Belfast

The resident from the local area did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals for speaking out.

She told The Irish News: "I could come out and voice my opinion and speak my mind, but I couldn't live there any more. I would be put out."

She said the bonfire is "far too close to people's houses" and residents are "afraid of how high it's going to go".

"Anybody that I talk to, they don't want it. People are all older and they work. They can remember the days when there was a wee bonfire at the top of the street, something that was tiny. Now it's just getting ridiculous, the height of it," she said.

"I understand people want to do it, but surely there's somewhere they can have it that it's away from people's properties.

"It's too near houses and there's trees that will go up behind it."

A bonfire being erected on the Bloomfield Walkway in east Belfast

The woman claimed she and other residents have found it difficult to get help from politicians and statutory bodies.

"Nobody really wants to deal with it, and we have no government," she said.

Last year properties were boarded up as the pyre was built in Ravenscroft Avenue car park.

There was also controversy after The Irish News revealed the city council was storing 2,500 pallets for the bonfire at a separate site, costing ratepayers thousands of pounds. The pallets were later stolen, allegedly by the UDA.

In 2015 the bonfire forced 50 families to flee their homes when it was built along Bloomfield Walkway next to Chobham Street.

Pallets collected on the Bloomfield Walkway in east Belfast

The following year a newly-built play park was moved to facilitate the bonfire.

In May an agreement was announced by the East Belfast Community Initiative (EBCI), which says it "mediates on behalf of ex-combatants linked to east Belfast UVF".

It said the bonfire was moving to a "safe space" that would "not endanger the homes".

However, the new location near Beechwood Street is just one street along from where it was positioned in 2015.

A bonfire being built on the Bloomfield Walkway in east Belfast

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson, who acts as a spokesman for EBCI, has previously dismissed concerns, saying the agreement was a "positive development and should be welcomed as such".

However, a spokesman for the group was reported yesterday as saying that "following some genuine community concerns it is our understanding the bonfire has already been reduced in size by half".

"This is again extremely positive leadership being shown by the local community and loyalists in the area."

A loyalist bonfire on Bloomfield Walkway

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