Northern Ireland news

Loyalists set fire to controversial bonfire as riot police move in

 The burning remains of a bonfire on Bloomfield Walkway. Picture by Mal McCann

LOYALISTS have set fire to a controversial bonfire in east Belfast and attacked police hours after a court ordered the pyre had to be reduced in size.

Hundreds of riot police remain at the site on Bloomfield Walkway this morning following an overnight stand-off between officers and bonfire builders.

There have been no arrests.

Contractors moved in at around 10am to clear wood from the site as the remains of the bonfire still burned.

Meanwhile, nearby Holywood Road was cordoned off this morning after a suspicious object was found.

The alert ended before 10.30am after the object was found to be a hoax.

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The High Court last night ordered that the Bloomfield Walkway bonfire, close to homes and a play park, should be reduced to a height of three metres.

The pyre stood at 75 wooden pallets high.

Video below from Walkway Bonfire Bloomfield East Belfast Facebook group. Warning: strong language

Riot police at Bloomfield Walkway bonfire site. Picture by Mal McCann

Contractors employed by the Department for Infrastructure, which owns the land on which the bonfire was built, were brought in to remove pallets.

The department asked for a police escort to allow them to remove the material.

However, as police moved in to secure the site, the massive bonfire was lit and missiles were thrown at officers.

Fire fighters had to be called in to protect nearby homes from the heat and flames.

Vehicles were also set alight in east Belfast, including two vans on lower Ravehill and My Lady's Road.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said the bonfire was lit "with total disregard for the safety of the local community".

"It is disappointing that some people decided to resort to violence as attempts were made to reduce significant threat to the life and property of local people, due to the size and location of this bonfire," he said.

"Over recent months there has been a concerted effort by a wide range of agencies and community representatives to resolve this completely avoidable situation.

"I would like to thank those people for their efforts in trying to bring about a resolution to this matter.

"We all hoped that the bonfire builders would see sense. Regrettably this hasn't proved to be the case."

 Riot police at Bloomfield Walkway bonfire site. Picture by Mal McCann

 A burning bonfire on Bloomfield Walkway. Picture by Mal McCann

 The burning remains of a bonfire on Bloomfield Walkway. Picture by Mal McCann

 A burning bonfire on Bloomfield Walkway in east Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

 Bonfire builders on Bloomfield Walkway in east Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

 Riot police on Bloomfield Walkway in east Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

 Riot police on Newtownards Road in east Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

 A PSNI Land Rover in east Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

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