Northern Ireland news

Teen critically injured at New Lodge bonfire 'suffered punctured lung and was stabbed three times in back'

A still from a video which circulated on social media shows a man holding a knife

A relative of a teenager critically injured in a knife attack near a north Belfast bonfire has said he suffered a punctured lung and was stabbed three times in the back.

Shocking video footage was posted online showing trouble in the New Lodge area on Thursday night, with one man clearly seen waving a large knife in the air.

The 18-year-old stab victim is being treated at the Royal Victoria Hospital for his injuries.

An aunt of the injured man posted on Twitter that those responsible were "running their own community into the ground".

A 39-year-old man also sustained stab wounds to his arm and hip, although his injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

The bonfire in New Lodge in north Belfast was lit on Thursday night

A second video taken in nearby North Queen Street, captured by a terrified motorist, showed a gang of men and young people chasing a man, kicking him to the ground and then kicking and punching him around the head.

Read More: Outrage after New Lodge bonfire protests turn violent

Two men, aged 28 and 21, were arrested from an address in the Oldpark area of north Belfast early on Friday morning following the incidents.

Sinn Féin MLA and New Lodge resident Carál Ní Chuilín said local people want reassurance that this is the last year there will be a bonfire in the area.

"There can no repeat and that level of intimidation, it's very clear no-one wants that bonfire - we have been told this both in person and in surveys carried out by local community organisations", she said.

A still from a video which circulated on social media shows a man holding a knife

"Anyone responsible for encouraging those involved in the bonfire need to take responsibility for the violence that occurred. We know they won't - they don't care about those young people.

"They won't be there to pick up the pieces when they have a criminal record and they can't get work."

On Thursday the Housing Executive advised residents in two tower blocks close to the bonfire to evacuate for their own safety.

Some did leave to stay with relatives and a local community centre remained open to provide a safe place of refuge.

New Louge Bonfire scene.

Ms Ní Chuilín said: "I will say that all the statutory agencies worked well, getting people relocated, but it should never have happened in the first place.

"We are not going back to those days, we are not allowing this community to be dragged to that place and this cannot be permitted to happen again."

Police, who pulled out of the area on Thursday afternoon after attempts to assist contractors to remove the bonfire failed, have defended their actions.

Two men climbed on top of the pyre and refused to come down, thwarting plans to remove the structure.

The burnt bonfire in the New Lodge Estate. Picture Matt Bohill.

Trouble also broke out and three PSNI officers were injured before a decision was made to retreat from the New Lodge.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd told BBC's The Nolan Show that the attempted removal was requested by the Department for Infrastructure in conjunction with the Housing Executive.

He said the request had "nothing to do with the politics of the bonfire and everything to do with safety, fire risk and the fears people living in that area".

"It had nothing to do with policing different parts of the community differently," he said.

"The vast majority don't want it to be there.

"You can't just collapse it with people on top. That would be irresponsible."

He added that while he could have lawfully deployed additional resources such as water cannon and public order dogs, the consequences and risk to bystanders "did not stack up".

Green Party MLA Mal O'Hara said those responsible for the bonfire "are dragging us all back to a place where we don't want to be".

"I believe the location of the bonfire and its size represented a deliberate attempt to create friction with the police and an excuse for a night of disorder.

"However, what happened in the New Lodge including stabbings and violence spilling out into other areas has brought nothing but shame to our area.

"It plays into the hands of people who would want to denigrate the working class communities of north Belfast."

For the second year there were no 'internment' bonfires in west Belfast, with 10,000 young people attending a dance night in the Falls Park organised by Féile an Phobail.

Festival director Kevin Gamble said the event "is a combined effort to provide a diversionary event that brings young people off our streets away from the potential of unwanted and destructive bonfires".

"In past years these unwanted bonfires have brought destruction and an increase in anti-social behaviour to the areas in which they were held.

"Due to the support of the local community, the hard work and commitment of Féile staff and volunteers, community organisations, political representatives, and Belfast City Council, west Belfast was bonfire free last night and all those involved in achieving this deserve praise."

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