Northern Ireland news

Missiles thrown as bonfire tensions rise

MISSILES have been thrown in north Belfast amid tensions over a loyalist bonfire near an interface.

Police closed North Queen Street after young people began throwing missiles.

The bonfire, off Duncairn Gardens, is up against an interface gate separating the loyalist Tigers Bay and the nationalist New Lodge.

Material began appearing at the site in recent weeks, but the organisation of the pyre appeared to significantly increase following criticism of Sinn Féin’s behaviour at the funeral of Bobby Storey.

Other bonfires have also been built and while traditional July 12 parades have been cancelled, the Parades Commission has received more than 250 notifications of planned marches over the weekend and on Monday.

Police and other statutory agencies were monitoring the situation last night with suggestions that the bonfire, which is within yards of a pharmacy and other buildings, may be removed overnight.

A PSNI spokesman last night said: “North Queen Street in Belfast has been closed following reports of youths throwing missiles in the area this afternoon.

“Motorists are advised to avoid the area and seek alternative main routes for their journey.”

Sinn Féin councillor JJ Magee said: “A few things were set on fire in the area and bricks thrown at police.

“It was mostly young people involved. Tensions are high in the area.”

But SDLP councillor Paul McCusker said petrol bombs had been thrown.

“Currently at Duncairn Gardens and North Queen Street as tensions are high and there has been a number of incidents including petrol bombs that have been thrown,” he said.

“I would urge those involved to stop this immediately as residents are frightened and there is no support for this.”

It came after Rev Mervyn Gibson, the grand secretary of the Orange Order, said he does not intend to visit any bonfire sites tonight.

“My personal position is there should be no bonfires because it is very hard to control the crowds,” he said.

“Where there are bonfires everything should be done to stay within the

regulations.”

Meanwhile, councillors in Belfast have voted in favour of carrying out an independent investigation into the handling of the cremation of Mr Storey at Roselawn cemetery.

Belfast City Council heard how confidence in the council cannot be restored until a full and rigorous investigation is held.

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