Leading article

Time to tackle the unwanted bonfires

The discovery of a viable pipe bomb in the New Lodge area of north Belfast is a sinister and worrying development and comes as tensions have been raised over the presence of an anti-internment bonfire.

Considerable disruption was caused to traffic and local residents were forced to leave their homes after the device was found on North Queen Street around 8am yesterday.

The fact that deadly explosives were left in a built up area is absolutely appalling.

A passing child could easily have lifted this bomb and suffered death or serious injuries.

Sinn Féin assembly member Carál Ní Chuilin condemned those responsible for leaving the pipe bomb saying they are `at war with their own community.'

She pointed out the alert followed a night of anti-social behaviour associated with a nearby bonfire which included street fighting between rival gangs as well as the theft and burning of local property.

Clearly, this trouble and the placing of a viable bomb are deeply alarming developments that pose a significant challenge to political representatives, the police and the wider community.

Earlier this week anger had been been expressed about the building of a bonfire in the New Lodge against the wishes of local residents.

The fact that tyres had been added to this structure added to this sense of concern.

Certainly, anyone who had any interest in the wellbeing of their local community would not erect a towering bonfire complete with tyres in a densely populated area, exposing families to toxic fumes and all the risks associated with large-scale fires.

Bonfires also went up in several nationalist areas of Belfast but it is not something that has widespread support.

We are all too familiar with the problem of loyalist bonfires during the marching season. They have been used to intimidate and offend but they also cause destruction and danger within their own communities, not to mention the impact on the environment.

It will be recalled that only last month, a number of homes were badly damaged and several people had to be rescued as a result of a blaze caused by an Eleventh night bonfire in the lower Shankill.

Building these huge structures close to property is the height of madness and cannot be justified.

Sinn Féin has expressed disappointment that statutory bodies had failed to remove the New Lodge bonfire with Belfast City Council responding that finding contractors to carry out the work is `challenging.'

There is no doubt this is a persistent issue but there are measures that can help address this problem.

A firm approach with community and political support is needed to tackle the unwanted bonfires.

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