Leading article

Bonfire lawlessness needs to end

The threat to a family centre and contractors in north Belfast is just the latest example of completely unacceptable behaviour by people with no regard for the law or those living in the vicinity of their bonfire.

Recent years have seen an upsurge in anti social behaviour in the New Lodge as disaffected elements attempt to use the anniversary of internment as an excuse to create problems and show contempt for anyone in authority.

Residents are thoroughly sick and tired of the mainly young people building a bonfire in this built up area, close to homes and causing mayhem in the weeks leading up to the anniversary.

In the past couple of weeks we have seen four nights of serious disorder with police coming under attack from young people throwing masonry and petrol bombs.

Masked youths also blocked the road with bins and trolleys which were set on fire.

A local councillor reported that residents were angry and frightened, with one woman barricading herself in her home for her own safety.

This is absolutely intolerable but it is clear that the young people care little about the distress and fear they are causing.

A further sign of the complete disregard for the law displayed by some was the image posted on social media showing masked teenagers playing a games console that had been connected to a street light while warning that they had petrol bombs to protect their bonfire.

Matters took a particularly sinister turn earlier this week when graffiti warning off contractors who may be brought in to remove their pallets was posted near the site.

This was reminiscent of the appalling threats aimed at contractors during the standoff over the loyalist bonfire in the grounds of Avoniel leisure centre in the lead up to the Eleventh night.

The New Lodge bonfire builders also threatened damage to a centre used by families in the area. To target a valuable local facility in this way is quite despicable.

There is no support for this bonfire while the lawlessness associated with it cannot be allowed to continue.

As we know, internment anniversary bonfires have been successfully replaced in other nationalist areas with positive and community based events.

The annual misery being inflicted in the New Lodge needs to end and not return.

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