Northern Ireland news

Bonfire rebuilt near blocks of flats in north Belfast

Youths sit on top of pallets collected in the New Lodge area of north Belfast
Brendan Hughes

A BONFIRE had been rebuilt yesterday near blocks of flats in a nationalist area of north Belfast.

Masked youths could be seen sitting atop of rows of pallets stacked near New Lodge flats, off North Queen Street.

Bonfires will be lit tonight in some nationalist areas to mark the anniversary of the introduction of internment in 1971.

But residents and elected representatives have mainly opposed such pyres, branding them "anti-social behaviour" and voicing safety concerns.

For weeks efforts have been made to remove bonfire materials from the New Lodge neighbourhood.

A car has been placed beside the New Lodge bonfire in north Belfast 

Materials piled on the bonfire site were lifted last month and hundreds of pallets brought into the area have been seized in recent weeks.

Threatening graffiti was recently painted on walls warning against the removal of materials.

Bonfire materials have also been removed from west Belfast's Divis area.

Youths gather at the New Lodge bonfire in north Belfast 

Police were in attendance early yesterday as council contractors moved in at a site at Townsend Street, close to the Westlink.

PSNI inspector Alan Swann said officers were present to "ensure there were no breaches of the peace".

In a statement he said: "The physical removal of bonfire material is not within our remit, but we work with other agencies to support them as they carry out their duties.

An election poster is placed at the New Lodge bonfire in north Belfast 

"Contractors removed bonfire materials from the Townsend Street/Divis Street area.

"Police were in attendance to ensure there were no breaches of the peace and no intimidation of workers or members of the public."

A Belfast City Council spokesman said: "We can confirm that we have removed materials from the site at Divis. We have not removed any materials from the one in New Lodge."

Paint bombs and rocks gathered at the New Lodge bonfire in north Belfast 

Councillors last week voted to allow Belfast council staff or contractors to remove materials from any city bonfire sites.

The DUP has since challenged the decision through the council's 'call-in' process.

Last week, youths were seen wheeling stacks of bonfire pallets through Belfast city centre towards the Divis area.

A car is placed at the New Lodge bonfire in north Belfast 

Bemused shoppers looked on as the young people were seen manoeuvring the wood past traffic along Castle Place near Dunnes Stores and McDonald's.

At one stage police officers were seen speaking to them, but the young people were allowed to continue on their journey.

The PSNI said they were allowed to continue transporting the pallets as they "had not been reported as stolen".

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