Northern Ireland news

Bonfire builders threaten family centre if their pallets are removed

Threatening graffiti which appeared in the New Lodge area yesterday.
Marie Louise McConville

Bonfire builders in north Belfast have threatened to burn down a family centre if attempts are made to remove their pallets.

Disturbing graffiti appeared in the New Lodge area yesterday not only threatening the North Belfast Family Centre but also any contractors who may enter the area to dismantle the bonfire.

The graffiti appeared in an area known locally as the `Barracks', which has been at the centre of ongoing serious anti-social behaviour.

An internment bonfire, which is due to be lit on the eve of the August 9 anniversary of the introduction of detention without trial in 1971, has been erected in the area despite the fact that they have little support among the public and are opposed by Sinn Féin.

PSNI Chief Inspector Kelly Moore said police are investigating the graffiti.

"Just before 8am yesterday we received a report about graffiti which has been painted on the walls of a property in the Queens Parade area of north Belfast some time overnight," she said.

"Officers are currently investigating and I would ask anyone with any information to contact us on 101."

In recent years authorities have removed bonfire material from the New Lodge days before the anniversary.

On successive nights last week anti-social behaviour at the hands of masked youths left residents fearing for their safety, with some having to barricade themselves in their homes.

Threatening graffiti which appeared in the New Lodge area yesterday.

Last week, the Irish News revealed that such is the lawlessness in the New Lodge that masked teenagers were playing a games console plugged into a street light, adding that they had petrol bombs at the ready.

Yesterday, graffiti on the side of the North Belfast Family Centre in Victoria Parade read: `Our wood goes, this centre goes' while other graffiti in the area threatened workers. `Contractors beware' graffiti was accompanied by crosshairs.

Jake O'Kane: Nationalists burned bonfires too – but we were only kids back then

Graffitti also appeared threatening local Sinn Féin councillor JJ Magee.

SDLP councillor, Paul McCusker described the graffiti as "unacceptable".

The scene yesterday at the bonfire at the New Lodge

"Any threat on any property or person should be taken very seriously and those responsible can no longer get away with holding this part of the New Lodge to ransom

"The threat to contractors who are just doing their job is unacceptable. It doesn't matter where in the city it happens, we have to face down those responsible".

And he added: "We've had nights of serious disruption over the last week or so causing significant distress to local residents. People just want to live here in peace," he said.

Sinn Féin MLA Caral Ni Chuilin called for the removal of the bonfire.

She said the bonfire "isn't wanted" and should be removed, and "all the criminal behaviour needs dealt with".

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