Northern Ireland news

Contentious bonfire removed in early morning sweep

The bonfire was removed from from Bloomfield Walkway
Staff Reporter

A CONTENTIOUS bonfire built across a cycle path and near a children's playground has been removed in an early morning sweep.

Police and contractors moved in at around 2am yesterday to dismantle the Eleventh Night bonfire at Bloomfield Walkway in east Belfast.

The move appears to indicate that other action will follow elsewhere.

A pyre at Tiger's Bay, built next to a peaceline, is now coming under closer scrutiny.

Bloomfield Walkway, while not near any interface, has become a problem site in recent years, previously causing controversy due to its size and proximity to homes.

Masked contractors were tasked to remove material in 2018 after a judge ordered Stormont officials to take action.

The High Court heard then that the towering pyre was under the control of "sinister forces" within the east Belfast UVF.

However, it was set alight before contractors could remove any material.

In 2015, dozens of families had to flee their homes when the bonfire was built along the walkway next to Chobham Street.

While much smaller than previous years it was still considered to be a risk to life and property.

On Saturday, hours before the removal, firefighters were at the scene after some rubble beside the bonfire was set alight.

Days earlier, police were called after a glass bottle was thrown at a passerby. There have been further reports of wood being thrown by youths at runners and dog walkers.

During yesterday's operation, a 16-year-old was arrested on suspicion of disorderly behaviour by police who were in attendance. He has since been released.

Chief Superintendent Andy Freeburn said police attended at the request of the council to ensure contractors' safety "and the safety of the public as a whole".

A Belfast City Council spokesperson said members of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee decided to act in the public interest.

"Given the significant impact to people and property at the bonfire in the proximity of Bloomfield Walkway, east Belfast, there was cross-party agreement that action would be taken to remove the materials.

"Belfast City Council's approach to managing bonfires is led by elected members. A member-led decision making process has been agreed to consider issues and make decisions on a site by site basis."

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin MLA John O'Dowd has condemned the burning of election posters on a bonfire in Portadown.

He said the burning of posters of Sinn Féin council election candidate Callum O Dufaigh and Alliance leader Naomi Long should be investigated as a hate crimes.

"As Callum O Dufaigh celebrated his 21st birthday party in another part of his home town, others were burning his image on a bonfire. That is unacceptable," Mr O'Dowd said.

"The organisers and supporters of of such bonfires cannot have it both ways. It's either culture or a hate crime; it can't be both."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news