Council wrong to facilitate notorious bonfire

The revelation that Belfast City Council is storing pallets to be used for a notorious bonfire close to a busy tourist hotel is yet another sign the authorities are pandering to loyalist groups determined to flex their muscles in local communities.

The bonfire close to the Holiday Inn, just off Sandy Row, has long been a problem in the run up to the Twelfth period.

Last year concerns were raised about the impact on tourism after a massive structure was built on the site.

Earlier this month two tourist buses were damaged in a suspected arson attack outside the hotel.

Rather than take firm action against those placing a destructive pyre which sends out a negative image to visitors and which needs to be cleared up every year at a cost to the public purse, Belfast City Council has decided that collecting and storing the bonfire material is the best approach.

Hundreds of pallets, including a number apparently belonging to a supply-chain company, were removed from the city centre site by council employees and are now held in storage at a council facility.

It is expected the pallets will be returned to the Wellwood Street site before the Twelfth.

It is not clear what the cost of this work will be to Belfast ratepayers but a number of councillors have expressed dismay at the council's action.

Initiatives aimed at mitigating the worst excesses of the eleventh night bonfires are commendable but those structures that are outside the organised agreements should not be facilitated in any way by the authorities.

Every year we see bonfires that pose a threat to homes and the environment while the collecting of wood and other material creates an unsightly and hazardous mess.

It is also clear that some bonfire builders are acting in defiance of the wishes of local residents who have justifiable concerns.

Belfast City Council may have acted with the best intentions but it is sending out the wrong message in relation to the Wellwood Street bonfire.