Tuesday 17 September 2019

Violence is feared if council clears Belfast bonfire site

Tinderbox: Craigyhill bonfire in Larne, Northern Ireland. Bonfires are traditionally lit in loyalist communities. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Tinderbox: Craigyhill bonfire in Larne, Northern Ireland. Bonfires are traditionally lit in loyalist communities. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Michael McHugh and David Young

Police in the North have warned councillors that gun violence could be orchestrated by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) if Belfast bonfire material is removed.

Menacing graffiti has already been written on a wall near Avoniel Leisure Centre in the east of the city opposing the local council's intervention and officers believe there is a risk of serious violent clashes.

A pyre built on Belfast City Council-owned land is due to be burned this evening at the start of the loyalist Twelfth of July celebrations.

PSNI officers are preparing to help Belfast City Council fulfil its decision to clear the site over health and safety concerns before the traditional Eleventh Night bonfires are lit.

Councillors said they received a stark warning about the potential impact of their resolution during a meeting yesterday.

Alliance Party councillor Emmet McDonough Brown said: "We are asking the police to intervene to support us at that site."

Sinn Féin councillor Ciaran Beattie called for unionist parties to "show leadership...to ensure the removal goes ahead without disruption and without the kind of intimidation and even death threats that we have seen in recent days".

However, the Orange Order's grand secretary and local Presbyterian minister Mervyn Gibson said he has not heard anyone threaten violence.

"I hope there's not. If anyone has, there's no place for them within the Twelfth celebrations. No paramilitary organisations should be threatening violence," he said.

Irish Independent

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