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Dublin: 18 °C Wednesday 24 July, 2019
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Loyalist bonfire organisers rebuild 11 July sites after council crackdown on hazardous materials

Belfast City Council voted to remove tyres from a number of sites yesterday.

Men remove tyres from a July 11th night bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre yesterday
Men remove tyres from a July 11th night bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre yesterday
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

BONFIRE ORGANISERS IN Belfast have reconstructed two sites in the city after removing hazardous material from them following a council vote.

Belfast City Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee passed a motion yesterday to remove material from the sites in the east of the city, after environmental concerns were raised about use of tyres to build them.

It followed the removal of 1,800 tyres by the council from a third site in the south of the city on Sunday.

The bonfires are lit in some loyalist areas on 11 July, the night before the Battle of the Boyne is commemorated by Orange Order parades across Northern Ireland.

However, organisers of a loyalist bonfire in the car park of the Avoniel Leisure Centre – one of those targeted by the council – voluntarily removed the tyres from their bonfire shortly after Belfast City Council’s vote.

The site attracted controversy over the weekend, when staff closed the leisure centre after reportedly being threatened and intimidated by bonfire organisers.

Battle of the Boyne bonfires Hundreds of tyres removed from a July 11th night bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre Source: PA Wire/PA Images

DUP councillor for East Belfast George Dorrian welcomed the removal of tyres from the bonfire as a “positive step”.

“We have said this is the issue undermining bonfires, its being addressed and this should be recognised and accepted,” he said.

Meanwhile, a second bonfire that was originally built beside the nearby Connswater Shopping Centre was moved 500m away to a council-owned site, close to the Oval football ground.

SDLP councillor Donal Lyons welcomed the council’s vote, reminding bonfire organisers that they have a responsibility to ensure that sites are safe.

“I understand the significance of eleventh night bonfires for many in our community and I am in no way trying to diminish that aspect of anyone’s cultural celebration,” he said.

“But there is a responsibility on the organisers to ensure that bonfires are safe and pose no hazard.

“Many take that obligation seriously but in some cases that has not happened, in spite of engagement with organisers, and it is therefore our responsibility to intervene.”

Battle of the Boyne bonfires Men begin to build a new bonfire after removing material from a July 11th night bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre Source: PA Wire/PA Images

However, tensions have continued to rise in other parts of Northern Ireland ahead of the lighting of bonfires.

In Armagh, a letter was sent to residents living near a site in Portadown advising them to “evacuate” their homes before the bonfire is lit.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council informed residents that the bonfire posed a “serious health and safety risk” and that it had secured alternative accommodation for those in the local area.

The bonfire organisers were criticised by Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie, who said its impact on residents went “beyond a display of identity and culture”.

BBC reports that a special meeting the council was held yesterday to discuss residents’ concerns, but that councillors were told that a contractor could not be found to remove firewood from the bonfire.

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