Pallets removed at behest of residents against 'internment' bonfire

Bonfire material removed in dawn raid

Housing Executive contractors remove wood from a concealed dump in the New Lodge area this morning (Thursday) after local people rejected plans to commemmorate internment with a bonfire next weekend. A number of hides were emptied during the early morning raid netting over 100 wooden pallets.  PHOTO: JIM CORR Housing Executive contractors remove wood from a concealed dump in the New Lodge area this morning (Thursday) after local people rejected plans to commemmorate internment with a bonfire next weekend. A number of hides were emptied during the early morning raid netting over 100 wooden pallets. PHOTO: JIM CORR
By Staff Reporter

An early morning operation by the Housing Executive to remove bonfire wood ahead of August 9 has seen over 100 pallets taken from secret hides across the New Lodge area.

Workers moved into the area at 6am this morning (Thursday, August 1) after local community workers identified a number of concealed locations where wood was being hidden.

The removal comes after a survey held earlier this year in the greater Victoria Parade area showed that over 70 per cent were against the building of the internment bonfire because of the anti-social behaviour that followed its lighting last year.

Responding to the wishes of the people, community groups, politicians and the Housing Executive came together to try and remove bonfire material before it could be piled up for next weekend’s event.

Kate Clarke from New Lodge Safer Streets said the people had spoken and those behind the wood gathering should listen.

“Those people gathering wood are going against what people want as we saw in the survey. The bonfire isn’t wanted.

“Last year it was drink and drugs and burned cars and nobody wants that. In fact this morning people are congratulating the Housing Executive for removing the wood.

“The people of our area got rid of this 20 years ago and we don’t want it back. This year there will be events held over the 9th where people can be in the community and share their culture though festivals and fun days.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor Maskey, who helped organise Thursday’s lift, said ordinary people were being held to ransom.

“This community suffered badly last summer when a rampage of criminality and attacks on residents homes and property took place and work has been done this year to prevent similar scenes.

“The vast majority of local young people are good, sound and community minded but a small core of young criminals, encouraged by a few adults can’t be allowed to hold the New Lodge to ransom

“We have demanded in the strongest possible terms that the PSNI tackle this group, some of who are also involved in well known crimes during the rest of year.”

Housing Executive Area Manager for North Belfast Malachy McKinney said they were acting on behalf of the residents who voted against the bonfire in the survey.

“Staff in the North Belfast Area Office have been working closely with the community and their representatives regarding the matter and as a result Housing Executive contractors went into the New Lodge area this morning and removed bonfire material from a number of locations.

“The Housing Executive will continue to monitor the situation at New Lodge but it has to be noted that the removal of burnt and unburnt bonfire material does divert valuable resources and funds that could otherwise be used to improve or maintain Housing Executive homes.”

 

 

By Evan Short

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