City Hospital bonfire in firing line again

By Stephen McVey

T he continual use of a site beside the Belfast City Hospital for a 12th of July bonfire has been criticised by politicians and environmentalists. The site at the Donegall Road entrance to the hospital has been criticised for its environmental and economic significance as well as its proximity to the City Hospital.

Green party councillor Clare Bailey said the bonfire “goes against the good work” that has been done in the Sandy Row area of the city.

“The bonfire in this area is of concern because of its position central to the interface, as well as being close to the main thoroughfare to the city centre.

“It is a great environmental and health concern. Huge amounts  are being burnt and children are being allowed to freely play in this area. It is also going to do damage to the economy as Belfast continues to be fined for being named amongst the top 10 most polluted cities in Europe.“

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said it is working with representatives in the area to ensure the safety of patients.

“As in previous years, the Trust will continue to work with other statutory bodies, community representatives and local residents to ensure that the Belfast City Hospital remains a safe environment for patients, visitors and staff.”

A UUP councillor for the area, Bob Stoker, has defended the location of the bonfire.

“The fact is, as long as the location remains unused, it will continue to be the site for the bonfire. People will always take offence but the people who build the bonfires do not intend to cause offence or endanger health.”

Belfast City Council spokesman has stressed that the bonfire by the City Hospital is not under the Council’s funding.

“There are two bonfires on the Donegall Road that are within our scheme but the one beside the City Hospital is not one of them. The organisers of the other two bonfires have abided by our terms and conditions thus far.”

SDLP MLA Conal McDevitt has called for the Belfast Trust to take action.

“I am concerned at the health and safety risks associated with the City Hospital bonfire, and would encourage the organisers to consider moving it to a safer location.  Ultimately the Belfast Trust own the land and thus should be taking the lead in ensuring that their patients are safe, and that the bonfire does not pose a threat to their safety.

“It is an unwise location for such a dangerous structure, and I would call for a bit of common sense to be exercised,” he said.

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