Divis says no as bonfire builders start their work

By Francesca Ryan

A LOWER Falls Sinn Féin Councillor has hit out at those collecting for the dreaded August bonfires.

Jim McVeigh says bonfires have no place in the area as they have merely become a magnet for anti-social activity. He was speaking after a mound of flammable material appeared in the Divis district, clearly intended for the August 9 blaze. Piles of wooden crates, tree stumps and other debris have been left on a strip of land sandwiched between Clonfadden Crescent and the M1 motorway in anticipation of the event over three weeks away when local anti-socials copy the antics of loyalists.

The August 9 bonfires, once popular across nationalist areas to mark the anniversary of internment, have all but disappeared in recent times, but there are still those intent on staging the blazes despite community opposition that’s growing stronger with every passing year.

Heavy drinking and drug-taking around the bonfire by well-known anti-social elements, combined with the appalling state of the area the following morning have convinced the vast majority of residents that they want nothing to do with the August bonfires, which are staged not only in Divis, but in other areas of West Belfast too.

While the majority of people in West Belfast will be participating in the jam-packed festival of events organised for the 26th Féile and Phobail, there’s evidence that some are planning to proceed with bonfires. Councillor McVeigh said the bonfires usually attract anti-social elements and urged people to attend the Féile events instead of gathering at the blazes.

“We are opposed to bonfires wherever they are,” he said. “They are a source of alcohol abuse and encourage the worse type of anti-social behaviour and pose a potential danger to those living close to the bonfire site. There are groups in this area that provide alternatives for the kids in the summer. This is much more positive and I urge the kids to get involved there rather than in this activity that only carries negative results. And, of course, we have the Féile an Phobail programme in the same week which is packed with hundreds of events for people of all ages.

“The community is clear that the bonfires and associated vandalism and environmental damage are not wanted here,” added Cllr McVeigh.

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