EFFORTS to build a bonfire in the Lower Ormeau to mark the anniversary of internment are being driven by youths from outside the local area, it has been claimed. The South Belfast News last week reported on how staff at the local Mornington Community Centre blamed the removal of bonfire materials for prompting a break-in and vandalism at the rear of the property.
However, efforts to build a blaze to mark the August 8 anniversary of internment remain underway, while more youths are becoming involved in a “spiral of wanton destruction” under the guidance of people from outside the South Belfast area.
Gerard Rice from the Lower Ormeau Residents Action Group, said a “small group” of people remained determined to go ahead with a bonfire to be torched on August 9, against the wishes of the local community.
“We have attempted to discourage any ideas of a bonfire, as this is not an appropriate way to mark internment anymore,” he said.
“There hasn’t been an internment bonfire here for many years, but there is a small group who seem keen on it as they see how loyalists build bonfires for the Eleventh Night in July, and they want to replicate that.
“We had initially tried to encourage them to go to a beach to build a beacon, away from any built up areas, but they said no, as they wanted to involve alcohol.
“Unfortunately, there appears to be a number of young people coming to the area now from the Divis, Lower Falls and Whiterock areas, and they seem to be influencing a small number of local youths to get involved.
“It’s got to the stage where we have even seen youths wearing ski masks walking on the front of the road and pulling trolleys with bonfire materials. What are the police doing about that, I’d like to know. They are encouraging some local young people into a spiral of wanton destruction, and this was going on before the bonfire problem arose.”
Internment bonfires were once a common site in August across nationalist areas of Belfast, but have largely been replaced with community events, most notably the Féile an Phobail in the west of the city.
Local community worker Rosaleen Hughes also hit out at bonfire plans saying, “A bonfire is the last thing the community wants. It’s a danger to nearby property and out of character for the area. We’re worried at reports of anti-social behaviour on the rise around this, and the community should make it known loud and clear that this is not acceptable.”