Pitch battles at the Bone

By Paul Ainsworth

VANDALS have left a local football pitch “unplayable” by causing fire damage, before throwing stones at police who were called to the scene.

A group of up to 30 youths were seen at the Marrowbone Millennium Park the Saturday before last, where they lit two fires on the grass, causing substantial damage to the pitch.

Belfast City Council were forced to temporarily close the park while repairs were carried out. A local representative urged both police and council staff to combat what he dubbed “growing anti-social behaviour” at the site, formerly the Oldpark playing fields.

SDLP member Peter Devlin witnessed the crowds and was also targeted by stone throwers, who later turned their missiles on police.

“The anti-social behaviour around the pitches is really getting out of hand, every weekend bigger crowds gather to drink there,” he said.

“I was walking past the area myself and could see the fires burning on the pitch. As I did, about three of the youths came closer and started hurling stones in my direction.

“I was lucky I wasn’t injured, but if this keeps up, someone will be, so I would like to see more police patrols there to prevent this group gathering, and council park staff can play a role in keeping them out.”

A PSNI spokeswoman said officers arrived at the pitches shortly after 8pm.

“Police had been alerted to a group lighting fires and causing annoyance,” she said. “Officers came under minor attack from stones and other missiles, before they were able to get to the fires, one of which had burned itself out, and the other which was extinguished by the officers.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Council said they were “unsure” when it would reopen.

“We have asked our park rangers to monitor this area in a bid to combat any future behaviour of this kind.”

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