A New Lodge community worker’s home was attacked and cars and vans set alight after a bonfire was lit in the area last night (Wednesday).The bonfire was held on the anniversary of internement, on the green space between the tower blocks despite objections from residents. A sheet with the name of Sinn Féin councillor Conor Maskey was also burnt on the pyre.
After the bonfire was lit a small riot ensued and cars and vans from the New Lodge were taken to North Queen Street and set alight. The home of respected community worker Gerry O’Reilly was also attacked.
The Housing Executive had moved into the area a number of times over the past few weeks to remove the wood despite threats to their staff.
Conor Maskey said it was a small group of local dissident republicans who encouraged young people to collect the wood and set it alight.
“A small number of unsupported so-called dissident republicans facilitated the collecting of bonfire wood so as to get into direct confrontation with the PSNI last night,” he said.
“Young people were used so that a van and two cars were taken from the New Lodge and set alight in North Queen Street and the home of well-respected republican Gerry O’Reilly was attacked again.
“These so-called dissidents need to explain to the community why they used a small group of young people in this way. Their only contribution to life in the New Lodge is destruction, facilitating attacks on republican ex-prisoners and giving young people criminal records. Are they going to help their neighbours in picking up the pieces when their kids are going through the youth courts?”
The councillor said the burning of his name on the bonfire will not deter him from his work in the area.
“There’s not a chance of it, it is things like this that make me more determined than ever to work in the New Lodge and make life beater for the people that live there.”
The Sinn Féin rep said the local community will not allow the land to be hijacked.
“The New Lodge has so few green spaces and this green at Victoria Parade won’t become a hot spot for anti-social behavior and we have the full support of this community on that,” he said.
“This is a small minority of young people determined to destroy the area and we will not let them tarnish the good name of the vast majority of New Lodge young people who view those involved as thugs and bullies.
“Already we have begun discussions to avoid this situation arising in the future and we are embarking on finding alternate uses for this green.
“I’ve expressed the anger of local residents to the Housing Executive who own this land.”
A PSNI spokeswoman said four people were arrested for public order offences relating to the trouble in the New Lodge, Divis Street and Stewartstown Road.
“I would assure the local community that we will continue to work with them to reduce this type of behaviour and ask for their assistance with information which would bring those responsible to justice.”
Anyone with information about the disorder is asked to contact police on 0845 600 8000. Or to provide information without giving details, they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on 0800 555 111.