Contractor quits after bonfire disturbances

Trouble flared after Belfast City Council removed bonfire material from the Stewart Street site in the Markets area of Belfast. 


Picture by Samuel Severn / Pacemaker Press
Trouble flared after Belfast City Council removed bonfire material from the Stewart Street site in the Markets area of Belfast. Picture by Samuel Severn / Pacemaker Press

Belfast City Council is seeking a new contractor to enforce its controversial bonfire policies after the last one quit in the wake of this week’s violent disorder.

Trouble again flared in pockets of nationalist areas on Tuesday night as bonfires were lit to mark the anniversary of the introduction of internment without trial during the Troubles.

The disturbances, which saw a car torched in the New Lodge area north of the city centre, came after similar unrest on Monday.

The trouble first flared on Monday afternoon in the Markets area on the other side of the city when a council contractor removed wood from a bonfire site. A number of cars were set on fire and police officers were attacked. In the Divis area a derelict credit union building was burned.

A Sinn Fein tabled motion giving the council authorisation to remove material from bonfire sites it deemed unsafe was passed last week, despite the opposition of unionist councillors.

The republican party has denied the move has only served to heighten tensions among the youths who build the fires.

Police have said some of those involved in this week’s disorder were as young as 12.

The council has struggled for years to hire contractors to carry out work at volatile nationalist and loyalist bonfire sites during the summer.

It is understood the latest contractor withdrew its services citing health and safety concerns.

In terms of its own workforce, one council staff member sustained a cut to the head in the disorder when a thrown stone broke the windscreen of a council vehicle in west Belfast.

Another vehicle was damaged in a separate stone-throwing incident in the west of the city.

On Tuesday, Northern Ireland’s chief constable George Hamilton vowed to bring those involved in this week’s violence to justice.

He also stressed the need for parental responsibility in averting trouble that was largely perpetrated by youths.