Bonfires set to blaze in celebrations across NI

More pallets are added to a bonfire at the top of the Shankill Road
More pallets are added to a bonfire at the top of the Shankill Road

Bonfire builders will watch with glee as their many months of handiwork go up in flames this weekend.

Ranging from towering feats of amateur engineering to more modest pallet piles, youngsters were busy putting the finishing touches to their creations at sites across the Province yesterday.

Bonfire near Lanark Way, in west Belfast

Bonfire near Lanark Way, in west Belfast

The police and fire brigade said they expect bonfires to be lit over both Saturday and Sunday, because this year the traditional ‘Twelfth’ parades will actually be happening on Monday, July 13, due to the Sabbath.

The Orange Order said in a statement: “We commend those who are acting responsibly within their communities to make the Eleventh night an enjoyable one – however, we would emphasise that organisers must be safe, sensible and responsible at all times.”

Among those looking forward to the flames is DUP deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast Guy Spence.

“Growing up within north Belfast, bonfire building was something I was a part of,” he said.

East Belfast's Chobham Street bonfire, which is close to some homes

East Belfast's Chobham Street bonfire, which is close to some homes

“The sense of community and partnership as friends and family constructed the largest structure possible with a small amount of pallets was a highlight.”

PUP east Belfast councillor John Kyle said that the positives of bonfires should be celebrated, and understood in their historical context.

He offered the example of Londonderry’s gatherings a evidence that bonfires “can be fun and a community celebration”.

However, in some areas the size of bonfires and their proximity to houses or other nearby properties have caused concern amongst locals.

In east Belfast at least six families have had to leave their homes due to a bonfire built on wasteland, owned by the Department of Regional Development (DRD), beside Chobham Street.

Around fifty houses have been boarded up by the Housing Executive after fears that homes in four streets could be damaged by heat from the blaze and a one hundred year old tree has also been removed.

It was suggested by veteran UUP councillor Jim Rodgers that the reason the bonfire has been built up is that it is likely to be the last in the area, as a play park is to be constructed on the same piece of land.

Councillor Rodgers, who is from the area, had been one of the political figures trying to encourage a smaller bonfire, and said: “We can’t stand idly by and allow properties to suffer.

“We’re not against a bonfire, but those involved have to show responsibility.”

Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle called on the DRD to act as the bonfire poses a serious risk to residents.

“The Minister for Regional Development must take action to make the area safe and show greater leadership on this issue.”

Translink passengers should be aware that a special timetable will be in place during the celebrations of the Twelfth.

Metro bus services and some Goldline services will be operating on a public holiday timetable on July 13 and 14, although some Goldine services will be unaffected.

Additionally some Ulsterbus town services will not be in operation.

NI Railways will be running on a Saturday timetable on July 11, 13 and 14.