The Department for Infrastructure has slammed a republican bonfire and threatening graffiti in north Belfast as “completely unacceptable”.
The threats, daubed on walls close to the pyre in the New Lodge, warns that if the wood is removed, then a nearby community centre will targeted.
Another sinister message names local Sinn Fein councillor JJ Magee and states: ‘We know your address’.
The bonfire is due to be lit on August 8 to mark the anniversary of the introduction of internment without trial on August 9, 1971.
The Department for Infrastructure spokesman said: “The use of a public road in New Lodge for the construction of a bonfire and the threatening graffiti are both completely unacceptable.
“The department will continue to work with its statutory partners to identify the best way of supporting the local community and ensuring the safety of road users, staff and contractors.”
DUP councillor Dale Pankhurst has voiced support for his Sinn Fein counterpart in the Oldpark ward.
In a message posted on Twitter, Cllr Pankhurst said: “Although @jjnorthbelfast and I regularly clash on a number of issues, we do so in a democratic setting. The threats made against him in the New Lodge are wrong and must be condemned.”
Paul McCusker of the SDLP said people in the New Lodge do not want the bonfire.
“If there are threats made towards anybody, the job of police is to keep people safe, to ensure that these threats are investigated and also people are being protected, particularly buildings which are an important resource to the New Lodge, there’s a family centre there,” Cllr McCusker told the BBC Nolan Show.
“There are serious concerns around the level of threat here, serious concerns in terms of the level of criminality, and when that happens no one can deal with that, only the police.”
Sinn Fein MLA Caral Ni Chuilin said the bonfire “isn’t wanted” and should be removed, and that “all the criminal behaviour needs dealt with”.
PSNI Chief Inspector Kelly Moore said police are investigating the graffiti.
“Just before 8am yesterday we received a report about graffiti which has been painted on the walls of a property in the Queens Parade area. Officers are currently investigating and I would ask anyone with any information to contact us on 101 quoting reference number 267 06/08/19,” she said.
The situation comes weeks after Belfast City Council voted to remove the July 11 pyre from Avoniel Leisure Centre. However no action was taken after graffiti appeared threatening the contractors tasked with removing the bonfire.