Bonfire builders who have worked hard to make their sites more family and environmentally friendly should be congratulated rather than attacked, a south Belfast community worker has said.
Trevor Greer of Belfast South Community Resources (BSCR) was speaking out after a number of adverse media reports concerning the bonfire in Sandy Row being close to the Holiday Inn hotel in Hope Street.
SDLP and Alliance representatives have branded the bonfire “unacceptable”.
SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said she did not wish to see the fires banned, but said the positioning of the one in Sandy Row was “utterly insane”.
“The last thing that visitors staying in any hotel want to do is look out on such a mess,” she said.
However, Holiday Inn guests commenting on the TripAdvisor website have had nothing but praise for the hotel – and the location – in the weeks since the bonfire began to take shape.
More than 20 visitors have posted reviews on the site during the last two weeks and almost all have been extremely complimentary about their overall experience, with no one making any reference to the bonfire or anti-social behaviour.
Mr Greer said the bonfire organisers have been working closely with Belfast City Council and liaising with hotel representatives, as well as organising a number of family-friendly events at the site, to create a trouble-free environment.
“In the run up to this Twelfth we had a fun fair for 10 days in the same car park, we have run fun days for families that included not just people from Sandy Row but open to, and attended by, people from outside Sandy Row.
“We also had people from the apartments facing the bonfire site attending the War Years Remembered event on the site,” he said.
Mr Greer said recent critical media reports were unjustified.
“I think they have just rehashed a story from last year or the year before and stuck a new picture with it. If you go down to the site you will see there are no tyres, there are not sofas. Credit where credit is due, and there are people trying to make it a safer and more friendly environment for everybody.”
He added: “If people don’t think they are being recognised for the good work they’re doing, it’s quite plausible they will turn round and say ‘we’ll do it the way we used to do it’ with flags and tyres on the bonfire.”
Northern Ireland Electricity Networks has issued a pre-Eleventh night safety warning to keep bonfires a safe distance from overhead lines and substations.
Anyone concerned about safety around the electricity network is asked to contact NIE Networks on 03457 643 643, or visit nienetworks.co.uk for more advice.