Residents living next to a loyalist ‘Eleventh Night’ bonfire site have had to be moved out of their homes due to the hazard presented by one of tonight’s planned infernos.
Windows and doors of more than 50 homes had to be boarded up at huge cost after the fire service warned that lives and property could be at risk. The bonfire sits on land owned by the Stormont administration’s Department of Regional Development just off the Newtownards Road in east Belfast.
Loyalists have ignored the concerns of elderly residents who have already evacuated, and have been making the huge tower of material even bigger, despite claims to the contrary.
Sinn Fein councillor Niall O Donnghaile said: “The fact that statutory authorities along with community leaders have ceded responsibility to a group of children building this bonfire is unfathomable. This bonfire clearly poses a danger to people’s lives, their livelihood and homes.”
Several families in Chobham Street, off Ravenscroft Avenue, moved out yesterday and those who remain say they are petrified”for their own safety and that of their homes.
They said that the department had ignored their pleas to take action to protect their properties. The residents, who were too frightened to be named, said that endless meetings with the officials and the Fire Service had got them nowhere.
One homeowner said: “Nobody is willing to take action. Rather than act now to prevent disaster, their attitude seems to be that they’ll just mop up the mess after the Eleventh Night.”
Bonfires are set to be lit around the north on Saturday night ahead of the Orange Order’s Twelfth parades. The bonfires are notoriously dangerous events from which sectarian violence frequently erupt.
The bonfires themselves traditionally have a core of tyres down the middle surrounded by hundreds of wooden pallets, before they are covered in flags, sectarian slogans, nationalist election posters, figures in effigy and other assorted death threats.
Many of the groups behind the bonfires controversially receive “community grants” of over two thousand pounds from the Stormont authorities, despite ignoring efforts to lay down guidelines and procedures.
Among the fires to receive the grant is one notoriously located immediately beside the Days Hotel in the city centre. The fire, which was set alight earlier this month, has since been rebuilt ahead of tonight’s event.
HACKED TO DEATH
In a separate development, a senior loyalist paramilitary and another loyalist were brutally hacked to death using a samurai sword on Wednesday night.
Veteran Ulster Defence Association (UDA) gangster Colin ‘Bap’ Lindsay and another man, Stanley Wightman, were found with severe injuries in the living room of Lindsay’s home in the Belvoir estate in south Belfast. Lindsay died at the scene while Wightman succumbed to severe head injuries on Friday.
In an unusual step, the PSNI named a man arrested in connection with the attack as Albert Armstrong, and publicly ruled out a loyalist feud as the cause. There have been suggestions locally that increased drug-taking by loyalists at this time of year may have been partly responsible for the frenzied attack, which was carried out using Lindsay’s own blade.