Bonfire progress welcomed

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Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Socialist Party have hailed the absence of a nationalist bonfire in Belfast, the first August there was none lit in the city.

The last remaining bonfire in the New Lodge, traditionally lit to mark the anniversary of the introduction of internment, had become associated with anti-social and sectarian activity in recent years.

Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey said community groups and representatives had been working very hard to make this a “bonfire-free year.”

He said a midweek music concert organised to coincide with the introduction of internment had succeeded in diverting nationalist youths.

“I believe great leadership has been shown in getting to this stage and want to congratulate all those who have put in this effort,” he said.

The IRSP said that in return for not building the bonfire, New Lodge youths had requested tickets and transport to the concert with assurances that they would not be discriminated against at the event. The West Belfast Festival, Feile an Phobail, received funds from Belfast city council to cover the costs.

“Thankfully the ticket allocation was approved by Feile an Phobail and they listened to the youths concerns and responded in a positive manner and were able to give assurances,” they said.

“The IRSP support the highlighting of internment in Ireland and while we commend the youth for trying we believe a bonfire and rave is not the correct way to commemorate internment.

“Understanding this the youth have shown a keen interest in trying to come up with a long term, constructive alternative for the area to remember internment and its impact.”

The IRSP pointed out the New Lodge suffers from extremely high levels of child poverty and social deprivation.

“The issues that face this community is not the young people’s fault, they suffer the same issues on a daily basis,” they said.

“We must ensure that positive results like this are built on in order to create a constructive and organised community that together can try and tackle the problems that face this community. The young people are the future of this district and we must ensure that they feel part of it in order to create a brighter future for everyone.”

SECTARIAN SIGNS

Elsewhere, there was widespred condemnation of a bonfire in Newry that carried sectarian signs. One placard directed against loyalist lobbyist Willie Frazer referred to his father, a British Army soldier, who was shot dead by the IRA in 1975.

Mr Frazer posted online that when he attempted to take a picture of the bonfire his car was attacked by young people at the site.

Another nationalist bonfire in Craigavon was said to have carried the flag of a football team based in a Protestant area of Portadown. Sinn Fein described both incidents as “hate crimes” and “anti-republican”.

THE COLOUR OF HATE

Meanwhile, sectarian tensions have continued in Limavady after some kerbstones in the county Derry town were painted green, white and orange. It comes after large sections of the town’s pavements had already been fringed with red, white and blue for the Protestant marching season.

The PSNI police said the green, white and orange kerbs were being treated as a “sectarian hate crime”, but not the others.

Asked to explain the difference, a PSNI spokesman said: “This was perceived to be a hate crime by the reporting person and is therefore being investigated by police as a hate crime.”

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