People power should decide the issue of bonfires, claimed the SDLP as the housing Executive, moved in to clear bonfire material from the Moss Park green.
Sinn Fein called for Social Services to play a greater role in policing the fires as children as young as 12 were observed drinking at the annual August 15 fire last year.
Youths begun gathering material for the bonfire at the site from last month. Local residents complained that the stockpiling of those combustibles, which included furniture, wooden pallets and household waste is a health and safety hazard and attracted an anti-social element to the site.
A meeting was held earlier this week between residents, the Housing Executive, the PSNI, youth agency Off The Streets, Community Restorative Justice and local councillors in order to find a way forward.
Following that meeting a spokesperson for the HE said they “would respect the real concerns of the residents and make every reasonable effort to remove the bonfire material gathered on the site.”
That clear up operation was carried out early yesterday.
SDLP Councillor Jimmny Carr said: “If the residents of the area don’t want a bonfire then a bonfire wont happen. It is as simple as that.”
Adding that he wasn’t necessarily opposed to bonfires, Colr. Carr added: “I represent both the youth and the older residents so both sides have my sympathy. I’m not in total objection to a bonfire but I do strongly object to the elements of anti-social behaviour and under age drinking which besiege Moss Park on August 15. Thousands attended the fire last year so the fear is it is going to be bigger this year. The main point is the meeting was well attended by residents who all totally oppose the fire.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Elisha McCallion said there is anger in the community over the fire..
Colr. McCallion said: “There is considerable anger at the bonfire and the destruction that it could cause. While there are issues around the desirability of bonfires generally, this particular bonfire created unacceptable conditions for residents last year in the area.
“I believe there needs to be a wide discussion about much of the activity that goes on in and around the bonfires particularly the blue bag culture. And underage drinking into the early hours of the morning. There were reports of children as young as 12 years of age being drunk, and clearly there is a role here for Social Services.”
Commenting on the outcome of the meeting Housing Executive District Manager, Eddie Doherty, said: “It was a positive meeting involving statutory and voluntary agencies with the residents whereby people were given the opportunity to voice their concerns or support for the bonfire in Bracken Park/Moss Park area. However, there was an overwhelming opinion expressed by the attendees that the bonfire should not proceed in this area.”
The District Manager added he would consider “any other solutions as long as they had the support of the residents”.