Keep bonfires away from homes

Posted By: September 21, 2017

Irish News Editorial.Belfast. Thursday, September 21, 2017

Given the near disaster caused by an Eleventh Night bonfire off Sandy Row in south Belfast, common sense would suggest that the best way to avoid a similar situation next year would be to move the pyre to another location.

However, common sense seems to be in short supply when we are dealing with some Loyalist bonfires and individuals determined not only to stay on one site but also to build dangerously high structures.

There have been a number of near misses with towering bonfires in recent times with several homes badly damaged in the lower Shankill area last year.

On July 11 this year flames and heat from the bonfire at Hope Street off Sandy Row came shockingly close to destroying a block of flats and it was only thanks to the strenuous efforts of the fire service that a catastrophe was averted.

Even so, residents were left terrified by their ordeal which came only a short time after the horrifying events at Grenfell Tower in London.

Such was the intensity of the heat from the bonfire that windows cracked and shattered at the Victoria Place apartments.

Even resolving who is responsible for repairing the damage has proved to be a lengthy and uncertain process for residents, who are caught up in a situation that is not of their making.

With all this in the background, it is disappointing to learn that this troublesome bonfire may make another appearance at the same site next July.

A senior community worker in Sandy Row has said the Housing Executive, which owns the land, is “content” to have the bonfire on Hope Street until the site is developed, saying the body wants it managed in a “positive and safe manner”.

There is no doubt public bodies are placed in a difficult position in relation to contentious displays but worried residents need to know that statutory agencies are looking after their interests.

Quite simply, towering bonfires should not be placed anywhere near property and political representatives need to give clear leadership on this issue.