Northern Ireland

Anti-internment bonfire causes west Belfast day centre's closure

Anti-internment bonfire
Image caption The bonfire is to be lit on Friday evening

A day centre for vulnerable adults in west Belfast is due to close on Friday due to safety concerns over a bonfire.

The bonfire, to mark the anniversary of the introduction of internment without trial in 1971, is close to Mica Day Centre in the Beechmount area.

It is attended by about 40 people with learning difficulties.

The bonfire is due to be lit on Friday evening, but there have been complaints about anti-social behaviour around the site during the day.

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Media captionWest Belfast MP Paul Maskey called for the bonfire to be removed

A spokesperson for Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said: "We have taken the decision to make alternative arrangements for the provision of day services for adults with learning disabilities who attend Mica Drive for Friday 8 August only.

"This decision was taken in light of a planned community event close to the vicinity of Mica Drive, which has the potential to cause disruption to normal service provision.

"The decision has been taken in an effort to reduce anxiety and to maintain the safety and well-being of service users and staff who attend Mica Day Centre."

The MP for West Belfast, Sinn Féin's Paul Maskey, has called for the bonfire to be removed.

Katie O'Halloran, the mother of one of the people who use the centre, said: "I feel like crying. We've been let down."

SDLP West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood said bonfires were not wanted by the community.

"They create health and safety issues, they are hostile to the environment and they could be a magnet for anti-social activity," he said.

The bonfires are lit to commemorate the introduction of internment without trial of republican suspects introduced by the British government in 1971.

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