Northern Ireland

Sandy Row fun day goes ahead without council money

John Cameron
Image caption John Cameron said local people have been told the council had expressed concerns about the height of the nearby bonfire

A loyalist community in Belfast has expressed anger that council funding has been withheld for a street party.

Belfast City Council pulled funding of about £1,000, some of which was to be used for a children's fun day at Sandy Row on Tuesday.

One of the organisers said local people had been told the council had expressed concerns about the height of the nearby bonfire.

The council said discussions were ongoing in relation to the funding.

'Absolutely aghast'

Sandy Row's children's fun day and bonfire celebrations have been taking place on the eve of the annual Twelfth of July commemorations, which mark the victory of William III at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

The bonfire, that contains hundreds of wooden pallets, is in a car park near a hotel.

Image caption The Sandy Row bonfire is one of many that will be lit on the eve of the Twelfth of July commemorations

One of the organisers of the street party, John Cameron, said he believed the bonfire builders had complied with the council's policies.

He added that there was a lot of disappointment in the area that the council had pulled its support for a children's party at such short notice - but that the event had gone ahead with the support of local businesses.

"Children don't understand that, so the community has got together, along with local businesses, and they have managed to pull together a fun day," he said.

"It's a real tribute to the people of Sandy Row to make sure that it goes ahead."

An MLA for the area, Christopher Stalford, was among those who criticised the council's move and is seeking an explanation.

In a letter to council officials, the DUP MP said Sandy Row residents were "absolutely aghast at the decision that has been taken and feel very saddened and offended".

Mr Stalford asked: "If the issue is related to the bonfire in Sandy Row, why is the event which is held hundreds of yards away being penalised?"

'Outrageous'

Mr Cameron said the Sandy Row bonfire had been in the news for weeks and those responsible for building it had tried to abide by the advice of the council.

The police and the council are holding separate investigations into the alleged theft of hundreds of wooden pallets that had been placed in storage on council-controlled land in advance of Eleventh Night bonfires.

Mr Cameron said that after the pallets were removed, a number of tyres were "illegally dumped on the site".

He said community representatives contacted the council in order to "abide by the policies in place for the funding and the guidance that we were given".

"The council came, collected and disposed of the tyres in the right manner and then, with 24 hours' notice, the funding has been cut for this site for a community fun day.

"It's outrageous, it shouldn't have happened. The people of Sandy Row feel let down."

Image caption Street stalls were set up along Sandy Row in advance of the Twelfth commemorations

Mr Cameron said Sandy Row was not among the four Belfast bonfire sites subject to a High Court injunction.

The area's MP said je has asked council officials to explain the process they used in approving the decision to withdraw funding.

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