Northern Ireland

Non-NI firms sought over bonfire material

The bonfire is pictured before the burning, with the apartment building behind Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A Belfast apartment building was damaged by a bonfire earlier in July

Fears of intimidation have forced Belfast City Council to try to use contractors from outside Northern Ireland to remove bonfire material.

It is believed more than 70 different firms have been contacted in recent years.

This includes contractors in England and Scotland.

On Wednesday, councillors will debate a Sinn Féin motion for council staff to be given the power to remove material from bonfires sites.

Image caption Graffiti threatening those who remove wood intended for bonfires

It comes weeks after a Belfast apartment building was damaged by an eleventh night bonfire held on council-owned land.

An Ulster Unionist councillor has said the motion is unrealistic.

Image caption The aftermath of the bonfire that damaged an apartment building in south Belfast

Jim Rogers said: "Over 70 contractors throughout Northern Ireland, England and Scotland were asked this year to lift bonfire material.

"They all said 'no', the reason being is that they feel intimidated, they're worried, they're concerned."

The Sinn Féin motion to be debated states: "This council gives permission to our council officers to remove bonfire materials or employ contractors to facilitate the removal of bonfire materials from council sites and other sites, which belong to statutory agencies and those which are in private ownership."

There have been a series of controversies over bonfires in Belfast this year, including one on the new multi-million-pound greenway in east Belfast and another built in a public car park.

A Belfast City Council spokesperson said: "We do not discuss matters relating to the issue of contracts."

Sinn Féin councillor for North Belfast, John Magee, said: "The threats painted against workers in the New Lodge who helped remove bonfire material is completely unacceptable.

"These workers were acting on behalf of residents who do not want to see properties damaged or someone injured."

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