Northern Ireland

Bonfires: Council contacted 35 businesses over 'unsafe' Portadown site

Residents at a block of flats in Portadown have been told to leave their homes on July 10 due to the risk posed from a nearby bonfire Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption The bonfire in the Corcrain area in Portadown

A Northern Ireland council has failed to find a contractor to remove what has been deemed an "unsafe" bonfire in Portadown, County Armagh.

More than 35 firms had been contacted about removing the bonfire near flats at Drumilly Green in the Corcrain area.

Residents living near the bonfire on a large council-owned green have been advised to leave their homes.

Discussions between Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council (ABC) and emergency services have been ongoing.

On Tuesday night, the council decided not to send a contractor in to remove the bonfire.

That means the bonfire is to go ahead on Wednesday night, 10 July.

The South Ulster Housing Association, which owns three blocks of flats at the edge of the green, has written to residents, saying the bonfire "poses a serious health and safety risk".

Image caption Safety leaflets were delivered to about 200 homes in the area offering residents advice on the dangers of smoke inhalation

The bonfire has been deemed to be too close to some of the flats.

On Monday, the council met residents to discuss their concerns.

It is understood 35 firms were contacted across the UK and Ireland in relation to potentially moving the bonfire to another site.

At a meeting on Tuesday, representatives from the main parties on ABC Council and Portadown councillors met representatives from the fire service, South Ulster Housing Association and the PSNI to discuss the bonfire.

Safety leaflets were delivered to about 200 homes in the area offering residents advice on the dangers of smoke inhalation.

Sinn Féin councillor Catherine Nelson described the situation as "ludicrous".

'Beggars belief'

"We're asking those people to evacuate their homes so that a bonfire can be lit - if they don't evacuate their homes, their lives are at risk," she said.

"That's not acceptable in 2019. We are currently playing roulette with people's lives and property".

Ms Nelson said the situation "beggars belief".

She added: "We have new-born babies in these blocks of flats, we have elderly people in these blocks of flats, they are being asked to evacuate their homes in order for this bonfire to be lit."

She said she "didn't buy" the council's statement that they had been unable to secure a contractor.

"I don't expect our rate payers will buy that," she added.

Alliance councillor Peter Lavery called for the builders of the bonfire to remove or reduce it before it causes damage to property or injury to residents.

"Alliance supports positive, respectful and safe expressions of culture. However, that is clearly not the case with this bonfire," he said.

Although alternative accommodation is being offered to affected householders at a youth hostel in Armagh, it is understood that only a small number of residents are expected to go there - with most going to friends or family.

Up to 4,000 people are expected to attend Wednesday night's bonfire - which is being lit a day ahead of most of the bonfires in Northern Ireland.

Bonfires are lit in some Protestant areas in Northern Ireland on 11 July, the night before Orange Order members commemorate the 1690 Battle of the Boyne with parades across Northern Ireland.

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