Long: Destruction of homes signals bonfire management must change

Alliance Housing Spokesperson Naomi Long has said the destruction of homes due to a bonfire in the Shankill area is a tragedy for families which must act as a wake – up call about how bonfires are managed in future.

“When homes are being destroyed it’s clear 11th night bonfires can’t continue as they are currently,’ said Mrs Long after two homes were completely gutted and a third almost destroyed in the Hopewell Square area.

She added: “My thoughts are with those who have seen their homes, along with all their possessions, destroyed in a manner which could have been avoided. It is clear that the situation could have been a lot worse and I commend the fire service for getting it under control so quickly.

“I recognise and respect that bonfires are an important part of the Twelfth celebrations, but there needs to be a serious review of how these fires are managed given the threat they pose to property and to life.

“Last year we had residents in Chobham Street evacuated. Then, in the run up to this year’s bonfire night, we saw an increase in reports of tyres being stockpiled and, in East Belfast, play park equipment had to be removed and a number of homes boarded up to protect them from damage. Sadly, the overnight scenes that unfolded in the Shankill and the destruction of homes has demonstrated just how untenable the current situation is.

“Real progress has been made in some areas, with the use of beacons and a focus on community based celebrations. We now need to build on that progress, and directly tackle those areas where the sheer scale of the fires and proximity to property makes them inherently dangerous.

“The PSNI, Housing Executive, local Councils and any other statutory bodies involved have a duty to find a better way forward, rather than avoiding the tough decisions needed if we are to ensure that this expression of culture continues in a safe manner, rather than at any cost.”

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