Paramilitaries should not be in control in 2019, says Alliance

Alliance Councillor Emmet McDonough Brown has said it is unacceptable for a paramilitary group to be holding a community to ransom in 2019.

The Belfast Councillor made the comments after a special meeting of the Strategic, Policy and Resources Committee on Wednesday afternoon heard PSNI concerns that the UVF was threatening violence if the bonfire close to Avoniel Leisure Centre was not allowed to proceed.

Emmet added: “While this might have started out as a bid to protect their culture in some eyes, this has quickly descended into anarchy locally – with a leisure centre forced to close for days and a paramilitary organisation threatening violence as a response to anyone who questions the legality and safety of this bonfire.

“While the tyres were removed, a number of other issues remain with this site – including the use of flags, the size of the bonfire and the impact on the Council to provide a key service through the centre.

“This is not about attacking culture, but ensuring people can celebrate culture in a safe and appropriate way – as others have done across Belfast –which is why the Alliance Party continues to support the Council’s preferred way forward of completely removing this bonfire through a contractor.

“This also requires PSNI support and Alliance has additionally backed the decision to write to the Police to make a formal complaint about aggravated trespass and expects the PSNI to support the Council in any action required.”