A Belfast city councillor has said she is “absolutely disgusted” at the planned removal of a south Belfast bonfire, which was set alight to prevent it being taken away.

In a statement, Belfast City Council confirmed material from the Annandale Embankment bonfire site in south Belfast was due to be removed and said this was in the “public interest”.

However, on Tuesday evening, bonfire builders set the small set of pallets on fire after details about a council meeting concerning the removal of the bonfire were leaked.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, DUP councillor Tracy Kelly said she was “absolutely disgusted” at the ordeal and reiterated the bonfire was small and was intended for a children’s Eleventh Night party.

The Annandale bonfire was set on fire on Tuesday night

She hit out at the fact the bonfire was set for removal despite the lack of any “paramilitary trappings” or flags.

“I am absolutely disgusted by it,” she said.

“This is the smallest bonfire, it was well kept, tidy, nowhere near houses, no flags, no paramilitary trappings – this was a children’s bonfire.

“To take it away from a small community is outrageous. This is why they said they’d rather burn it.

“The community had arranged an Eleventh day party, because they won’t be able to do it next year because hopefully there will be a new pitch on the site.

“It was a farewell, the last one and I just don’t understand why the council wanted to lift it. Look at the other bonfires all around Belfast compared to others? I just don’t understand.”

In a statement, Belfast City Council confirmed it was planning removing the material and it was within the “public interest.”

“Belfast City Council’s approach to managing bonfires is led by elected members,” a council spokesperson said.

“A member-led decision-making process has been agreed to consider issues and make decisions on a site-by-site basis.

“Members of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee decided to act in the public interest and agreed that action would be taken to remove materials at the Annadale site.

SDLP councillor Séamas de Faoite said it was disappointing details about a council meeting were leaked and said he will be asking Belfast City Council to investigate it.

He also “every political party should be working” to see plans for funding and development in the area “succeed”.

“This will be one of the most successful years for the council’s beacon programme. Real progress is being made to reduce the number of contentious bonfires, which we welcome. We’re in the business of building a new Ireland and we don’t expect loyalism to simply disappear as a result,” he said.

“The SDLP has been very supportive of the broader community plans for Annadale embankment and the enhancement of green space for the benefit of everyone in the area. Every political party should be working to see those plans and the funding applications associated with them succeed.

“It’s disappointing that the details of confidential committee meetings were leaked, resulting in a fire last night. We will be asking Belfast City Council officers to investigate this leak. It’s also frustrating to read confidential details shared on social media by elected representatives who should know better.”

It comes after the bonfire was cancelled in 2021 when builders decided not to proceed with it, leading to large signs that read “No Bonfire” to be erected around the site.

Before then a bonfire had been held every Eleventh Night at the location for years.

It is usually erected near the Annadale Flats, not far from the car park of a large Dunnes Stores department store.

The area overlooks the River Lagan and is popular with joggers and cyclists.

In 2019 it benefited from Belfast City Council’s Bonfires and Cultural Expression Programme, which provides grants of up to £1,750 to bonfire builders if they meet certain criteria.

That includes not burning toxic materials such as tyres or having loyalist paramilitary displays around the site of a bonfire.

News Catch Up: Tuesday 9 July 2024