The Alliance Party has backed Belfast City Council’s calls for the PSNI to take robust action against those who continue to be involved in aggravated trespass at the Avoniel Leisure Centre site, ensuring reports of intimidation and threats are properly investigated.
The Party made the call as the Leisure Centre entered into another day of closure.
Speaking after the meeting, Group Leader Michael Long said it was “disappointing” the Council had been left to handle the situation alone, adding the onus was on other statutory agencies to follow Belfast City Council’s lead in finding ways to tackle unsafe bonfires in the months ahead.
He added: ““We are disappointed that the Avoniel Leisure Centre continues to be closed to staff and residents today due to those associated with the bonfire at the site and who have been linked to the East Belfast UVF by the PSNI.
“Unfortunately, whilst Belfast City Council has taken the lead in taking proactive action against unsafe bonfires, we have been hugely disappointed by the fact that other statutory agencies have failed to live up to their responsibilities. Hopefully this will change and they will be able to at least follow our example in setting up a group designed to tackle these issues before they ever get this far.
“We are concerned that no action has been able to be taken to secure our leisure centre, which has been taken hostage by the East Belfast UVF and this has serious implications for the rule of law in East Belfast. One would have to ask in what other city in these islands would it be acceptable for a Council facility to be closed for almost a week by people wishing to set fire to wood and tyres on somebody else’s property?
“Unlike the UVF, we do not believe that it is responsible to put children and young people in harm’s way and so we accept that it is unlikely that there will be proactive efforts to remove the bonfire today; however, we are making it clear that we want the PSNI to take action against those who have caused aggravated trespass on Council property either today or in the coming days as it is unacceptable that people can close down a leisure centre in this way.
“The Alliance Party will be seeking a meeting with the PSNI in the coming days to express our concerns about how the issues surrounding bonfires are dealt with in order that we will not face a repeat of this kind of action in the future."