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‘Unionist parties should show leadership to remove illegal Avoneil bonfire’ – Cllr Beattie

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Unionist parties should now show leadership to ensure the removal of an illegal bonfire from Avoniel Leisure Centre goes ahead without further disruption and threats, Sinn Féin Councillor Ciarán Beattie has said.

And Councillor Beattie also condemned the involvement of the East Belfast in threats against council staff and in escalating community tensions.

Cllr. Beattie was commenting after Belfast City Council today confirmed its decision to remove the bonfire.

Ciarán Beattie said:

“Parties on the council have agreed to remove bonfire materials, end the occupation of the site and allow the centre to return to normal.

“This was clearly the right decision and what is needed now is political leadership, particularly from unionist parties, to ensure the removal goes ahead without disruption and without the kind of intimidation and even death threats that we have seen in recent days.

“This bonfire should never have been erected on a council facility.

“Community leisure centres should be a shared space in which everyone can feel comfortable.

“It is therefore only right that these materials should be removed and I welcome the cross-party consensus within council which recognised that reality.

“We all have a right to celebrate culture in a dignified and respectful manner but the disruption and intimidation associated with this bonfire led to death threats being issued against council contractors and the leisure centre being closed for two days.

“There is nothing dignified, respectful or cultural about any of that.

“I want to place on the record my condemnation of this campaign of threats and the intimidation which has been orchestrated by the East Belfast UVF.

“Now is a time for a calm, rational response and I would urge all political and community leaders to ensure that is the case over the coming period.”

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