Belfast Féile organisers hail absence of large-scale internment bonfires

One small unplanned bonfire is understood to have been lit in the Markets area on Monday evening.
Belfast Féile organisers hail absence of large-scale internment bonfires

By Rebecca Black, PA

Féile An Phobail organisers have hailed the absence of large-scale internment bonfires in Belfast.

Traditionally, the pyres were lit each year to mark the anniversary of the introduction of internment without trial on August 9th, 1971.

The controversial policy saw thousands of mostly nationalists detained.

However, efforts have been made over several years, including a large music concert as part of Féile An Phobail, to divert young people from bonfires.

Féile director Kevin Gamble said the large bonfires, which he called an “unwanted feature in this community”, again did not happen this year, describing a “massive success”.

There was a small unplanned bonfire in the Markets area of south Belfast on Monday evening, it was understood.

A police spokesman said officers did not receive any reports of bonfires on Monday.

Mr Gamble said more than 10,000 young people were in the Falls Park for the Féile Dance Night.

“This night is a combined effort to provide a diversionary event that brings young people off our streets away from the potential of unwanted and destructive bonfires,” he said.

Coronavirus – Tue Aug 3, 2021
Féile An Phobail director Kevin Gamble. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA

“Last night, the big bonfires that have been an unwanted feature in this community again didn’t happen and that is a massive success.

“In past years, these unwanted bonfires have brought destruction and an increase in anti-social behaviour to the areas in which they were held.

“Due to the support of the local community, the hard work and commitment of Féile staff and volunteers, community and youth organisations, political representatives, and Belfast City Council, Belfast was bonfire-free last night and all those involved in achieving this deserve praise.

“The benefit of the absence of these unwanted bonfires on August 8th is significant. As well as the positive images of young people enjoying themselves emanating from the Falls Park, there is also a considerable benefit to the local economy which the associated increase in visitor footfall and spending brings due to Féile.”

Mr Gamble added: “I want to specifically praise the young people who attended. They conducted themselves fantastically and they deserved a great night. They are an absolute credit to themselves and to the community.”

Sinn Féin MLA Deirdre Hargey praised youth workers on the ground and all those who worked in communities on diversionary events and ensured there were no organised bonfires in Belfast on Monday night.

“As a result of the amazing efforts of Féile An Phobail, youth workers and local community organisations in delivering top-class diversionary events, there were no organised bonfires in Belfast last night,” she said.

“Instead we watched amazing scenes from Falls Park as 10,000 young people danced the night away at Féile An Phobail’s biggest dance night yet to first-class local and international DJs.

“It’s a real credit to everyone involved in the running of a series of fantastic community festivals right across the city which promotes everything that is positive about Belfast.”

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