Belfast IRSP call for an end to Shankill bonfire funding and welcome forthcoming legal challenge by local residents.

Republican Socialist flags, taken from Costello House and burned on the Belfast City Council funded Conway Street bonfire.

The Irish Republican Socialist Party in West Belfast has called for an end to the practice of Council funding for Sectarian bonfires.

Their call comes following a wave of incidents directly related to the ‘Conway Street Bonfire’ on the Lower Shankill Road, an event facilitated and funded by Belfast City Council through its ‘Good relations initiative’.

Last week the IRSP reported how Republican Socialist flags (including the Starry Plough) mounted on the walls of Costello House on Belfast’s Falls Road, were prised from the building and taken by people most likely Loyalists and as a result called on local residents to remain vigilant. Since that time it has become evident that the flags were indeed stolen with the sole intent of being placed on top of the Conway Street bonfire, along with Irish tricolours and other symbols of Irish Republicanism.

A stolen IRSP flag is placed on top of the Belfast City Council funded bonfire.

However this trespass and theft was only one of many sectarian incidents directly related to the council funded bonfire, including a sustained attack upon nearby Catholic homes by a Loyalist mob and the use of the bonfire itself to taunt attack and create tension amongst nearby Clonard residents living directly across from the Conway Street site.

Speaking on those incidents, Gerry Foster of Belfast IRSP stated… ‘In the week prior to the lighting of this bonfire, a host of sectarian incidents occurred in and around the vicinity of the Conway Street site. Residents living on the Clonard side of the ‘Peace wall’ were disturbed on several occasions, awoken by sectarian cat calling coming from those using ‘cherry pickers’ to stack pallets onto the bonfire, then on early Saturday morning (July 11th) a sustained attack was made upon Catholic homes in Conway Place within spitting distance of the bonfire site. The attack which lasted for at least twenty minutes saw homes and cars pelted with bricks and bottles and it is our belief that those responsible include the many Loyalist youths who gathered around the bonfire in the run up to the twelfth, indeed residents report seeing two men atop of the structure, guiding those throwing from the Shankill end of the Peace wall.

It is nothing short of bizarre, that at a time when working class people in Belfast are being told there is no money available for health, education and leisure; that funds can be found to facilitate an event which has the sole intention of creating fear, mistrust and sectarian tension. The irony of naming such a funding package the ‘Good relations initiative’ is not lost on us, this bonfire has only done damage to good relations in West Belfast, indeed it has introduced the novelty of sectarian tension to a section of our youth who otherwise would have no interest in such nonsense.

In the wake of the most recent provocation and attacks, residents of the streets affected have approached the IRSP who encouraged them to take formal legal action against the practice of council funding for Sectarian bonfires, it is our understanding that this process has now been initiated and our party fully supports these people in their efforts.