14 July 2005

'UVF gun show' threatens funding: council has money to burn


UVF men fired shots at a Belfast bonfire

A paramilitary show of strength at a bonfire in east Belfast could put a pilot funding scheme in jeopardy, a Belfast councillor has said.

Five UVF gunmen appeared on stage at Monday night's bonfire at Pitt Park in the lower Newtownards Road area and fired a volley of shots.

The Pitt Park bonfire was one of nine bonfires which are part of a £50,000 council pilot scheme.

It aimed to bring such events under proper control.

Naomi Long of the Alliance Party said Pitt Park had been chosen because of its controversial nature.

"What we wanted to do was try and tackle some of the very serious problems we have had with some of the major bonfire sites," she said.

"The intention was that this scheme wouldn't be some tokenistic approach by the council, but would actually try to get to the root cause of some of the problems we have been having."

Ms Long was one of the councillors who originally approved the scheme.

It aims to address issues such as paramilitary flags being flown, tyres being burned, preventing illegal dumping and keeping the site tidy.

The incident of UVF gunmen turning up and firing shots was a serious knock back to the scheme, which will now be under review, she said.

"A total of £50,000 was allocated to the entire scheme - over half of which went to Groundwork - the organisation which facilitated a lot of the facilitation on this scheme.

"As to the individual bonfires, a maximum of £2,500 was allowed to be spent on each individual site.

"But that was to be spent on a mixture of things. Some of it was signage for the site, some of it was fencing for the site, which would already have been incurred by the council."

Other money would be given to fund "community-based celebrations", said the councillor.

"That is the portion - which I think in the case of Pitt Park - needs to be looked at again by the council before that finance is released."

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