The Observer | UK News | New flats on hold for loyalist bonfire

**Here, I know a place where these people could burn...

New flats on hold for loyalist bonfire

Henry McDonald
Sunday March 28, 2004
The Observer

A multi-million pound luxury flat development and the creation of several hundred jobs in inner city Belfast have had to be put on hold because local loyalists want to have a bonfire.
Building of the apartments in Sandy Row has been shelved until after the marching season because loyalist youths chose the site for 11 July celebrations.

The old Albion Factory site near the Boyne Bridge had been selected by property developer Barry Gilligan for the flats. But loyalist sources said building was put off after a bonfire material was placed at the site.

The developer declined to comment this weekend about difficulties at the site, where once several hundred people were employed making shirts. There is no suggestion, however, of any agreement with loyalists to delay building. It is understood Gilligan has been advised by a firm of estate agents to sell the site after July.

Last night the Ulster Unionist assemblyman for south Belfast, Michael McGimpsey, and local UUP councillor, Bobby Stoker, said no one had contacted them or the Sandy Row community forum about development of the Albion Factory site.

They said there was a 'template' for co-operation between builders and locals in Sandy Row: construction of the Days Inn hotel on the edge of the Protestant redoubt. The hotel's owner, Indian businessman Diljit Rana, held extensive discussions with the community about his project three years ago. The space on which the hotel was eventually situated had been where loyalists held their traditional bonfire on the eve of 12 July.

Since they were displaced from the bonfire site close to Great Victoria Street, loyalist youths have been searching for an alternative location.

'All the builder has to do is contact my office or the community forum and this problem can be revolved quickly,' said McGimpsey.

Stoker said he hoped local people could be recruited to help build the apartments: 'This problem can be worked out if we all follow the lead of Diljit Rana and consult with and recruit from the local community.'

He said locals in Sandy Row would welcome an influx of younger, richer professionals. 'No one would be opposed to this development as it will bring much needed extra spending power into Sandy Row,' he added.

Sandy Row is one of the most deprived electoral wards in Northern Ireland and traditionally a stronghold of hardline loyalism.

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