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  1. ITV Report

Controversial Avoniel bonfire lit in east Belfast

On Thursday, city councillors agreed to not pursue the removal of materials from bonfire site. Credit: UTV

A controversial bonfire in East Belfast has passed off peacefully and without incident.

The Pyre in the grounds of Avoneil leisure centre was lit as part of Eleventh Night celebrations.

Just hours earlier, a stand-off over the bonfire ended after councillors backed down over plans to demolish it.

Belfast City Council abandoned an attempt to remove the structure, which has been built in a leisure centre car park, after its hired private contractor pulled out of the job following the appearance of sinister graffiti threats close to the site purporting to identify the company.

The PSNI had warned the council that sending in contractors, escorted by its officers, could have prompted serious disorder orchestrated by the East Belfast grouping of the UVF, with the risk of gun violence.

Without a contractor willing to do the work, councillors acknowledged on Thursday that their plan to demolish it had to be axed.

They have instead urged police to pursue bonfire builders for trespassing on the Avoniel site.

Bonfire builders removed hundreds of tyres from the fire at Avoniel - and moved the bonfire from Ashdale Street to a site near Mersey Street. Credit: Pacemaker

Councillors, who have asked police to investigate how the names of contractors were leaked from confidential deliberations, have also agreed to form working group to see how to handle the bonfire issue in coming years.

Bonfire builders had maintained a 24-hour presence at the gates of the site since the council's strategic policy and resources committee first voted to take action on Monday.

A number of community events have also been staged at the site, with loyalists gathering to show support for the bonfire builders.