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

Ms Hargey also hailed ‘amazing scenes’ from Féile an Phobail as tens of thousands of young people enjoyed the annual dance night in Falls Park

The Communities Minister said: “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. 

“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. 

“It’s also a credit to the young people of Belfast who played their part in supporting their community and helping to keep it safe while having a great night out.”

The evening of the 8th of August has been marked in the past with bonfires in nationalist areas in protest at the introduction on internment, in the early hours of August 9 1971. In recent years, however, Féile events have been designed to take young people away from lighting bonfires and the anti-community activity which takes place around them.

Féile an Phobail's director, Kevin Gamble described the event at the Falls Park as a "massive success" and said that the night was a combined effort to provide a diversionary event that brings young people off the streets away from the potential of unwanted and destructive bonfires.

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

“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."

Mr Gamble said that the lack of bonfires in the city is significant and praised the young people who attended the dance night for how they conducted themselves. 

“The benefit of the absence of these unwanted bonfires on 8 August 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," he continued.

“Over the last 34 years, Féile has a proven track record of delivering significant social and economic benefits to the city of Belfast, and this increases with each year that passes.

“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.

“Féile will continue to work hard along with others to provide our young people with real positive alternatives and a platform to showcase all that is good about Belfast.”