WEST Belfast MP Paul Maskey has commended the hard work and efforts of statutory agencies and his own Belfast City Council party team in working to remove anti-internment bonfire materials ahead of August 8/9.

Belfast City Council officials were busy removing pallets and other debris at sites across West Belfast in the run-up to the contentious bonfires which in previous years have seen violence flare, arrests made and the PSNI come under attack.

Thousands of young people attended Féile an Phobail’s highly anticipated Planet Love concert on Wednesday – £100,000 was awarded from BCC’s bonfire diversion fund to stage the event.

Mr Maskey said community groups and representatives had been working “very hard” to make this a “bonfire-free year.”

“I believe great leadership has been shown in getting to this stage and want to congratulate all those who have put in this effort,” he said.

“We are set to welcome 10,000 young people to the Falls Park today (Wednesday) for the Planet Love concert and it is my hope that all the hard work will pay on the night.”

For those not in receipt of a ticket Sally Gardens Community Centre and Saints Youth Club are also set to open their doors from 6pm until late for a series of events and activities that are free for all and all are welcome.

“We have had a number of young kids, ranging in the ages from around eight up to 15, saying they can’t attend the Planet Love concert and asking ‘What’s on for us?’” said Sinn Féin Councillor Stephen Magennis. “This year we have received funding from the PCSP [Policing and Community Safety Partnership] for a more structured programme for the young people.

“Saints and Sally Gardens are both opening their doors from 6pm until late. There will be bubble football, five-a-side tournaments, BBQs on and pizza being delivered. I just want to get across that everyone is welcome to attend from across the community,” he said.

Cllr Magennis added that the Mount Eagles/Lagmore Youth and Community Association (MELYCA) had secured funding through BCC for various diversionary activities with a street festival, golf practice at the driving range on the Blacks Road and a gaming night in the Mount Eagles community centre also taking place. Colin Sinn Féin Councillor Danny Baker added that this was the first time in 10 years that wood wasn’t collected for a bonfire in the White Rise area.

“The hard work of the community has paid off,” he said.