Call for ‘transparency’ over Belfast council bonfire injunction

The bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre car park was one of four included in the injunction
The bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre car park was one of four included in the injunction

A call has been made for Belfast City Council to publish the names of those councillors who voted in favour of an injunction to stop people from accessing a number of loyalist bonfires sites.

Earlier this month, the council was granted a High Court injunction preventing more materials being added to bonfires at four sites in the east of the city, ahead of the Eleventh night celebrations.

The council said the court order resulted from public concern about the size of the bonfires, which included sites at Ravenscroft Avenue car park/Bloomfield Walkway, Avoniel Leisure Centre car park, Inverary Playing Fields and Cregagh Park East.

Last week, there was outcry from unionists after Sinn Fein proposed authorising Belfast City Council officers to remove bonfire materials from all sites.

The motion – which if passed could lead to the clearance of sites on both council-owned and private land – is to be debated at a special council meeting on August 2.

In the wake of these developments, independent unionist Alderman Ruth Patterson has claimed Belfast City Hall is now “the front line of the cultural war against the unionist community”.

She is to submit an amendment to the Sinn Fein motion, calling on the council to “waive the agreement of confidentiality in relation to the meeting between a number of councillors and council officers, when the decision to initiate injunction proceedings was taken”.

The amendment calls on the council to release all relevant minutes, memos and a list of those in attendance at the meeting.

She said: “Transparency is key for any public body that would want to have any credibility.

“Before we even deal with Sinn Fein’s sinister motion targeting unionist culture, we must firstly ensure that we are armed with all the facts.

“Therefore this council should not be taking any bonfire and/or cultural expression zone decisions until we know the background to the shameful injunctions sought during July.

“We need to know who voted to target the cultural expression zones in east Belfast, why they voted in such a way and what information they were provided.

“I think the public deserve to know who stands with the unionist community, who stands with the ‘progressive’ pan-nationalist SF/SDLP/Alliance coalition and who are the fifth columnists.”

She said she could see no reason why any unionist member would want to reject the “demand for transparency”.

Her motion concludes: “That this council further agrees to publicly publish, on the Belfast City Council website, all affidavits and/or evidence submitted to the court in support of this application, with all necessary redactions made to protect the identity of council officers and staff.”