Michael Long: The council bonfire motion was indeed urgent

Even if the Lord Mayor had refursed to hold the special meeting of Belfast City Council on bonfires, her powers in such circumstances only extend to postponing it. Picture by Arthur Allison Pacemaker Press
Even if the Lord Mayor had refursed to hold the special meeting of Belfast City Council on bonfires, her powers in such circumstances only extend to postponing it. Picture by Arthur Allison Pacemaker Press

In relation to Councillor Jeff Dudgeon’s recent letter (Alliance needlessly facilitated Sinn Fein provocation and cynicism over bonfires, Auguest 3) about last week’s debate at Belfast City Council on bonfires, he is mistaken in several instances and appears to have allowed his personal dislike of Alliance to cloud the facts.

The Lord Mayor was presented with a requisition by Sinn Fein, which was then submitted to Belfast City Council’s solicitor, who determined it competent to be issued.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Nuala McAllister

Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Nuala McAllister

Even if she refused to hold the meeting, her powers in such circumstances only extend to postponing it, so it would have taken place at a later date anyway.

Once the Council solicitor ruled it as competent, there was no need to delay it.

Lord Mayors act in accordance with advice from council officers and not in a party political way. At least, Alliance Lord Mayors do, I can’t speak for those from Councillor Dudgeon’s party.

Councillor Dudgeon claims it was a “costly exercise,” which was addressed at the meeting itself. Council officers ruled this was not the case, so either Councillor Dudgeon wasn’t listening or he refused to accept that advice from officials.

Councillor Jeff Dudgeon.
Picture by Pacemaker: Arthur Allison

Councillor Jeff Dudgeon. Picture by Pacemaker: Arthur Allison

Although Councillor Dudgeon might not think it, the motion was indeed urgent, as bonfire materials are currently being gathered by some in so-called nationalist areas to mark internment.

In fact, the amended motion was to restore the existing powers of council. The only reason this meeting was even needed in the first place was due to the refusal of unionist councillors to support the continuation of that policy.

If, as mentioned in his letter, Councillor Dudgeon does not believe some dangerous bonfires need removed due to environmental protection, he has not been paying attention to the numerous concerns raised in many quarters in the lead-up to both July and August bonfires.

Alliance supports respectful and safe expressions of culture. It is strange and rather concerning others appear to not do so.

Rather than carrying out a bizarre personal vendetta against Alliance, I call on Councillor Dudgeon to accept the facts and show some leadership.

Councillor Michael Long, Alliance Group Leader, Belfast City Council