Unionists in Mid Ulster Council say Sinn Fein “rode roughshod” over them tonight to introduce what is believed to be Northern Ireland’s first ever permit system for bonfires on council property.
The measure was passed 20 votes to nine on the majority nationalist council in Dungannon.
But UUP leader on the council, Trevor Wilson, said the vote is an example of what unionists can expect if Sinn Fein wins a majority in any other council or assembly.
“All talk of consensus politics is thrown out the window and they ride roughshod over the views of unionists,” he said.
“They won’t listen to or even attempt to take on board the views of unionists who will see this as another attack on their culture.”
Mr Wilson asked whether council staff or police would be required to enforce the scheme and what the penalties might be for infringements. It is understood there are around eight bonfires in the council area and that two of those have seen some problems with burning Irish tricolours and Sinn Fein election posters.
However, Mr Wilson said he believed these issues were being dealt with through conversations with the local community.
“It’s just an excuse for Sinn Fein-SDLP to demonstrate who’s boss in Mid Ulster. It is also ludicrous to proceed with this proposal when the Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition established by Sinn Fein and the DUP has yet to report on such issues,” he said.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Sinn Fein councillor Ronan McGinley said: “Events over the years have proven to flaunt the law ... at times, these events have been extremely damaging to good relations in our area. There have been events with hate crime and sectarianism, and we simply cannot allow this to continue on council property without being challenged.”
But Belfast PUP councillor John Kyle said the news made him nervous about might be in store for his city.
“I am concerned we could end up criminalising young people simply for following the same traditions that their fathers and grandfathers carried on before them,” he said.