‘Council can still remove bonfires’

Pacemaker Press Belfast 04-08-2017:  Townsend Street in Belfast near the falls road Bonfires near will take place marking the anniversary of the introduction of internment on August 8.
Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 04-08-2017: Townsend Street in Belfast near the falls road Bonfires near will take place marking the anniversary of the introduction of internment on August 8. Picture By: Arthur Allison.

Both the DUP and Sinn Féin say Belfast City Council can press ahead with plans to remove materials collected for anti-internment bonfires.

This comes in spite of the DUP’s decision to ‘call in’ the adoption of a controversial new policy designed to give the council powers to remove materials from bonfires it deems dangerous, damaging or which “facilitate hate crimes”.

That policy was approved by a majority vote at the council on Wednesday evening, but the DUP ‘call-in’ means it will undergo legal scrutiny before it can be adopted.

Despite this, the leaders of both the DUP and Sinn Féin groupings on the council, councillors Lee Reynolds and Jim McVeigh respectively, say an agreement reached between party leaders on the council at the end of June means materials collected for anti-interment bonfires can be removed.

The DUP’s Mr Reynolds explained: “That agreement was reached on the 29th of June. That’s why we were saying there was no real need for the special sitting of the council on Wednesday night. They (Sinn Féin) said they needed these new powers for these lifts to go ahead, but no. They didn’t. We have called in the new policy but these lifts are going to be going ahead under the existing policy anyway.

“They used these anti-interment bonfires as a justification.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Jim McVeigh said: “An agreement between party leaders means the council can go ahead, even with the DUP call-in.”

A spokesperson for Belfast City Council, asked specifically whether they would remove bonfire materials being collected at Townsend Street, close to a motorway, said: “We don’t comment on operational matters but we are aware of material being collected at Townsend Street.”