Sinn Fein man Ciaran Beattie demands councillors side with ‘law-abiding citizens’ over Belfast loyalist bonfire row

A Sinn Fein councillor has told fellow members of the Belfast local authority that there are only two choices they can make: either support law-and-order, or those that break it.

Monday, 4th October 2021, 9:40 pm
Updated Monday, 4th October 2021, 10:02 pm
08/07/2019: Bonfire builders at Belfast's Avoniel Leisure Centre site voluntarily remove tyres from their bonfire after a ruling from the city council

A Sinn Fein councillor has told fellow members of the Belfast local authority that there are only two choices they can make: either support law-and-order, or those that break it.

Ciaran Beattie made the comments during a debate on a major motion tis evening which would have created a wave of obligations for bonfire-builders, such as drawing up risk assessments and applying to the council for a licence.

For full details of the vote, click here.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Councillor Beattie told the meeting: “There is no fence to sit on tonight. The decision in front of us for all members of this council is clear.

“You either stand on the side of law-abiding citizens of our city or you stand on the side of those who break the law by burning toxic bonfires in our parks.

“You either stand on the side of those who rightly are concerned about the environment, or you stand on the side of those who burn toxic waste.

“You either stand on the side of those whose homes are boarded up, particularly around July, who have to be evacuated from their homes, who have to have their homes hosed down by the fire service; or you stand on the side of those who build illegal bonfires. That is the clear choice.”

However, a majority of councillors ended up rejecting the Sinn Fein motion, which only won support from the SDLP.

Instead, an Alliance motion calling merely for a review of the bonfire season to be carried out won unionist and “designated other” support.

In fact, Alliance councillor Michael Long (husband of party leader Naomi) had sharp words for Sinn Fein, telling the meeting: “We want to get a more informed position.

“We need to get the data from 2021, we need to speak to all of the statutory agencies, we need speak to bonfire builders, we need to speak to those in communities that have been affected.

“We need to learn from it, but we need to learn from it together. What I want to see is us working together to get solutions.

“We need this to be inclusive.

“The problem is this seems to be just a cynical, simplistic answer from Sinn Fein.”


Late on Monday night Sinn Fein issued the following statement in councillor Beattie’s name:

Ciaran Beattie said: “Tonight, Belfast City Council had a gilt-edged opportunity to consign illegal and sectarian bonfires in our city to the past.

“The Sinn Féin proposal to regulate bonfires would have ensured that illegal bonfires in the city do not pose a threat to life, property and the environment.

“There are a wide range of criminal acts associated with illegal bonfires, including the theft, transportation and dumping of materials, criminal damage, anti-social behaviour and hate crimes with the burning of flags and emblems.

“It is simply not good for enough for city councillors to turn a blind eye to the reality of what illegal bonfires entail.

“Political unionism has been fighting a rearguard action for some years now against efforts to bring this city into the 21st century.

“It is beggars belief however that the Alliance and Green Parties have joined with regressive unionism in frustrating this attempt to regulate illegal bonfires.

“It is also absolutely bizarre that the ‘Green’ Party on the eve of COP26 have refused to back a motion which would have brought the burning of toxic materials in the city to an end.

“This despite a pollution survey carried out on the 11th of July in Belfast which showed that potentially lethal pollutants were as much as five times higher on that day.

“Every political party has a part to play to help ensure that Belfast continues in its transformation into a vibrant and modern city for all.

“This evening, the Green and Alliance Parties have failed in their responsibility to the citizens of this city who want to live in an inclusive, progressive and environmentally friendly city.

“There is now an obligation on both parties to explain why they have sided with bonfire builders over the right of citizens to live free from hate, toxic fumes and criminality.

“Sinn Féin will continue in our efforts to ensure that bonfires in this city no longer present a threat to life, property, the environment or to the rule of law.”

More from this reporter:

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Ben Lowry

Acting Editor