Alliance to oppose ‘utterly unenforceable’ Sinn Fein plan to regulate Belfast bonfires

A Sinn Fein plan to regulate bonfires in Belfast City Council is not realistic, former Alliance lord mayor Nuala McAllister has said.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 5:44 pm
A bonfire in the Tiger’s Bay area of Belfast earlier this year
A bonfire in the Tiger’s Bay area of Belfast earlier this year

The Alliance councillor told the News Letter her party will oppose the Sinn Fein proposal to enact strict regulations for bonfires on land owned by the local authority.

Sinn Fein tabled a motion at a meeting of the council on Wednesday which, if passed, would mean all bonfires on council land would have to go through a rigorous application process similar to other events in council parks.

The plan is expected to be debated and voted upon at committee level later this month, but is likely to be discussed in a meeting of party group leaders before it gets to that stage.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

If it passes, all bonfires on council estates will have to be risk assessed, will have to show public liability insurance, and an event management plan will have to be provided.

Sinn Fein councillor Ciaran Beattie, who forwarded the motion, told the council: “The position of this council is no longer sustainable around bonfires, and we have seen that over the summer. The position of self-regulation hasn’t worked, and it will not work going into the future. We need a whole new approach to bonfires, to illegal fires.”

While Sinn Fein are the largest party grouping on the council with 18 councillors, combined Alliance and unionist opposition could see the republican party’s plan shot down.

Speaking to the News Letter, Ms McAllister confirmed her party would oppose the proposals.

“We think that this motion is totally unrealistic,” she said. “This shows that Sinn Fein isn’t serious about dealing with bonfire issues because they know that it is completely and utterly unenforceable.

“They know that it is not going to happen.

“This motion smells of Sinn Fein trying to be funny and not take the issue seriously.”

She added: “We do support some form of regulation, but the key with any kind of regulation is enforcement. This isn’t realistic.”

The DUP have already voiced opposition. A spokesperson for the DUP council group said: “There has been considerable progress over recent years in supporting and encouraging the self-regulation of July bonfires, based on local community engagement.

“The DUP supports that process of community engagement, self-regulation and the encouragement of good practice.

“We believe that that is the correct approach and should continue at statutory and community level.”