We need more light and less heat when it comes to how we think about bonfires.
People gathering around a bonfire to celebrate is not unusual and is seen across many cultures.
It is witnessed every year in Northern Ireland and across England, bonfires are burned on Guy Fawkes night which are generally not contentious nor a danger to life or property.
In the past few days however in Northern Ireland we have seen standoffs around bonfires and instances where people and property are put at risk because of bonfires which are too large or completely unsuitable in their location.
The cost to the public purse in terms of emergency services and property damage from these incidents every year is considerable.
For everyone’s sake we need to move to a point where public permission is required to build and light a bonfire on public property which will cost public money to police, make safe and clean up. This will inevitably and properly come with restrictions and limitations to make these cultural celebrations safe for everyone.
No-one is suggesting that the cultural act of lighting bonfires be stopped completely, however almost everyone agrees it should be safe and legal.
People are free to celebrate their culture, but burning unsafe material and/or grossly offensive material on public property and without due regard to other property, health, life or the environment is not a cultural celebration.
Peter Lynas, Evangelical Alliance