Sinn Fein plan for strict bonfire regulations in Belfast moves a step forward

A Sinn Fein proposal to place stringent regulations on bonfires on land owned by Belfast council has taken a step forward. 

Saturday, 25th September 2021, 11:57 am
Updated Saturday, 25th September 2021, 12:15 pm
Sinn Fein plans to introduce strict regulations on bonfires

The motion, squeezed through at the council’s monthly Strategic Policy and Resources meeting with Sinn Fein and SDLP votes, could mean all bonfires on council land would have to go through a rigorous application process similar to other events in council parks.

The DUP and Alliance voted against the plan at the committee, while the Green party abstained. The plan will be voted upon at the full council meeting on Monday October 4th.

It could find tough opposition in the full chamber with the combined votes of Sinn Fein and the SDLP totalling 24 members, while the combined voting power of the unionist parties and Alliance totals 29 members. The remaining seven votes from the Green Party and People Before Profit could prove crucial.

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If the proposal — by Sinn Fein Councillor Ciaran Beattie — passes, all bonfires on council estates will have to be risk assessed, have public liability insurance, and an event management plan will have to be provided.

DUP Alderman Brian Kingston told the committee: “We think there is a lack of reality about this - it would actually increase tensions around bonfires, it would create more situations for this council, and council officers would be in conflict with communities.

“I would dispute that there is an increase in contentious bonfires, it is the opposite. The direction of travel in recent years has been a decrease in contentious bonfires. Only on one occasion did the council have to intervene and remove material this year.”

He offered an amendment, stating the council “supports all efforts to encourage self regulation and responsible management of bonfires and beacons free from hazards and offensive material” and “will not support bonfires which present a serious risk to property or life, nor the burning of hazardous materials”.

The DUP proposal adds the council would “work with local communities, elected representatives, collaborative networks and statutory partners to encourage safe and responsible bonfires where these are locally wanted, and will continue to provide and encourage the use of beacons in agreed managed circumstances.” The amendment fell.

Alliance Councillor Michael Long said: “We are dealing with a small number of contentious bonfires, and the potential with the (Sinn Fein) proposal is we make every bonfire contentious in our city.”

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