Supporting the removal of tyres from bonfires does not in any way erode a person’s sense of unionism or Britishness, the Progressive Unionist party (PUP) has said.
The remarks come after one of the party’s representatives, councillor John Kyle was criticised after speaking out against using tyres on Eleventh night bonfires.
Belfast City Council took action to remove tyres from a bonfire site in Belfast’s London Road early on Sunday morning, a move which Mr Kyle supported.
He said: “The council only remove tyres so the wood material is still there and wasn’t taken. People knew this was going to happen, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. I think it was done efficiently by the council.”
But some loyalists took issue with the PUP representative’s comments. Graffiti was on a wall stating: “A vote for John Kyle is a vote for the IRA.”
In response to this, PUP chairman Brian Lacey took to social media to defend his party colleague.
“Could someone please explain to me how supporting the removal of vehicle tyres from an Eleventh night bonfire, in any way dilutes your Unionism and indeed Brutishness?” he asked.
“Does spreading toxic and environmentally damaging smoke and fumes around your local area, make you more of a Prod? Of course not. Bonfires on the Eleventh night are a time honoured expression of our Protestant culture and should be an occasion of celebration and fun for all concerned.
“They should not however be the cause of any potential damage to life or property. And it is for that reason the Progressive Unionist Party supports the legislation around the bonfire issue.
“We don’t see the removal of harmful products or the placing of bonfires in a safe place, away from local properties, as supporting a Republican agenda. We view it as taking a sensible approach and placing the concerns and welfare of our community at the top of our list of responsibilities.
“As always I look forward to enjoying the bonfires this week and knowing they are built with a regard to the safety of local residents and property, will only enhance the experience.”