Bonfire report stirs concern for unionists

DUP councillor George Dorrian
DUP councillor George Dorrian

DUP councillors at Belfast City Council have once again insisted that bonfire organisers should regulate their own events – after an independent report which is suspected of proposing tighter restrictions.

Last year Belfast City Council tasked former Northern Ireland Ombudsman Tom Frawley to compile a report on bonfires in Belfast. The move came after claims that the council had stored a high volume of pallets for July bonfires and concerns over public safety.

His report, which has not yet been published, was presented to the council’s strategic policy & resources committee on Tuesday.

Afterwards Sinn Fein councillor Deirdre Hargey called for the recommendations to be published. “We need to look at implementation of the recommendations particularly around governance, accountability and adherence to the law,” she added.

However, DUP councillor George Dorrian took a different line. “We recognised the problems which continue to exist but we are firmly of the belief that self-regulation and community engagement must underpin any strategy,” he said.

PUP councillor John Kyle said he also supported self regulation while loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson said he believes the report will recommend licencing.

The council will discuss the committee’s recommendations on April 9. Last week Mid Ulster Council voted for Northern Ireland’s first-ever bonfire permit system, while Mr Bryson claimed the Commission on Flags had drafted a recommendation for “a licensing scheme by the back door”.