Bonfires back on council agenda

Bonfires are a contentious issue in many areas of Northern Ireland. (Archive pic by Pacemaker Press)
Bonfires are a contentious issue in many areas of Northern Ireland. (Archive pic by Pacemaker Press)

The hot topic of bonfires will be back on the council agenda this week when members are asked to ratify procedures relating to local bonfire events on council property.

The procedures, agreed at last week’s meeting of the local authority’s Environment Committee, are designed to provide “guidance and direction for both staff and local residents to ensure safe and positive celebratory bonfire events over the forthcoming months.”

Cllr Ronan McGinley.

Cllr Ronan McGinley.

According to committee chairman, Cllr Ronan McGinley, it was agreed that “the council will provide specific focus for bonfire events in the district identified as having the highest level of risk, and are therefore most likely to cause damage to property and potentially good relations within the community.”

Members also agreed that “the council will develop a strategy which will provide an accountable application process for use of council facilities and property meaning organisers will have to ensure a safe, legal and respectful event takes place.”

Hopeful that the Environment Committee’s decision will be ratified when the full council meets on Thursday evening, March 22, Cllr McGinley said: “This is the right action to be taken by Mid Ulster District Council. Agreement around bonfires is difficult to achieve, however as a council we have a responsibility to ensure that events taking place on our facilities and property are both within legislation and safe.

“Events over the years have proven to flaunt the law. There has been the breaking of numerous environmental legislations, including the burning of tyres and dumping of toxic waste. Health and safety guidelines have simply been ignored with the size and location of some of these structures.

“At times, these events have been extremely damaging to good relations in our area. There have been events with hate crime and sectarianism, and we simply cannot allow this to continue on council property without being challenged.

“Some of these breaches of legislation have also been underpinned by claims of intimidation, threats of violence and paramilitary involvement.”

The Sinn Fein man added: “The decision taken by the Mid Ulster District Council’s Environment Committee will ensure that future events on our property remove all these negative behaviours, and ensure that event organisers are accountable, operating within the law and providing a safe, respectful event for all.”