Call to snub council’s bonfire plan

Bonfire site at Monrush in Cookstown
Bonfire site at Monrush in Cookstown

The British Truth Forum has called on bonfire builders in Mid Ulster to have “nothing to do” with representatives from the local District Council.

The nationalist controlled council recently announced it was appointing consultants to deal with bonfires in the district.

But in a statement, the British Truth Forum accused the council of ‘stepping up its campaign to legislate British culture out of Northern Ireland.’

Spokesperson for the local loyalist group, William Lennox, said: “Our advice to all bonfire builders is to have nothing to do with any council representative including those who are trying to hoodwink you into believing they are in support of unionist/British culture. Remember they are part of council.

“If you take part in their scheme it will be seen as support for their legislation and you will help Sinn Fein with their war on British culture province wide next year. Never forget the council works for you and any legislation must have the support of the people, so have nothing to do with them.”

Members of the British Truth Forum erected the Union flag pole in Magherafelt town centre a few years ago after it was removed by Council workers. The council announced plans last year to curb bonfires on its property and announced its intention to introduce a licensing scheme.

The move angered some unionists and resulted in posters and flags opposing the council being put up in unionist areas across Northern Ireland in the run up to the July celebrations.

The council policy was recently broadened to include all community events held on council land.

A spokesperson said the policy includes “conditions of land use, which set out the minimum requirements for safe, well-managed events, spanning risk assessments, event management plans, insurances and good relations issues.

“Specific conditions are included for bonfires, with site safety, size of fires, distance from homes, materials to be burned and safeguarding among them. While the policy itself is in its final form, an associated action plan will be developed following further community engagement.

“This will include the appointment of a community advisor to consult with local communities and help identify measures which will aid groups to meet the aims of the policy, as well as any further support which the Council could consider around diversionary activities and other forms of cultural expression.”

DUP council group leader Councillor Paul McLean said his party would be concerned that consultants “would be influenced by the make up of the council.”

He said the DUP believed everyone should be free to express their culture without restriction.

“We believe that expression should be done in a responsible and safe manner,” he went on. “Providing the policy that is being implemented allows this to happen then there should be no issues.

“However because of the make up of Mid Ulster Council we have doubts whether that can be allowed to happen.”