‘Council may not be able to implement new bonfires policy this July’

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)

Mid Ulster District Council is unlikely to be able to implement its new bonfire policy ahead of this year’s July 11 festivities, a local UUP councillor has claimed.

In March this year, members of the local authority voted 20 - 9 in favour of the introduction of a ‘Bonfire Management Programme’ - a move some branded “another attack on unionist culture”.

The bonfire licensing scheme, thought to be the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, means that a bonfire will only be considered on council land where the organiser “can demonstrate the event and site will be managed safely and where certain conditions are met”.

While the row about the new policy rumbles on, Cookstown Councillor Trevor Wilson, the Ulster Unionist Party’s Group Leader on the council, has voiced his belief that the council will not be able to introduce the controversial new legislation in time for this year’s Eleventh Night bonfires.

“Some time ago the nationalist dominated Mid Ulster Council sought to impose a new bonfire policy which led to unionist councillors demanding that the ‘call-in’ procedure be activated,” he said.

“Legal opinion has been sought and at last month’s council meeting I raised a number of issues of concern around this opinion.

“It is my belief that the council will have to undertake a consultation period and bearing in mind that the Twelfth celebrations are 10 weeks away, it would appear that the council will be unable to implement a bonfire policy for this July.” Councillor Wilson says he hopes the council will now take “a common sense approach to bonfires.”