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Plan for bonfire licences in Northern Ireland preferred to total ban by Environment Minister Durkan

Published 08/02/2016

This was the scene of the Eleventh Night bonfire at Chobham Street in east Belfast last year.
This was the scene of the Eleventh Night bonfire at Chobham Street in east Belfast last year.
Stormont Environment minister Mark H Durkan
The bonfire at Chobham Street
A nationalist bonfire close to Derry’s walls, including unionist flags and effigies of soldiers, which was burned in August last year.
The anti-internment bonfire sited close to Mica Day Centre in the Beechmount area of west Belfast

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has said he would "prefer to license" bonfires across Northern Ireland as he considers options for their control and management.

The BBC's Stephen Nolan radio show reported that the minister is pushing ahead with plans to implement controls on bonfires and has written to councils to seek their views.

He has previously said he would prefer all bonfires to be banned, but has now proposed a licensing system.

Mr Durkan said: “I have written to council chief executives about the current controls and management of bonfires. Bonfires have environmental, social and economic consequences. I wish to make progress on this issue.

"The current legislative position relating to bonfires is extremely complex and involves a number of public bodies. Whilst council led multi-agency approaches are reducing the number of bonfires and helping to improve their management, progress is relatively slow and there are still bonfires which are uncontrolled.

"So I want to initiate a debate as to how we take this matter forward."

The SDLP minister has proposed three options. They include:

  •  To continue and develop current best practice.
  •  To more rigorously enforce all relevant legislation with respect to bonfires.
  • To license bonfires.

"My preferred option is to license bonfires," the minister said.

Read more: New licence for bonfires will inflame issue, says academic

He said if the option was put into law, a licence would only by issued if the landowners’ permission was given, the location was suitable and the pyre of a suitable size and structure with "allowable material".

11th July Bonfires. Ballycraigy estate, Antrim - Bobby Sands, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness
11th July Bonfires. Ballycraigy estate, Antrim - Bobby Sands, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness
11th July Bonfires. Lower Shankill 11-07-2015
11th July Bonfires. Isis flag Ballysillan North Belfast. Pictures of Gerry Kelly, Alban Maginness
11th July Bonfires. Isis flag Ballysillan North Belfast. Pictures of Gerry Kelly, Alban Maginness 11-07-2015
11th July Bonfires. Ballycraigy estate, Antrim 11-07-2015
11th July Bonfires. Ballycraigy estate, Antrim - Bbby Sands, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness on the bonefire
11th July Bonfires. Ballycraigy estate, Antrim 11-07-2015
New Mossley 11-07-2015
Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 11th July 2015 - 12th Night Bonfires Pictured is Fire Fighters at the Sandy Row bonfire in South Belfast as the intense heat begins to melt objects and forces the crowds back as 12th of July celebrations get under way across Northern Ireland to mark the victory of King William over King James Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye.
The huge bonfire on Lanark Way
Election posters of Alliance MLA Anna Lo and Sinn Fein's MEP Martina Anderson were placed on a bonfire in the Bloomfield estate in Bangor
Preparations get underway at the Bonfire in Lanark Way in Belfast, ahead of the 12th of July annual Orange celebrations Pacemaker Press 7/7/2014
Ballyduff bonfire in Newtownabbey July 2014
Election posters of Alliance member Anna Lo on the Bonfire in Carrickfergus ahead of the 12th of July annual Orange celebrations Pacemaker Press 7/7/2014
Mount Vernon North Belfast july 2014
Young loyalists scale the huge face of the bonfire on Lanark Way, off the Shankill
Preparations get underway at the Bonfire in Lanark Way in Belfast, ahead of the 12th of July annual Orange celebrations Pic Pacemaker
Sandy Row South Belfast 2014
A statue of our the Virgin Mary placed on a loyalist bonfire at Lanark Way PACEMAKER
Bonfire on Shankill Road 2012
Bonfire on Shankill Road 2012
A statue of our lady placed on a loyalist bonfire at Lanark Way
Pacemaker press 11/07/2013: The Bonfire on Sandy Row in Belfast the 12th of July celebrations began at midnight across the province. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 11/07/2013 Young men pictured enjoying the Bonfire in King George Playing Fields Upper Newtownards Road Belfast. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
12.07.13. PICTURE BY DAVID FITZGERALD The 12th night bonfire celebrations get underway in Erinvale Estate in Finaghy Road South last night. The bonfire fell over close to people watching. A man runs as the bonfire starts to fall
Pacemaker press 11/07/2013: The Bonfire on Sandy Row in Belfast the 12th of July celebrations began at midnight across the province. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Pacemaker press 11/07/2013: The Bonfire on Sandy Row in Belfast the 12th of July celebrations began at midnight across the province. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Press Eye - Belfast - Thursday 11th July 2013 General view of at the bonfire in the loyalist Highfield Estate in west Belfast. In Northern Ireland, the Eleventh Night or 11th Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Pacemaker press Young men from the Shankill area of Belfast put the finishing touch on their bonfire's on the 11th of july. picture mark marlow
Pacemaker press Young men from the Shankill area of Belfast put the finishing touch on their bonfire's on the 11th of july. picture mark marlow
Pacemaker press 11/07/2013: The Bonfire at Belvoir, South Belfast the 12th of July celebrations began at midnight across the province. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 11/07/2013 Katie-Leigh Bain,Curtis Johnston and Cherene Grundmann pictured enjoying the Bonfire in King George Playing Fields Upper Newtownards Road Belfast. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker press 11/07/2013: The Bonfire on Sandy Row in Belfast the 12th of July celebrations began at midnight across the province. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Pacemaker press 11/7/13 The Bonfire in Ballyduff on the outskirt's of Belfast on the 11th of july. picture mark marlow
Pacemaker press Young men from the Shankill area of Belfast put the finishing touch on their bonfire's on the 11th of july. picture mark marlow
Pacemaker press 11/07/2013: The Bonfire on Sandy Row in Belfast the 12th of July celebrations began at midnight across the province. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Pacemaker press 11/07/2013: The Bonfire on Sandy Row in Belfast the 12th of July celebrations began at midnight across the province. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Pacemaker press 11/07/2013: The Bonfire at Belvoir, South Belfast the 12th of July celebrations began at midnight across the province. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
General view of the bonfire on Lanark Way off the Shankill Road in west Belfast.
Presseye Northern Ireland - 10th July 2013 Mandatory Credit - Photo-William Cherry/Presseye Youths tend the bonfire at the Ballymacash, Lisburn ahead of the Twelfth of July celebrations.
Presseye Northern Ireland - 10th July 2013 Mandatory Credit - Photo-William Cherry/Presseye Youths tend the bonfire at the Ballymacash, Lisburn ahead of the Twelfth of July celebrations.
Presseye Northern Ireland - 10th July 2013 Mandatory Credit - Photo-William Cherry/Presseye Youths tend the bonfire at the Ballymacash, Lisburn ahead of the Twelfth of July celebrations.
Presseye Northern Ireland - 10th July 2013 Mandatory Credit - Photo-William Cherry/Presseye Youths tend the bonfire at the Ballymacash, Lisburn ahead of the Twelfth of July celebrations.
Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 11th July 2015 - 12th Night Bonfires Pictured is Fire Fighters at the Sandy Row bonfire in South Belfast as the intense heat begins to melt objects and forces the crowds back as 12th of July celebrations get under way across Northern Ireland to mark the victory of King William over King James Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye.
Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 11th July 2015 - 12th Night Bonfires Pictured is Fire Fighters at the Sandy Row bonfire in South Belfast as the intense heat begins to melt objects and forces the crowds back as 12th of July celebrations get under way across Northern Ireland to mark the victory of King William over King James Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye.
Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 11th July 2015 - 12th Night Bonfires Pictured is the Sandy Row bonfire in South Belfast, as 12th of July celebrations get under way across Northern Ireland to mark the victory of King William over King James Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye.
Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 11th July 2015 - 12th Night Bonfires Pictured is firefighters using a jet hose on a building at the Sandy Row bonfire in South Belfast, as 12th of July celebrations get under way across Northern Ireland to mark the victory of King William over King James Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye.
Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 11th July 2015 - 12th Night Bonfires Pictured is firefighters using a jet hose on a building at the Sandy Row bonfire in South Belfast, as 12th of July celebrations get under way across Northern Ireland to mark the victory of King William over King James Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye.
Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 11th July 2015 - 12th Night Bonfires Pictured is firefighters using a jet hose on a building at the Sandy Row bonfire in South Belfast, as 12th of July celebrations get under way across Northern Ireland to mark the victory of King William over King James Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye.
Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 11th July 2015 - 12th Night Bonfires, Pictured is the Sandy Row bonfire in South Belfast, as 12th of July celebrations get under way across Northern Ireland to mark the victory of King William over King James Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye.
Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 11th July 2015 - 12th Night Bonfires, Pictured is the Sandy Row bonfire in South Belfast, as 12th of July celebrations get under way across Northern Ireland to mark the victory of King William over King James Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye.
Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 11th July 2015 - 12th Night Bonfires, Pictured is the Sandy Row bonfire in South Belfast, as 12th of July celebrations get under way across Northern Ireland to mark the victory of King William over King James Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye.
Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 11th July 2015 - 12th Night Bonfires, Pictured is the Sandy Row bonfire in South Belfast, as 12th of July celebrations get under way across Northern Ireland to mark the victory of King William over King James Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye.
Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 11th July 2015 - 12th Night Bonfires, Pictured is the Sandy Row bonfire in South Belfast, as 12th of July celebrations get under way across Northern Ireland to mark the victory of King William over King James Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye.
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Pictured is the Donegall Road bonfire in South Belfast, as seen from the King Billy mural in sandy row as the 12th of July celebrations get under way across Northern Ireland to mark the victory of King William over King James Picture by Kevin Scott / Presseye.
A man playing the flute as the Ballymacash bonfire burns in Lisburn. William Cherry/Presseye.
The controversial Chobham Street bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
A group of women take a selfie as the Ballymacash bonfire burns in Lisburn. William Cherry/Presseye.
The controversial Chobham Street bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Bonfire builders get to work lighting the Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn. William Cherry/Presseye.
The controversial Chobham Street bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
The Shankill bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
The Shankill bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Bonfire builders get to work lighting the Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn. William Cherry/Presseye.
Bonfire builders get to work lighting the Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn. William Cherry/Presseye.
A man playing the flute as the Ballymacash bonfire burns in Lisburn. William Cherry/Presseye.
A young man celebrates as the Ballymacash bonfire burns in Lisburn. Pic: William Cherry/Presseye.
The controversial Chobham Street Bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
The controversial Chobham Street Bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
The controversial Chobham Street bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Firefighters hose down the houses in the area after smoke begins to rise from the roof of a property next to the Chobham Street bonfire. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
A group of women take a selfie as the Ballymacash bonfire burns in Lisburn. Pic: William Cherry/Presseye.
The Shankill bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Police water canon on stand by at the Grosevnor Road police station in Belfast, Northern Ireland as 12th of July celebrations get under way across Northern Ireland. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Loyalist areas across Northern Ireland get ready to kick off the 12th of July celebrations with the traditional bonfires. Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press.
The controversial Chobham Street bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Loyalist areas across Northern Ireland get ready to kick off the 12th of July celebrations with the traditional bonfires. Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press.
The controversial Chobham Street bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Loyalist areas across Northern Ireland get ready to kick off the 12th of July celebrations with the traditional bonfires. Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press.
Loyalist areas across Northern Ireland get ready to kick off the 12th of July celebrations with the traditional bonfires. Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press.
A group of women take a selfie as the Ballymacash bonfire burns in Lisburn. William Cherry/Presseye.
Locals from the Village area of south Belfast enjoy watching their local bonfire as working class Loyalist area's across Northern Ireland get ready to kick off the 12th of July celebrations with the traditional bonfires. Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press.
The controversial Chobham Street bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Hundreds of people watch on as the 11th night bonfire collapses at the New Mossley housing estate on July 12, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Hundreds of people gather for the 11th night bonfire as it is set alight at the New Mossley housing estate on July 12, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. New Mossley is widely recognised as the largest bonfire in the province. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Hundreds of people gather for the 11th night bonfire as it is set alight at the New Mossley housing estate on July 12, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. New Mossley is widely recognised as the largest bonfire in the province. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
A Loyalist youth carrying the Union Jack walks past the 11th night bonfire at the New Mossley housing estate on July 12, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. New Mossley is widely recognised as the largest bonfire in the province. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
The controversial Chobham Street bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
The controversial Chobham Street bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
The controversial Chobham Street bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Loyalist areas across Northern Ireland get ready to kick off the 12th of July celebrations with the traditional bonfires. Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press.
Locals from the Village area of south Belfast enjoy watching their local bonfire as working class Loyalist area's across Northern Ireland get ready to kick off the 12th of July celebrations with the traditional bonfires. Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press.
Loyalist areas across Northern Ireland get ready to kick off the 12th of July celebrations with the traditional bonfires. Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press.
Loyalist areas across Northern Ireland get ready to kick off the 12th of July celebrations with the traditional bonfires. Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press.
The controversial Chobham Street bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
The controversial Chobham Street bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Loyalist areas across Northern Ireland get ready to kick off the 12th of July celebrations with the traditional bonfires. Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press.
Loyalist areas across Northern Ireland get ready to kick off the 12th of July celebrations with the traditional bonfires. Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press.
A couple walk past the 11th night bonfire at the New Mossley housing estate on July 12, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. New Mossley is widely recognised as the largest bonfire in the province. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
A Loyalist youth carrying the Union Jack walks past the 11th night bonfire at the New Mossley housing estate on July 12, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. New Mossley is widely recognised as the largest bonfire in the province. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Iain McFarland, an Orange bandsman, plays his flute during the 11th night bonfire at the New Mossley housing estate on July 12, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Loyalist area's across Northern Ireland get ready to kick off the 12th of July celebrations with the traditional bonfires. Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press.
One of the huge bonfires that towers over the houses and looks over the city of Belfast in preparation for the 11th of July celebrations when the bonfires are lit in many Protestant, unionist and loyalist areas of Northern Ireland. Photo: William Cherry / Presseye
Iain McFarland, an Orange bandsman, plays his flute during the 11th night bonfire at the New Mossley housing estate on July 12, 2015 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Hundreds of people gather for the 11th night bonfire as it is set alight at the New Mossley housing estate near Belfast, Northern Ireland. New Mossley is widely recognised as the largest bonfire in the province. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
The controversial Chobham Street bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Firefighters hose down the houses after smoke begins to rise from the roof of a property near the Chobham Street bonfire. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
A man lights the controversial Chobham Street Bonfire on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
The controversial Chobham Street bonfire being lit on the Eleventh Night in Belfast. Kevin Scott/Presseye.
Bonfire builders take a rest in the New Mosley area of Belfast. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Preparations begin around Belfast ahead of this year's annual 11th night bonfire celebrations. Jonathan Porter/Press Eye.
Haidee de Sesto and Linda Ritele pictured as they wait for the Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn to be lit for the 11th of July celebration. William Cherry/Presseye.
Haidee de Sesto and Linda Ritele pictured as they wait for the Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn to be lit for the 11th of July celebration. William Cherry/Presseye.
Haidee de Sesto and Linda Ritele pictured as they wait for the Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn to be lit for the 11th of July celebration. William Cherry/Presseye.
Haidee de Sesto and Linda Ritele pictured as they wait for the Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn to be lit for the 11th of July celebration. William Cherry/Presseye.
Loyalist areas across Northern Ireland get ready to kick off the 12th of July celebrations with the traditional bonfires. Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press.
Loyalist areas across Northern Ireland get ready to kick off the 12th of July celebrations with the traditional bonfires. Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press.
A young boy gazes in awe at a bonfire in the Roden Street area of south Belfast. Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press.
A bonfire builder at work in the New Mosley area of Belfast. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Youths climb a bonfire in the New Mosley area of Belfast. Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Houses are evacuated and protected at Chobham Street in east Belfast. AFP PHOTO/PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images.
A man stands on top of the bonfire as houses are evacuated and protected at Chobham Street in east Belfast. AFP PHOTO/PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images.
Houses are evacuated and protected at Chobham Street in east Belfast, Northern Ireland, as one of the biggest bonfires in east Belfast grows in size, ahead of the traditional 11th night bonfires. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
A youth stands on top of a bonfire on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast. AFP PHOTO/PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images.
A youth fixes a flag onto a bonfire on the lower Shankill area of Belfas. AFP PHOTO/PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images.
A youth fixes a flag onto a bonfire on the lower Shankill area of Belfast. AFP PHOTO/PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images.
A man sits on a bonfire on the lower Shankill area of Belfast. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images.
A resident of Chobham street boards up his windows to protect his home from the bonfire built nearby as people make final preparations for the 11th night bonfire on July 11. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Local youths burn palets next to the New Mossley bonfire, one of the largest in the province is seen on the outskirts of Belfast. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images.
The New Mossley bonfire, one of the largest in the province is seen on the outskirts of Belfast. AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images.
Bonfire builders at Mount Vernon in north Belfast. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
Bonfire builders at Mount Vernon in north Belfast. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
Bonfire builders at Mount Vernon in north Belfast. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
Chobham Street where more than 50 homes have been boarded up to protect them from a 11 July bonfire. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
Matthew Dixon and Gary Ashwood in south Belfast. Pic: Mark Marlow/Pacemaker press
Elliott Ross and Ryan Ashwood with Matthew Dixon and Gary Ashwood. Mark Marlow/Pacemaker press
Ryan Ashwood from south Belfast. Pictures: Mark Marlow/Pacemaker press
Bonfire builders at Mount Vernon in north Belfast. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye

He also said the licence would be subject to health and safety measures being in place and there being no disorderly behaviour, breach of peace or intention to stir up hatred or arouse fear.

The minister continued: "I have outlined to councils on how bonfires might be controlled and managed under the introduction of a licensing scheme.

"The proposal is that those wishing to hold a bonfire would need to apply to their local district council for a temporary licence.

"This is similar to the system in England and Wales whereby there is a Regulatory Position Statement which allows bonfires as long as these meet strict criteria to minimise their impact on the environment and human health.

"It is my view that new legislation will probably be required and proposals could only be progressed with Executive agreement and cross-party endorsement and in turn could only be implemented through an agreed multi-Agency approach and with community support.”

Speaking on the Nolan show the SDLP's Claire Hanna said this was an example of the minster "showing leadership" in a bid to tackle those bonfires which include racist or sectarian material.

Loyalist community worker Phil Hamilton said the proposal would be "unworkable", while east Belfast community worker Jim Wilson said communities would not take well to being dictated to.

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