Revealed: Number of Eleventh night bonfires in Belfast that burned tyres
Evidence of tyres being burnt in Eleventh Night bonfires was found at only two sites, Belfast City Council has found.
A report due to be discussed this afternoon said the council undertook more than 150 cleansing operations to remove tyres and various other illegal materials from bonfire sites.
And according to the report, there was only evidence of tyres being burned at two bonfires in Belfast. However, concerns remain about illegal dumping at bonfire sites and a development plan is being undertaken with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency to address it.
There are more than 100 bonfires lit across Belfast every July 11. They range from small street bonfires to giant pyres such as 'The Beast' in the Ballycraigy estate.
Sinn Fein councillor Steven Corr said only loyalists could address the issue of tyres being burned on Eleventh Night bonfires. He was speaking ahead of a debate at the People and Communities committee at City Hall on how to deal with bonfire rule-breaking.
Mr Corr said tyres were burned at far more than two sites, but he said at many the tyres were hidden off site.
"It's all down to having evidence that tyres were burned," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"There are quite a lot of issues around bonfires, where council workers can't go without being hassled, and the old 'get out of jail free card' is often used where people turn up on the day to dump the tyres.
"So in the week leading up when council workers visit, the tyres are not there, yet everyone knows they are there on the night. Local people are often scared to take pictures to be used as evidence."
Mr Corr claimed that all the bonfires in his own area of Ballymurphy that used to be lit to mark the anniversary of the introduction of the policy of internment every August were stopped gradually over a number of years through community involvement. He said the only way bonfires in Belfast can be brought under control is through unionist and loyalist councillors in their own areas.
"In Ballymurphy we looked at the situation holistically. Bonfire sites tended to be areas of wasteland so we got those brought back into use, introduced alley gates and created alternatives," he said.
"It took a few years but we got there in the end. Now I can't go into areas such as the Shankill or east Belfast, so it has to be the local councillors in those areas that addresses this.
"There were no tyres or no pallets in 1690 so this is not tradition, it just smogs up the city and inflicts damage on the local areas. These are local problems that need local solutions."
Committee chairperson Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston (PUP) said they will be asking the report's authors questions at the meeting this afternoon.
She said: "Mr Corr's comments demonstrate a distinct lack of understanding regarding the purpose and intent of this report. The report to committee is titled 'illegal dumping of tyres' and the task for our councillors is simply to agree a positive action plan to address the issue.
"Council officers have made a number of recommendations which include joint visits with PSNI to tyre companies outlining the legalities regarding the storing and disposal of used tyres.
"It is regrettable that Sinn Fein would seek to use this report to vilify the loyalist community and its cultural expression once again. It begs the question: are they incapable of discharging their duty as councillors without bias?"