Belfast Telegraph

Unionist 'cultural convention' bid to deflect from bonfire issue, says Alliance's Bradshaw

By Michael Sheils McNamee

Calls by the DUP and PUP for a unionist 'Cultural Convention' are an attempt to deflect from the current bonfire issue, Alliance Party MLA Paula Bradshaw has said.

The call was made by the two parties in a joint statement issued as a response to controversy surrounding an injunction granted after a request from Belfast City Council that prevents more materials being brought to four sites in east Belfast.

In the statement, the two parties do not say whether they supported the injunction, but call for a 'Cultural Convention' to be held in the autumn that would "ensure that the unionist community can go forward with one voice in promoting our culture, heritage and tradition". 

"The suggestion by DUP and PUP that a 'cultural convention' should be organised appears to me as a crude attempt to deflect from the current, uncomfortable position the Unionist parties in Belfast City Hall have found themselves in over the east Belfast bonfires," the South Belfast MLA told the Belfast Telegraph.

"The truth is, on June 17 2016, the DUP along with SF heralded the establishment of the Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition.

"A Commission that is made up of political representatives, including DUP and UUP, and is charged with intensively engaging with people right across Northern Ireland on issues such as bonfires."

The Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition was set up in June last year by then First Minister Arlene Foster and then deputy First Minister the late Martin McGuinness.

Speaking at the time, DUP leader Foster said that the Commission presented "a unique opportunity to take a fresh approach to dealing with the complexities of flags, identity, culture and tradition".

The Commission is made up of representative from the various political parties, including representation from the different political parties including the UUP, DUP and Alliance Party.

The eight members are paid £300-a-day plus expenses, and work around three days a month, spread out over six half days.

The body is set to deliver a report on its work toward the end of this year.

Ms Bradshaw added that she would "urge DUP members to make contact with their members on the Commission with the suggestion, so that it is given some context and become part of the final report".

"All these random suggestions - while headline grabbers at the time - continue to raise and then dash expectations, especially in Loyalist communities."

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