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Belfast bonfire injunction: DUP accuses Sinn Fein of dictating Twelfth celebrations and calls for 'cultural convention'

Sinn Fein says the DUP-PUP statement is a "baseless and inflammatory attack" on the party

By Jonathan Bell

DUP and PUP leaders at Belfast City Council have issued a joint statement on the injunction on bonfires in the city, accusing Sinn Fein of trying to dictate how the Twelfth should be celebrated.

They also called for a "cultural convention" to look at how Orange events should be marked.

Until Monday lunchtime no unionist representatives from any of the parties on the council had spoken publicly on the matter. Sources told the Belfast Telegraph all parties on the council supported the move to obtain the injunction.

Jamie Bryson sent a letter containing an ultimatum to all 24 unionist councillors giving them until 5pm on Monday to condemn the council's injunction and distance themselves from it.

The Belfast Telegraph also asked the DUP, UUP and PUP for their position on the injunction, on if they supported the council's going to court, or supported the injunction after it was granted.

Unionist representatives from the DUP and PUP, in a joint statement, called for a "cultural convention" to be held in the autumn in order to address how Twelfth celebrations should be held.

They blamed Sinn Fein for a "cultural war" and attempting to "rewrite" the narrative around Twelfth celebrations and also of trying to dictate how loyalists should celebrate their tradition.

While there was no mention of the injunction on the bonfires or if they supported the move - a DUP party spokesman confirmed the statement was in response to calls for a comment on the issue.

We must not let our unity of purpose be disrupted or harmed by the actions of those who want to devalue and demean us. DUP and PUP statement

The DUP's Lee Reynolds and PUP's Billy Hutchinson said: "We call upon everyone who identifies with the Twelfth Celebrations to ensure that they are as big a success as previous years.  The parades and bonfires are about celebrating a momentous victory and a key part of the narrative around our contribution to our national history.

"In recent weeks there has been a clear strategy to rewrite this narrative and to discredit the celebrations surrounding it.  Republicans wish to undo all positive progress such as the growth of Orangefest and the successes of the Bonfire programme.  We must not let our unity of purpose be disrupted or harmed by the actions of those who want to devalue and demean us.

"It is our belief that this continued aggression by Sinn Fein and their continuation of a cultural war, is a vain attempt to give their ageing leadership a legacy and to restore their credibility within their own ranks. This has also lead to their walking away from the institutions and in doing so, holding all of the citizens or Northern Ireland to ransom and hurting those most in need from all sections of our society.  In short, when Sinn Fein finds itself in a predicament it opts for street agitation and this occurs with parades, bonfires and other cultural issues.

Republicans wish to undo all positive progress such as the growth of Orangefest. DUP and PUP statement

"In Belfast City Council in particular, Jim McVeigh is being used as the glorified message boy for Storey and Murray as they to hide the strategic failures of Gerry Adams whether for their own communities or wider society. It is no surprise that Belfast has become their focus once again, following the huge success of three unionist MPs returned in Belfast."

The statement continued: "We believe that the best answer to this street agitation, is to deliver our best during this year’s celebrations. This attempt at cultural dictation must not be accepted. Instead, we must work together for a cultural renewal that includes input from the parading organisations, bands, community organisations and bonfire groups.

"Therefore, going forward, we invite those who want the Twelfth celebrations to succeed to come together this Autumn for a Cultural Convention. The aim of this will be to ensure that the unionist community can go forward with one voice in promoting our culture, heritage and tradition, as well as to ensure that our celebrations continue to be bigger, better and more successful than ever before.”

This injunction was supported by all political parties on Belfast City Council including the DUP, UUP and PUP. Sinn Fein response

Responding, a Sinn Fein spokesperson said: “It is clear from this statement that both the DUP and PUP have provided no answer to the public for their support for the court injunction on four council sites.

“What is needed now is leadership from unionist parties instead of attempting to divert from their support for these injunctions with a baseless and inflammatory attack on Sinn Fein."

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