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We have support for council bonfire motion and it will pass: Sinn Fein

This is about those bonfires that threaten life and property, says councillor

By Jonathan Bell

Sinn Fein has said its motion on allowing council workers to remove bonfire material will be passed at Wednesday night's special meeting.

The party has called a special meeting proposing a motion to allow officials or contractors to remove bonfire materials from any site inside the city's boundaries.

Ahead of the meeting the republican party said it had lobbied others on the council and was confident it will pass.

Unionists have said they won't support the motion but do not have the numbers to make a difference to the outcome. It is understood they will put forward a motion requesting the matter be moved into committee for further discussion, however, that is likely to be rejected.

Sinn Fein leader on the council Jim McVeigh said he was confident the motion put before the council would pass. He denied that the move was aimed at setting a precedent ahead of next July's 11th night celebrations.

"This is not about every bonfire. It is about rogue illegal bonfires on both sides that pose a threat to life, public amenities and property. It is those that are facilitating hate. And I'll say this, no matter what the flag on top of any bonfire, be it a Union Jack or an Irish flag or Polish flag - it is a disgrace and a hate crime.

He said it was for statutory agencies, particularly the police, to also play their part in tackling the issue surrounding bonfires.

"There are laws already in place that can deal with issues around bonfires and they should be enforced. This would not be allowed to happen anywhere else in UK or Ireland so why here?"

UUP councillor Jim Rodgers said he would be opposing the motion, but admitted it should pass at the meeting. He said the parties should be working together to come up with a workable solution.

"We want to work with people to get this right, but the way Sinn Fein and their bedfellows Alliance are handling it is wrong," he said.

"What they are asking for would be laughable if it were not so serious - it will put people's lives at risk."

"We will do best for every citizen of Belfast regardless what they are from. We are not opposed to bonfires just those that force people out of their homes or that damage property and regretfully there is a small number that are built in inappropriate areas.

"But Sinn Fein are known for wasting money. To hold a council meeting costs a lot. And if that's the game they are playing, others can play it too."

Alliance councillor Michael Long said his party was not opposed to people celebrating their culture but that the council's "long-standing" policy on removing materials needed to be "restated".

"Unionists refuse to stand up to those that burn bonfires regardless of the safety of others or possible damage to property," he said.

"It needs to be tackled and it is about time we saw some leadership from unionists on the matter as it has been severely lacking."

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