Belfast Telegraph

Once again bonfires add fuel to tensions

Editor's Viewpoint

In the run-up to the annual Twelfth of July commemorations there is, once again, a serious situation concerning bonfires.

The tension has increased since Friday, when Belfast City Council announced that it had obtained a High Court injunction preventing anyone from adding to existing piles of bonfire material at four council-owned sites.

This move is seen by some as a U-turn following the council's heavily criticised decision to store some bonfire material.

Now loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson, on behalf of the so-called East Belfast Community Initiative, has written to unionist councillors demanding if they knew about the injunction in advance, and asking for their support in condemning the council's action in seeking the legal tool.

The council's court move is a sign of the pressure being placed on some of its officials, and we are now entering uncharted territory at a very difficult time.

Predictably, Sinn Fein has called on the council to remove material from the bonfire sites, but this may prove to be much easier said than done.

Certainly, there is ambiguity about how and by whom the High Court order could be enforced.

Progress did seem to be being made to eradicate the worst of the behaviour around bonfires, including the use of more environmentally friendly material.

However, all this seems to have slipped back, and we are once again in a quandary as to what will happen next.

The public is entitled to ask how this issue has once again come to the fore, and why bonfire-builders can take over a public car park with apparent impunity, while also burdening the hard-pressed Fire Service with the protection of people's properties.

This tiresome annual controversy over flags and bonfires is a serious issue that has not been dealt with by the politicians, as well as others. Almost every day there is a further reason for the politicians to get back to Stormont to do their job.

Once again it is the PSNI that is left holding the line in the absence of politicians, councillors and community leaders being unable, so far, to find a solution.

The last thing that Northern Ireland needs at this time of uncertainty and lack of government at Stormont is another series of confrontations, and every effort must be made immediately to try to defuse this current stand-off, which could so easily lead to much greater trouble.

Belfast Telegraph

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