Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Bonfires cannot put people or property at risk says Tim Attwood

SDLP Group Leader on Belfast City Council Tim Attwood has welcomed the publication of a report from unionist parties on bonfires in the city.

He said that the report represents the beginning of a conversation on the future of bonfires but is far too light on serious concerns relating to the burning of flags, posters, images and effigies of nationalist politicians, and racist and sectarian slogans.

Cllr Attwood accepted that bonfires were an important part of unionist culture.

“I fully recognise the importance of bonfires to the wider unionist community as part their celebration of their culture and tradition. The SDLP has supported the bonfire diversionary programme in Belfast City Council and recognise that many unionist communities are on a journey in relation to bonfires and welcome the fact that more communities are using beacons," he said

“However, we all have to recognise that there are a number of bonfires which continue to put at risk people’s health, homes and property. Post Grenfell, this is unacceptable. There remain a number of bonfires which are used to burn flags, posters and for racist and sectarian slogans. This is not part of a cultural celebration and is absolutely unacceptable.”

“I welcome this paper’s acknowledgment that fly tipping and tyres on bonfires is a ‘scourge’ that must be tackled. The environmental damage that toxic smoke from tyre burning deals to local communities is something that must be addressed."

He called for greater leadership on the issue.

“There also needs to be greater leadership on this issue from statutory partners. The Council, NIHE, PSNI and NI Environment Agency have a collective responsibility to address bonfires which put at risk people’s health or property," Cllr Attwood said.

“The SDLP wish to engage in a discussion with the wider unionist community, which tackles the negative, dangerous and sinister aspects of bonfires while supporting developments which enhance unionist cultural celebrations.

“This paper should represent the beginning of a conversation on the future of bonfires. It will be supplemented by the report of the Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition. But we cannot hide from the difficult issues if we’re to reach an acceptable accommodation."



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