Belfast council told to publish bonfire pallets report
Belfast City Council has been urged to publish details of its investigation into the controversial storage of almost 3,000 bonfire pallets which were stolen earlier this year.
Green Party MLA Clare Bailey was speaking after the publication of separate research on flags, identity culture and traditions which showed that only 42% of all respondents agreed that bonfires were a legitimate cultural expression.
However, 33% of those surveyed disagreed.
"What is clear from this research is that these issues remain contentious in our society and that residents need to be involved in decision-making processes when it comes to bonfires, flags and cultural markers in local areas," she said.
The report, which was published on Queen's University and Ulster University's research hub Ark, also revealed that nine out of 10 people interviewed felt that bonfire organisers should be held to account for personal injury or damage they cause to property.
"I am calling on Suzanne Wylie, the Chief Executive of Belfast City Council, to publish the investigation and full review on the issue of collection and storage of bonfire material and the future approach to bonfires across the city as soon as possible, to plan for safe and inclusive bonfire practice," the South Belfast MLA, who attended the launch of the research in Skainos Centre in east Belfast, added.
The local authority was criticised in June when it collected materials from controversial bonfire sites at Bloomfield Walkway and Sandy Row and gave assurances to community groups that it would be returned - at the ratepayer's expense - before the Eleventh Night celebrations.
But the plan backfired when around 3,000 wooden pallets were stolen from the 'secret' storage site at Gransha Road.
As a result, this sparked fury among loyalists who considered it a breach of trust and demanded that the council replace the material.
The local authority refused and set up an investigation following the mystery disappearance.
A Belfast City Council spokesperson said: "As an investigation being undertaken by former Ombudsman Tom Frawley is in the final stages of completion, it would not be appropriate to comment at this time."
And the council spokesman added: "Once complete, the report will be presented to our elected representatives as agreed by council."
Ms Bailey also insisted local discussions surrounding controversial issues "need to be held sooner, rather than a few weeks before the summer" when tensions may already be running high.