DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said he is against the idea of a Parades Commission-style body set up to arbitrate on controversial bonfires, saying that voluntary regulation was the best way forward.
The Lagan Valley MP said that he would work with bonfire builders on a voluntary code of practice to reduce the size of the loyalist fires and ensure they are safe for spectators.
A number of larger fires, including one in Portadown collapsed after being lit at the weekend, sending spectators running to safety from burning debris.
A teenager is in a critical condition in hospital after catching fire at a bonfire in Ballysillan in north Belfast.
“I would like to work with bonfire organisers and see if we can come up with even a voluntary code at this stage and encourage people to take responsibility rather than give people crutches,” Sir Jeffrey said. “I’d like to get to a place where people do these things on a voluntary basis.
“There are already laws in place, and we need to look at how those laws are upheld.
“We need to look at public safety to reduce the height of bonfires and ensure people in and around the bonfire are safe.”
Last week Sir Jeffrey visited a controversial bonfire in Tigers Bay in north Belfast.
Two Stormont minister, Nichola Mallon and Deirdre Hargey, took a failed high court case in an attempt to force police to assist contractors in removing the structure. It went ahead on Sunday evening with no major incident; although Irish tricolours were burned on the bonfire at the north Belfast interface.
Speaking about the burning of flags, Sir Jeffrey said: “I think it’s part of the politics of Northern Ireland, unfortunately we are a divided society and sometimes flags are symbols of that division, which is sad. It shouldn’t be like that and I hope that we can get to a place in Northern Ireland in future where flags aren’t seen as divisive symbols, that’s the kind of Northern Ireland I want for the future.
"I think we can celebrate our culture and tradition in a respectful way," he added.
"Respect is a two-way street, if you want to gain respect for your tradition and culture you have got to show respect for the traditions, cultures, symbols of other communities.
"I have seen the Union flag burnt on internment bonfires and I find it offensive and therefore I understand why people are offended when they see a flag or an election poster being burnt on a bonfire at this time of the year.
"The Republic of Ireland are our neighbours and I don't want to see their flag burnt any more than I want to see the Union flag burnt and destroyed on other bonfires.
“We have seen a number of bonfires this year where flags and posters and so on were not included and we’ll continue to work at that and I know that Doug Beattie and other unionist leaders have been doing likewise, we will seek to influence that.”
The DUP leader commended the efforts of community workers and fire service staff who ensured bonfires "passed off peacefully".
“We need to continue working with community leaders to try and avoid confrontation to ensure that when traditions are pursued that they are done in a respectful way on all sides,” he added.