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DUP boycotts NI council’s Bonfire Working Group for second year as ‘toxic’ tyres pile up at loyalist bonfire site

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Tyres gathered off Heron Way in the Waterside area. Photo: Martin McKeown.

Tyres gathered off Heron Way in the Waterside area. Photo: Martin McKeown.

The pile of tyres at the bonfire site

The pile of tyres at the bonfire site

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Tyres gathered off Heron Way in the Waterside area. Photo: Martin McKeown.

The DUP has refused to nominate anyone to Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Bonfire Working Group for a second consecutive year.

To coincide with the decision, dozens of tyres have been piled up at the Clooney Estate bonfire site in the Waterside, an area in which the DUP would have influence.

Last year, the UUP had also initially declined to nominate a representative to the group, but re-engaged a short time later.

Outlining its position at the time, the DUP said the Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist (PUL) community was “annoyed” about a range of issues, including the NI Protocol and policing, and people were unhappy that the centenary of NI had been “snubbed” at council level.

Now, at a special council meeting where parties nominate representatives to various internal and external bodies, the DUP told the council’s chief executive, John Kelpie, it would not be nominating anyone “at the minute”.

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The local council set up the Bonfire Working Group in 2017.

The purpose was to have councillors from different backgrounds representing all political parties in order to show respect for cultural traditions as well as respect for the law and each other.

The main objectives of the group are to ensure bonfires are safe, clean and respectful to people of all backgrounds who live near them.

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The pile of tyres at the bonfire site

The pile of tyres at the bonfire site

The pile of tyres at the bonfire site

Current chair of the Bonfire Working Group, independent councillor Paul Gallagher said: “Since its inception the group has always had representatives from all parties.

“We have seen quite a number of successes and progress across the board. The DUP’s position is a bit of a protest around the protocol.

“They’re seeing this as the erosion of bonfires and an attack on their culture.

“However, there is a lot of positive stuff. We know there are going to be bonfires, but it is about making them environmentally friendly and as safe as possible and avoiding anti-social behaviour leading up to, during and after bonfires.

“It’s also about reducing the impact on local communities. It’s not about zero tolerance of bonfires.

“Over recent years there has been success with removing tyres and reducing hate crime.”

On the specific issue of tyres, he added: “It’s not about barging in and lifting these tyres — that never works.

“There needs to be dialogue and engagement. Everyone needs to understand that when you burn a tyre, it’s so hot that the toxins go up in the air and then a few days later they come back down.

“It completely and utterly poisonous. Premature deaths with toxins from tyres, it’s unbelievable, you know?”

Another member of the bonfire working group, People Before Profit Councillor Maeve O’Neill, said: “The DUP are holding society ransom for its reckless self-serving agenda.

"They've spent the guts of the last two years riling-up community tension and division. Boycotting a council Bonfire Working Group is a continuation of this divisive approach.

"We need maximum working class unity now to demand government action to help people in all our communities facing hardship and to support workers from all backgrounds who are taking industrial action for cost of living pay rises.”

In previous years offensive material has been placed on bonfires in both republican and loyalist areas.

Those have included, on the loyalist side, flags in support of soldier F who was accused of killing people on Bloody Sunday.

While the names of murdered police officers have been burned in Bogside bonfires before.

The Belfast Telegraph contacted DUP councillors for the Waterside area but they did not answer.

The Belfast Telegraph attempted to contact DUP councillors for the Waterside area, but they did not answer.

The DUP’s press office was also contacted for comment.


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