Licensing of bonfires a Sinn Fein plot, claims Magherafelt councillor
The row over the proposed licensing of bonfires has stepped up a gear after the DUP group leader on Mid Ulster Council hit out at the plan.
In a letter to the Belfast Telegraph, Magherafelt councillor Paul McLean said the council's bonfire licensing initiative was "an orchestrated plan by Sinn Fein to stop Eleventh night bonfires".
Accusing the council of being a "Sinn Fein dictatorship", the DUP man slammed what he described as the local authority's "haughty" approach to the issue.
"There are eight bonfires on council land," he said.
"Bonfire organisers have already conducted community consultations.
"They published plans to ensure 2018 bonfires are safe and family-friendly.
"This (process) could have been better managed by working with communities rather than taking a heavy-handed, regulatory approach.
"Leading is always better than driving.
"Such a dictatorial approach will damage community relations.
"It will (also) confirm for many unionists that the Sinn Fein-controlled Mid Ulster Council has zero consideration for their culture."
Mr McLean's party supports a voluntary code for the management of July bonfires, which he said had worked well elsewhere in Northern Ireland.
"The DUP opposed council regulation and urged for a voluntary code to be put in place," the councillor explained in his letter to this newspaper.
"This has been used in other areas with incredible success."
A vote by Mid Ulster Council on Thursday evening saw back the controversial plan, which was passed by its environment committee last week.
Councillors voted on four options put together by the council's bonfire working group last year.
The proposals are planned to apply to all bonfires, whether unionist, nationalist or other.