A former member of the Londonderry Bands Forum (LBF) has said “radical” proposals the group tabled to Derry City & Strabane Council in a bid to resolve issues around contentious bonfires were “ignored”.
The work was carried out by Derek Moore when he had been part of efforts to improve the situation surrounding bonfires for an 18-month period.
It comes as controversy has emerged in the city once more ahead of bonfire season.
Dozens of tyres have been gathered in the loyalist Clooney Estate ahead of the community’s Twelfth of July celebrations.
In the Galliagh area of the city, SDLP councillor Brian Tierney, who has been a member of the council’s bonfire working group since its inception, was threatened with graffiti scrawled on shop shutters reading: “300 pallets or your car goes.”
Mr Tierney told the Belfast Telegraph he did not want to comment on the matter at this time.
The LBF is a member of the Confederation of Ulster Bands, and has lobbied government and statutory agencies on behalf of all bands to try to stop music, culture and bands being used as a political football.
Mr Moore now works with the North West Cultural Partnership, which primarily engages with marginalised Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist (PUL) communities, as well as taking part in cross-border initiatives.
In 2016, he proposed a “radical idea” whereby Derry City & Strabane District Council would take on and create a Bonfire Festival period.
During the summer, he said: “The council would supply all bonfires with non-hazardous material to burn in the various communities that wish to have this type of celebration, similar to the Burning Temple or the Lumiere Fire Festivals that they have supported in the past.”
In correspondence with the council, Mr Moore accepts his plan could be deemed “controversial” but was convinced that the positives outweighed any negatives.
For example, it would put an end to illegal dumping by householders and businesses, would avoid the burning of hazardous materials, reduce anti-social behaviour around pre-collection and burning, and a “pragmatic approach” could be taken to flags and emblems.
In addition, he suggested there could be more community buy-in with burning clean materials, risk assessments could be carried out, there could be collective responsibility with statutory agencies involved, and the clear-up afterwards would be much easier. However, despite his five years on the NI Fire Service bonfires committee, the council never responded.
A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane Council confirmed it had received the proposals.
“All correspondence in relation to bonfires is considered by the Council’s Bonfire Working Group,” she added.
For years the Bonfire Working Group in Derry has strived to prevent the burning of dangerous and offensive materials. Members believe significant progress has been made.
UUP councillor Ryan McCready has been engaging with young people in the Clooney estate over the burning of tyres.
He said: “I believe in the freedom to express culture, irrespective of the persuasion.
“I acknowledge the history that bonfires play within the community and take note to the large degree of effort and time that goes into these.
“However, I also acknowledge the concerns pertaining to public safety and environmental impacts of burning tyres.”
He added: “Due to these concerns, I have actively engaged with representatives from the Clooney Estate Bonfire building team.
“We discussed the implications of the above concerns and are exploring all options on how to manage this situation.”
A PSNI spokesperson said police have “no specific statutory responsibility” to remove bonfires or waste material, including tyres, which have been left at bonfire sites.
A spokesperson for Derry City & Strabane District Council said: “Bonfires in local areas are a matter for the communities involved, with council providing a supportive role in terms of advice for residents’ groups to reduce risks to public safety and minimise damage to the local environment. Council are also working with the landowner to address the issues raised.”