Belfast Telegraph

Mid Ulster Council introduces application process for bonfires

By Michael Sheils McNamee

Ulster Unionists have slammed a decision by a Northern Ireland council to introduce a licensing scheme for bonfires.

A vote by Mid Ulster Council on on Thursday evening saw the council vote in favour of the controversial plan which was passed by its environment committee last week.

Reacting to the vote councillor Trevor Wilson, Ulster Unionist group leader on Mid Ulster Council, said it was "another example of what Unionists can expect if Sinn Fein get a majority in a council or any other elected assembly".

Councillor Wilson said the vote was Sinn Fein and the SDLP "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut".

Councillors were voting on four options put together by the council's Bonfire Working Group in 2017.

The four options were: 1. Maintain the status quo; 2. Adopt similar procedures to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive; 3. Address key areas where risk has been identified (the option under which the licensing agreement has been included); and 4. Launch a long-term strategic action plan.

Councillors voted in favour of options three and four.

"All talk of consensus politics is thrown out the window and they ride roughshod over the views of Unionists. They won`t listen to or even attempt to take on board the views of Unionists who will see this as another attack on their culture," he said.

"They haven`t given any consideration to council staff who will have to implement their diktat or considered the impact on community relations because of the way they have gone about this. Do they expect the council staff or police to implement this policy?," he said.

Mr Wilson said the licensing scheme will not solve "issues which we all want to address", but was "just an excuse for Sinn Fein/SDLP to demonstrate who's boss in Mid Ulster".

Speaking to the the Belfast Telegraph, SDLP councillor Christine McFlynn said the decision had come about as they were trying to "help the residents" and that the council's Bonfire Working Group had been dealing with it for the past two years.

"This group was not set up to stop bonfires in any way, it is about creating a way forward for health and safety and protecting people's homes, and protecting people who don't’ want them there," she said.

Ms Flynn added that the vote was "not an attack on the unionist community" and would be also be concerned with bonfires lit for Halloween or to mark the Assumption of Mary in August.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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