Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland council introduces first bonfire licensing scheme sparking anger

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 yesterday 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, the Ulster Unionist group leader on Mid Ulster Council, said it was "another example of what unionists can expect if Sinn Fein gets a majority in a council or any other elected assembly".

Mr 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 two options supported were addressing key areas where risk has been identified - the option under which the licensing agreement has been included - and the launching of a two-to-five-year strategic action plan.

"All talk of consensus politics is thrown out the window and they ride roughshod over the views of unionists," Mr Wilson said. "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 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".

SDLP councillor Christine McFlynn said the decision was aimed at "helping the residents" and said the council's Bonfire Working Group had been working on the issue 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 said it would also be concerned with bonfires lit for Halloween and to mark the Assumption of Mary in August.

Belfast Telegraph

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