Belfast Telegraph

Staff names withheld in Belfast council report on storing bonfire material

By Jonathan Bell

Belfast City Council has approved and published its report into its controversial storage of materials for a loyalist bonfire — with the names of the staff involved removed.

On Monday, the Belfast Telegraph exclusively revealed details of the investigation which revealed who took the decision to remove and store pallets which were later stolen.

That was Nigel Grimshaw, the council’s director of city and neighbourhood services.

The former senior police officer “directed that preparations and plans should be made with a view to removing the material” at the bonfire at Bloomfield Walkway in east Belfast.

It was also revealed the report author, former Northern Ireland Ombudsman Tom Frawley, couldn’t be sure of some details because of an “apparent absence of written records relating to those discussion and decisions”.

On Monday night the matter was discussed behind closed doors at City Hall during the council’s monthly meeting.

Press and the public were excluded for around an hour while a discussion took place on the report.

When proceedings opened again to the public, council chief executive Suzanne Wylie confirmed that the report would be published with staff names redacted.

She said the leaking of the report was discussed, with all parties condemning its release which included the naming of those staff involved.

“I also stressed no member of staff should be placed in a vulnerable position,” Ms Wylie said.

A proposal to return the report back to committee for further debate was rejected by a vote.

Ms Wylie said the council looked forward to implementing the recommendations made in the report, and would introduce a new decision-making process and examine how notes should be taken.

Ms Wylie said the council would “redouble” its efforts to make this coming bonfire season peaceful.

In his report Tom Frawley emphasised the need for a clear and more comprehensive approach to risk management and mitigation across all statutory agencies and with communities and bonfire organisers.

The council agreed to continue with its programme for supporting positive expressions of culture, with appropriate funding being made available to groups who meet criteria. The council is also looking at the potential of resourcing alternatives such as community festivals to promote celebrations.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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