Belfast Telegraph

Unionists challenge 'bonfire police' powers over blaze sites

A new measure allowing council staff or private contractors to tackle dangerous bonfire sites in Belfast has been challenged by unionists.

The DUP is pressing for the decision to be reviewed to consider its impact on the community as well as question marks over its procedure.

The step was taken following a special meeting of the City Council on Wednesday evening.

A City Council spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that a call-in request has been submitted and is currently being examined.

"Call-in is a mechanism within legislation (section 41 of the Local Government Act 2014) whereby a defined number of councillors can request that decisions are reconsidered on specific grounds.

"In this case the grounds are community impact and procedural."

The change allows council staff or private contractors to remove bonfire materials from sites in Belfast.

Sinn Fein said a small number of fires were built dangerously close to homes or businesses and the poisonous gases produced were affecting the health of those who lived nearby.

The DUP said the republican party's motion, which was carried by 31 votes to 21, was attempting to transform the local authority into "bonfire police".

Sinn Fein's council leader Jim McVeigh has said the party was not opposed to loyalist bonfires per se and claimed there was paranoia about the intentions of republicans.

Anti-internment blazes are due to be lit in nationalist parts of the city in the coming weeks.

On the Eleventh Night windows in a high-rise building in Belfast city centre shattered and other scorch damage was sustained from a nearby bonfire.

Firefighters spent the night dousing the tower on Wellwood Street with water in an effort to prevent it catching fire.

A son of the late Martin McGuinness called for an end to "displays of hate" after a coffin bearing a picture of his father was placed on one fire in Belfast.

Before the festivities the City Council attained a court order banning loyalists from stacking up more wood for the fires.

That order appeared to have been broken.

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