The Mid Ulster District Council discussed procedures pertaining to local bonfire events on Council property at last week’s Environment Committee. The decision is set to be ratified by the full council on Thursday night.
The options agreed on are twofold. Firstly, the council will provide specific focus for bonfire events in the district identified as having the highest level of risk, and are therefore most likely to cause damage to property and potentially good relations within the community. Secondly, the Council will develop a strategy which will provide an accountable application process for use of Council facilities and property meaning organisers will have to ensure a safe, legal and respectful event takes place.
Speaking after the meeting, Sinn Féin’s Ronan McGinley commented;
“This is the right action to be taken by Mid Ulster District Council. Agreement around bonfires is difficult to achieve, however as a Council we have a responsibility to ensure that events taking place on our facilities and property are both within legislation and safe.
“Events over the years have proven to flaunt the law. There has been the breaking of numerous environmental legislations, including the burning of tyres and dumping of toxic waste. Health and safety guidelines have simply been ignored with the size and location of some of these structures. At times, these events have been extremely damaging to good relations in our area. There have been events with hate crime and sectarianism, and we simply cannot allow this to continue on Council property without being challenged.
“Some of these breaches of legislation have also been underpinned by claims of intimidation, threats of violence and paramilitary involvement.
“The decision taken by the Mid Ulster District Council’s Environment committee will ensure that future events on our property remove all these negative behaviours, and ensure that event organsiers are accountable, operating within the law and providing a safe, respectful event for all.”
Commenting on an anonymous letter received by local media, Cllr McGinley stated;
“Proposed actions by an anonymous bonfire building group are simply not enough. There is no accountability, their actions from the past have built little trust and anonymous groups cannot to dictate to Council how we should manage our property.
“However, I will engage with legitimate Community Groups who wish to use council property for events in a safe and friendly manner. The rules are there to enhance the opportunities for legitmate applicants, and remove the ‘self-entitlement’ of those who disregard their accountability.”