Public consultation on bonfires closing

Pacemaker Press Belfast 11-07-2018:  People pictured enjoying the  Kilcooley bonfire in Bangor  Co Down, Northern Ireland. Bonfires are traditionally lit in many loyalist areas of Northern Ireland on the Eleventh Night - the eve of the Twelfth of July.'Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 11-07-2018: People pictured enjoying the Kilcooley bonfire in Bangor Co Down, Northern Ireland. Bonfires are traditionally lit in many loyalist areas of Northern Ireland on the Eleventh Night - the eve of the Twelfth of July.'Picture By: Arthur Allison.

Mid Ulster District Council’s controversial bonfire consultation draws to a close at 12 noon tomorrow (Thursday).

The Nationalist controlled council launched the consultation in June to give local people an opportunity to have their say.

Back in April the council voted to introduce a licensing scheme for bonfires on land under its control - believed to be the first local authority in Northern Ireland to attempt such a move.

Unionist politicians reacted angrily to scheme, claiming it was an attack on Protestant culture.

In loyalist parts of district threatening posters were put up appearing to target council workers.

Sinn Féin said it was not an attack on anyone’s culture and urged members of the public to take part in the consultation.

“The purpose of our council’s policy is to ensure that all bonfires which occupy council-owned land are built in a way which adheres to Health and Safety policy, paying particular notice to protecting Good Relations,” Councillor Ronan McGinley said recently.

“We want to see bonfires which present no threat to life, property or the environment and which are free from hate crime.”

Cookstown Ulster Unionist Councillor Trevor Wilson said while he urged people to take part in the consultation, there was a feeling in the community that the consultation was “a complete farce” .

He added it was worth noting that all the Twelfth bonfires in Mid Ulster had passed off without incident.

DUP Mid Ulster MLA Keith Buchanan stressed the importance of the consultation.

“Mid Ulster Council have to listen to the public and not use this as merely ‘a tick box’ exercise to suit an agenda,” he said.

The findings of the consultation are expected to be considered by the council’s Public Health and Infrastructure Department.

They are then expected to present their recommendation to council later in the year.