Daily Ireland

St Pat’s row hits bonfire site plan

Sinn Féin and the SDLP have launched a joint attempt to block unionist efforts to have Belfast City Council provide designated bonfire sites for July 12 bonfires.
The move came as a direct response to unionists on the council rejecting an application by organisers of the Belfast St Patrick’s Day Carnival for £30,000 funding to stage a concert outside City Hall on March 17.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s powerful Client Services Committee, Sinn Féin and the SDLP managed to get the designated bonfire site proposal, which was due to be approved, postponed until next month’s meeting of the committee.
The parties argued that it was unfair for the council not to fund St Patrick’s Day, yet provide loyalists with publicly-owned land for bonfires.
Former Sinn Féin Belfast Mayor Alex Maskey said: “The bogus argument unionists used against funding St Patrick’s Day was that it was not an inclusive event. Well, this argument can be applied to loyalist July 12 bonfires which are definitely not inclusive.”
North Belfast SDLP councillor Martin Morgan backed this view insisting the council should not fund a non-inclusive event. He said: “At last year’s July 12 bonfires loyalists burned posters of nationalist politicians and images of the Pope. The council cannot be seen to be funding such an event just days after the St Patrick’s Day fiasco.”
Under the designated bonfire site proposal the council agreed to allow bonfires to be burned at Inverary, Pitt Park, Westland, Mount Vernon, Annadale, Taughmonagh, Sunningdale and Highfield. The City Hall also offered loyalists managing bonfires in these areas up to £2,500 to organise cultural activities. In return for this the council sought assurances from loyalists that they would not dump wood at the locations prior to July 1 and they will marshal the bonfires.
Ulster Unionist councillor Davy Browne described the Sinn Féin and SDLP block on the scheme as “nationalists throwing their toys out of the pram”.
The High Sheriff of Belfast said: “No one ever said July 12 bonfires are inclusive.
“The reason why the council came up with new proposals on the bonfire issue was to stop areas being turned into illegal rubbish dumps in the months leading up to the Twelfth.
Last year’s clean-up bill wasclose to £20,000.

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