DUP challenge Belfast City Council bonfire vote

By Mark Simpson
BBC News NI

Published
image source, Reuters
image captionA block of flats was damaged by a bonfire in Belfast earlier in July

The DUP are challenging the legality of Belfast City Council's new policy on bonfires.

The party has said that proper procedures were not followed.

The moves comes after the council voted in favour of a motion to tackle dangerous bonfires on Wednesday. It gives council officers the power to order the removal of bonfire materials from public and private land.

The motion was proposed by Sinn Féin and carried by 31 votes to 21.

Unionists and the Green Party voted against the motion, with some describing it as unnecessary.

The DUP presented a signed petition to council officers on Thursday afternoon calling for the decision to be overturned.

image captionDUP councillor Lee Reynolds claimed the motion could not work legally

The move was made under section 41 of the Local Government Act, which allows council decisions to be reconsidered.

The council is expected to seek an independent legal opinion on the issue.

DUP councillor Lee Reynolds claimed the motion was legally flawed.

"They're (Sinn Féin) asking us and other agencies to go beyond legal powers," he said.

'Stunt'

Green Party councillor Georgian Milne said she opposed the motion because "the issue of worker safety was not sufficiently addressed".

However, Sinn Féin councillor Deirdre Hargey said her party would never put council staff in danger and that Sinn Féin are "opposed to bonfires, which cause damage to homes and public amenities and which have been used to promote hate crime".

She accused unionist councillors bidding to overturn the council motion of indulging the "wholesale lawlessness of those involved in building rogue bonfires".

Alliance Party councillor Michael Long said the unionist challenge was "disappointing" and described it as a "stunt".

"It is poor form for some parties to say they are opposed to the motion purely to prevent them having to show some leadership in the community."

image captionGraffiti threatening those who remove wood intended for bonfires

The council row comes weeks after a Belfast apartment building was damaged by an eleventh night bonfire held on council-owned land.

Dozens of windows were cracked, and the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) had to dampen the building because of its proximity to the Sandy Row site.

Bonfire material was later removed from a bonfire site in the New Lodge area of north Belfast because of safety concerns.

Last week, it emerged that fears of intimidation had forced Belfast City Council to try to use contractors from outside Northern Ireland to remove bonfire material.

It is believed more than 70 different firms have been contacted in recent years.

This includes contractors in England and Scotland.

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