Northern Ireland

Belfast City Council backs Sinn Féin bonfires motion

The bonfire is pictured before the burning, with the apartment building behind Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A block of flats was damaged by a bonfire in Belfast earlier in July

Belfast City Council has voted in favour of a motion to tackle dangerous bonfires.

It states that the council is "opposed to bonfires where they present a threat to life, property, the environment, where they cause damage to public amenities and where they facilitate hate crime."

Sinn Féin proposed the move, but insisted they were not against all bonfires.

The motion carried by 31 votes to 21.

Unionists all voted against the motion at a meeting of the council on Wednesday night, saying it was unnecessary.

Image caption Graffiti threatening those who remove wood intended for bonfires

The motion further states: "This council gives permission to our council officers to remove bonfire materials or employ contractors to facilitate the removal of bonfire materials from council sites and other sites, which belong to statutory agencies and those which are in private ownership."

The leader of the DUP on the council, Lee Reynolds, said the council should not be turned into "the Belfast bonfire police".

The Sinn Féin leader on the council, Jim McVeigh, said: "Tonight's motion enables council officers to remove bonfire materials from council and other sites, which belong to statutory agencies and those which are in private ownership with their consent.

"This sends out a strong message that this council stands against displays of racism, sectarianism and homophobia on bonfires in any part of the city."

Earlier, the Ulster Unionist Party called the motion unrealistic.

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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