09/07/2019

Unionist Parties Urged To Challenge 'Anti-Social Bonfires'

Leaders of unionist parties have been urged to confront and challenge the issue of "anti-social" bonfires.

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill demanded action from political unionists as tensions are stirred up in the lead up to bonfire night, Thursday 11 July.

It follows a council decision to remove materials from two east Belfast bonfires, a threat that was followed by action from those who constructed the bonfire.

Residents at a block of flats in Portadown, County Armagh, have also been offered alternative accommodation due to the risk posed by a nearby bonfire.

Ms O'Neill slammed the actions of those who intimidated staff at Avoniel Leisure Centre in east Belfast, where a bonfire has been constructed, out of opening for business on Sunday 07.

"Everyone has the right to celebrate their culture with dignity and respect but there is nothing respectful about forcing families from their homes or forcing community leisure services to close," the Mid-Ulster MLA commented.

"It is intimidation. It is idiotic. It is disgraceful and dangerous.

"Year in, year out, the issue of anti-social bonfires is having a destructive and toxic impact on community relations and the wider political process. And on the environment.

"Nowhere else would such a scenario be tolerated and the reason it is tolerated is because of the failure of political unionism to adequately challenge and confront this issue.

"That simply isn't good enough. The very people that unionist parties claim to represent are the same communities being held to ransom with these anti-social bonfires.

"Unionist politicians must make it clear that this is no longer acceptable."



(JG/CM)

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