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Sinn Féin seek to block ‘facilitation of illegal bonfire’

15 June, 2017 - by Jim McVeigh

Sinn Féin will oppose any attempt by Belfast City Council to return hundreds of pallets to the site of an illegal bonfire on the edge of the city centre, the party’s Council Group Leader has insisted.

Councillor Jim McVeigh was speaking after it emerged that Council officials were planning to return 1,500 pallets to the bonfire site close to Wellwood Street and Hope Street in time for the eleventh night bonfire.

Jim McVeigh said:

“Council officials took a unilateral decision without any consultation with elected members to remove these pallets from the site in order to carry out a clean-up. They then gave a commitment to keep them safely in storage and return them in time for the 12th of July.

“Effectively, that meant council staff and equipment were being used to facilitate an illegal bonfire, one that caused huge disruption and both physical and reputational damage last year. That is entirely unacceptable.

“It has also now emerged that a the owners of a number of wooden pallets which were on the bonfire has demanded them back.

“So not only has council been facilitating this illegal bonfire, they’ve also been handling goods which belong to someone else.

The matter will come before the Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee next Friday, when Cllr McVeigh insists Sinn Féin will rigorously oppose any attempt to return the pallets to the bonfire site.

He added: “Illegal bonfires are a blight on communities. They are a major health and safety hazard and a magnet for anti-social and dangerous behaviour.

"They also portray the city in a negative light to international investors and tourists which is contrary to our corporate plan.

“Council officials should not be facilitating them in any way and the Sinn Féin grouping will be opposing any attempt to return these materials to the bonfire site.

“The council could be leaving itself open to a legal challenge from ratepayers on health and safety grounds by facilitating this bonfire if anyone is injured or property damaged as a result.

“The materials should not be put in storage. They should not be returned. They should either be returned to their rightful owners or destroyed immediately.”

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