Long hopes Council decision leads to safer and more respectful expressions of culture

Alliance Councillor Michael Long has said he hopes the decision by Belfast City Councillors to back a motion allowing for the removal of hazardous bonfire materials allows for “safer and more respectful” expressions of culture in future.

The Alliance Belfast City Council Group Leader was speaking following the decision of the majority of Belfast City Councillors to vote in favour of a motion allowing the body to remove materials from certain sites where life or property are threatened.

“Alliance supports positive, respectful and safe expressions of culture, however, bonfires which damage property, threaten the environment or people, or facilitate hate crimes are not that,” said Councillor Long.

“I have worked on this issue for many years and recognise the good examples many bonfires set. We welcome the move by Sinn Fein to alter their motion prior to tonight’s vote and clarify this was not a move against all bonfires, which Alliance would not have supported.

“It is disappointing we had to have this meeting tonight, as the motion restated the previous Belfast City Council position, but it was needed because unionist Councillors were opposed to the continuation of that policy. This whole episode is an attempt by some parties to deflect from their decision last month to support the Council’s injunction against a number of bonfire sites in private and then refuse to admit that in public. For them to then go on to state this was an attempt to stop all bonfires is nothing other than a deliberate lie.

“I understand the anxiety felt by some bonfire builders in relation to this issue. If I had been told the lies they have been fed by some parties, I would be worried too. But I want to reassure them this motion was not about removing all bonfires and Alliance extends an invitation to meet with them to ensure an inclusive solution to this situation.

“Many people have worked hard to prevent damaging bonfires from taking place and I hope tonight’s decision allows the issue to be addressed further, whether in relation to unionist or nationalist bonfires. The buck-passing and blame game needs to stop, and a positive way forward agreed which builds on the progress made, so we don’t have this matter raising its head continually.”

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