ALLIANCE Assembly member Seamus Close has accused Environment Minister Angela Smith MP of providing loyalists with advice on law-breaking after the Environment & Heritage Service launched bonfire guidelines today.
Councillor Close said: “It is illegal for bonfires to be built on public property, yet here we have the Minister encouraging illegality by providing advice on how to best break the law. It’s a bit like a Traffic Branch officer telling drivers to go as fast as they like, as long as they keep their car between the hedges.
“These are only guidelines that the Minister has issued. They are not legally enforceable, and because of this, they will be ignored. Loyalist paramilitaries don’t even listen to their own communities – why would they listen to the Government?
“This is just another fine example of the Government capitulating to paramilitaries. I suppose it is only to be expected after the Chief Constable’s remarks last week saying he could not see the point in policing bonfires, before admitting he wanted paramilitaries to police parades this year.
“While we know the Government has no backbone when it comes to terrorism in Northern Ireland, I find it hard to believe that it is now condemning the public to be subject to the whims of paramilitary gangsters. These moves serve only to legitimise paramilitaries and their malign influence on society.
“It costs the NI ratepayer a million pounds every year to clean up after bonfires. They are an eyesore, an environmental hazard and I have seen little to no effort this year to clean up these random rubbish tips – and when councils try to, their workers are threatened.
“Sadly, the Minister is adding fuel to the fire.”
If the Government is serious about dealing with this issue, it should look at legislation regarding the provision of legal, licensed sites with proper enforced management, controls and community consultation without intimidation.