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DUP silent on criticism of senior figures at bonfires

The DUP's Edwin Poots took a selfie, right, at Ballymacash bonfire that had been bedecked in tricolours
Brendan Hughes

THE DUP has remained silent on criticism of senior figures for being involved in Eleventh Night bonfires.

Former health minister Edwin Poots took a selfie beside a blazing bonfire in Lisburn that had earlier been bedecked in tricolours.

And new communities minister Paul Givan posed for photos as he set stacks of pallets alight in Co Tyrone.

Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd branded the picture by Mr Poots "completely inappropriate", and also said Mr Givan should be "setting an example as a minister".

Last night the DUP did not respond to repeated requests for a comment.

The Department for Communities, for which Mr Givan is the minister, also did not respond.

And the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) – headed by DUP minister Michelle McIlveen and responsible for environmental protection – did not respond to questions.

Lagan Valley MLA Mr Poots uploaded pictures to Facebook of himself at the Ballymacash bonfire.

He wrote: "Hedges cut, lawn cut, flag up and Ballymacash bonfire, it's looking a lot like the Twelfth."

Images posted earlier in the day by other internet users showed how the pyre had been bedecked in flags including tricolours.

His constituency colleague Mr Givan posted pictures online showing him lighting a bonfire to mark the Eleventh Night with Annahoe Orange District in south Tyrone.

He said on Facebook: "Enjoyed a wonderful Eleventh Night at Roughan Orange Hall opening a new £320k 4G pitch and celebrating the traditional lighting of the bonfire."

The Orange Order said the pyre was organised by Fivemiletown District and Roughan lodge on private property and did not involve any tyres or flags.

However, the image attracted criticism online with some internet users questioning the impact on the environment of bonfires.

Sinn Féin Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd last night said: "It was completely inappropriate for Edwin Poots to post a picture of himself in front of a bonfire which included Irish tricolours.

"Instead he should have been showing leadership and standing up to the sectarianism and hate we have come to associate with bonfires.

"Also, Paul Givan should be setting an example as a minister rather than posting pictures of himself setting fire to a bonfire.

"We need to see responsible leadership from within unionism to tackle the problems associated with bonfires."

SDLP assembly member Nichola Mallon also urged the DUP to "clarify its position".

The North Belfast MLA said: "The DUP claims to be a party for all the people of Northern Ireland and should clarify its position on this particular issue and the wider issue of dealing with dangerous and harmful bonfires."

Watch: Bonfires before Eleventh

Meanwhile, a group that organised an Eleventh Night bonfire in west Belfast where several houses were severely damaged may still receive council funding.

Two terraced houses were gutted after catching fire, apparently from embers from the nearby Hopewell Square bonfire in the Shankill Road area.

In total five properties were damaged, four belonging to the Housing Executive and one owned privately.

The pyre was among those involved in Belfast City Council's bonfire management programme, which offers organisers up to £1,500 for related Twelfth events.

The group had taken advice on the bonfire's location from the Housing Executive and Fire Service, Belfast lord mayor Brian Kingston said.

A council spokeswoman said a decision on funding allocations would be made in September.

"To qualify to receive all the available funding, groups must show how the proposed activities will deliver an improvement in good relations and community safety, and a reduction in environmental issues," she said.

"A review of all the groups taking part in this year's scheme will now be undertaken, with a decision on final funding amounts due for consideration at the next meeting of the Shared City Partnership in September."

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