DUP's Edwin Poots 'couldn't care less' about bonfire criticism
THE DUP's Edwin Poots has said he "really couldn't care less" about criticism of him attending an Eleventh Night bonfire bedecked in tricolours.
The former health minister took a selfie beside the blazing bonfire in Lisburn that had earlier been covered in the flags.
Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd branded the picture "completely inappropriate", while the SDLP's Nichola Mallon urged the DUP to "clarify its position" on bonfires.
The DUP and Mr Poots have not responded to repeated requests by The Irish News for a comment.
However, Mr Poots yesterday took to his Facebook page to criticise the newspaper.
He also hit out at social media profile Loyalists Against Democracy (LAD), which regularly lampoons politics and current affairs in Northern Ireland.
The assembly member wrote: "Last month LAD had a go at me for attending the Northern Ireland team homecoming, today The Irish News criticises me for attending one of my local bonfires.
"The breaking news in all of this is that I really couldn't care less what a pernicious website has to say or a newspaper which struggles to find anything good to say about unionists."
The Lagan Valley MLA uploaded pictures to Facebook of himself earlier this week at the Ballymacash bonfire.
Images posted earlier in the day by other internet users showed how the pyre had been bedecked in flags including tricolours.
His constituency colleague, new communities minister Paul Givan, has also faced criticism over a bonfire.
The DUP assembly member posed for photos as he set stacks of pallets alight in Co Tyrone to mark the Eleventh Night with Annahoe Orange District.
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.
Mr O'Dowd said Mr 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," the Upper Bann MLA added.
Last night the Department for Communities, for which Mr Givan is the minister, again did not respond to requests for a comment.
And the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) – headed by DUP minister Michelle McIlveen and responsible for environmental protection – also did not respond.
Meanwhile, it yesterday emerged that boarding up homes beside a west Belfast bonfire where several houses were severely damaged cost the Housing Executive £1,430.
Two terraced houses were gutted and three others were damaged, apparently due to embers from the nearby Hopewell Square bonfire in the Shankill Road area.
Ahead of the bonfire the Housing Executive had spent £1,430 boarding up the row of 11 properties in an unsuccessful bid to prevent them catching fire.
Four of the five damaged homes belong to the housing body, and a spokeswoman said they were "currently assessing the requirements for repairs to each of the properties".