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Nationalist councillors call for the removal of Eleventh Night bonfires being built on council-owned property in Mid Ulster

Bonfire site at Mill Park, Tobermore where wood has been stored without council consent
Connla Young

MID Ulster Council is facing calls to remove bonfire material dumped on its property at several sites across the district ahead of the Twelfth.

Material for Eleventh Night pyres is currently being stored at seven council-owned sites across south Derry and east Tyrone.

Earlier this year unionists reacted angrily after the nationalist controlled authority passed plans to introduce a bonfire licensing scheme.

Under the proposal, which is currently out to consultation, loyalist and other bonfires held on council land would be strictly regulated and subject to health and safety controls.

The bonfire blueprint bans the burning of potentially toxic material such as tyres and will require safety barriers to be placed around pyres.

It will also prohibit the placing of flags and effigies on bonfires.

The council had wanted to run a voluntary pilot scheme this summer but last night confirmed that “to date no bonfire organisers have indicated that they wish to participate in a pilot in 2018”.

A hardline loyalist group The British Truth Forum (BTF) has previously urged loyalists to boycott the bonfire licensing scheme.

The council has identified eight sites across the district where bonfires have been built over the last three years.

The sites are located in Dungannon, Cookstown, Moneymore, Tobermore, Castledawson and Magherafelt.

A council spokeswoman last night confirmed that “any group which is granted permission to hold an event on council property is required to have public liability insurance in place.

She added that to date no permission has been sought to place bonfire material at any council owned site and “no insurances have been provided”.

SDLP councillor Denise Mullen has called for the council to remove all unauthorised bonfire material from its property.

“It's nothing more than fly tipping,” she said.

“If anyone else went in and dumped stuff there would be an investigation, why is it not the same for bonfire material?

“I would call on the council to remove this material from these sites.

“People complain about the rates - ratepayers money is being used to clean up the aftermath and make it safe again.”

Sinn Féin councillor Brian McGuigan said concerns remain over the burning of tyres, effigies and flags on bonfires.

“The bottom line is we can't control whether tyres appear at the last minute, if they do they are basically breaking the law,” he said.

Ulster Unionist councillor Trevor Wilson said: “A lot of work is going on behind the scenes between bonfire builders and unionist representatives and these statements from nationalist councillors do nothing to help the situation.”

A spokeswoman for the council said it “will continue with its existing approach to bonfire management which is to work with its partner agencies to remove hazardous materials and address safety concerns.

“In addressing any issues which may arise with bonfires on council property, the safety of our staff will always be paramount,” she said.

Unionist anger in Mid Ulster has continued to rise and in recent months threatening posters have been put up in loyalist areas.

Flags carrying the council's logo with the wording ‘Mid Ulster Council run by IRA Army Council' have also been put on display across the district and further afield, appearing on bonfire's including some pyres in Coleraine.

BTF spokesman William Lennox last night said the group has handed what it describes as a “letter of concern” to the council “with regards to the consultation format of the bonfire questionnaire”.

“We believe this format, which the council has adopted, is open for abuse,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the council last night said no complaints have been received about the bonfire consultation and added the “council is however receiving feedback as part of the normal consultation process”.

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