Northern Ireland news

Nationalist councillors request ‘call-in' of bonfire funding decision

Displays on a bonfire in the Ballycraigy estate in Antrim in 2014
Brendan Hughes

NATIONALISTS have requested a 'call-in' of a Co Antrim council's decision to continue to provide funding when loyalist bonfires have racist or sectarian displays.

Antrim and Newtownabbey councillors will also challenge £50,000 of funding being set aside for the Somme centenary this year but none for the Easter Rising.

The 'call-in' procedure allows a contentious decision to be reconsidered if 15 per cent of councillors believe it was not properly reached or would adversely affect a section of the community.

A fortnight ago the council voted on a new policy to give funding to groups organising Eleventh Night bonfires to hold related family events.

The unionist-majority authority backed funding sanctions over environmental issues such as the burning of tyres.

But a separate proposal to withhold money for offensive displays such as burning flags and effigies failed to gain enough support.

Separately, the council also failed to reach an agreement on allocating any funds for Easter Rising commemorations.

The Antrim and Newtownabbey 'super council' has already earmarked £50,000 for events to mark the Battle of the Somme centenary.

A nationalist proposal to give £40,000 towards Rising events was defeated, while the DUP's suggestion of zero funding was also dismissed.

A councillor working group's proposal for £10,000 was also knocked back after being rejected by DUP and Sinn Féín councillors.

Sinn Féin councillor Anne Marie Logue said the council should have supported the £40,000 proposal.

"The decision taken will disproportionately affect those people from a nationalist community background who live within the borough and have a legitimate expectation that the council will deliver services in an equal and unbiased way," she said.

SDLP councillor Thomas Burns said: "We felt that we were entitled to some of the money for the 1916 commemorations, and we're getting nought now."

Antrim and Newtownabbey council said three 'call-in' requests have been received, relating to the bonfire scheme, and the Easter Rising and Somme commemorative programmes.

A spokeswoman said: "In accordance with the council's standing orders and the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014 the council is seeking a legal opinion as to the merits of these call-ins."

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