Northern Ireland news

DUP and PUP accuse Sinn Féin of 'cultural war' over Twelfth celebrations

A bonfire off the Bloomfield walkway in east Belfast is among those named in the Belfast City Council injunction

DUP and PUP leaders at Belfast City Council have issued a joint statment following the injunction on Eleventh Night bonfires in the city, accusing Sinn Féin of starting a "cultural war" over Twelfth celebrations.

Representatives from the parties have also called for a "cultural convention" to take place in the autumn to examine how future Twelfth celebrations should be held.

The statement, issued on behalf of the DUP's Lee Reynolds and PUP's Billy Hutchinson, did not mention the council's injunction which was aimed at stopping the dumping of further material on four bonfire sites on council-owned land in Belfast following concerns about the size of the fires.

Alliance and Sinn Féin councillors have claimed that the application for the injunction was supported by all the political parties.

The DUP, UUP and PUP have not responded to the claim.

The DUP/PUP statement said: "Republicans wish to undo all positive progress such as the growth of Orangefest and the successes of the Bonfire programme.  We must not let our unity of purpose be disrupted or harmed by the actions of those who want to devalue and demean us.

"It is our belief that this continued aggression by Sinn Fein and their continuation of a cultural war, is a vain attempt to give their ageing leadership a legacy and to restore their credibility within their own ranks. This has also lead to their walking away from the institutions and in doing so, holding all of the citizens or Northern Ireland to ransom and hurting those most in need from all sections of our society.  

"In short, when Sinn Féin finds itself in a predicament it opts for street agitation and this occurs with parades, bonfires and other cultural issues."

As a result of last week's injunction, bonfires builders and people dumping material will not be permitted on to land at Ravenscroft Avenue car park/Bloomfield walkway, Avoniel Leisure Centre car park, Inverary playing fields and Cregagh Park East.

While the injunction is dated Thursday July 6, it was only made public late on Friday evening.

Sinn Féin councillor Jim McVeigh sparked anger within the unionist and loyalist community today when he said that his interpretation of the injunction was that the bonfires should not be lit and the material removed from the site.

"They are already too high, too dangerous and too close to public amenities," he said.

Mr McVeigh claimed that the council has a contractor to go onto the sites and remove bonfire material.

This afternoon, Belfast City Council said: “The injunction granted to Belfast City Council was obtained in the context of preserving public safety and avoiding and minimising damage to property. In particular its purpose was to prevent more materials from reaching the sites in question.

"The injunction does not make any specific reference to the lighting of the bonfire. The council will review any information received - either directly or via tthe police - relating to any persons allegedly breaching the injunction, and will consider what further action is appropriate.”

The Alliance party's Chris Lyttle said the bonfires "should have been prevented long before now".

"The bonfires need to be made safe by whatever measures the statutory authorities have available to them. Ideally they would be voluntarily reduced," he added.

DUP/PUP statement in full

"We call upon everyone who identifies with the Twelfth Celebrations to ensure that they are as big a success as previous years.  The parades and bonfires are about celebrating a momentous victory and a key part of the narrative around our contribution to our national history.

"In recent weeks there has been a clear strategy to rewrite this narrative and to discredit the celebrations surrounding it.  Republicans wish to undo all positive progress such as the growth of Orangefest and the successes of the Bonfire programme.  We must not let our unity of purpose be disrupted or harmed by the actions of those who want to devalue and demean us.

"It is our belief that this continued aggression by Sinn Fein and their continuation of a cultural war, is a vain attempt to give their ageing leadership a legacy and to restore their credibility within their own ranks. This has also lead to their walking away from the institutions and in doing so, holding all of the citizens or Northern Ireland to ransom and hurting those most in need from all sections of our society.  In short, when Sinn Féin finds itself in a predicament it opts for street agitation and this occurs with parades, bonfires and other cultural issues.

"In Belfast City Council in particular, Jim McVeigh is being used as the glorified message boy for Storey and Murray as they to hide the strategic failures of Gerry Adams whether for their own communities or wider society. It is no surprise that Belfast has become their focus once again, following the huge success of three unionist MPs returned in Belfast."

The statement continued: "We believe that the best answer to this street agitation, is to deliver our best during this year’s celebrations. This attempt at cultural dictation must not be accepted. Instead, we must work together for a cultural renewal that includes input from the parading organisations, bands, community organisations and bonfire groups.

"Therefore, going forward, we invite those who want the Twelfth celebrations to succeed to come together this Autumn for a Cultural Convention. The aim of this will be to ensure that the unionist community can go forward with one voice in promoting our culture, heritage and tradition, as well as to ensure that our celebrations continue to be bigger, better and more successful than ever before.”

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