Belfast bonfire groups reject council funding over 'ludicrous demands'
SEVERAL loyalist bonfire groups in Belfast have said they will not take part in a council funding scheme because of its "increasingly ludicrous demands".
The 'bonfire and cultural expression' programme offers funding for related community activities if bonfires meet certain criteria, such as not burning tyres and avoiding paramilitary or offensive displays.
But some groups have accused the scheme of aiming to "control culture and tradition".
A Cregagh Estate bonfire representative said on Facebook they could no longer be part of a programme aimed at "controlling and eradicating the culture and tradition of people in that area".
And on Twitter, the Mid Shankill bonfire group said "pan-nationalism is targeting bonfire groups as part of an ongoing cultural war intent to erode any vestige of Britishness".
They said they will not accept funding because of "ever increasingly ludicrous demands being made on bonfires in Belfast that are far beyond the boundaries of common sense".
Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson tweeted yesterday that several east Belfast bonfires would not be taking part in the scheme.
He also said some groups in Ards and North Down council would not be participating in its statutory scheme.
The Belfast council programme offers groups £1,250 initially, and a second award of £500 following July activities for those groups who meet the programme criteria.
The funding criteria includes no collection of materials before June; no tyres or other hazardous materials; no paramilitary displays; and no burning of items likely to cause offence such as flags, emblems or election posters.
Ian McLaughlin from the Lower Shankill Community Association told the BBC there was a "sense of mistrust" among many grassroots community groups, but said "great progress has been made over the years".
PUP councillor John Kyle said he believed most groups taking part in the scheme "feel it works well", but added: "There are probably more bonfires that aren't on the scheme than are on the scheme so it's not a majority."
Belfast City Council said the deadline for applications to its bonfire programme is May 11.