Bonfire builders should face the consequences of their actions

It will surprise very few observers that the run-up to the Orange celebrations on July 12 has again been dominated by escalating disputes over bonfires.

Sincere and prolonged efforts have been made over recent years by elected representatives from all traditions to implement straightforward guidelines which are intended to prevent serious injury or even death and protect property.

However, there are clearly elements in some areas who have no respect for the law of the land and believe they can get away with ignoring environmental, health and safety concerns.

It needs to be stressed that keeping bonfires to a reasonable size and locating them well away from homes and businesses is a matter of common sense and cannot be regarded as a threat to anyone’s culture or political beliefs.

While it will be recognised that the vast majority of related problems have taken place in loyalist districts, it also goes without saying that the much smaller number of issues involving republicans must be subject to the same regulations.

It is essential that the position is explained carefully through patient discussions with groups who set out to place huge piles of wood and other materials in residential neighbourhoods.

If they still insist on proceeding with their highly dangerous plans, then a firm intervention by the authorities needs to follow swiftly.

The views of Councillor John Kyle from the Progressive Unionist Party yesterday on the latest developments on publicly owned land at Bloomfield Walkway in east Belfast deserve to be widely noted.

He has stressed that the towering bonfire there has a completely inappropriate setting, is far larger than originally proposed and has caused widespread alarm among residents because it presents a `real risk to life.’

It is entirely unacceptable that the resources of the emergency services should again be overstretched to try and cope with threats of this nature both in Belfast and elsewhere.

There is no mystery about the identity of the bonfire builders and the next logical step is that they should face the legal and financial consequences of their reckless actions.