Sinn Fein: Teddy bears' picnic rules must apply to controversial bonfires on council land

Tiger's Bay 'Eleventh Night' bonfire in Belfast alight in the early hours of Monday morning. More than 230 such bonfires were lit in Loyalist areas across Northern Ireland between Friday and Sunday nights as part of a tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
Tiger's Bay 'Eleventh Night' bonfire in Belfast alight in the early hours of Monday morning. More than 230 such bonfires were lit in Loyalist areas across Northern Ireland between Friday and Sunday nights as part of a tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

The DUP said the proposal was "unrealistic" and could heightened tensions within the community, but a Sinn Fein representative said it was urgent the council 'got a grip'

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People who build bonfires on council property should have to abide by similar rules to those staging a "teddy bears' picnic", a Sinn Fein councillor in Belfast has said.

Belfast City Councillor Ciaran Beattie told the council's monthly meeting that detailed application processes should be required for the fires.

The DUP said the proposal was "unrealistic" and could heightened tensions within the community, but Mr Beattie said it was urgent the council "got a grip" on the issue.

The Sinn Fein councillor told the meeting that stringent processes were in place when it comes to holding events like teddy bears' picnics.

Mr Beattie said existing rules and regulations could be used in Northern Ireland.

He told the meeting: "There's a multitude of offences which happen around these bonfires so it is my view that this council needs to get a grip of that.

"We need to put a process in place... This process isn't any different from any other event which happens in our park. If anyone wants to have a teddy bears' picnic in any of our parks, they have to go through a process. "

A sign posted on a lamppost near to the site of a large bonfire being built to mark the Catholic Feast of the Assumption in the Bogside area of Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Picture date: Sunday August 15, 2021.
A sign posted on a lamppost near to the site of a large bonfire being built to mark the Catholic Feast of the Assumption in the Bogside area of Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Picture date: Sunday August 15, 2021.

"They have to fill in an application, apply to the council, cary out risk assessments."

He added: "For someone to come along and put a monstrosity of a bonfire in a park which causes all the dangers around that, and the toxic fumes it gives off, and the disruption for the residents around it, and for this council just to basically have no process whatsoever is absolutely crazy."

He said: "The position of self-regulation hasn't worked. We need a whole new approach to bonfires, to illegal fires," he said. There was no debate on the matter at the meeting, as the issue was referred to a council committee to discuss the issue later this month.

The DUP said they are opposed to Sinn Fein's proposals.

A spokesperson for the DUP group on Belfast City Council told the BBC: "There has been considerable progress over recent years in supporting and encouraging the self-regulation of July bonfires, based on local community engagement.

"The DUP supports that process of community engagement, self-regulation and the encouragement of good practice. We believe that that is the correct approach and should continue at statutory and community level.

"We recognise that there is risk associated with fire and we do not support bonfires which would pose risk to life or property due to their size and location. However, there also needs to be tolerance and respect for the tradition of July bonfires."