Skinner says it is unbelievable unionist Councillors vote to adjourn bonfire meeting until September

Alliance Mid and East Antrim Councillor Aaron Skinner has said it is unbelievable unionist Councillors on the Council voted to defer a special meeting designed to adopt legal advice regarding construction of bonfires on Council land.

Bonfires Mid and East Antrim Aaron Skinner

The special meeting, called by Alliance Mayor Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna, was adjourned until September following a proposal from the TUV, seconded by the UUP and backed by other unionists, a move Councillor Skinner said defeated the entire purpose of the meeting.

“Alliance supports safe and respectful expressions of culture. However, what we're seeing in some areas of Mid and East Antrim, particularly on Council land, is not that and goes against legal recommendations previously recommended to Councillors,” he said.

“As a group, we have a duty to ensure the safety of all residents. That’s why the special meeting was called tonight. We have already seen tragedy strike locally last year, with the sad death of John Steele at a bonfire site. The absolute last thing anyone wants to see is a repeat of that heart-breaking event.

“It is unbelievable unionist Councillors have now voted to adjourn this special meeting until September, when bonfire season is over. That defeats the entire purpose of this meeting.

“Mid and East Antrim Borough Council desperately needs a strategy to deal with those who wish to build bonfires on its land due to issues around public safety. Failure to do so is exposing the Council and individual Councillors to potential legal jeopardy, while putting members of the public’s lives at risk.

“In addition, it is vital all ratepayers across the Council area are able to use Council facilities throughout the year. Having property and land – maintained by rates – damaged and rendered unusable due to the presence of bonfires, while also putting people at risk of injury or harm, is not acceptable.

“We do not want to see bonfires removed entirely but they must be safe and respectful. We welcome some local bonfires committing to being on the Council’s bonfire scheme and some have opted to reduce the scale of fires or opt for beacons, and we want to build on that.

“It is vital the legal recommendations presented to Council are adopted, so going forward we will be able to engage with local communities about a safe way forward which enables the celebration of culture in a way which doesn’t put anyone at risk.”