16 April 2005


**SDLP helps unionists fund 11th night bonfires

DUP delight at bonfire green light - £2.5k each for eight ‘pilot’ bonfire sites

North Belfast DUP councillor Ian Crozier has said that he is delighted that attempts to block a city hall funding scheme for 11th night bonfires failed at this week’s monthly council meeting.
Controversy had loomed over the pilot scheme over recent months which proposed to give eight bonfires £2500 each, on top of nearly £20,000 to retain the services of intermediary group Groundwork who work with loyalist communities on the ground.
The plans had evoked scathing criticism from the St Patrick’s Day Carnival Committee who had been rejected in their funding application by Unionist and Alliance councillors for what they see as a failure to treat both communities equally.
On Monday, Sinn Féin’s Fra McCann opposed the bonfire plans and suggested the plans go back to committee.
Party colleague Paul Maskey pointed out that the Director of Client Services had yet to answer in full all of Sinn Féin’s concerns about the details of the programme, including safety and legal queries.
However when the vote was taken it was with four SDLP abstention votes, including North Belfast councillor Alban Maginness’ vote, that the programme was carried: 13 for, 16 against and four abstentions. Speaking from Brussels today (Thursday) the MLA confirmed his party did abstain en bloc.
“Sinn Féin councillors tried to block the scheme out of sour grapes because they failed in their bid to secure funding for the St Patrick’s Day Carnival,” said Alban Maginness.
Ian Crozier said he was delighted with the decision.
The pilot scheme will now make resources available at eight bonfire sites, including Shore Crescent, Mount Vernon, Westland and Sunningdale in the north of the city.
Projects undertaken to date include the provision of hard standing for bonfire sites and storage facilities for materials.
“Groups in unionist communities across the city have shown considerable leadership in seeking to improve the way in which 11th night bonfires are managed,” Ian Crozier said.
“It would have been totally wrong for Belfast City Council to throw all of their hard work back in their faces.
“Government agencies worked for years to help the nationalist community to transform their August bonfires into major community events – millions of pounds have been invested in things like the West Belfast Festival. Unionist councillors are simply working to redress the balance.”
Sinn Féin councillor for Oldpark Margaret McClenaghan said she was disappointed by the decision.
“The SDLP have shown a complete lack of leadership and vision on this issue,” said Margaret McClenaghan.
“Through consultation with statutory bodies we drew up 11 concerns, many of which remain unanswered.
“Some of these concerns address financial responsibility of the city hall, control of site and environmental issues which were not answered in their entirety.
“The SDLP knew this clearly from the debate yet refused through their non-voting to have this taken back to committee until satisfactory answers were given.”

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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