Derry bonfires must be ‘respectful to people of all backgrounds’

Previous bonfires in the Bogside and Fountain estates in Derry.
Previous bonfires in the Bogside and Fountain estates in Derry.

Bonfires in Derry & Strabane need to be “safe, clean and respectful to people of all backgrounds who live near and around them,” a cross-party working group has said.

Members of the council’s Bonfire Working Group were speaking as they committed to working together to address ongoing issues.

In a joint statement issued on behalf of the cross-party elected member working group that consists of SDLP Colr. Brian Tierney, Independent Colr. Paul Gallagher, Sinn Fein Colr. Kevin Campbell and DUP Alderman David Ramsey and UUP Alderman Derek Hussey, the members said they remain committed to implementing the council’s bonfire policy, which was unanimously agreed by council in 2017.

The elected member working group. with assistance from the SEUPB Peace IV Community Engagement programme, have met and engaged with a wide range of people from across the community, with a view to engaging with all interested parties on the issue.

They stated: “As councillors coming from different backgrounds representing all political parties and groups on the council, we want this city and district to show respect for cultural traditions, respect for the law, and respect for each other. We recognise that bonfires can be expressions of culture and tradition. Some want bonfires but others do not, while yet others wish to explore alternatives. Where there are bonfires they do need to be safe, clean and respectful to people of all backgrounds who live near and around them.

“There should be no tyres or other toxic material on any bonfire, and they should respect the health and well-being of all people. Burning tyres on bonfires even for one day can damage the health of people especially those most vulnerable.

“Similarly, we recognise that burning flags, emblems or any material that knowingly causes offence to others cannot be justified.

This only damages community relations and impedes the already difficult process of peace building and reconciliation.

They added: “Changing the narrative around bonfires is a challenge. We are, together, prepared for the hard work that will be required to make progress in the months and years ahead for the good of all in the city and district.

“We have a city and district rich in history and culture; a place that we are proud to be from. We are all proud of its achievements in times past and in more recent decades. We want to show everyone again that this city and district is leading the way in building a respectful, cohesive and mature place where all traditions and cultures belong.”