DUP and UUP representatives pull out of bonfire working group in Derry & Strabane

A meeting is being set up to find out why DUP and UUP representatives have refused to nominate representatives to Derry & Strabane Council’s Bonfire Working Group.

At a special meeting of the Council on Monday to nominate representatives to internal and external bodies following the Annual General meeting last week, both UUP and DUP representatives said they would not be putting forward elected members from their respective parties to sit on the group.

While all other parties invited to nominate a representative did so, DUP Alderman Hilary McClintock said: “There will be no nomination from us,” before UUP Alderman Darren Guy concurred that they too would not be putting forward any nominee.

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The issue has arisen as youths across the city and district are already gathering materials for the July 11th and August 15th bonfires in some areas.

Previous bonfires in the Bogside and Fountain estates in Derry.

Back in March 2018 the Bonfire Working Group was endorsed and envisaged councillors and council officers working with partner agencies to co-ordinate an agreed response and implement similar policies and practises with regards to bonfires.

The council had at the time secured £156,805 from the EU Peace IV Shared Spaces and Services funding to develop and deliver an Action Plan on a Bonfire Policy by March 2019.

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Under the project, specific action plans and steering groups were to be developed for each area, while an overall Steering Group was also to be introduced.

However the work of the group could now stall until the issues - which were not revealed by either unionist party during the meeting on Monday - are resolved.

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SDLP Derry and Strabane Councillor Brian Tierney urged unionist Councillors to rejoin the working group, which he said was aimed at reducing tensions and managing bonfires in the district.

He proposed a special meeting be set up and this was seconded by Sinn Féin Councillor Sandra Duffy.

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Speaking after the meeting Colr. Tierney said: “The council’s bonfire working group is a cross-party effort to help navigate our community through challenging circumstances and avoid difficult summers. It has been an important way for parties to work through our issues and work together in the best interests of the people of Derry.

“I was shocked when the DUP and UUP refused to nominate representatives to the group. I have been the SDLP member of the working group since it was created and while we have had challenges over the years, I have always found the opportunity to talk through difficult situations incredibly useful and I have no doubt that the work has contributed to calm in the city.

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“I have contacted the DUP and UUP group leaders and talked to them privately to ask them to reconsider and re-engage with the process. The only way we will be able to guide our community through this process is by talking and working together.”

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