Bonfires: Council investigation launched into storage of material for loyalists

INVESTIGATION: A probe has been launched into the decision by Belfast City Council to store pallets for bonfire builders. File picture. INVESTIGATION: A probe has been launched into the decision by Belfast City Council to store pallets for bonfire builders. File picture.
By Conor McParland

COUNCILLORS have agreed to an investigation into Belfast City Council’s controversial involvement in the collection and storing of pallets gathered for monster bonfires in South and East Belfast.

Last month, it was revealed that up to 3,000 pallets had been removed by Council staff and were being stored for bonfire sites in Hope Street near Sandy Row and Chobham Street off the Upper Newtownards Road. The pallets were later stolen from the Council storage facility in which they were being kept.

Before the issue was raised in the chamber, a vote was passed (34-19) in favour of the press and public remaining in Chamber during discussion, but Chief Executive Suzanne Wylie left the room.

Unexpectedly, Sinn Fein Cllr Jim McVeigh was the only member to speak on the issue as he proposed his terms of reference for the investigation.

“It’s time to call a spade a space,” he said. “Bonfires are not culture – they are anti-culture.

“Bonfires poison our environment and also minds. It’s time to face up to the problems they cause.”

Cllr McVeigh said it was crucial that members got to the bottom of who was behind the decision to remove, store and return the pallets [their return was blocked when the arrangement became public].

“It is clear these decisions were made in secret. They have seriously damaged the reputation of this Council.

“We must ensure this investigation is thorough, detailed and gets to the truth.”

The detailed terms of reference document states: “The purpose of the investigation is to establish the circumstances under which the decisions came to be made.”

A mechanism for staff to make disclosures anonymously will be available.

The DUP, who supported the investigation, said they believed the Council did nothing wrong.

Councillor Jim Rodgers of the UUP told BBC radio on Tuesday morning that he was already aware of the identities of those behind the agreement to removem, store and return the pallets.

The investigation is due to be completed by September.

Please follow and like us:

Tags: , , ,