Should bonfires be licensed or negotiated with individual communities?

In this section of yesterday’s Nolan Radio Show is worth listening to. It features Claire Hanna of the SDLP contextualising the party’s Environment Minister Mark H Durkan’s proposals to licence bonfires (any and all of them).

Her key point is that compliance with the law as it is currently practised cannot rely on negotiated outcomes in which ‘the community’ decides what’s fair…

It’s worth listening to Jim Wilson’s rather unclear explanation of what he means by community decisions

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  • T.E.Lawrence

    It has to be accepted that bonfires have been lit by people of various races and cultures for a very long time !
    resources.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/guy/england.htm
    Once this is accepted and agreed that we are not trying to stop bonfires but attempting to improve the safety of these for all involved then we can look at the options that are best to be pursued to achieve this.
    “There are no specific UK laws outlawing bonfires and therefore anyone is in theory entitled to light a bonfire if they wish to do so”
    findlaw.co.uk/law/property/neighbour_disputes/8928.html
    The first option needs to be full consultation with local communities who have these bonfires.
    Phil Hamilton in the interview raises a very important point regarding the location of a bonfire. He is correct that statuary bodies like the Housing Executive who own waste grounds where bonfires are constructed to not accept these areas as designated bonfire sites.
    This needs to change and be accepted, then agreement can be made with a local community that this location is the designated site for it’s bonfire.
    I believe that consultation rather than legalisation is the only way forward. I fear if we go down the latter route then we shall only push Positive Loyalist Community Activism regarding bonfires into the bunkers and the police who would have to implement any legalisation would not have the resources to do so and we only create a worst and lawlessness situation that we have already.

  • barnshee

    yes

  • Graham Parsons

    They should all be banned. They are an environmental disaster. Failing a ban they should require payment up front for both the clean up as well as an environmental offset.

  • chrisjones2

    Great…now ho do you enforce it?

    And who do you send the bill to?

  • murdockp

    All bonfires are illegal at present under current law.

    If durkan wants to legalise them is is going to have to amend environmental legislation to permit them first.

    Then thee subject of licencing can be discussed.

  • Graham Parsons

    You know those folks who wear dark suits and drive cars with flashing lights.

    You don’t send a bill. They’ll need to pay for a license.

  • the keep

    Bit rich coming from a man who has a tenuous grasp of legality.

  • PeterBrown

    Are they though? Under what legislation? I’m not sure that they are illegal per se….

  • PeterBrown

    But are they illegal and if we are going to ban them for the sake of consistency are we going to ban Up Helly Aa and Stonehaven Fireball festival and Guy Fawkes Night / Halloween Bonfires too?

  • Graham Parsons

    If they are not illegal they should be made illegal irrespective if they are 11th night or Halloween bonfires.

  • Graham Parsons

    I’ve just an extremely low opinion of the bottom feeders in the legal profession.

  • murdockp

    Any pallet which is blue or red in colour is stolen as they are owned by brambles a global company are CHEP pallets and thier ISO on end of life pallets states they are to be recycled. For them to end up on a bonfire means they are stolen.

    As for tyres and other industrial waste products the law is clear.

  • chrisjones2

    So you just send the peelers in to beat the Prods. Yeah that has always worked hasn’t it

    And who are ‘they’ who need to pay for a licence?HOw do you prove who is in charge?

  • chrisjones2

    Why?

  • Graham Parsons

    I’m pretty sure bonfires don’t just appear at 11pm and then self combust. Pretty easy to see who’s building them.

    Unlike you I don’t see this as a sectarian issue. I see it as an environmental one.

    The first step in the battle to get this matter properly addressed and get communities to toe the line is to ensure that tax or rate payers money is not used to clean up the mess left behind.

  • Ciarán

    Clearly ChrisJones2 doesn’t live on Chobham street

  • PeterBrown

    They are not necessarily stolen , some are bought, some abandoned and some are stolen but simply because they belong to CHEP (not all of them do) does not make burning them a criminal offence. Tyres and some other industrial waste I suspect is possibly contrary to some industrial regulations but possibly not if done by individuals rather than a business but I am guessing and subject to correction. And if they have no (stolen) blue pallets and tyres what then? I’m not saying they don;t need to be regulated but to deem them all illegal and try to prosecute the builders or spectators is a non starter…

  • PeterBrown

    Or Divis – both the exception rather than the rule.

  • chrisjones2

    So someone licences them? Who? Welcome to Parades Commission 2016!!!

    But hey there is an election and the Stoops can promote this to seem greener than the Shinners

  • Lorcs1

    I’ve made this suggestion before.

    Not enforcing legislation due to the threat of violence/disorder is completely wrong. Marching in PSNI officers to remove tyres and pallets in the knowledge that they are likely to be pelted with stones, masonry, heck even bullets is also not ideal.

    Why don’t the authorities take a similar tact to flag protests and other civil disorder and gather evidence at the time and prosecute at a later date?

  • Graham Parsons

    Stoops, shinners, prods yawn. Thankfully unlike you I don’t live in a sectarian bubble. As I said this is an environmental issue.

    As for licensing you are aware that a licence is required for a firework display. Maybe we could use NIDirect.
    http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/sm/apply-for-a-fireworks-licence

  • the rich get richer

    Bonfires should only be allowed that are nuclear fusion generated !

    I think that they would crack it just to get them bonfires burning !

  • PeterBrown

    Prosecute for what though? is a bonfire per se illegal and if you make it ileegla will gardeners be prosecuted for buring autumn leaves etc? I reiterate I am not against regulation but knee jerk reactions and assumptions won’t cut it

  • Neil

    It’s illegal to burn anything that emits poisonous fumes, which includes anything which has been painted and tyres. It’s also illegal if the smoke from a bonfire affects a road with traffic. Bonfires cause damage, and are always built on someone else’s land, so that would also be illegal should the land owner wish to take action.

    The police make efforts to prevent the annual Divis fire and while they never really succeed in preventing the fire entirely they do ensure it doesn’t become idiotically large by removing material on a regular basis, and I submit that Divis can be every bit as unfriendly as the Village, with the additional slim possibility of being shot at.

    I would suggest that there should be a bonfire for each city or town, and people can make their way to that bonfire on the 11th. This would lessen the impact on the huge number of people who want nothing to do with bonfires at all, and make them easier to police and protect. But one suspects Loyalists are more than happy to affect the greater number of people that don’t want a bonfire by setting them up all over the place so the entire city is under a pall of smoke. Some of the attempts at bonfires doing the rounds of Facebook showed pathetic little bonfires being built in the middle of the road within a mile of a large bonfire, so realistically it’s just anything goes at the minute so if you want rid of your sofa trail it into the street and start a pile. That’s not a sustainable situation so Loyalists may consider meeting the rest of the world halfway before someone tackles the issue properly.

  • Lorcs1

    I don’t claim to be a legal aficionado, but could any of the following apply under current legislation?:

    Illegal dumping
    Fly-tipping
    Burning tyres
    Burning religious emblems/flags (incitement to hatred)
    Drinking in a public place
    Failure to provide evidence of disposal of tyres

    My main point is that most bonfires are not spur of the moment type events, they are usually in quite public spaces, built up over a series of weeks or months and by a series of actions.

    If I loaded up the trailer and drove to the nearest green space, dumped everything out, and proceeded to light it whilst drinking a few tins I would fully expect to have some sort of prosecution invoked against me.

    Why is this not the case for those who do so on a larger scale in broad daylight?

  • PeterBrown

    Illegal dumping

    Not usually the organisers themselves though if there is an offcne of inciting!

    Fly-tipping

    See above

    Burning tyres

    Not sure about this being illegal per se

    Burning religious emblems/flags (incitement to hatred)

    If we start prosecuting that then we are opening the floodgates though I would condemn it and welcome the carrot rather than the stick approach

    Drinking in a public place

    Not so much during construction but yes – as for a lot of tis type of public event

    Failure to provide evidence of disposal of tyres

    not the participants but the supplier

    Its needs looked at but there are more holes currently thena collander

  • PeterBrown

    You have googled that haven’t you Neil (I only know because I did it too) but even if there is an offence it is not an arrestable one I suspect the power to remove it before it is lit are limited and once it is lit its too late and the landowners rights are probably mainly in civil not criminal law. I think there is mileage in the communal bonfire (which is the case already in most villages) but it probably needs to be by carrot not stick and the carrot would be difficult to draft anyway…

  • babyface finlayson

    Graham
    It is indeed easy to see who is building them.Usually children.
    So are you saying prosecute the parents?

  • chrisjones2

    Great. Enforcement of all those lies with the Department or the council. So will Clare Hanna get on to the SDLP minister and lambast him for failing to discharge his responsibilities?

  • chrisjones2

    No …when its legal for you to do something and Government says that you cannot, always ask why? And in this case why now?

    Usually there is an electoral reason

  • Alan N/Ards

    If they’re on a public road then surely they must be illegal.

  • PeterBrown

    Yes but they are now a minority

  • Thomas Barber

    The authorities dont seem concerned about removing bonfires from nationalist areas.when the will is there. Perhaps its unionist politicians who are the problem.

    http://www.irishnews.com/news/2014/08/08/news/police-attacked-by-petrol-bombers-at-belfast-bonfire-site-98807/

  • John Claudius

    Send in the troops.;)

  • chrisjones2

    “As I said this is an environmental issue” …in the same sense that shooting people (noxious fumes and lead pollution) is an environmental issue