‘Political unionism must ‘challenge and confront bonfire idiocy’ – O’Neill

The leadership of political unionism must do more to challenge and confront the destructive and toxic issue of anti-social bonfires, Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill has said.

Michelle O’Neill said it was disgraceful that residents at a block of flats in Portadown have been told to leave their homes due to the risk posed by a nearby bonfire. She also criticised the intimidation which led to the closure of a leisure centre in east Belfast where a bonfire has been built.

“Everyone has the right to celebrate their culture with dignity and respect but there is nothing respectful about forcing families from their homes or forcing community leisure services to close,” she commented

“It is intimidation. It is idiotic. It is disgraceful and dangerous.

“Year in, year out, the issue of anti-social bonfires is having a destructive and toxic impact on community relations and the wider political process.  And on the environment.

“Nowhere else would such a scenario be tolerated and the reason it is tolerated is because of the failure of political unionism to adequately challenge and confront this issue.

“That simply isn’t good enough. The very people that unionist parties claim to represent are the same communities being held to ransom with these anti-social bonfires.

“Unionist politicians  must make it clear that this is no longer acceptable.

“I will also be meeting the PSNI Chief Constable today and making it clear that the police also have a responsibility to ensure that communities are kept safe in their own homes and free from intimidation.”