Speaking after the announcement of a special Belfast city Council meeting next week on bonfires, PBP councillor Matt Collins issued the following statement:
"The ongoing issue of bonfires requires urgent attention. We have had, in the past few months, the situation whereby Belfast City Council has facilitated the illegal collection of materials for loyalist bonfires, the erection of bonfires dangerously close to high rise apartments just months after Grenfell and the ongoing scandal of bonfires being funded or facilitated by the state when they contain sectarian or racist messages and effigies, nevermind the ongoing environmental concerns around the continued illegal use of tyres and other harmful substances. And now we have the creation of unwanted bonfires on the nationalist side, that at best are void of all political or historical motivation and at worst ape the most unsavoury aspects of the loyalist bonfires a fortnight ago. No one, therefore, can seriously believe that we can continue like this as a city.
"Clearly, careful consideration should be given to any proposal which seeks to rectify this situation, so long as this is done is a way which is community led, informed by the wishes of those who live in the area where these bonfires are erected, and is carried out in a manner which is not disproportionately focused on so called anti-internment bonfires which receive no state funding, while the much larger issue of loyalist bonfires and their facilitation by the state is left untouched and the disgraceful support provided by the grandees of unionism is left unchallenged. Anything less than this may exacerbate the situation further.
"People Before Profit do not believe that bonfires, whether erected under the guise of 'culture' or not, have inalienable right to exist, or to be funded or facilated with public money, especially if they are unwanted and foisted upon already beleaguered working class communities by a small minority, where there is a danger to public health or where they espouse rotten sectarian or racist ideas. This would not be acceptable anywhere else in the world, it should not be acceptable here.
"We believe, however, that dealing with this issue requires challenging the sectarian carve up of politics here, facilitated by both unionist and nationalist politicians for the past decade or more, that has allowed this madness to become the norm in our society, often funded by the public purse. We are alert, as well, to the danger of bonfire enforcement rules being used to enforce a particular kind of 'community control', where the big nationalist and unionist parties are able to decide what is an acceptable event in their areas and what isn't.
"To that end, I welcome next week's special council meeting on bonfires, and will be raising PBP's socialist approach to the issue, and calling for any scheme in place to be organised from the bottom up, ensuring that the communities involved are the ones making the decisions about the removal bonfires, and calling for urgent action to ensure an end to state sponsored sectarianism in this city. Additionally, I will be speaking to council workers and their trade unions, who are often at the coal face of this issue, and asking what their ideas and feelings are for the creation of a resolution to this issue.