Speaking after a council discussion about bonfire regulations, PBP Cllr Matt Collins urged that the solution to the problem of bonfires was ‘building working-class unity in common interest across the divide’.
While criticising the hypocrisy of state institutions which both enflame sectarianism and then initiate top down, heavy responses to bonfires, Matt spoke in favour of ‘properly engaging with young people and communities who feel they have little hope beyond the endless cycle of communal division, alienation and poverty.’
‘The vast majority of people do not want to see sectarian bonfires across this city. Bonfires don’t have an inalienable right to take place, even under the guise of culture, but especially where they are a danger to life or property, or where they are decked out in sectarian and racist imagery.
‘Yet time and again this is exactly what happens, in what is a sorry testament to the institutionalised sectarianism that exists here, from the very top of the state and often facilitated by public funding.
‘So like most sensible people, we support efforts that aim to reduce the dangerous elements of bonfires and their sectarian content.
‘But I am also growing tired of discussions around bonfires taking place, both in Stormont and in this Council, which are conducted in a manner that assumes local government and the State are somehow separate, or outside of this problem.
‘You only need to look at the long and disproportionate history of funding bonfires programmes in this very council to see this. And therefore I take particular issue with how this motion demands that the PSNI are brought in, under any circumstance which does not comply with Councils rules.
‘It is hypocritical, in the main, given the record of state sponsored sectarianism, but what’s also clear is how the PSNI have been guilty of a disproportionate response when it comes to dealing with bonfires and sectarianism more generally. People Before Profit attempted to amend the motion to reflect this position, removing reference to blanket calls for PSNI action. Unfortunately, this amendment fell. But make no mistake, a top down, law and order solution to bonfires won’t ever work.”
‘Our communities are failed year after year as these issues are played out while the core issues of sectarianism, including the role of the state, go unchallenged.’