A new collective bonfire group has been launched in east Belfast. The East Belfast Cultural Collective will come under the umbrella of the East Belfast Community Initiative and act as an overarching advocacy group for all the bonfires who have joined the collective;
A spokesperson said:
“Our new group represents 13 bonfires in the east Belfast and Ards/North Down area. It is a joined up approach designed to offer advocacy support to isolated or smaller bonfires who have been targeted by statutory agencies. This work will feed into wider positive transition work ongoing within east Belfast.
“There are often concerns that statutory agencies try to criminalise bonfires and/or isolate groups. The objective of the collective is to provide one strategic voice for all the bonfires under the umbrella. Statutory agencies will no longer be able to hold closed doors discussions with different bonfires and representatives. In regards to the bonfires represented by the EBCC under the umbrella of the Community Initiative, all communications from statutory agencies regarding bonfires will have to be streamlined via the collective group.
“In 2018 east Belfast loyalists worked incredibly hard on bonfires and flags issues. We feel this hard work was betrayed by the way in which the bonfire situation was dealt with.
“It is important to note that the independent mediators report praised the work of loyalists in seeking to defuse tensions. This went largely unnoticed and statutory agencies escaped the type of robust scrutiny which should have been placed upon their actions.
“All of the bonfire groups who have joined the collective have reaffirmed their commitment to the positive celebration of unionist culture and indeed the broader principles of transitional work within loyalism which seeks to enhance the capacity of our community and to provide a pathway for ex-combatants and others to engage in positive and purely lawful community activism alongside the continued promotion of our cultural identity.”
The East Belfast Community Initiative also confirmed that the flag protocol announced in 2018 would remain in place for the coming year.
A spokesman said “the flag protocol designed by EBCI, in consultation with loyalists involved in positive transition work, proved hugely successful in 2018 and the protocol was rigorously implemented across EBCI’s areas of influence.
“The protocol includes a commitment to flying only legal flags and a clearly defined time-frame for the erection and removal of flags.
“We want to build on this success in 2019 to ensure that the celebration of our cultural identity is positive and continues within a framework of positive self-regulation.”
The bonfires included in the group are as follows: