The group responsible for the Corcrain bonfire has criticised Sinn Fein’s reaction to the burning of its election posters, saying they need to “take a real look at what’s happening”.
They claim the needs of children and young people in the area have been neglected - with scant play and recreational facilities - and “they’ve nothing, no direction”.
Instead, they say, they use the bonfire as an “outlet for their frustration and anger towards a community that they see daily attacking their culture and identity”.
Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd had reported the burning of posters belonging to him and Catherine Seeley to police as theft and a hate crime.
But in a statement the Corcrain/Redmanville group said that in recent weeks in the estate there had been attempts to set fire to the bonfire, flags had been stolen, posters removed and graffiti sprayed on walls - “and yet still these incidents are not seen as hate crimes”.
The group said it was already working towards better community relations but that it needs to be a two-way process. The statement said, “What happened in Corcrain/Redmanville was happening all over Northern Ireland with the 11th July bonfires. There maybe are traditions that need changed in the future, and we will happily listen to all concerns, engage in any education programmes that we feel will benefit this estate and community.”
They revealed that a Roman Catholic community project worker was in the estate on bonfire night, walked with the loyalist band and listened to their ideas and vision for the future.
The spokesperson added, “In return we listened to their concerns. The feedback from this community worker was that a plan can be put in place to address the concerns of our young, and the old, and a plan of action be put in place to move forward through cross-community projects.
“How many other bonfires in the province went to this extreme?”
They pointed out they also recently took part in a cross-community bonfire project involving Dublin, Londonderry/Derry and Corcrain / Redmanville to help educate the estate’s young people and provide a blueprint for the future on ‘living together’.
And they said that over the past three years, Corcrain/Redmanville bonfire group has addressed numerous issues with statutory bodies regarding safety and sanitation.
They added, “Getting the young involved in the bonfire building, collection of wood, keeping the area tidy from start to finished is another positive in estate.”
And they said that far from the pallets being stolen, as was suggested by some, “the young help generate funds to contribute towards the building of the bonfire”.
The statement added, “These issues raised by Sinn Fein/IRA are issues from the past that need addressed from the top down. A leadership is needed on both sides to move forward. This is a legacy from the troubles. Its a tit for tat scenario.
“Whilst nationalist bonfires burn Protestant posters, they can expect the same in return. Its an educational programme that needs thought about and delivered.”
John O’Dowd said he did not wish to make any comment, referring to the issue as “an active police investigation”.