Talks set to begin in bid to find safer site for bonfire

Cllr John Scott with two of the volunteers who helped move the bonfire to the new site. INCT 27-406-RM
Cllr John Scott with two of the volunteers who helped move the bonfire to the new site. INCT 27-406-RM

Talks are to begin next month in a bid to find a resolution to problems over the siting of the annual July 11 bonfire in the Ballyduff estate.

The bonfire has been moved further away from people’s homes after residents voiced concerns about the potential danger to life and property.

Following a meeting in the community centre on Wednesday, June 26 between bonfire builders, local residents and statutory agencies, the decision was taken to dismantle the bonfire and move it to the opposite side of Forthill Drive.

Bonfire builders and council staff moved in on Thursday morning to begin the task of shifting the massive pile of wooden pallets, and remove tyres from the site.

A council spokesperson confirmed that no financial incentive was requested by the bonfire builders as part of the agreement. And she revealed that discussions are now taking place with the Department of the Environment regarding how the costs incurred by the council in relation to the provision of manpower and machinery for moving the bonfire might be recouped.

Stressing that the council is committed to engaging positively with all stakeholders to seek an agreement ahead of next year’s Eleventh Night event, she added: “It has been agreed that a meeting will be scheduled for August involving residents, the bonfire builders and the agencies to explore options for next year, including alternative locations for the bonfire.”

Welcoming the fact that bonfire organisers and local residents were able to work out a solution to this year’s problems, PUP man Jack Shaw said that a more suitable bonfire site must now be found.

“They (the bonfire organisers) were promised a site four years ago because when the bonfire was on the slope on the opposite side of Forthill Drive it was starting to slide and it was unsafe so they had to move it.

“The bonfire collectors and the residents are now talking together so that we won’t have the same problems in the future. What is needed is a safe site that was promised four years ago and it’s now time for the Housing Executive to step up and play its part,” he said.

UUP councillor John Scott, who chaired last week’s meeting, commented: “I want to pay tribute to all who helped create the solution to move it (the bonfire) to a safe distance from all houses. This was a great example of an entire community, sitting and talking through an important issue and creating a local accommodation. I have promised to chair another meeting at the end of the summer to fully explore a permanent solution as it is important that the wider community in Ballyduff can continue to celebrate our culture and heritage in a safe and dignified manner.”

South Antrim MLA Paul Girvan added: “We need to move forward on this and we need to find a more suitable site. We have work to do to ensure that we support the bonfire organisers and deliver on the promises that were made to them in the past, including finding them a safe site for the bonfire in the future.”