1,000 tyres removed from loyalist bonfires

AROUND 1,000 tyres were removed from loyalist Eleventh Night bonfires, by Ballymoney Council after negotiations with organisers.

The move was part of efforts to reduce the impact the burning of tyres has on the environment.

Meanwhile, Dunloy Sinn Fein councillor Philip McGuigan says he will ask Ballymoney Council not to spend a “single penny of ratepayers’ money” cleaning up after any loyalist Eleventh Night bonfires if they display any form of sectarianism or burns tyres.

North Antrim DUP MLA Mervyn Storey, said that whilst he supports people building bonfires in support of their culture he is opposed to the use of tyres.

It is understood large numbers of tyres were burnt on bonfires in the Ballymoney area this year, however, Ballymoney Council said they removed 1,000 tyres from bonfires in areas like Cloughmills by negotiating with organisers.

And at Finvoy bonfire, flames spread to an electricity pole and a number of customers were left without power for over 12 hours.

In a statement to the Times, Sinn Féin councillor Philip McGuigan said “more needs to be done to tackle open displays of sectarianism and anti- social behaviour around the 12th of July period”.

His comments were made in the wake of a number of local bonfires which, he said, “brazenly displayed anti–Catholic sentiments as well as flouting environmental laws by burning tyres”.

Cllr McGuigan said: “I can well accept that these are difficult issues to tackle, but the turning the ‘blind eye’ approach certainly hasn’t worked.

“The Sinn Féin office has been inundated with calls by people disgusted that this type of behaviour is allowed to continue unchecked.

“In my opinion proper leadership is required and a joint approach from government agencies, PSNI, Council, and Unionist politicians is required to make sure this kind ofsectarian hatred is not allowed next year.

“Unionist politicians need to know that by remaining silent locally they are sending out the message to Nationalists and Republicans that they either agree with the sectarian sentiments expressed, or at the very least are prepared to accept their nature.

“They are failing to provide the proper leadership to those within the Unionist community who are quite rightly disgusted that these remarks and slogans are made in their name or in the name of culture. Many within the Unionist community have made their opinion to me privately but they require leadership from their elected representatives.

“I am also disgusted that in a lot of cases ratepayers of this Borough are left to pick up the bill from the clean up of these bonfires. I will be proposing at the next council meeting that not a single penny of ratepayers money is spent cleaning up bonfires that either display any form of sectarianism, or any bonfires that burn tyres.”

Meanwhile, Mervyn Storey says many people who support bonfires want to see an end to the practice of burning tyres.

He told the Times: “I am not against bonfires being held but burning of tyres needs to stop. This is a continual problem and something needs to be done. We need a new approach to this.

“The people who organise bonfires, in some cases, it is hard to see who is responsible for them when something goes wrong. There are others who are very responsible though.

“They are getting these tyres somewhere or somebody is supplying them. There was a scheme in Ballymena where tyres were marked and I think we tried it out in Ballymoney for a time but people need to be responsible and remove tyres from bonfires,” said Mr Storey.

Natasha McGee, NIE Customer Relations Manager for the area, said: “Five customers were affected by a power cut at 00.21 last Thursday (12 July) at the Finvoy Road area of Ballymoney when a nearby bonfire caused an electricity pole to catch fire.

“Once the fire had been made safe by the Fire and Rescue Service, NIE engineers worked to restore power to customers and make repairs to the line. All homes had power restored by 14:00.

“Any incident of damages to the electricity network can cause inconvenience to customers in surrounding areas and can place people at risk from injury. Our advice is clear – stay safe by staying away from electricity equipment. For more advice on staying safe around electricity equipment please call 08457643643 or visit our website at www.nie.co.uk.”

A Ballymoney Council spokesperson said: “We were able to remove around 1,000 tyres from bonfires by negotiating with the organisers but for the number we removed a similar amount, if not more, was probably burned on bonfires this year. We try to remove as many tyres as possible to prevent the impact on the environment.”

The spokesperson said the organisers of three bonfires asked for cages to help keep the structures tidy this year and, unlike last year, when some of the cages were stolen, all were returned this year.

The spokesperson confirmed that the Council and other agencies like Roads Service and the Housing Executive clean up bonfire sites.

Ballymoney Council runs a bonfire scheme which gives grants to groups who adhere to guidance regarding areas like the burning of tyres and the absence of ‘sectarian/political references or emblems’.