Consultation over Bushmills bonfire

A CONSULTATION process is to be held in Bushmills surrounding plans by Moyle Council to build £250,000 changing rooms at Dundarave where the annual 'Eleventh Night' bonfire is held.

A Council report said: 'Council will shortly be commencing the construction of new changing room facilities at Dundarave Playing fields, Bushmills, in what is an eagerly awaited development for the local area.

'As the site to be developed is also host to the traditional Eleventh night bonfire, a need has arisen to explore possible alternative locations and formats for what is a cherished cultural celebration for some local people.

'It is proposed to host an open meeting on Monday 4th October at 7.30pm in the Mill Rest Hostel, Bushmills, to launch a public consultation on this issue. The evening would consist of speakers who have an interest in the topic and neighbouring communities would also share some of their experiences and learning.

'The local community association, Bushmills Residents and Environmental Forum (BREF), are at the fore of this initiative and are eager to engage the wider community in the consultation process with the support of Moyle District Council and others. BREF also hope to widen participation from local people and explore possibilities around developing a family friendly festival around the 11th of July with the support of key agencies and volunteers.

'Given that the new changing rooms represent a 250,000 investment, it is imperative that this issue is handled with full consideration and cooperation of the local community in order to reach a consensus for the wider benefit of the area.

'Recommendation: Support the consultation process around the Bonfire site and cultural celebration in Bushmills,' said the report.

The Council has agreed to move forward with the consultation but Sinn Fein councillor Oliver McMullan had concerns.

He said he was not against the concept of bonfires from a cultural side of things but he felt the Council should not be getting involved in consultation on the issue claiming it "sets a very dangerous precedent".

He said work on the changing rooms was postponed this year to allow the bonfire to be held at Dundarave.

Council Chairperson, Independent representative Price McConaghy, said the consultation process is important.

He said the consultation is to get assurance that when the Council provides new changing facilities the security of the building will be assured.

He said assurances have been given but he wanted to make sure the whole process is "foolproof" and he said the consultation is aimed at safeguarding the property.

Ulster Unionist councillor Willie Graham said the issue needs resolved as the changing rooms project cannot be held back.

DUP councillor Robert McIlroy said: "It always amazes me about Sinn Fein. They always ask for people to consult and to talk to them and here is a group that want to consult and Cllr McMullan says he wants no part."

Cllr McMullan said the Sinn Fein group's position on the Council is against getting involved in anything to do with bonfires.

Cllr McIlroy said the community in Bushmills is looking forward to a new building and he said the bonfire is also important in the village.

"We want to take both things forward, to accommodate both," he said.