Heated words over bonfire hut

A DUP councillor feared public comments made by a Sinn Fein representative about the siting of a ‘hut’ beside an ‘Eleventh Night’ bonfire at Lislagan near Ballymoney could hamper efforts to move the structure which was allegedly blocking sight lines at a road junction.

Cllr John Finlay (DUP) accused Sinn Fein’s Philip McGuigan of trying to turn the issue into a political matter and he was concerned that when people in the area learned of the Sinn Fein intervention it might make it more difficult to resolve the issue.

A debate took place at Ballymoney Borough Council on Monday July 4 when the siting of the hut was branded a “death trap” by Cllr McGuigan.

Cllr McGuigan denied he had a political agenda on the matter, saying he was contacted by people who had concerns about road safety.

Cllr Finlay said he was disappointed Cllr McGuigan was “trying to point score” when Unionist councillors had been trying to get the matter sorted out behind the scenes.

He accused Cllr McGuigan of trying to make a “political issue” and trying to “crack a nut with a sledgehammer”.

Cllr McGuigan denied he was political pointscoring but he said the positioning of the hut was a “death trap” and had been there for a week and the matter was still unresolved.

“I don’t want some road user there having a serious accident on my conscience,” he added.

Cllr McGuigan earlier began the debate by saying a number of people contacted him about the the positioning of the hut beside the bonfire at Lislagan crossroads.

He said the hut was put up by bonfire supporters to “keep an eye” on the structure but Cllr McGuigan said it is “impossible” for car drivers to see what is coming round the corner near the junction and is “extremely dangerous”.

He asked Unionist councillors to use their influence on getting the hut re-sited or else he said the Council could contact Roads Service.

He added: “I’m quite sure a number of councillors are aware what I’m talking about. It is a deathtrap. I have seen it myself. It is not actually the bonfire, the bonfire is on the far side, we are talking DRD property as far as I’m aware and I propose we write to the DRD to have it (the hut) removed.”

Ald Bill Kennedy (Ulster Unionist) wondered if it could be left to local councillors to sort out and perhaps get it moved a few metres back and he said he did not think anybody in the Lislagan area would want the hut to be the cause of an accident.

DUP councillor Jason Atkinson agreed the hut was a “death trap” and he said his party had been speaking to people in the area trying to get the hut moved but he said space was limited.

He said he would be back speaking to people to get the hut moved to a safer position.

Cllr McGuigan said if he built a fence and it had not the proper visibility splays and was dangerous the authorities would not be long in taking action.

He said he was not raising the bonfire hut issue to “cause a row” and he said he was not commenting about the presence of the bonfire.

He said Roads Service should be contacted because councillors had been unable to resolve the matter.

When a vote was taken on Cllr McGuigan’s suggestion for a letter to be sent to Roads Service three Sinn Fein councillors supported the move and the rest of the councillors abstained.

A Council officer said he welcomed the contribution by local councillors on the matter and said Roads Service is aware of the hut and had been in contact with the Council.

He said work was taking place to resolve the issue and “hopefully that will be sooner rather than later”.

LATEST: Last week the bonfire hut was moved across the road to a location where it was not obstructing sight lines.