Bonfire question sparks ‘anti-Unionist’ accusation

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Ballymoney had the most complaints about Eleventh Night bonfires with Coleraine sites showing the biggest improvement, councillors have learned.

The information was revealed during Tuesday’s meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Council’s Environmental Services committee when Sinn Fein councillor Brenda Chivers asked for statistics such as how much did the clean-up operation cost the Council, how many bonfires were on Council property, were any bonfires burning tyres and how many complaints were received by Council.

She said: “I am not attacking anyone’s culture” but called on Council to show leadership when it came to bonfires, giving an example of how a Good Relations officer from Council encountered “intimidating men” when she went to investigate reports of tyres on a bonfire at Blackburn park in Limavady. She added that the Good Relations officer wouldn’t get out of her car.

She said that when she phoned Couuncil about the incident, she was told that they weren’t going to put their workers at risk. “And that is right,” said Cllr Chivers.

“They are breaking the law. If we burned tyres on our farm, someone would be out with us in an hour, giving us a fine so how come Council are standing back and allowing the law to be broken? We have to stand up to bullies.”

A number of Unionist councillors took exception to Cllr Chivers raising the issue.

TUV Cllr Boyd Douglas said Cllr Chivers was “opposed to the heritage of the Protestant community” while DUP councillor George Duddy said that given the timing of her question it was “no wonder why Unionists feel it’s anti their culture. If it had been asked at the end of Auugust there could have been no ambiguity.”

Cllr Chivers said that last year she had gone to bonfires in the Glens and Limavady to ensure that there were no tyres being burned. She added that, as a chIld, she used to go to see the Twelfth “so I am not against celebrating heritage”.

Director of Environmental Services Aidan McPeak said that the figures weren’t ready but he would bring the full report to the next meeting. He did say that there were 25 complaints received by Council, a slight increase on last year. He said there were 29 bonfire sites around the Borough, eight of them on council property.

Members also heard that the majority of bonfire complaints came from the former Ballymoney Council area, two sites in particular.