Hundreds of tyres kept on Eleventh Night bonfire sites despite agreement, councillors are told

AROUND 300 tyres designated for removal from bonfires across Mid and East Antrim in the run-up to the Twelfth last year remained in place despite agreement, it has emerged.

According to a report from the borough council’s Good Relations programme 2020-21 Action Plan, there had been “community agreement” for tyres to be removed.

However, a contractor was unable to do so due to “increased risk following a bonfire related incident in Belfast,” the report said.

Last year, representatives from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, PSNI, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, NI Housing Executive, Education Authority, NIE Networks, Department for Infrastructure and the NI Environment Agency worked together to ensure that “all cultural celebrations are safe and respectful to minimise negative impacts on community and environment”.

The Cultural Celebrations Working Group advised that toxic materials such as tyres, paint, aerosols, bottles and foam-filled furniture should not be burned or left at sites as the burning of this waste can be dangerous for the health of neighbours. It is also illegal to dump toxic materials.

Friends of the Earth says that dirty air is one of the United Kingdom’s biggest killers and can lead to worsening asthma symptoms, heart disease and lung cancer.

The charity stated: “Northern Ireland’s air, water and soils are in a bad way. We have the least protected environment in the UK and Ireland. It’s a real worry for the 1.8m people living here and the many important wildlife sites in the country.”

Last year, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service attended one Eleventh Night bonfire related incident in Ballymena and three in Larne compared to 14 in Mid and East Antrim the year before.

Six beacons were provided through Groundwork NI and the council at celebrations which were attended by 850 people.

Groundwork NI says beacons provide a “safe, environmentally clean alternative to traditional bonfires”.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is keen to promote “safer, cleaner and respectful cultural celebrations”.

The Housing Executive says that support can be provided to community groups towards improving bonfire management to reduce environmental damage.

According to the report, a Celebrating Culture Safely educational resource, a multi-agency resource including the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, PSNI, Housing Executive and Good Relations team has been delivered to five groups of teenagers, aged between 14 and 16-years-old in Carrickfergus and Ballymena.

The initiative will continue this year with one workshop to develivered in each of the borough’s District Electoral Areas.

Part of the focus of the programme is to “minimise the negative environmental impact of these cultural celebrations on the natural and built environment”.

In 2020/21, it will include the continuation of Mid and East Antrim’s Cultural Celebrations Working Group and Ballymena Bonfire Forum.

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