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Bonfire clean-up cost Causeway Coast and Glens Council £17,500

Bonfire clean-up bill unsustainable, says Sinn Fein councillor

By Donna Deeney

Published 17/09/2015

A bonfire burns in the Fountain estate, traditionally one of the largest in the city each year Photo: Martin Keown
A bonfire burns in the Fountain estate, traditionally one of the largest in the city each year Photo: Martin Keown

A council's £17,500 bill for cleaning up after loyalist bonfires this year is unsustainable, according to a Sinn Fein representative.

The money spent by Causeway Coast and Glens Council was for fires lit on council property — but the total cost to the public is much more according to Councillor Dermot Nicholl because all bonfires in Coleraine were on property belonging to the Housing Executive.

Mr Nicholl said he was taken aback when the costs of the bonfire clean-up were presented in council.

He said: “We were given the breakdown of the costs over the four main areas of Council and I just thought £17,500 was an awful lot of money that could be better spent. I am not for one minute saying we should stop bonfires, but I think now that the season for them has passed, it is time to look at having sensible conversations about how we can make better use of ratepayers money.

“Many of these bonfires are full of tyres and are sectarian because of what is placed upon them, so I don’t see why so much of the ratepayers money goes towards cleaning up.

“We need to control and contain bonfires, perhaps in beacons, or look at the people who organise them funding the clean up.

“That £17,500 could be re-directed into the communities to be used in a way that is beneficial to everyone.

“I am calling on all parties to come together with council officials so that we can devise strategies that will allow communities to celebrate their culture without having a detrimental impact on council budgets.”

Derry City and Strabane District Council was asked to provide the costs of cleaning up bonfires in its area for this year and last year but the figures were not available.

DUP councillor Graham Warke, who represents the Fountain area, which traditionally hosts one of the largest loyalist bonfires in the Londonderry area, said there is a clean-up cost at every large-scale event.

He said: “Every year thousands of people from the unionist community attend the various bonfires which is a celebration of their culture.

“A recent survey showed that in the Fountain estate over 95% of the residents wanted a bonfire so it is important that their wishes are considered but I do understand the importance of spending ratepayers money in the best way possible.

“There is a cost of cleaning up any large-scale event and I think a celebration of culture and tradition which attracts large numbers of people is justified.

“I can’t imagine the cost of two men and a digger would run into thousands of pounds but I would be interested to know the exact figures when they become available.”

While the Housing Executive were unable to provide the cost of this year’s bonfire clean-up in either council area, the cost last year for Derry, Strabane and Limavady totalled £999.06.

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