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Anger over council fireworks display near bird sanctuary

A controversial pyrotechnics display beside a wildlife hotspot went ahead after a council claimed there was no scientific evidence that birds would be disturbed.

But residents living near Six Mile Water wetland habitat area in Ballyclare have alleged that a wildlife crime may have been committed when the display was held at the end of Ballyclare May Fair. It is illegal to disturb nesting birds.

Meanwhile, the RSPB warned that fireworks must never be set off next to birds’ breeding and roosting areas.

Ballyclare resident Evelyn Rutherford said that the Grand Finale Fireworks Display had been held in the middle of the wetland habitat created by Newtownabbey Borough Council as part of the leisure facilities.

“A firecracker is let off approximately half an hour before the event takes place, supposedly to ensure no birds come into the area, but what about the birds and their young already there?” she asked.

“As the firework display got under way you could see the mallards flying away leaving 12 week-old ducklings to their own defences.”

Mrs Rutherford said she could hear the cries of moorhen chicks whose mothers had fled when the fireworks erupted.

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“Two hours later after the crowd went home you could still hear their cries. It gets worse — to watch the adult swans with their eight cygnets which were four days old, totally distressed amongst the debris flying in their midst.

“They were approximately 3ft from the fireworks and also their nest. It is ironic that there is a sign up at the lake area about the reed bunting, which is on the Red List because it is in serious decline and needs to be protected. This is supported by Newtownabbey Borough Council.

“Recently an otter has been sighted on the river — otters are also highly protected, but not in this case, it seems.”

She said she and other local wildlife lovers had previously fought to have the fireworks displays stopped in the late 1990s: “It took a year of liaising with the then RUC and USPCA but we successfully got this stopped.”

The council now says it is considering looking for an alternative site for the firework display.

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