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Craigyhill bonfire: Organiser says Catholics on committee and accuses Sinn Fein of being ‘stuck in the past’

The organiser of Northern Ireland’s biggest bonfire has defended the world record attempt and dismissed ‘bogus’ safety concerns

One of the key architects of what could soon be the biggest bonfire in the world has accused Sinn Fein of being “stuck in the past”.

The organiser, who does not wish to be named, also revealed that three Catholics are on the committee which has been overseeing the world record attempt in the Craigyhill area of Larne.

“Sinn Fein don’t have a problem with our bonfire, they have a major problem with what it represents – our culture,” they said.

“There are no safety concerns – all bonfires collapse when lit, that’s just a fact.

“The biggest risk is actually posed by the cinders which come off the top.”

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The bonfire builder claimed measures have been taken to minimise that risk, but warned those stoking up tensions are actually limiting what can be done.

“In Norway they spray the bottom of bonfires and surrounding area to stop cinders,” the builder said.

“But the fire service can’t be seen to be doing that in Northern Ireland because of politics.

“We meet with representatives from council, the PSNI, NIFRS and the Housing Executive all through the year.

“They know we are going for the record, this wasn’t just plucked out of a hat at the last minute.”

The local resident questioned why republicans are “so vocal in July yet so quiet in August” when internment bonfires are erected in nationalist communities across NI.

“Sinn Fein politicians seem to lose their voice on August 15,” they said.

“Yet they have all these safety concerns in July – what’s their expertise on bonfires anyway?”

The Twelfth of July enthusiast was adamant that no properties – including windows and guttering – were damaged when the 147ft pyre went up in flames last year.

They also recalled how people have been getting in touch from around the globe, including French and German TV crews.

“A man from Dublin reached out because his young daughter has been following us on social media,” the bonfire builder explained.

“He wanted to know if it was safe for him to come up and we said yes.

“There are three Catholics on our committee – including the guy who delivers the pallets.”

The organiser admitted adjustments have been made to make the cultural celebration more friendly, and civil. 

“We decided long ago that burning tricolours or effigies would be unfair and insensitive,” they explained.

“Last year we painted the top green, white and gold and some people were offended.

“We held our hands up and apologised and have decided not to do that this year.

“There are Union flags and loyalist flags at the site because that’s the culture we are celebrating.”

All those involved in building the pyre – which already towers above nearby houses at over 100ft – are gearing up for one final push this weekend.

A crane has already been drafted in to finish the mammoth task on time for the Eleventh Night.

The qualified tradesperson said it’s not just Catholics who have rallied behind the attempt to break the current record bonfire height of 198ft.

“There are ethnic minority residents interested in what we are doing as well and will be coming out to watch,” they said.

“The reality is we are moving in a new direction but Sinn Fein is stuck in the past. They just don’t like bonfires full stop.”

In a statement, a Sinn Fein spokesperson said: “Sinn Fein's position is clear, bonfires should not pose a threat to life, property or the environment."

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