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Education Authority refutes claim it gave bonfire builders key to former school site

Statement comes after Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong made the claim on Nolan Show

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Padlock on bonfire site in Newtonards. Pic Pacemaker

Padlock on bonfire site in Newtonards. Pic Pacemaker

Newtownards Bonfire

Newtownards Bonfire

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Padlock on bonfire site in Newtonards. Pic Pacemaker

The Education Authority (EA) has said it did not provide bonfire builders a key to access land it owns where a pyre has been built in Newtownards.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph the authority said it had only recently been made aware of the bonfire erected on the grounds of the former Castle Grounds Primary School.

The EA’s comments come after Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong claimed bonfire builders must have been given a key to access the site.

Ms Armstrong made the comments on Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show on Friday, as she described the pyre being built in the Co Down town as “enormous”.

The Strangford MLA explained that builders have access to open the lock on the gate, in order to transport wood left at the entrance onto the bonfire.

She called on the Education Minister Michelle McIlveen to clarify the situation and requested that she persuade builders to reduce the size of the bonfire.

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“The bonfire is on Education Authority land. I have been asking Michelle McIlveen, the new minister for education, what the policy is on allowing bonfires on land,” said Kellie Armstrong.

“Is there insurance protection in place? If they have allowed the bonfire on their land, provided the keys for the fencing that goes round that old primary school site - then what is the insurance cover?

“That site is an old primary school site. It is surrounded by a fence and on it a board says ‘community bonfire’.

“It is very obvious this is a site that has been permitted to happen. There are gates on it with a lock, so somebody has the keys to get into that.”

She added: “The Education Authority have allowed the public land to be used for this. I think they should be taking a bit of responsibility. If that falls down, I am quite concerned about the residential houses around it.

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Newtownards Bonfire

Newtownards Bonfire

Newtownards Bonfire

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Craigyhill bonfire in Larne.  Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Visitors view the Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Visitors view the Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Hugo checks out what all the fuss is about at the Craigyhill in Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Hugo checks out what all the fuss is about at the Craigyhill in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Visitors view the Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Visitors view the Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay.

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Visitors view the Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Visitors view the Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay.

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay.

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay.

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay.

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

Bonfire under construction in Portadown, Co Armagh. (Press Eye Ltd)

Bonfire under construction in Portadown, Co Armagh. (Press Eye Ltd)

A bonfire in the Loyalist Tigers Bay Area, Belfast, that is situated on the peace line. Pic Peter Morrison/PA Wire

A bonfire in the Loyalist Tigers Bay Area, Belfast, that is situated on the peace line. Pic Peter Morrison/PA Wire

PA

Bonfire under construction. (Press Eye Ltd)

Bonfire under construction. (Press Eye Ltd)

A massive bonfire in the loyalist Craigyhill area of Larne dwarfs local houses in the seaside town.  Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been building bonfires in preparation for the eleventh night celebrations, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Picture date: Thursday July 1, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

A massive bonfire in the loyalist Craigyhill area of Larne dwarfs local houses in the seaside town. Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been building bonfires in preparation for the eleventh night celebrations, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Picture date: Thursday July 1, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

PA

A massive bonfire in the loyalist Craigyhill area of Larne dwarfs local houses in the seaside town.  Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been building bonfires in preparation for the eleventh night celebrations, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Picture date: Thursday July 1, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

A massive bonfire in the loyalist Craigyhill area of Larne dwarfs local houses in the seaside town. Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been building bonfires in preparation for the eleventh night celebrations, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Picture date: Thursday July 1, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

PA

A massive bonfire is placed opposite a fire station in Newtownards.  Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been building bonfires in preparation for the eleventh night celebrations, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Picture date: Thursday July 1, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

A massive bonfire is placed opposite a fire station in Newtownards. Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been building bonfires in preparation for the eleventh night celebrations, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Picture date: Thursday July 1, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

PA

Bonfire under construction. (Press Eye Ltd)

Bonfire under construction. (Press Eye Ltd)

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Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

“Anybody who was taking any of the stuff to get burned, they had to leave it outside the site and then when the bonfire builders arrived the gates would be open and they could bring any of the donated wood into the site.

“They must have been given the key by the Education Authority.”

The EA, however, has strongly refuted this claim, insisting it has only become recently aware of the bonfire on the site.

 EA did not give a key to the site to bonfire builders. EA continues to work with community officers in Ards and North Down Borough Council and with the PSNI’s Neighbourhood Policing Team to achieve the best outcome for the local community,” said a spokesperson.

Ards and North Down Council said it is aware of the bonfire on land that it does not own.

It added there has been a bonfire in that location for a “number of years” and the council has been encouraging those who erected it to reduce the size.

Meanwhile, the bonfire on the Portaferry Road is also opposite a fire station and a number of residential properties, with local homes expected to be covered in thermal protection on July 11 ahead of its lighting.


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