Belfast Telegraph

Fly-tippers lucky not to have killed child

Editor's viewpoint

The sheer irresponsibility of dumping toxic chemicals is clearly illustrated by the alarming story of Cameron Dickson, aged 9.

He was left fighting for his life after sniffing an unknown chemical that had been left at a bonfire site near his home in the Shankill area of Belfast. Two other boys were affected, but not as badly.

Only the resourcefulness of Cameron's parents and a family friend, as well as specialist medical care at the Royal Victoria Hospital, saved his life.

Cameron and his friends were playing together when they discovered a barrel recklessly and illegally dumped on waste ground.

After curiously sniffing a sample of the contents, which he had poured onto a discarded mattress, Cameron became unwell, and eventually ended up in intensive care at the Royal.

There is no suggestion bonfire builders were to blame, but the incident shows what happens when material is dumped illegally.

There are many issues surrounding bonfires, including the burning of tyres, and they can cause great danger when they get out of control.

In recent years there have been distressing images of the flames of huge bonfires bearing down upon houses, and of members of the fire service having to douse down the buildings with high-powered jets of water.

There were other incidents, including one in the Shankill area in which a building was destroyed.

No one is trying to put a dampener, literally or metaphorically, on official bonfires, and we recognise they are regarded by some people as part of unionist culture.

However, there is an obligation on all concerned to ensure that bonfires are managed correctly and that there is proper crowd control when the edifices, some of them huge, are burning.

It also has to be said that this is not always the case, so there is a greater need than ever to ensure that bonfires do not create unnecessary hazards to people or buildings.

Bonfires should be properly enjoyed, without creating fear and distress. When this happens, they become a menace, and the organisers have failed and have let down their own community.

Fortunately, the story of Cameron Dickson has a positive outcome, and we wish him a speedy recovery.

The whole incident shows how quickly a young life can be placed in danger due to the carelessness of others.

Belfast Telegraph

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