The site of a loyalist bonfire built with the help of a DUP councillor has been cleaned up at a cost to his constituents.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council called in a contractor last week to clear the remains of the Eleventh Night pyre in Carrickfergus’s Glenfield estate.
Councillor Mark Collins was among the people who helped the build the huge tower of pallets — and boasted about doing so.
The DUP man, who is also a member of the Carrickfergus Defenders Flute band, wrote on Facebook that he was proud of the work the community had put into the fire.
Mr Collins sits on the council’s direct service committee, which is responsible for areas such as environmental health and street cleaning.
When Sunday Life asked the council if it had to clean up the mess left by the pyre, it said a contractor had been brought in.
A spokesman added: “The council’s role is to work closely with the community and our partner agencies to encourage a safe and responsible approach to cultural celebrations throughout mid and east Antrim.”
The bill for the clean-up operation will be paid from council coffers, which are funded by ratepayers.
Before the pyre was set ablaze, a UDA and UFF flag, along with an election poster for Alliance Party Justice Minister Naomi Long, were attached to it.
There is no suggestion that Mr Collins had any part in placing the items on the bonfire.
In the days before the Eleventh Night celebrations, he hit out at the media and politicians who criticised bonfire builders in a Facebook post.
“Plenty of councillors and MLAs suddenly piping up to complain about annual bonfires. These bonfires are held every year. If you have any issues with them, why wait until a week before they are due to be lit to start trying to cause controversy? Why not address it in August/September time,” he wrote.
“Ah, of course, because then it wouldn’t stoke tensions quite the same way.
“Same old story every year, poking the Protestant/unionist/loyalist community with a big stick until they react so the media and the pan-nationalist front can shame the ‘big bad loyalists’.
“Bonfire builders live in the communities where they build their fires. The last thing they want to do is damage their neighbours’ property.
“These guys care about their culture and putting on a display for the local community. Stop trying to criminalise them.
“I’m proud to be helping to build the bonfire in Glenfield, where men, women, boys and girls of all ages are getting stuck in and building something we can be proud of.”
Shortly after Mr Collins was elected to the council in 2019, he made headlines when it emerged he had previously posted racist and sectarian messages online. In one post, he referred to an ex-Sinn Fein politician as an “inbred Fenian wench”. In another, he called a friend “c**n features”.
Mr Collins told this newspaper he was “embarrassed” by his behaviour. He said he wrote the messages when he was 16 and they did not represent his views today.