Ratepayers in Newtownabbey who last year voiced their anger at £30,000 being spent on a permanent platform for a bonfire in Ballyduff are to fork out up to £44,000 for Twelfth of July celebrations across the new super council area next month.
And in a bizarre twist, the Ballyduff bonfire for which the platform was built – nicknamed ‘the Beast’ – will not receive a payment as it won’t comply with bonfire protocol on the burning of tyres.
Under the new Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council boundary, ratepayers in Newtownabbey will contribute to the Bonfire Management Agreement of the new super council, which has now widened to include a total of 17 groups.
The council has confirmed that up to £2,000 can be provided to each of the seven groups in Newtownabbey to organise ‘family fun events’ and up to £3,000 for similar activities to the 10 groups in Antrim.
Of those groups, money will go towards 12 bonfires, three beacons and two groups who are not having a bonfire.
Under the scheme, groups must pledge to follow the protocol set out by the council which forbids the collection of material before mid-May and the burning of tyres or inappropriate materials on their site.
Following the closing date for applications for funding on April 17, council staff revealed that none of the five groups in Newtownabbey, which ignored council protocol last year, have been brought on board this year.
Those bonfires include, two sites in Rathcoole, one in New Mossley, one in Monkstown and ‘the Beast’ in Ballyduff.
Speaking after learning that no progress had been made in Ballyduff despite the building of an expensive platform, local Alliance Councillor Billy Webb said: “I’m very disappointed. It’s important for the environment that we do not have fires burning with tyres in them. They are a danger to the ones taking part at the fire and also those in the immediate community. “
A Council spokesperson defended the scheme adding: “The Council endeavours to work with all bonfire sites across the Council area, however local circumstances can change from year to year and impact on the number of sites willing to participate in the protocol.
“This year seven sites have been unable to sign up. Whilst this represents an increase of two sites on the previous year [for the entire borough], the Council continues to provide advice and assistance and encourage participation in the bonfire protocol.”