£80,000 of public money up in smoke

By David Whelan

C LOSE to £80,000 of ratepayers money has been spent on loyalist bonfires in North Belfast and Newtownabbey in the run up to the Twelfth of July.
The huge amount of public money on bonfires on which last year alone effigies and images of nationalist politicians were burnt as well as tricolours and religious symbols, includes £30,000 for a permanent platform for a bonfire in Ballyduff.
Currently 10 groups in North Belfast have received a total of £19,260 from Belfast City Council from their Bonfire Management Programme. This figure is set to rise after a Belfast City Council confirmed that the amount was a minimum “as some expected additional funding cannot be properly calculated until the programme ends”.
A spokesperson for Belfast City Council said that details of individual schemes for the Bonfire Management Programme were confidential but confirmed that it was operating on a budget of £141,000 for the whole of Belfast.
The Bonfire Management Programme, says the council, aims ‘to help communities reconnect with the cultural significance of bonfires, create a positive, family-friendly celebration involving the whole community, manage health and safety risks and tackle environmental issues”.
In Newtownabbey, a budget of £26,000 has been allocated to the 2014 Bonfire Management Programme. In addition the council has spent £30,000 on a permanent platform to support the ‘Beast of Belfast’ bonfire in the Ballyduff estate after lobbying from unionist politicians in the borough.
Tensions for this year’s parading season across North Belfast and Newtownabbey are already running high with the erection of loyalist flags outside Catholic churches and in mixed residential areas where flags have not been flown before.
Residents in Carnmoney and Merville have complained of flags appearing in their area for the first time while in Greencastle on the Shore Road flags have been put up outside St Mary’s Catholic Church.

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