Antrim and Newtownabbey bonfire management: new groups sign up to scheme

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Financial assistance for each community group that signs up to a bonfire management programme run by Antrim and Newtownabbey Council will increase by £500 this year.

The council’s Community Planning Committee has agreed a grant of £3,500 will be provided to participants for a family fun day/festival activities in each area. Twenty-two community groups are expected to participate in this year’s scheme.

Discussions with bonfire representatives have indicated increased costs of insurance and equipment. Site inspection dates have been agreed. A council staff visit will take place on May 11, followed by inspections on June 1 and 22 and July 10.

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Site inspections involve the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, Housing Executive, PSNI and council. Two representatives from each site have been invited to attend a four-week accredited course in events management.

Council provides a bonfire management programme (archive image).Council provides a bonfire management programme (archive image).
Council provides a bonfire management programme (archive image).

Speaking at the meeting, Antrim DUP Councillor Paul Dunlop BEM said he welcomed new groups “coming on board” and that officers have listened to concerns about insurance costs.

Glengormley SDLP Cllr Noreen McClelland asked what safety measures are in place for bonfires that are built on council land to prevent serious incidents.

An officer said: “We are aware of what happened in Mid and East Antrim Council area in 2022. We are actively working on the ground on a range of initiatives to engage with bonfire builders, particularly on those sites, to minimise risk.

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“Council has extensive public liability insurance. We will be making sure that insurance provides adequate cover.”

A tragic accident claimed the life of Larne man John Steele who had been helping with the construction of a bonfire in the town’s Antiville estate.

Incentivise Groups

Dunsilly Alliance Cllr Jay Burbank asked what the council does to “incentivise groups to join the management programme”.

He was told: “There is a financial incentive to any one who signs up to the protocol. Relationships have been built up over a number of years with the community development team. We would welcome more groups to sign up to the protocol.”

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Commenting on the wording in a report to the committee, Macedon Alliance Cllr Billy Webb MBE stated: “We do not fund bonfires nor do we fund bonfire sites. We fund celebration events on the Eleventh night.” He asked for it to be changed to read “for Eleventh night celebration events”.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter