Council clarifies bonfire grant criteria

Council will monitor bonfires to ensure they meet criteria. Stock image.
Council will monitor bonfires to ensure they meet criteria. Stock image.

Bonfire organisers are to discourage actions that could constitute a hate crime under newly clarified Mid and East Antrim Borough Council funding rules.

It follows discussion around the wording of good relations criterion in the Cultural Celebrations Grant Scheme through which up to £1,500 or £2,000 is available for traditional July/August events. Clarification was sought whether “mandatory” or “desirable” should be used.

In an update, members were told that two years ago, the Community Planning Committee agreed a stipulation should be added to the scheme that no funding would be provided to communities whose bonfire sites burn political posters as this would constitute a hate crime. This was confirmed at full council in April 2015 but due to “an administrative oversight”, the precise wording had not been fully included within the criteria to date.

After issues were raised last month, councillors returned to the theme at Tuesday’s Policy and Resources Committee. They were told the precise wording is as follows: “In the interest of good community relations it is desirable that organisers endeavour to discourage sectarian or racist graffiti or the flying of flags or emblems or the burning of election posters at their bonfire site.”

They were told the implementation of the policy in relation to the burning of posters is difficult in terms of evidence gathering and attributing responsibilty to the group that has applied for funding.

The meeting also heard that sites are monitored to ensure they adhere to criteria.

Members proposed and agreed to maintain the current wording of Section 5 of the policy.

This recommendation will now be brought before full council in June for ratification.