LARNE councillors, who have endorsed nearly £7,500 spending on Eleventh Night bonfire parties this year, may move to cap expenditure from 2013.
Minutes of a recent confidential debate reveal there is also cross-party support in the chamber for more bonfires to be replaced by safer and more environmentally-friendly beacons.
The official record shows that Ferris Park accounted for almost half the bonfire fund, for which the council receives 75 per cent grant aid from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. The £3,555 requested by the organisers was said to include the cost of employing stewards wearing high-visibility vests “following an issue last year”.
Glenarm was granted £2,050 but the council turned down a request for extra funding for a marquee. Other allocations are: Craigyhill £300, Islandmagee £500, Millbrook £550 and Ballycarry £480.
The council announced on Monday that it will also fund the beacon event at Tullygarley Corner to the tune of £400. There had been doubt over the celebration after bonfire material was dumped in the area in an apparent dispute over ownership of the event.
Council chief executive Geraldine McGahey issued a statement indicating that: “Through local community representatives – and representatives of the wider Bonfire Forum – and having addressed some local issues at the Tullygarley site, Council have been informed that the beacon and community event will be delivered at Tullygarley in 2012 as they have been in the three previous three years.”
Mrs McGahey added: “An application for financial assistance will come forward for approval and in line with previous years the request will be for no more than £400.”
The council works in conjunction with the Tullygarley community association, but local loyalists also claim ownership of the event. This week, the Larne Times received a letter from a ‘Tullygarley Young Loyalist’ – who asked not to be identified – claiming that “it was young loyalists of the area who four years ago took the step in conjunction with the Bonfire Forum to replace the traditional bonfire with a beacon”.
He added: “Unfortunately, the young people of the area now feel badly let down by Council and others because of outstanding issues around the site which have not been resolved.”
The author noted that Ald Roy Beggs (Ulster Unionist) had referred to “bully boys” and Cllr Roy Craig (Independent) to residents living in fear of a few individuals, adding: “Mr Beggs and Mr Craig need to be aware that there are two sides to every story and that the youths of Tullygarley have been neglected for too long.” As previously reported, the council has agreed to investigate the possibility of providing a multi-use games area.
The Bonfire Forum was also active this year in arranging for the removal of bonfire material and other items that had been dumped at Craigyhill and Antiville. It’s one reason why the local authority favours beacons, which burn only wood pellets from sustainable sources, and do not create the mess associated with traditional bonfires.
Minutes of the confidential session of council report that “members were appreciative of the work done by officers and the Bonfire Forum and agreed that ultimately there should be a move towards the use of beacons”.