Larne bonfire groups snub council funding

Bonfire site at Linn Road Craigyhill. INLT 22-007-PSB

Bonfire site at Linn Road Craigyhill. INLT 22-007-PSB

A council initiative aimed at helping communities in Larne express their cultural identity has attracted just three applications this year.

The grants scheme, spearheaded by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, provides funding for groups seeking to hold cultural celebration events between July 9-13, and August 12-16.

But the local authority confirmed it has approved just two applications for a share in the funding pot, with a third currently being assessed.

Millbrook Community Development Association will receive funding to the tune of £1490, while Kilwaughter Cultural and Educational Group has secured £740.

This is in stark contrast to just two years ago, when grants totalling more than £15,000 were earmarked by the former Larne Borough Council for July 11 celebrations at eight bonfire sites locally, the largest being £4,200 at Ferris Park.

However, following the amalgamation of Larne, Carrickfergus and Ballymena councils last year, the maximum amount available through the scheme was slashed to £1,500 per group for single day events.

DUP Alderman Gregg McKeen said “more work needs to be done in the coming years” to entice groups to avail of the scheme.

He added: “One reason why fewer groups have signed up for the scheme is because Mid and East Antrim Council is only able to award funding to constituted groups, which was not the case with Larne Council.

“The former council had forged strong relationships with many of the bonfire groups, and the new council is now effectively starting from scratch to build up those relationships again.”

But Ald McKeen stressed that it was ultimately down to communities to decide for themselves how best to celebrate their heritage.

A council spokesperson added: “Larne Bonfire Forum continues to meet. Working relationships are strong and the partnership approach aims to ensure bonfires and beacons are as safe as possible.”