Sinn Fein urges for beacon to replace annual August 15 bonfire in Carnlough

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LARNE Borough Council may be asked to help fund an August 15 celebration at Carnlough.

Coast Road councillor James McKeown revealed that Sinn Fein is presently canvassing local opinion ahead of the annual bonfire in the village. If consensus is reached, the group organising the event may submit an application for a council grant.

Cllr McKeown said: “I am meeting with people in Carnlough who want to move away from having a bonfire, but it’s a question of what it would be replaced with.

“The council has been trying to persuade groups in Larne and other areas to agree to beacons rather than bonfires along with community festival events and we would like to try and encourage the young people to try something similar.”

The usual bonfire site at the north end of the village is close to a residential area and there have been concerns in the past about the safety of local people and property.

In the past the event was marred by anti-social behaviour, but Cllr McKeown said: “Over the years we have been working to try and reduce the anti-social behaviour and make it more of a community event.”

He added that Sinn Fein would urge for a beacon in Carnlough, saying: “We feel that bonfires are not part of our culture, but a lot of the younger ones see that bonfires are built and burnt for the Eleventh (of July) in loyalist areas in Larne and in Glenarm, so they say: ‘Why can’t we have one?’

“Larne Council has engaged with the groups involved with those bonfires, but to my knowledge nobody has ever thought to consult with the group in Carnlough.”

He conceded that the council may not have received an application for funding from the village, adding: “That is one thing we will be talking about and will ask the council to fund it, the same as they have funded the bonfires in Larne and Glenarm, which amounts to a considerable sum of money.”

As previously reported, 75 per cent of the local authority funding is grant-aided by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister at Stormont.

Meanwhile, Cllr McKeown has backed Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan in questioning how long the local authority intends to maintain the Diamond Jubilee Crown feature at Circular Road roundabout. Cllr McKeown has also criticised the expenditure, saying: “I tabled a question on the cost and was told it was nearly £13,000.

“As Oliver McMullan has said, we have no problem with unionists celebrating the jubilee, but it’s funny how many projects we’re told the council can’t afford and yet £13,000 can be found for this.”

He added: “There is 75 per cent Rural Development funding available for a new play park at Carnlough and £13,000 would have gone a long way to making up the council’s contribution.

“I feel that the crown is a divisive symbol and for a council that talks so much about how improved their community relations are, they are doing a very good job of shooting themselves in the foot.”