Northern Ireland news

Loyalist bonfire clean-ups cost road service almost £70,000 in three years

Police at a bonfire at Bloomfield Walkway in east Belfast last month. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

LOYALIST bonfire clean-ups have cost the road service almost £70,000 in the past three years.

More than £24,000 was spent by the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) repairing and cleaning up sites following July bonfires this year, costs obtained by The Irish News show.

But the department was last night unable to say whether the figure includes spending on contractors last month to remove two controversial bonfires in east Belfast.

Masked contractors flanked by police in riot gear were brought in to clear the Eleventh Night bonfire sites at Bloomfield Walkway and Cluan Place following safety concerns.

DfI has previously said it and Belfast City Council would foot the bill, but that "contractor rates are commercial in confidence and therefore we are unable to provide any cost details".

It has also declined to specify what happened to the removed materials, other than to say there was a "safe disposal".

DfI repair and clean-up costs following Eleventh Night bonfires reached £68,339 from 2016/17 to 2018/19, according to Freedom of Information response.

A total of £27,950 was spent in 2016/17, a further £16,373 in 2017/18 and £24,016 in 2018/19 so far.

The costs this year included £11,400 spent in the road service's eastern division which covers the Belfast area.

DfI was unable to give a breakdown of costs per site, but said that this figure included clean-up costs for Cluan Place and Bloomfield Walkway in east Belfast.

It comes as figures released to the BBC show Belfast City Council spent almost £21,000 on clean-ups after Twelfth of July events this year.

The council paid out the figure to 86 staff who provided street-cleaning services.

A total of £153,000 has been spent since 2013. The most spent over the period was in 2015, when £31,148 was paid out.

Contractors were sent to Bloomfield Walkway to remove bonfire material after a high court judge directed DfI to take action.

It followed concerns that the towering pyre posed a serious threat to nearby homes. The bonfire was set alight just as contractors moved in to try to remove it.

The Cluan Place bonfire was also dismantled before the Eleventh Night after fire crews raised concerns over its closeness to properties.

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