Half a million spent on Twelfth bonfire clean-up

Contractors clearing up earlier this year after a bonfire on Hogarth Street in the Tigers Bay area of north Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

CLEARING up bonfires built over the Twelfth in the past four years has cost the taxpayer more than half-a-million pounds.

The extent of the clean-up costs for Eleventh Night bonfire sites are revealed in new figures obtained by The Irish News.

Since 2013 councils, roads chiefs and the Housing Executive have spent more than £564,000 clearing up bonfire sites across the north.

It means bonfires in Northern Ireland lit on a single Eleventh Night cost taxpayers about £140,000 to clean up.

More than 300 bonfires were lit across Northern Ireland ahead of this year's Twelfth of July.

A row of terraced houses in the Shankill area of west Belfast were gutted after embers from a nearby bonfire apparently blew onto the roofs.

Boarding up homes beside the bonfire in an attempt to prevent them catching fire had cost the Housing Executive £1,430.

There was also controversy around the burning of tyres, election posters and tricolours on pyres, with some reported to police as hate crimes.

The height and location of some pyres caused outrage with numerous towering structures built in the middle of urban streets.

One controversial pyre was constructed close to a new children's play park at Chobham Street in east Belfast.

It cost the council £6,000 to move the children's play equipment away from the bonfire.

The bonfire clean-up costs between 2013 and 2016 were uncovered by The Irish News through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the Department for Infrastructure, Housing Executive and councils.

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon council was unable to respond to the request within the FOI time limit, while some public bodies could not provide details for all of the years requested.

The Housing Executive spent the most at more than £140,000 followed by Belfast City Council at more than £126,000 and the Department for Infrastructure at about £98,000.

Police said they logged 40 reports of incidents relating to bonfires over this year's Twelfth period.

In one incident in Newtownards police appealed for information after a teenager was left with "horrific" injuries following a fight at a bonfire.

Earlier this year it emerged that the Fire Service has spent almost £670,000 of taxpayer funds tackling Eleventh Night bonfires between 2010 and 2015.

Fire crews were called out to 250 bonfire-related incidents over the period.

The most common location where firefighters were called out to July bonfire-related incidents was beside Belfast City Hospital.

On seven occasions crews were called out to Coolfin Street, off Donegall Road in the Village area of south Belfast, to tackle problem bonfires.

In the past the pyre has prompted safety fears and caused traffic problems in 2009 when the towering 40-foot structure toppled onto the Donegall Road.

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