Northern Ireland

£30,000 to be awarded for bonfire interventions in Derry

Children guarding the bonfire material being gathered in the Galliagh area of Derry for the upcoming August 15th bonfire which many local residents were opposed to due to ongoing anti-social behaviour in the area.
Children guarding the bonfire material being gathered in the Galliagh for the August 15 bonfire last year which many local residents were opposed to due to anti-social behaviour in the area

Councillors have approved £30,000 in funding for community interventions during bonfire season.

A committee meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council heard it is hoped the move will help “provide a positive outlet for young people”.

The money will be targeted in the Galliagh and Waterside areas during July and August.

While the council does not authorise bonfires on its land, many take place across the area.

“Discussions [have taken place] with representatives from Galliagh and the wider Waterside Neighbourhood Partnership Board, to explore a directed intervention programme in the lead up to the summer parade this year,” an officer told members.

“A member-led, multi-departmental working group was set up to take a strategic overview on the impact of bonfires, and the action plans for the proposed interventions will be brought to a further working group meeting.”

Sinn Féin member Sandra Duffy said that over the last few years, Galliagh had seen “toxic, illegal fires in the middle of our community”, which have “attracted huge crowds”.

“Not only on the night of the bonfire, but we have seen months of gathering for fires, resulting in antisocial behaviour where the site becomes a focal point for burnt out cars and sofas being dumped,” she said.

“People that live in that area are afraid to leave their homes and are abused. It’s a constant for months and months, and I have come to the point where I’m absolutely embarrassed we haven’t made more progress.”

DUP Alderman Niree McMorris said there had been “a lot of issues around Galliagh” but the unionist community saw bonfires as a “cultural expression”.

“Myself and other people in the Waterside have worked tirelessly to clean up the image of bonfires and make sure they’re done in a safe way,” she said.

SDLP C=councillor Brian Tierney, said that as a “proud resident” and councillor of Galliagh over the last 12 years, the issue has been “ongoing long before that”.

“This is a minority of young people, and the majority just want to have a good time and enjoy their youth,” he said.

“That’s where this money is going to go, and I’ve engaged with groups since late August to do something different to tackle this issue and provide a positive outlet for young people.

“I can’t guaranteed there won’t be a bonfire in Galliagh, but what we can guarantee is that we will work damn hard to make sure young people have something positive to go to.”