Northern Ireland news

Loyalist bonfire builders aim to smash 200ft height record

Craigyhill bonfire in Larne could reach 200ft. Picture by Hugh Russell
Connla Young

A HUGE loyalist bonfire in Co Antrim could reach a staggering 200ft high as organisers aim to smash a height record.

Already towering at around 100ft, those behind the pyre at Craigyhill in Larne say they need to reach more than 198.5ft to clinch the record.

Thousands of pallets have already been stacked up and are due to be lit on Eleventh Night.

There was controversy last year when the massive bonfire collapsed after being set alight. Fresh safety concerns have now been raised about this year's bonfire.

Sinn Féin councillor James McKeown said he had been contacted by worried locals.

"I, like other councillors, have been contacted about the health and safety aspect of it," he said.

"Not only for the general public but for the bonfire builders (themselves)."

The councillor added that "health and safety should be paramount" and intends to raise the issue with his local authority, Mid and East Antrim borough council.

"It's right beside a play park owned by the council and I will be talking about any potential damage that might be done to it," he said.

He added that local people have also raised other concerns.

"They are concerned not only about the bonfire but the potential for anti-social behaviour and the heightening of tensions in the area," he said.

But bonfire builders last night said "health and safety is the number one priority".

While the sight of bonfire builders perched on small platforms built onto the side of the pyre have raised concerns, the spokesman revealed that all those involved in the construction work are wearing harnesses.

He also claimed all the builders have gone through a "bonfire safety and awareness course" involving the Fire Service.

"Every one of those guys on that bonfire have all passed that," he said.

"Nobody's going on that fire unless they have passed that course and that's to do with harnessing and stuff like that, how to light it, how to build it, it has all got to do with that, you know, working at height."

He claimed residents who live around the green where the bonfire is located were consulted and were "all behind us 100 per cent in trying to beat the record".

He also revealed that a crane will be brought onto the site on Friday to help builders lift the pallets they need to help secure the record height.

The spokesman said that a 35ft beacon will be perched on a separate 10ft structure to top the pyre out.

He added that organisers were trying to make the event "open to everybody" and claimed that Catholics were helping to build the bonfire and also sit on the organising committee.

"They just enjoy it because there's nothing sectarian, it's about building a bonfire," he said.

The spokesman added that no flags or election posters will be placed on the Craigyhill bonfire.

"There will be nothing on the bonfire this year whatsoever," he said.

"We had already planned this from last year, this is what we were going to do. That has all been done in the past, we are moving on, we are trying to make it open to everybody."

The spokesman said that this year's pyre will be the last "big" bonfire .

"We are going to try and beat the record, if we don't break it, we don't break it, but we are definitely going to be downscaling next year.

"We are not going to be anywhere near as big."

Meanwhile, three fire engines were called out to tackle a blaze at a loyalist bonfire in Donaghadee yesterday.

The pyre at Crommelin Park was set alight shortly before 3.20pm.

The NI Fire and Rescue Service said a fire engine from the local station was joined by crews from Bangor and Newtownards to put out the blaze.

A spokesperson for the PSNI said the incident had not been reported to police.

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