Funding for an alternative to bonfires needed

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Following the clean-up of 15th August bonfires, local politicans are calling for more funding for alternative celebrations in future years.

Sinn Féin Councillor for the Greater Shantallow Area, Tony Hassan, said, “I would call on Derry City and Strabane District council to have a look at providing additional funding for festivals to community groups in the greater Shantallow area and the wider city in general as this year has proved that there is an alternative to the negative custom of bonfires.

““I would like to commend everyone involved in making this year’s community festivals a great success. For the first time in many years the area was free from bonfires. It was good to see the hundreds of young children and parent’s attending or taking part in these excellent events.

“What these festivals have proven is that there is other ways to celebrate the 15th of August other than bonfires’ which makes a mess of our areas.”

Meanwhile, Foyle MLA Gary Middleton said he saw “a picture of another bonfire in the city which was going to burn a wreath of poppies”.

“There is a situation of tit-for-tat after 11th night bonfires, but I believe burning a poppy wreath has a more sinister element,” he added.

“One I saw clearly came from a cenotaph where you could see a card with a message on it. It is very very hurtful.”

Sinn Fein councillor for ‘The Moor’, Kevin Campbell, said the 15th August bonfire “is part of an old tradition”.

“It is the Holy Day of the Ascension of Our Lady into heaven in the Catholic church, and it has been going back a long time. But there is nothing religious about this,” he added.

“Going back 40 or 50 years that would be the reason, but now if you asked anyone standing around one they probably wouldn’t have a clue.

“It has nothing to do with internment which was on the ninth.”

When asked if he condemned the burning of flags, he said: “I condemn that. There was a survey done in one area and 67 per cent of the people rejected it, said they didn’t want it.”

Derry City and Strabane District Council organised a clean-up to start first thing on Sunday morning.

A spokesperson told the ‘Journal’ that Council “has been working closely with all statutory agencies and community organizations in the area over the past number of weeks in an effort to resolve issues and concerns over bonfires in the Bogside area.

“Agreement to pursue with the bonfires is a matter for the communities involved and Council is there to provide support and advice to reduce the risk to public safety and minimize damage to the local environment.

“As a result of the decision to proceed with the bonfire, the Council has contingency plans in place to minimize the risk to the public, these include providing temporary fencing to protect local residents and property, having cleansing staff in place to remove offending debris and materials first thing on Sunday morning, as well grounds maintenance staff on standby to re-turf the area once the ground has cooled down.”