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Health fears over burning tyres

11 July 07 05:10 GMT

Fears are growing that serious health and environmental damage could be caused when a huge bonfire in Antrim is lit on 11 July.

The bonfire on the Ballycraigy estate contains hundreds of rubber tyres and dwarfs nearby houses.

Bonfires are lit on 11 July to celebrate loyalist culture in towns across Northern Ireland.

But loyalists at Stoneyford in Lisburn have exchanged the traditional bonfire for a medieval-style beacon.

Resident Mark Harbinson said the beacon would be lit in a steel basket at the top of a 25ft support column.

Ballycraigy residents said that apart from damage to the environment, they could also suffer from effect of toxic fumes from the burning tyres.

Anne Blacker, of the DoE's Environmental Crime Team, said the bonfires issue "had caused a lot of frustration".

She said lack of funding and difficulty in persuading witnesses to come forward "made it increasingly difficult for her organisation to bring people before the courts for burning tyres and pallets on eleventh night bonfires".

Ulster Unionist councillor Drew Ritchie said they would work to ensure next year's fire would be tyre-free.

Councillor Ritchie, who is head of the town's bonfire committee, said: "I don't think it would be practical to say there were would no tyres this year in Ballycraigy."

"We will be re-constituting our committee again in September and we will be working hard to try to ensure that next year, we have a better and safer environment."

The SDLP's Thomas Burns said the bonfire was extremely dangerous "not only for those in its immediate vicinity but also for the environment".

"It is even more shocking that certain people are intimidating council workers and those who want to see the bonfire removed," he said.

Mark Harbinson said the Stoneyford beacon was a "genuine attempt to move away from the traditional bonfire".

"It's the only one in Northern Ireland at the moment but I'm hoping the idea will spread in coming years," he said.

The bonfires are lit on the eve of 12 July, which is the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne at which the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James.

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