THE £84k bill to Craigavon Council for cleaning up after Eleventh Night bonfires over five years is second highest in Northern Ireland and higher than Belfast.
The ‘astronomical’ bill to ratepayers was lambasted by SDLP Councillor Declan McAlinden who said the huge cost of the clear ups is ‘unjustified’.
Mr McAlinden said: “The £83,864 spent is unjustifiable. However, none of the costs quantify the damage to community relations, the damage to people’s health, particularly children and elderly people and, of course, the harm the countless tyres, tins of paint and other toxic materials are doing to the environment.”
Figures released by Environment Minister Alex Attwood, Craigavon Council’s bill was second highest only to Newry and Mourne which spent £119,705 while Belfast was third highest with a £83,400 bill over five years.
“The real cost is horrendous and in many cases the bonfires are getting bigger with less supervision and higher risks to life and limb. There is little evidence that the Executive’s policy on Cohesion, Sharing and Integration is getting through to those who still want to promote division and difference,” said Mr McAlinden.
“As our assembly debates draconian measures to cut welfare benefits, close hospitals and nursing homes and shops are shutting in Lurgan/Craigavon area how on earth can anyone justify the cost massive clear-ups that must be undertaken each year?
“As a society we need to get real and find a more civilised way of celebrating events. The financial and environmental cost is too great and the opportunities for the purveyors of hate should be challenged more robustly by the councils that are picking up the bills for the mess afterwards.”
Fermanagh and Strabane councils claimed they had no costs while Armagh, Derry, Dungannon and North Down did not respond.
A Craigavon Borough Council spokesperson said: “Council provided figures over a five-year period to the Ministers Office which totalled £83,864.
“Craigavon Borough Council has worked tirelessly with local communities and community groups over the last ten years to reduce the environmental impact of bonfires by virtually eradicating the burning of tyres etc in the Craigavon area.
“Most bonfires consist mainly of wood, garden waste such as hedges, tree cuttings and pallets etc.”