Organisers of the contentious Ballycraigy bonfire in Antrim have taken the first steps in going tyre free for the first time.
The Ballycraigy bonfire has made national headlines over the years over the scale and vast amount of tyres being burnt.
Just last year, the towering structure collapsed under its own weight.
But now, the Ballycraigy Bonfire Committee say they are keen to address the local community’s concerns over the burning of tyres and are making efforts to go tyre free.
Indeed, just last Thursday, the bonfire organisers successfully turned away a 40-foot container of tyres that had been sent to the area by persons unknown, keen to dispose of tyres illegally.
A statement from the Ballycraigy Bonfire Committee says they have approached local authorities, the loyal orders, clergy and politicians in order to take on board the concerns of the greater Muckamore community regarding the 11th night celebrations.
The statements adds that “as a collective, the young people from the area who annually put so much of their time and efforts into what has become one of Northern Ireland’s largest cultural displays, are keen to address the concerns from our community”.
“We are therefore proposing to desist from permitting the fly-tipping of tyres etc this year at the Ballycraigy site,” the statement continues.
The bonfire organisers are also calling on residents to help prevent further fly-tipping incidents.
“We would encourage local residents to log the vehicle details of anyone they see dumping undesirable items at the site and report it to Antrim Borough Council,” the statement from the Ballycraigy Bonfire committee adds.
The statement continues: “We trust our best efforts to take into account the feelings and values of local residents along with assistance from Antrim Borough Council and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive will go some way to improving relations.
“It is generally accepted by many that this area has suffered neglect for many years by the powers that be and is in need of long term and sustainable regeneration.”
The statement adds that “after months of debate”, the committee wishes to thank both the Traditional Unionist Voice’s Richard Cairns “for his patience and determination in brokering a deal between the many stakeholders” and Ian Suiter from Antrim Borough Council’s “for optimism and general guidance”.
The news of the Ballycraigy Bonfire Committee’s decision was welcomed by Mr Cairns, who said the issue of burning tyres on the 11th night bonfire had been brought up time and time again by the Ballycraigy community.
“The 11th of July is an evening of cultural celebration and Ballycraigy is not only the most spectacular in Antrim, but across Northern Ireland,” Mr Cairns said.
He added: “It is with this in mind that every effort needs to be made to ensure the atmosphere is family friendly, but most importantly safe for residents and all those in attendance.
“There is a desire to see an end to the burning of tyres, and having met with representatives of the community I am encouraged by the determination to put Ballycraigy on the map for all the right reasons.
“Therefore, I welcome the progress being made by the Ballycraigy Bonfire Committee and hope it can continue.
“I will do whatever I can to assist, it is now up to all involved to listen to the wider community and bring back the 11th night that all the family can enjoy.”
Several years ago, Antrim Borough Council established a bonfire committee, aimed at addressing the burning of tyres on 11th night bonfires.
A number of sites signed up to the council’s plans and the current chair of the committee, Alderman Drew Ritchie says he hopes Ballycraigy can now come on board and work with the council.
“I applaud the work which has taken place within the community to get to this stage and I hope we can continue to move forward,” Ald. Ritchie said.
He added: “It is welcome news that the organisers are keen to move away from the burning of tyres and as chair of the council’s bonfire committee, I would be keen to see them come on board and work with the council.”