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Anger at dismantling of Achill bonfires

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ANGER Achill councillor, Paul McNamara.

Councillor says move was ‘an insult to the people of the parish’

Anton McNulty

AN Achill councillor has expressed his anger that Mayo County Council spent ‘thousands of euro’ dismantling a bonfire and yet cannot provide toilets for beaches on the island.
Officials from the environmental department of Mayo County Council, along with private contractors, called to bonfire sites on Achill Island last week to remove items deemed harmful to the environment, ahead of the annual St John’s Night bonfires.
The tradition of lighting bonfires on June 23 is still active on the island with communities in villages gathering items to be thrown on the bonfire to be lit.
Achill councillor Paul McNamara said he witnessed officials remove items from one bonfire in the village of Dugort and described what happened as ‘an insult to the people of the parish’.
“We all know that the bonfire on June 23 is a tradition which has gone on for years and years from grandfathers to fathers to sons and daughters. It is widely known what will go on a bonfire, anything that will burn. That’s what.
“There was thousands spent on a private contractor to dismantle the bonfire by taking material out of them. At the click of the fingers because that is exactly what was done, a phone call was made and a private contractor came down there with a lorry and tore the bonfire apart,” he told the monthly meeting of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District.
Cllr McNamara added that he was not against the protection of the environment but was annoyed that money could be spent dismantling a bonfire and yet he has asked for toilets at tourist destinations and is told there isn’t the money for them.
No toilets
“Within a two-mile radius of that bonfire we have the Golden Strand blue flag beach and still no toilets on it. We have the Slievemore Deserted Village where hundreds of tourists visit and no toilets there. We know where those people go to the toilets, its within those deserted houses and that’s the reality of it.
“We have bottle banks overflowing and yet they can dismantle bonfires. To me someone in authority needs to wake up and get the simple things right here and then by all means protect the environment. When we cannot protect the environment on a daily basis, please don’t set aside one day of year thinking we are protecting the environment.”
Director of Services, Catherine McConnell said she and others in the municipal district office were unaware of the incident but could see why it may have caused upset. She suggested that Martin Keating, Head of the Environment with Mayo County Council, address the municipal district where he will be able to answer matters regarding environmental issues.
Cllr McNamara’s comments were supported by a number of his fellow councillors who felt there was more for the council to be doing than dismantling bonfires. There was also calls for Mr Keating to address the environmental issues affecting beaches in the Westport region and why they can not secure a blue flag.