A South Antrim MLA has hit out at what he described as “rogue bonfires” after visiting a number of sites in the Antrim town area this week.
Sinn Fein Assemblymena Declan Kearney referred to bonfire sites at Dublin Road, Ballycraigy and Rathkyle, and said they are “unregulated and organised by small unrepresentative and unaccountable groups”.
“These are rogue bonfires which have absolutely no cultural purpose,” Mr Kearney said.
He added: “They are a scourge upon, and an invasion of community life where they are imposed.
“The bonfires in these estates are being built on common ground without permission or wider community consent. They are an environmental eyesore and constitute rubbish tips being left literally on people’s doorsteps since the gathering of materials began months ago.”
Mr Kearney added: “The scenes I examined especially at Dublin Road are an absolute disgrace.
“No section of the community should have to put up with such abuse and wanton disregard for the maintenance and upkeep of residential areas.”
He added that all of these bonfires pose a “massive threat” to the local environment.
“The mass accumulation of rubber tyres in Ballycraigy for burning is a particular cause for concern, not only in that estate but also the wider Antrim area,” Mr Kearney said.
He added: “Such rogue bonfires in Antrim have become synonymous with the most obscene sectarian and other forms of hate crime, specifically the burning of election posters, effigies and other cultural or political symbols.
“The resulting negative damage to the town’s reputation and community relations is unacceptable.”
Mr Kearney said he will be writing to the PSNI to request that “appropriate policing measures” are put in place in the lead up to the 12th July to ensure that no hate crimes are allowed to be perpetrated this year on, or in the immediate vicinity of these bonfire sites, and if necessary to ensure that prosecutions are brought forward.