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Crackdown after €66k Cork bonfire clean-up

A BAN on unregulated bonfires in Cork city is set to be enforced as part of a major clampdown on the annual tradition after the council revealed it paid out over €66,000 to clean up after this year's fires.

The city council will take criminal proceedings in future where breaches of environmental law can be proven, and encourage communities to buy into the concept of allowing only regulated bonfires, a new report has suggested.

The measures are among several proposed by city manager Joe Gavin in a fresh effort to prevent the mayhem which erupted in parts of the city during last June 23's traditional Bonfire Night celebrations.

The night was marred by violence, drunkenness and vandalism. Fire crews, who dealt with 70 fires on the night, were pelted with stones and bottles. Some of the fire engines were damaged.

The Garda Public Order Unit had to be deployed in a Douglas estate after a gang of close to 100 youths gathered at an unsupervised fire.

Lord Mayor Dara Murphy pledged to ensure such mayhem will never happen again and he called for a report to be compiled.

A detailed 26-page document, which also reveals the massive clean-up costs associated with bonfire night, will be presented to councillors tonight. It shows that the cash-strapped council had to fork out €66,372 to remove and landfill rubbish created by over 130 recorded bonfires.

It spent just over €15,000 on the hire of four diggers and eight dumpers. Labour costs were almost €10,000. It cost an incredible €40,000 to landfill the waste.

In previous years, council workers mounted operations at 6am to remove stockpiled material on the days leading up to bonfire night. But the report says that budget cutbacks, particularly around overtime, prevented similar dawn swoops this year.

It resulted in a greater number and considerably larger bonfires than previous years.

The report also details the worst affected areas. Eleven fires were lit in Maple Place in Togher. There were 10 fires in Sunvalley Drive in Gurranabraher.

Mr Gavin said, on the other hand, almost 8,000 people attended council organised and supervised family-friendly ‘safe' bonfire night celebrations.

The regulated bonfire project started in 2008. It was expanded this year and the city spent over €28,000 on nine community-centred events run under strict health and safety guidelines.

The fires were made of cleanly sourced fuel and usually burned for no more than an hour.

Up to 40 community groups were involved, with over 150 volunteers working to ensure the events ran smoothly.

Cllr John Buttimer, who attended one of the supervised bonfires, said it's time for communities to stand up and be counted. "It's also crucial that city funding for the supervised bonfires continues for between five to 10 years to ensure they become the established tradition."

Cllr Murphy admitted that enforcing a ban will be difficult. "But people must accept that there is a serious risk of injury from unregulated bonfires," he said.

The report will be discussed tonight and referred to a special policy committee which will bring final proposals to council later in the year.

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