Groundwork Northern Ireland has been delivering on Belfast City Council's Bonfire Management Programme for the past five years. Thirty communities across Belfast are now engaged in minimising the negative environmental impact of their bonfires, promoting family friendly festivals and engaging in discussions around cultural traditions & the impact of bonfires on Nationalist and minority ethnic communities.
Key measures of success have been a reduction in call outs for both the PSNI & the Fire Service to sites involved in the programme compared to non-involved sites, a reduction in collection periods, less dumping at the targeted sites and effective efforts to tackle anti-social behaviour & tensions with neighbouring communities.
A particularly successful element of the programme this year was a series of discussion events between bonfire builders and panels comprised of Unionist politicians, representatives of the Nationalist community, Queen's University researchers, artists & statutory bodies.
Case study: Beacons
2009 has seen the demand for beacons as an alternative to traditional bonfires grow exponentially from last year's pilot burn in Woodvale, with beacons replacing bonfires at six sites in Belfast as well as at Tullygarley in Larne and in Ballyhalbert.
The beacon design was developed by Groundwork NI, following consultation with the community in Woodvale, and a growing recognition within Loyalist communities that bonfires need to evolve to reflect changing times.
In Tigers Bay, Groundwork NI's engagement with the local community has seen the replacement of a large bonfire on the interface with the New Lodge by a beacon within a play park at the centre of the area, leading to a dramatic reduction in the number of incidents associated with young people clashing around the interface site.
In Sunningdale, the decision of the community to replace their bonfire with a beacon has drastically reduced the fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour issues associated with the previous bonfire site over the past number of years.
In Roden Street off the Donegall Road, the use of a beacon has helped address the problem of the loss of traditional sites through housing development & played a key role in ongoing efforts to reduce interface tensions along the Westlink.