COMMUNITY apprehensions over the siting of bonfires in some loyalist estates come to the fore at this time of year in the run up the Twelfth celebrations and it is vitally important that proper safety measures are taken in all cases.
This week residents in Newtownabbey and Antrim raised concerns over the size and the potential dangers of bonfires on their doorsteps and they have appealed to local councillors and the various statutory bodies to help reduce their legitimate anxieties.
Bonfire building has become a tradition in many loyalist working class communities, with intense rivalry increasingly building up between groups on who can erect the biggest one in the borough.
This may be an accepted ritual by those loyalists who see Eleventh Night bonfires as an integral part of their culture, but commonsense and good safety practice should be observed to ensure that events around the fires pass off peacefully, without injury and damage to nearby residential property.
Over recent years, some district councils have organised the lighting of beacons on centralised public spaces and, carefully monitored by appropriate safety departments, these have brought much enjoyment in communities where they are located.
The organisation of these type of events cannot be solely the remit of those who collect material and light the bonfire.
The rights and concerns of the wider community have to be taken into consideration and swiftly acted upon should the siting of a bonfire be detrimental to the welfare of a neighbourhood.
It seems illogical to argue that a massive bonfire has been erected as part of loyalist culture when it is potentially a potent health hazard, with corrosive substances from tyres, and a risk to the homes of those who would broadly be of the same persuasion and thinking.
Proclaiming Ulster loyalist culture needs to be tempered with a large degree of responsibility and awareness.