The removal of traditional St John's Night bonfires on Achill Island last week by Mayo County Council and private contractors, was raised by Fianna Fáil Cllr Paul McNamara at the June meeting of the Westport-Belmullet Municipal District this week.
Cllr McNamara described the removal of the bonfires as "an insult to the people of the parish". He went on to tell the meeting: "We all know that the bonfire tradition on June 23 is a tradition that has gone on for years, from grandfathers to fathers to sons and daughters. It's known that, what will go on a bonfire? Anything that will burn, that's what."
Cllr McNamara went on to say that he himself saw a bonfire being removed from the village of Dugort, and that thousands of euro were spent on a contractor being hired to come in and dismantle the bonfires and take material out, 'because somebody made a phone call and at a click of the fingers it was done'.
What really annoyed Cllr McNamara, he said, was the cost of such work being done, 'when the money could be better spent' he believed 'in providing services at tourist destinations around the island, like toilet facilities', but he said he's been told there is money for that.
He told the meeting: "Within two miles of that bonfire, we have the Golden Strand blue flag beach and we still have no toilets, we have the Deserted Village where hundreds of tourists visit each day and no toilets and we know where they are going to the toilets, it is in the houses of the deserted village, that is the reality.
"We have bottle banks that are overflowing and yet they can come and dismantle bonfires. To me somebody in authority needs to wake up and get the simple things done and then by all means protect the environment; when we can't protect the environment on a daily basis, don't set aside one day a year and think we are protecting the environment."
Responding to Cllr McNamara, director of services for Mayo County Council, Catherine McConnell, said that she and others in the municipal district office were unaware of the removal of the bonfires and could see how it would cause upset to the locals and suggested that for their next meeting, Martin Keating, head of environment for the council, address the members and he would be able to answer questions on it.