Asbestos dumped at Cookstown bonfire sparks safety alert

Bonfire site at Monrush in Cookstown
Bonfire site at Monrush in Cookstown

A warning has gone out to bonfire builders across Mid Ulster to be on the look out for hazardous materials.

It follows the discovery of a large quantity of asbestos at an Eleventh Night bonfire site in Cookstown, which has been strongly condemned by local Ulster Unionist Councillor Trevor Wilson.

An alert resident raised the alarm about materials - believed to be a wooden chicken houses - on the Monrush estate, sparking a multi-agency response.

Describing it as a serious health and safety issue, a spokesperson for Mid Ulster District Council said whoever dumped the asbestos had shown "absolutely no regard for the safety of local people."

The former Chair of Mid Ulster Council said the lives of many young people were needlessly put at risk.

"Whoever dumped this asbestos showed a complete disregard for the health and wellbeing of young people building this bonfire," he said.

"I would appeal to anyone who has information to pass it to the PSNI as a matter of urgency."

Councillor Wilson added that no one wanted to see a repeat of the recent incident in Belfast when a young boy was critically injured by toxic chemicals left at a bonfire site.

While thanking all those involved in the multi-agency approach clean up the site, Councillor Wilson said he was disappointed it took six days for work at the site to be carried out.

PSNI Superintendent Mike Baird said: "Following concerns raised by local residents, police along with Mid Ulster District Council and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency identified a significant amount of asbestos waste that had been dumped near to the bonfire site at Monrush.

"Safety for everyone is paramount. While the physical removal of bonfire material is not a matter for police, we will assist other lead statutory partners if called upon to do so."

A spokesperson for the NI Environment Agency explained that they facilitate the removal of materials such as waste tyres and hazardous substances deposited at bonfire sites.

"In this instance, and at the request of Mid Ulster Council, the asbestos material found at the Monrush site has now been safely removed and appropriately disposed of," he said.

Mid Ulster Council is reminding local communities to celebrate safely by following good practice bonfire guidelines which are designed to protect and keep people safe. "The Council will continue to work closely with the local community and its partner agencies to address similar issues which arise in the coming months," the spokesperson added.