Michael Staines
Michael Staines

16.09 15 Oct 2020


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A stand-off over an annual bonfire in the town of Shannon in County Clare has seen locals accuse the County Council of nanny-state tactics.

It comes after officials confiscated a cache of wood children had spent weeks collecting for the traditional Halloween bonfire.

On Lunchtime Live this afternoon, local man Damien said the children were heartbroken to see all their work carted away.

'Sanitisation of childhood' - Should bonfires be a thing of the past?

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“Let me put it this way,” he said. “Bonfires have been lit for 3,000 years and I don’t think the stroke of a pen by some unelected official in Clare County Council has the right to take away that tradition.

“This goes back pre-Christian. Halloween is one of the oldest festivals in the world. Not only is it important for us as a people, it is important for our children.

“It is one of the few times of the year that they go out and organise themselves to gather wood. It has been going on for years and it is an important part of growing up I would say.”

A Halloween bonfire in the Crumlin area of Dublin A Halloween bonfire in the Crumlin area of Dublin, 31-10-2011. Image: Mark Stedman/RollingNews

He said the council was called to remove a plastic slide and shed that someone had dumped beside the wood – but insisted the decision to confiscate all the wood marks another step in the "sanitisation of childhood" in Ireland.

“In the 1960s, I was going out to bonfires at seven-years-of-age collecting wood off a railway line while there were trains still running on it,” he said.

“Have we got to the stage where children can’t even go out and collect a bit of wood because they might fall and cut their knee?”

Tradition

He said modern society is preventing children from going out and experiencing the world on their own tow feet.

“When we were kids growing up, and my own children later, we would have played football on the street or hurling on the field,” he said.

“That doesn’t happen anymore. Now their parents bring them to a club where it is all organised. There is no sense of the children themselves, finding out who their leaders are or finding their strengths and weaknesses.

“It just doesn’t happen anymore and Halloween is one of the few things left where the kids go out on their own, they find the wood wherever they find it all over the place, they hide the wood and people from the next area try to take the wood and vice versa.

“It is a whole part of growing up where you get your knees dirty; where you are not driven to a place to pay money for someone to teach you something you really should be learning on the street.”

Trick-or-treat Nathan Hanley Stewart (5) and his little sister Sophie (3) stand near Halloween bonfires in the Crumlin area of Dublin, 31-10-2011. Image: Mark Stedman/RollingNews

Later in the show, Cyril Feeney, Senior Engineer with Clare County Council, said the burning of “any household, garden or commercial waste is illegal under the waste management act.”

“When our engineering crew attended that scene, what they found were aerosol cans, a bed base, plastic toys and some tyres so, I suppose, it was anything but a wooden bonfire,” he said.

“This was an effort by some people to dispose of unwanted household items.”

Halloween bonfires

He said local fire services are called out to bonfires every Halloween night.

“The emergency services get dispatched, they could potentially be on a more urgent call somewhere else or needed somewhere else but instead they are attending bonfires to quench them,” he said.

“We then ultimately have to come back in the days afterwards to clean up and we then have to come back again to replant, reseed and undo the damage caused by the bonfire.

“At a time when the public purse is under a lot of pressure, these are things we could definitely do without having to deal with.”

You can listen back here:

'Sanitisation of childhood' - Should bonfires be a thing of the past?

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    


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