€1.5m bill for bonfires 'will divert snow and ice funds'
LOCAL authorities will struggle to fund emergency responses to flooding, snow and ice in the coming weeks if they have to fork out more than €1.5m for a huge Halloween bonfires clean-up, council chiefs have warned.
The cost of extra fire fighting and clean-ups will further strain their already overstretched funds, they said.
Hubert Kearns, chairman of the County and City Managers' Association, said the expected spate of illegal bonfires over the weekend would put pressure on essential services.
He urged people to report any bonfires they saw being built.
This would help local authorities in preventing them from taking place and reducing the cost and effort of cleaning up the litter left behind in the aftermath.
"At this time of year, local authorities need to be able to prioritise responding to severe weather, such as the recent flooding."
"Repairing potholes and keeping roads open and safe if and when snow and ice arrive is what local authorities need to gear up to," Mr Kearns said.
"We will be under increased pressure to deliver these essential services if we have to spend large sums of money on dealing with illegal bonfires and clearing up the estimated 1,250 tonnes of litter left behind in the aftermath."
He said that in many areas fire services had to deal with up to seven times more callouts on Halloween than during an average night.
The figure was even higher in cities and urban areas.
Sample figures from local authorities show that well in excess of €1.5m was spent last year for extra fire-fighting and clean-ups and repairs as a result of illegal bonfires and fireworks.
Many local authorities organise and support Halloween events for families and teenagers to provide an alternative to illegal bonfires.
These are generally advertised locally.
Meanwhile, Environment Minister Phil Hogan has launched a new campaign to remind people to recycle their old batteries.
It is estimated that if each person were to bring one battery back for recycling to their retailer, even without purchasing new ones, or to their local recycling centre, some 100 tonnes would be diverted from Ireland's landfills.