BELFAST City Council is coming under fire for sponsoring two loyalist bonfires which have been lambasted by nationalists. At one, loyalist gunmen fired a volley of shots in the air and there was an obvious paramilitary presence. At the other, Daily Ireland reported: “But there is something rotten there, too, when on a bonfire in north Belfast a placard can be hoisted rejoicing in the suicide epidemic that has claimed the lives of so many young Catholic men in that part of the city.”Also, a PSNI officer was assaulted and his gun and radio were stolen at an east Belfast bonfire, although I believe the weapon was later returned. In Bangor, a woman was raped.
The DI editorial added:
It is often the case that people can bury their heads in the sand after another sectarian outrage by claiming that a tiny, unrepresentative minority was responsible. While a small number of people may have put that placard up, an entire community looked on for days and no-one stepped forward to take it down.
The bonfire was bankrolled by Belfast City Council. Given the long track record in the North of the authorities rewarding loyalist outrages, organisers of that bonfire will probably get twice the money next year.”
I think this was a genuine attempt by the Council to deal with the problems that surround some loyalist bonfires. Pitt Park – where the UVF staged their show of strength – was chosen because the scheme was intended not to be tokenist, according to Councillor Naomi Long.
However, the paramilitaries and bigots have now jeopardised the Council funding for the “community-based celebrations”. Surely the Council cannot justify releasing this money to the same groups next year?