A Spanish lesson for the 11th Night?

Despite official disdain, the 11th night bonfire tradition remains strong in working class communities. However, could the bonfires be married with a more creative process by learning from the Las Fallas festival in Spain?

UPDATE: The BBC reports the Orange Order, as well as seeking to meet with the SDLP, have been talking to the Northern Ireland Events Company about complimentary events for the Twelfth.

  • qubol

    not a hope in hell. sectarianism is so deeply rooted in the 11th night tradition and that of the twelfth that to reinvent would be probably mean taking away many of the things that give it its meaning. I know loyalsts who love the 11th night – and the reasons they love it for are exactly the reasons why so many others will never accept it – burning the pope/tri-colour etc. You could spend a lot of money and try to spin the 11th night into something else but you’d get nowhere – at least not for a long, long time until Orangeism and the whole twelfth period loses its association with violence and trouble.

  • Kathy_C

    posted by Kathy C

    Hi all,

    qubol, You are so right! The 11th wouldln’t be the same if the loyalist couldn’t burn the pope in effigy …and get themselves all hyped up for the next day marching in truimph into Catholic neighborhoods.

    I mentioned once on the Danny Morrison board that in all fairness the republicans should be able to march into loyalist neighborhoods to celebrate the republican military victory of the assasination of Montbatten…but we know that would never be allowed and you can just imagine how awful I was told I was…but I just see it as what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

  • gg

    Cathy C.

    Not that I’m a fan of the 11th night, but I’m not quite sure how killing Mountbatten equates to the Williamite War in Ireland. Bit of an obtuse comparison.


  • Mick Fealty

    These things can have a way of changing over time. Simon Hoggart:

    “It’s like the way they still burn an effigy of the Pope in Lewes, Sussex. It may not be an appealing sight. You might even find it offensive, but you can’t deny that it’s a cherished old tradition, and it’s fun to warm your hands at the blaze”.

    Who’s to say a concerted shove in the right direction wouldn’t help?

  • TL

    …and perhaps they can come to an agreement about which pope to burn…maybe one of the ‘bad popes’ would bring about fewer hurt feelings.

    I’m joking of course, but the jist of it is that it takes time and all sorts of effort to move in the right direction.

  • tra g

    We could have a ‘themed’ loyalist paramilitary show of strength at this years bonfires.

    The uvf would appear at midnight dressed as matadors and do a quick flamenco before firing automatic weapons to the ole’s of their adoring fans.

    Banners mocking the victims of suicide at this years bonfires would be written in Spanish, so as not to offend grieving relatives.

    Rangers,Linfield & n.i football tops could be replaced by Barcelona, Madrid & Spain tops.

    A dry chardonnay from the vineyards of Priorat in Barcelona in the blue off-licence bag instead of a bottle of Buckfast and cheap vodka.

    Sounds like a great night.

    You never know, Belfast city Council might even fund the event.

  • Fair Deal

    trag qubol kathy c


  • observer

    as the pope, the papacy and the cahtolic church are declared anti-protestant then why not burn an effigy on a declared enemy?

  • Doctor Who

    [See commenting policy – edited moderator]

  • TL

    Why not go a step further and fashion a voodoo doll? Why burn ’em once if you can make ’em suffer forever?

    Seriously, isn’t this the thinking we are trying to get past?

  • TL

    That was rude.

  • Valenciano

    Interesting idea Fair Deal however the Fallas of Valencia are a world away from the stuff in NI with its petty divisiveness. There could also be huge problems with the effigies for example in 2004 one of the main ones featured the ex PM Aznar done up as a rock singer, while last years had Bush and Blair on a nuclear warhead. Amusingly Bush and Blair took forever to burn with Bush waving almost provocatively to the crowd as the rest went up in smoke.

    I’d suggest that NI would need a hell of a lot more political consensus before they could get around to including politicos in such a spectacle, don’t you?

  • SlugFest

    i think Fair Deal’s idea has a lot of merit, though sadly it’s a bit before it’s time.

    the thing is, bonfires still fair strongly in nationlalist communities. i was at the west belfast feile a couple years back, which strongly promotes community activities INSTEAD of street bonfires (in remembrance of internmment), so perhaps a mid-june dual-community bonfire … at city hall?

    granted, it would take years for the adults to join in, but if the city council made it something for the children, you never know what could happen 20 years down the line.

    that’s the thing both communities have to think of: the children … and whether or not to pass on current prejudices to the next generation.

  • Doctor Who

    I have not broken the commenting policy Slugger.

    I was highlighting the absolute nonsense and hatred spouted by Kathy C.

    The insult cpuld be seen as satirical as I used the $$ signs highlighting the contributors nationality.

    I have posted on this sight..received threats, had my religion denegraded, had people deny to me the very existence of the holocaust.

    Why am I now being censored for highlihting a disgraceful post by Kathy C who quite clearly is rejoicing in the murder of Lord Mountbatten.

    If I have broken commenting rules well I suggest you dissolve the site as you will have to censor everyone.

    I demand my original post be reinstated.

  • SlugFest

    addendum, as my thoughts came out a bit rough. what i meant to make clear was …

    – bonfires still fair strongly in BOTH communities

    – while walking home from the feile on August 9th, i noticed a street bonfire in the St. Peter’s/Pound Loney area, though the feile organizers try to discourage such activities

  • Rose Tyler

    How dare you censor the good doctor.

  • zack

    “bonfires still fair strongly in BOTH communities”

    Very few bonfires in nationalist areas these days, the one you refer to, is the only one in Belfast, i think.

    Everyone else have moved on.

  • SlugFest


    No one in Belfast has moved on … that’s the problem.

    would you not agree to a cross-community event geared toward children? if not bonfires, then an annual snowball fight (er … bad choice of words?) — winter festival? sure, the snow never shows up but fake snow could always be used.

  • missfitz

    Well, at the bonfire on the 11th night in Rathfriland last year, the Pope was not burned in effigy. There was a poster of Catriona Ruane perched prettily on top of the conflagration.

    It was obvious that there was a real attempt at being diverse.

    And by the way, I found Kathy C’s comments beneath contempt and quite offensive. I have really been enjoying some of the convesations recently, but I think that if thats the nature of the post, you should stick with poor Danny’s message board. (Not that I think Danny would much appreciate it)

  • Doctor Who


    You are quite right Kathy C´s comments are a disgrace, what is as bad is that slugger has seen to defend her by removing post number 9.

  • missfitz

    I’m not getting drawn into that, as I did not see the comment. In any case, as the moderator, I think the slug people have an absolute right to remove or modify any comments they find seriously objectionable or potentially libellous.

    Mind you, KathyC’s comments arent too far from that. My stomach turns now to see the murder of an old man and a child as a republican military victory. That does nothing but sully the name of republicanism

  • SlugFest

    Doctor Who & MissFitz,

    I’m in complete agreement. You should know, though, that Kathy C will never again post on Danny Morrison’s site, so she’s stuck here. (her sister got kicked off Morrison’s forum, and Kathy threw a temper tantrum saying she’d never again post on his site)

  • missfitz

    Arent we the lucky ones?

  • Rose Tyler

    Where did the good doctors last post go to.

    If anyone should be censored it should be Kathy C, she is rude, obnoxious, very offensive and hmm American.

  • qubol

    Mick: Like the way they still burn an effigy of the Pope in Lewes, Sussex.
    Sussex doesnt have our history, nor does their Bonfire herald the start of a triumphalist, sectarian Twelfth of July.

    Fair Deal: BIG YAWN
    Not really, you asked the question – can you not see the deep rooted sectarianism in the Twelfth of July?

  • DK

    In theory Guy Fawkes night in Britain could be perceived as being anti-catholic (since it was the defeat of a half-baked conspiracy to replace the king with a Catholic that is celebrated). However, it is now an event for all faiths.

    The best that can be done with the 11th is for the council to sponsor a few official cross community ones – with no potentially offensive imagery a lá St Patrick’s day – and hold them in a neutral venue that catholics can get easy access to – followed/preceded by a firework display for the kiddies. If the official bonfires are better than the usual flaming piles of stinking sofas and tyres, then maybe they will be more popular as people vote with their feet.

    As for Kathy_C – she is a troll & thrives on provocation. Best to ignore.

  • Realist

    “My stomach turns now to see the murder of an old man and a child as a republican military victory. That does nothing but sully the name of republicanism”

    Kathy C is not a republican.

    Child killing, and glorification of same, is not a republican ideal.

  • missfitz

    There was a spotlight programme last year or the year before that took a look at the importance of the bonfire ritual within communities. I remember being deeply affected by that show at the time.

    It brought home how central to the community the buidling of the bonfire is, and how much local pride and energy is instilled in it. The site becomes a community centre for a time with sofas and chairs and everyone coming together.

    When the flames are lit, there is a sense of real loss as the focus of life is gone for another 10 months.

    I think there is a message here for community leaders who need to identify a gap for areas and attempt to implement good strategies for social inclusion.

    Personally, on an environmental level I would prefer not to have bonfires, and I think they are quite hazardous on a number of levels. As in many areas though, before you remove a negative factor, you need to have your positive factor lined up and ready to roll

  • hovetwo

    It would be nice to think that the festivities surrounding the 12th could become a cross-community celebration of civil and religious liberty – after all, the Pope of the time did support William over James, who seems to have been a complete prat (Patrick Sarsfield was a much more heroic character).

    Impossible to make it fly if Catholics are not marching as well…. Have any of the Orders suggested that non-political Catholic bands could parade? Maybe at the Boyne initially, with battle reenactments for old military duffers in the same spirit as the US Civil War, and the inevitable summer school (piss-up) about the Boyne, the Siege(s), the Penal Laws and what it all really means nowadays (hic). Sponsored by Buckfast?

  • Who’s after me money now? I’ll tell you what I told world vision… feck off!

  • TL

    “…and hmm American”

    Don’t blame America for that, thanks.

  • Valenciano

    However in fairness I do feel duty bound to point out that the Fallas is not the all inclusive event that everyone makes it out to be. True all can go to watch, but to be a “Fallero” (an organiser or someone who can take part in the costume wearing business) in practice you need to be from Valencia or married to someone who is. This cuts a lot of people , mainly immigrants but also those from other parts of Spain, out of much of the process (which takes place all year round with dinners, social events etc.)

    Further every year there is a “Fallera Mayor” a kind of woman president. This position carries no salary so in order to ascend to it you need to be pretty well off to buy the costumes and jewellery etc as well as speak Valencian language which those outside of Valencia do not.

  • On the topic in question. Didn’t some Loyalists try to have a 12th of july March in Benidorm last year and the Spanish police or the local council, “La comission de las desfiles lealistas”, not allow the parade to proceed?
    I do remember visiting Benidorm a few years back and coming across a surreal site of a loyalist bar with all the flags and regalia on a narrow Spanish beige coloured street in full sunshine, now that’s a mad TRIP!

  • andy

    fair play for fair deal
    at least he’s trying to think positively.

    If I was an Irish Republican I’d be thinking of ways of running with this…

    If you could show how the 12th coule be made more palatable and accepted into a predominantly nationalist entity you would have made some progress to an united ireland.

    Just an English view…

  • Dave

    The 11th Bone fire night has got out of control there is no denying that fact. The destruction left behind by many of these Bone-fires, the tax payer has to stump up the money for the repairs to roads and houses.

    The 11th night has now become a night of irresponsibility and it is time that (we) the Protestant community take time to sort the various problems associated with bone-fire night.

    I would like to add that many years ago (1960s) in a place called Ligoniel the 11th night was celebrated by both communities, in fact had it not been for the Catholics of Ligoniel there would not have been an 11th night bone-fire.

    I remember the days of Protestants and Catholics staunch one at that sitting around the bone-fire singing Orange and Rebel the Irish Flag was never set on fire but the poor old (guypope) was always given a cheer by both parties when it burst into flames.

    If we were able to celebrate together in the days gone by then sometime in the future we will be able to celebrate together again. The first thing that needs to take place is to stop the burning of the Irish Flag.

    And yes it is called Bone-Fire and not Bonfire?

  • Doctor Who


    You are almost right. Every year for the last 10 years there has been a mini parade in Benidorm on the 12th of July. Last year they where refused permission for it but still went a head with the organiser fined ~€6k.

    This action was prompted by two bars in the area who of course have no objection to 30k Celtic fans visiting Benidorm this May. I also know that Sinn Fein activists where present at the march.

    What I find surprising about your post is you think it is perfectly reasonable to find an Irish bar in Benidorm but not a Northern Ireland bar.


  • Well, good Doctor.
    Firstly, the area and the vicinity it was in was unusual a sunny narrow cobbled windy pedestian street, and i suppose, if I saw a bar dedicated to the shetland islands or yorkshire or a province of norway or holland I would have gasped in awe at that as well. Or a bar celebrating Munster culture even.
    But this was more of an orange/loyalist bar celebrating loyalism, the somme, king billy, the battle of the boyne, quotations from the bible etc rather than a bar celebrating all of N Ireland. Anyway i wasn’t offended by it, more bemused.
    Another question, what would a true N Ireland cross-community bar consist of? Not just one celebrating the culture of one side.
    By the way when I’m abroad I try to avoid irish bars from north or south because they’re too bloody expensive and the stout is too watery.
    Adios amigo.

  • Doctor Who


    A decent explanation, but on the same street there is a Norway Bar.

    The bar you are talking about is the Golden Last and there is two of them in Benidorm, I agree with you in the respect that they do celebrate one side of the Northern Ireland identity. However that is the side that has been alienated and demonised by the other.

    What they don´t do is play the Sash at the end of night. However go to the Shamrock bar in Benidorm and if you don´t stand to the soldier song at the end of the night, expect a beating.

    But you are quite right Irish bars worldwide should be avoided as they are much too expensive and the stout is crap.

    Ach but sure isn´t the craic just marvellous YAWN! YAWN!

  • Realist

    “Another question, what would a true N Ireland cross-community bar consist of? Not just one celebrating the culture of one side”


    You should come up to Northern Ireland some time – we’ve hundreds of such bars where nobody asks your politics or religion on the way in, and nobody gives a flying one about it either whilst you’re downing your refreshment of choice.

    You may even find some with Murphys on draught – just what any true Corkonian would need.

  • greg

    The bar in question was a regular watering hole of former uda commander Jim ‘doris Day’ Gray.

  • SlugFest

    Realist & Corkonian,

    and may i add, as a humble outsider (er … American), that the best craic in the entire island can be found in the city centre (ie — for the most part, ‘cross-community’) of Belfast.

  • Gaylord


    Did you regularly attend the bar with Doris Day.
    I´m just curious how you know he was a regular in the said bar.

  • kathy c

    posted by Kathy C

    Hi all,

    I wonder how many Catholic old men and boys were killed in the battle of the Boyne that the loyalist celebrate with marching and bonfires?

    I also wonder what would be the response to effigies of the head of the anglican church…the queen of england being burnt in Catholic neighborhoods and called a great fun tradition. I even wonder about the legality of it…if it would ‘legally’ be allowed or considered treason or terrorist or something else.

    I was showing what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

  • untermenschen

    “You should come up to Northern Ireland some time – we’ve hundreds of such bars where nobody asks your politics or religion on the way in, and nobody gives a flying one about it either whilst you’re downing your refreshment of choice.”

    Its only when you go to the bogs it can get a bit tricky and leaving the bar is decidedly dangerous.
    A Cork accent? – you wouldn’t last 10 minutes waiting for the taxi.