From last week’s North Down Spectator what, at first sight, appeared to be an insignificant piece of news:
EIGHT of Bangor’s eleventh night bonfire celebrations will now be deregulated, it has been revealed this week.
The Spectator understands that a total of eight local bonfires have now pulled out of the bonfire management programme following a dispute with North Down Borough Council.
This means that over half of the bonfires lit across the borough could be burning hazardous materials such as tyres, white goods such as fridge freezers and children’s nappies.
The council runs a Bonfire Management programme which awards grants of £1,200 to constituted groups, to host community celebrations in established sites.
The scheme aims to reduce anti-social behaviour, reduce the cost for the Fire Service and Housing Executive as well as reducing pollution by only using clean burn materials on the bonfires.
In truth, the bonfire question is, to pardon the pun, a smokescreen. The dispute apparently has escalated and in contrast to the timescale employed by them during last week’s events in East Belfast, the loyalist paramilitaries have helpfully already outlined which of their grievances will be responsible for any outbreaks of violence tomorrow night:
1. The DUP controlled North Down Council, which has “betrayed the loyalist community”
2. The “mismanagement” by the Council of “European peace money”
3. The “politicians at Stormont ignoring loyalist voices”.
To be fair, Point Two is a genuine point of concern and one which the council should have sorted out much quicker than it has done. And in contrast to popular stereotype, Bangor is not all three hundred grand apartments and professionals enjoying a chilled chablis with their smoked salmon; real pockets of social deprivation do exist alongside the undoubted opulence.
But how they expect the reality of hoisting up of literally hundreds of Union and N.Ireland flags on every available pole or lamp-post in the town and, more sinisterly, the threat to attack Catholic homes is going to solve those problems is well beyond my comprehension.
What adds to the volatility of the situation is that loyalist estates such as Kilcooley are home to many of the 2nd and even 3rd generation East Belfast folk who were rehoused by the authorities in the 1970s and 80s in (what is generally believed by loyalists anyway) an attempt to depopulate the “protestant” population from the flashpoint areas surrounding the Short Strand. Family connections and the inevitable folk memories, with all the potential danger that at the present time entails, remain strong.