“I have no problem with the burning of a tricolour on top of a bonfire”

DUP MLA Paul Girvan (PG below) did an interview with Frank Mitchell (FM) this afternoon where he expounded upon his ideas about bonfires and burning the Irish tricolour. I’ve included a transcript below, rather than comment, other than he may have got this memo, but he didn’t get this one (and he probably burnt the one from Chris).  That first link brings you to the full audio.

FM: Ballyduff is only one of many bonfires which may or may not have an effigy, do you have an opinion on whats going on the top of a bonfire?
PG: Well, I might well have. At an early part of the meeting yesterday I thought I might be on top of the bonfire … heh heh … I do honestly think that it is vitally important that our culture … and I come from a society that this is part of their culture, to have an eleventh night bonfire. And yes, what goes into that bonfire is important and yes, some people will feel it is perfectly alright to put a flag of a foreign nation which at one time, and lets be honest about this, until relatively recently they were claiming they had some right over Northern Ireland…
FM: Do you think it is okay?
PG: I have no problem with the burning of a tricolour on top of a bonfire, lets be honest … heh heh … I am going to make not apologies for that but, you know, that’s the flag of a foreign country as far as I am concerned….
FM: Can you not look at it another way, Paul, you’re an MLA at Stormont…
PG: …yep….
FM: … you are forever liaising with TDs in Dublin, this foreign country that you talk about, cross-border trade and we could list the links between Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland from now to the ten o’clock news….
PG: …we have very strong….
FM: …cross-border trade, cross-border travel, the inter-action, the family ties etc etc, but yet and all as a public representative you think it is okay to burn their national flag on the bonfire at the bottom of your street or wherever it is?
PG: Can I say, I have seen this go on now and this activity is being blown out of all proportion. There are bonfires in August as well where the union flag is burnt and such like…
FM: Is that acceptable?
PG: It can be seen to be provocative. It can be very much seen to be provocative. Yes, we are moving forward. I am just saying it does happen on bonfires and on many occasions … its not … its … the people who built the bonfires are not necessarily … they’re saying this is not something that we want to see ruling over us and many other message. If conversations take place, I think there is an opportunity for people to learn about each other’s culture and where things come from and why certain things happen. And yes, if it causes offence, to debate that in a proper forum with those who are involved and I think a lot of young people, yes they need to see there is a differing opinion and they have to respect differences. And that is something that comes about through maturity. And I am saying that, until relatively recently … North… the Republic of Ireland did have a claim over Northern Ireland in relation to Articles 2 and 3 of their own constitution. So I am saying that that is something that yes some people hark back to and still see. You know those are points that still need to be brought forward and explained to people so that you see it. As I say there are a lot of things, you’ll end up with a Lundy being burnt on top of the bonfire. Depending on who the builder is it all depends on what way it is going and the way it goes and the way we have and many people say, you know, the celebrations in England, there would be bonfires in England, in October, and those bonfires, some of the bonfire put a Guy on it, what they call a Guy, because it is Guy Fawkes. Those are some the points, people say, what was that all about? It was about him trying to bring down our mother Parliament. You know, those are some of the areas that need to be discussed and brought forward. But lets look at the positives here. We have had an agreement within this community of where we are moving with this bonfire. It has been good for the local community and also the … I.. F… the guys who were involved in the bonfire have moved dramatically and all tyres have been removed from the bonfire. And can I say that is a great. And those promises that were made yesterday have to be upheld and kept and delivered.

FM: Yes

PG:That’s what has to happen.

FM: As a local representative you managed to make progress there. As a member of the largest party in our government and at a time when are talking about a shared future and a shared space. People would maybe surprised to hear you say that it is okay to burn the flag, when you could be leading from the front and say you were sensible enough to move the bonfire from the properties and sensible enough to take the tyres out of it for the health and safety of the local community. And now, as we look to the future, why not stop burning the effigies and make the bonfire a more welcoming environment.

PG: That is something we will be taking a lead on and moving ahead on, eh, but we never, you know, its extremely difficult sometimes to put forward that argument whenever people see their culture being eroded day and daily. They start to fight back and, can I say, part of the reason the bonfires are so larger this year is as a results of the flags protest and the decision that was made in Belfast city hall. And that has had a knock-on effect within our area and my community. And I think, you know, that has to be recognised. And there are those who need to realise just how dangerous these things can be and how that can happen. It doesn’t necessarily have an effect … you know … just on one section of the community. In fact … and now we are dealing with the aftermath of that where we have things at a more tense with bonfires than I have ever seen.