12th July: A cautionary tale of the social media rumour mill

Chris wrote a brilliant piece earlier in the week about Britishness and the many bonfires around the province that had posters of Anna Lo and Sinn Fein representatives on them ready to be burned. This form of deplorable sectarianism is not just corrosive to those who legitimately want to celebrate the 12th July but all of us who want to live in an open and diverse society.

However, not all of the muppetry that went on over this weekend did come courtesy of members of the Unionist community. Late on Friday night a rumours abounded social media that pictures of children were being burned on bonfires in Antrim, which quite quickly turned out not to be true. I was quickly reminded of the hilarious incident last St Patricks Day of certain Loyalists trolling pictures of British flags being burned claiming that it was taking place in Royal Ave, when in reality it happened in Iran and it was about five years ago.

Many people got burned on Friday night by promoting and declaring with such clarity that something had taken place which they had no proof of what so ever. It was truly a lesson for all of us, not to believe everything we read on Twitter, unless you have either a credible source or an image to back it up. What was most disturbing about the entire episode was that somebody actually thought it was a good idea to start a rumour that they had to know would eventually get back to a grieving family.

In other news, some others thought it would be a great idea to erect an Irish Tricolour with the words Tiocfaidh ár lá on an Orange Hall in Ballycastle. Once again this highlights the need to tackle demons of sectarianism that exist on my side of politics. It was truly heartening to see condemnation of this attack on Unionism from Martin McGuiness

I unreservedly condemn those responsible for the overnight attack on the Orange Hall at Coleraine Rd, Ballycastle.#SayNoToHate

 Overall, we had a peaceful weekend and that is a credit to all sides of our society who made that effort to ease tensions and celebrate an important moment in our collective history.  I hope that we learned the lessons of the ineffectiveness of violence last year and that this year some people can learn how to use social media responsibly and celebrate their culture without trampling over the rights of others as has been highlighted in Chris and this post.

Maybe next year we can find a way to fill the bars and streets of our city centres with people, walking around Belfast City Centre last night was depressing as I found no buses in service and very few people enjoying a Saturday night on a long weekend.

Anyway here’s to lessons hopefully learned and new beginnings for the years to come.