Another 12th July passes peacefully, but other conversations are still needed.

Another 12th July passes and for the second year in a row it has been peaceful. The PSNI have issued this statement on the events of the day;

“We have dealt with a number of minor incidents throughout the day and have made a small number of arrests but these were very much in the margins of what has been widely described as the most peaceful Twelfth of July for some years and a model for years to come.

“It has been a busy day for police officers who were out and about keeping people safe and I would like to place on record my appreciation of the work they have done and acknowledge the hard work of our partners and those within local communities who have contributed to making this a day people were able to enjoy.”

Former flash points such as North Belfast were quiet again this year as no trouble was reported.  We seem to have  made major progress as a society over how we deal with the parading issue.

Now we need to turn out attention and have deeper quality conversations about the 11th night bonfires. This year has shown the folly of rapid fire responses to deal with some contentious areas.  We saw again in some places damage risks to homes as the fire service attempt to deal with an impossible problem. There is also the issue of burning of election posters of parties from Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance, along with the burning of effigies, a particularly distasteful one of the late Martin McGuinness sums up the attitude of sections involved in this.

I think a debate about inclusive bonfires is fundamentally misguided. Loyalists will have bonfires that Nationalists will have no interest in attending and that is not where this debate needs to go. What we need is a priority around public safety and stripped away some of the nastier aspects of this tradition, that has to be a part of the conversation we need to have & it needs to start tomorrow.

Debates around how we regulate and enforce these regulations have to begin. This will be difficult, but go back 20 years and it looked like parading issues in places like North Belfast and Portadown would never be solved and here we are today.  That required political leadership and a general recognition of mutual interest in tackling these problems. Those same qualities are needed today. It is not in the interests of Unionism/Loyalism for the current situation to be allowed to continue in perpetuity.

In essence, how do we emphasise and replicate events like this around Northern Ireland? That should be the focus of the conversation that need to start here.  We have done it with the 12th July, we can do it with the 11th night too.




  • ronanpeter

    Wasn’t the equipment for that bonfire in Clandeboyne provided by the Council? I also read anyone can request the setup for the 11th night and councils will supply it within reason. Don’t know if that is true but would be a good thing to offer as standard, rather just hand out money for the traditional bonfires.

    The first step is for our local reps and councils is to grow a pair and say we are about respect, public safety and environmental protection, which they are, and apply it to the 11th night. It seems those principles take a holiday for that one day a year out of fear that to apply them would be kicking the hornets nest.

    As a resident living right next to a bonfire which accumulates all sorts of rubbish for the fire from April onwards it is a serious concern how there seems zero expectation that those building them demonstrate those principles. They seem utterly powerless or unwilling to enforce them which only undermines trust

  • Barneyt

    I agree but it will be like replacing an alcoholics super-charged nectar with shandy. Whilst there are many dangers and risks associated with the mega structures they presented too much stimulation to take any significance from the more modest fire above. It’s drifted too long and any change now will be regarded as a threat to culture and will be dealt with as the flag issue was. Someone needs to make a move but this time let it not be the alliance

  • ronanpeter

    There would be quite a bit of stage management to rid ourselves of the current free for all. If there was work going on in the background to quietly move towards applying the principles I mentioned above, so that a full blown confrontation over the issue was avoided, I would accept that. However I don’t think that is the case.

    Any of our leaders who do mention the bonfires over the 12th speak of disdain without any real action, or with cries of cultural wars on the other. There is no leadership being demonstrated (examples such as Clandeboyne excepted) to get a grip on things and we seem to just accept it.

    A thought would be that if we moved to ban them would we see the bonfire builders of the Kilcooley estate join those of the Bogside to defend their right to burn? Almost certainly not as its more about hate of the other rather than the activity having any cultural significance, even if they like to hide behind that

  • Mike the First

    It’s only a generation since bonfires were of the size and shape that most people outside NI would picture as “a bonfire” – a pyramid of “stuff” piled together rather than a pallet-based colossus which requires machinery to put together.

    For what it’s worth change in one direction or another is possible.

  • Backbencher

    The vast vast bulk of Twelfth celebrations are like those described in today’s Irish Times article.

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    “, a particularly distasteful one of the late Martin McGuinness sums up the attitude of sections involved in this”

    More like that quote sums up the lunatic attitude of regular contributors on slugger. The bogside butcher is responsible for waging death and destruction against this country, and should rightfully be remembered as the scvmbag traitor he was, effigies of him burnt as effigies of traitors are burnt in numerous other countries around the world (including in England in a couple of months).