Mega Bonfires, or how a society can go off the rails where there’s no civil authority

In general, it seems the Twelfth passed off fairly peacefully today. Last night, not so much. I was on the Last Word earlier this evening with Matt Cooper and Sinn Fein Senator Padraig Mac Lochlainn talking about NI’s core failures:

Without wishing to jump on to the tribalistic bandwagon that’s displaced real politics in Northern Ireland, Belfast last night was a perfect picture of how a society goes off the rails when there is no civil authority to keep order in the state.

For example, there’s a bonfire that’s supposedly built by and for the loyalist community in Sandy Row in south Belfast. In fact it’s built on wasteground right on the edge of Great Victoria Street: a district once known as “the golden mile” in the bad old 1980s when the town was going to hell in a handcart.

Now, think Dublin? What would happen if someone (whether citing their traditional rights and entitlements, or not) had been allowed to do such a thing on the edge of Harcourt Street or in a piece of land in St Stephens Green. Hard to imagine?

Some or several institutions of the Irish state would step in and set some grown up parameters for what’s proportionate and what’s not. And expect them to be adhered to.

But in Northern Ireland almost every policy issue comes down to some class of intractable territorial issue, be it housing, language, infrastructure, culture or jobs.

Politics, or the lack of them, drives these issues.

The two dominant parties, DUP and Sinn Fein, continuously put the rights of their own tribes above the rights of everyone else.

The result is a collapse of civil authority, leaving the police and the fire service hopelessly undefended against vicious physical and unreasonable political attacks.

As for broader civic nationalism, there is now no political institution above Belfast City Council where it can make its voice heard. There’s no arena for hammering out proportionate fixes and compromises.

  • oval

    Hear, Hear! Loved the bonfires as a kid but they’ve become a sign of dominance for one community over the other while endangering the rights and properties of those unfortunate enough to be beside them. Where were the DUP and UUP defending the rights of their constituents impacted by the bonfires? Disappeared off the face of the earth once the Council issued the injunction only to reappear today talking about respect for their culture after showing none to others. Disgusting.

  • mickfealty

    My case was even broader than that oval. What Padraig is calling for is a return to “the politics of condemnation” which is a competition SF used to complain about in the bad old days.

    But none of these issues can be gripped by the sort of street politics SF’s ongoing boycott of any democratic institutions above the grade of City Council. They need gripped from above, by using the institutions provided.

    That a mega bonfire can be built so close to a main thoroughfare without seeking permission of any state institution demonstrates just how low NI is swinging away from any sense of collective civil authority.

    Politically, it’s become a playground for the tribalised politics of the extremes of two parties who laud the Belfast Agreement when it suits them but who never actually signed up to it.

    The result is a political consequence free zone, where politicians keep swap their constitutional and representative responsibilities for the job of winding up their own side or the other.

    This problem has been (literally) building for years. The lack of a robust joint (ie, power sharing) solution means that it’s been allowed to go feral. That suits SF and the opponents of the Orange tradition rightly.

  • mickfealty
  • Barneyt

    In some ways you can’t compare this to an occurrence in another city such as Dublin, London or any other more settled place. It’s symptomatic of how undervalued both the people and place is. The transformation that is needed both actually and metaphorically has yet to happen. Until it does and both poeple and our society is respected and valued, the ferral can continue to do what the wild do. Bring on august and we get to see nationalism do their thing. Whilst on a lesser scale they cannot be let off the hook either. Nationalist leaders can take a lead here and along with attacking the season of hate they can deride the mimicry on the green side. If not, then all of this remains acceptable.

  • mickfealty

    So long as there are no common standards it’s unrealistic to expect that to happen. As Padraig remarks bear out, anything goes so long as you condemn it. Regulation is being displaced by a sneaking form of cultural prohibition. It’s all words, no action.

  • murdockp

    It was a baying mob of hatred.

    The fire next to the block of flats. Hard to believe we live in the same country that experienced grenfell a few weeks back.

    The police are to blame for not applying the law. The council officials are a disgrace.

    How many laws broken? The environmental damage? The hate crime? There were enough laws broken on bonfire night to put 100 people away in any other society. Here you get grants.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I take your point, Mick but consider this: there were massive events staged glorifying violent Republicanism in central Dublin last year – presented not as a Republican event but something everyone was expected to show respect for and in which the Irish state fully and wholeheartedly participated. Schoolchildren were encouraged to empathise with and eulogise the (unelected) leaders who brought violence and destruction to the centre of Dublin. Do we really think the position of the civil authority vis-a-vis the Sandy Row bonfire – that is, allowing but not leading or even taking part in a Loyalist event for Loyalist people – is more troubling than the role of the Irish state in 1916 commemorations?

    My own view is that states should let people celebrate / commemorate whatever parts of Irish history they want within reason, but the civil authorities themselves on either side of the border should have minimal involvement except to protect public safety. That way both the Republic and N Ireland can have public realms genuinely free of ethnically-specific baggage.

    I accept though that is much harder an issue to push in the Republic where anti-British nationalism is perceived as so integral to the national story, as told thusfar. N Ireland’s very ethnic division leaves it in a better place, through necessity, to develop a shared or neutral public realm.

    I’m not saying it’s there yet but it seems to me a strong direction of travel, bonfires and parades notwithstanding. Look at the large degree of dissociation from such events among the great and the good of N Ireland and in mainstream centre ground discourse. In N Ireland those things are recognised as by one part of one community, for one part of one community. That, to me, is healthier than having them closely associated with the state, as used to be the case during the majority rule era in N Ireland and which is perhaps still the case with 1916 commemorations in the Republic.

  • JR

    The peaceful twelfth this year shows how close we are to coming to a workable solution on Parades. however bonfires weather they are for the 12th or Internment or Halloween need to be tackled. It wouldn’t be tolerated in any other country in Europe, to have people breaking the law over a series of weeks and months building illegal and dangerous bonfires which endanger life and property. then proceed to burn sectarian, racist and offensive symbols and flags. The DUP, now a key partner in the UK government have been dangerously negligent in trying to fob this serious and genuine issue as a “culture war”

    Bonfires should in an ideal world be,

    Made from – Wood, (waste or end of life timber) there are thousnds of pallets that are damaged and broken that the haulage industry could pass on legally as opposed to those that are stolen, Tyres and plastics should be completely unacceptable for environmental and helath reasons. The people who are paid to legally dispose of these are as much to blame as those that put them on a bonfire. ( for every 1000 tyres that are burned on a bonfire someone has pocketed £5000)

    Be located- Away from rewsidential homes and businesses and in urban areas be in dedicated annual bonfire areas

    Be free from – Election posters flags, racist banners, religious effigies, etc.

    These are not unreasonable demands and those who do not wish to comply should be subject to the law. The DUP need to grow a pair and stand up to these people.

  • Jim M

    Re the bonfires – yes, effigies and racist placards etc are horrible, but sometimes too much emphasis can be placed on them in the discourse around bonfires. I’ve heard MPs describing the burning of their election posters as a ‘hate crime’ – get a grip. The focus has to be on public safety and on criminality. Clearly there is a significant risk to the public – the bonfire by the dual carriageway at Belvoir, for instance, is relatively small, but clearly an unstable wooden structure should not be that close to a road. As for criminality, bonfire building involves illegal dumping and (most likely) the theft of materials. Unfortunately I find it hard to see how the current situation could be changed without police and council workers pulling down bonfires, with the likelihood of loyalists inciting riots. I actually think the call for a ‘cultural convention’ is a good one, but it shouldn’t just be for unionists: it should be for the whole of civil society to discuss what are acceptable and reasonable cultural expressions.

  • Korhomme

    In my part of east Tyrone, the bonfire I saw didn’t have any hate messages on it, unless you count ‘Remember 1690’ as part of the ‘Welcome to [location] bonfire’. It does seem to have damaged the windows and doors or some houses, though I thought they were quite a bit away. (It was one of these phallic pallet erections.)

    I’m not sure whether the local council lays down any rules for such bonfires; it is a very mixed area.

    Am I right in thinking that the hate messages are a specifically Belfast problem?

  • grumpy oul man

    Sorry Jim the secterian slogans, the election posters etc are important, IT IS HATE CRIME, the damage to property and danger to people is also important, very important but to suggest that we should play down public displays of racial and relegious hatred is wrong.

  • grumpy oul man

    You are aware that just lately we had huge events in NI celebrating the UVF attended by the unionist parties and organised by the present UVF involving children etc.( tha main difference was that the Dublin events were not organised by a active terror group) leaving this highly comparable series of events out of your post makes it incredibly unbalanced.
    Yust really a couple of paragraphs of themmuns.
    You tell us your a lawyer, is ‘THEMMUNS DONE IT TOO’ a legal defence, i know its only a moral defense in a primary school playground.

  • I Can Confirm This

    The bonfire local to me had a Man United jersey on top of it, most go off fine, I do think the Irish News goads loyalists over their bonfires.

    In contested areas or those under the spotlight, bonfire builders I think deliberately go out of their way to be as insulting as possible. As they know it will end up in the Irish News most likely front page if it’s incredibly insulting. The young people who make the slogans are probably wetting themselves thinking it hilarious and great craic, whereas the Irish News strikes a very serious tone of shock and repulsion. Unionists then get the blame for a lack of leadership.

  • The Irishman

    Nice post grumpy oul man.

  • murdockp

    Us independence day is an anti british event too but the anti British element has been lost in translation.

    The founding of a state is a big event. The northern Ireland events are not They are a celebration of supremacy over another ethnic group.

    Not that there was much to celebrate. The Catholics have in the main moved on. Most saved up and went on holidays. Obviously many live in poverty and were trapped.

    But in the main the loyalists were celebrating being let down by their political leaders. The 12th of july and it’s build-up is all they have to look forward to. There is bugger all else on offer. They are bring played as fools by the middle class DUP.

    Sir Geoffry Donaldson didn’t even wear a bowler hat whist the rest of his parade did. Why? Because deep down he knew he looked ridiculous and that his tory mates and the press would be watching.

  • Mike the First

    The Irish News for the last few years does (particularly on a Saturday) have adopted a policy of making sure it runs a front page, or at the very least an inside splash, headed with a variation of “themmuns have done something terrible again, the bastards”. Whether that’s a tweet, a piece of graffiti on a wall, or an offensive banner.

    With that in mind perhaps it’s no wonder that you get posters on here proclaiming things blanket-style like (as we’ve seen this very week) bonfires display racist symbols, that these events are a hate-fest, etc. It’s what they’re fed by their chosen written news outlets and their political representatives.

    That said, there is absolutely nothing that justifies the awful racist and sectarian banners and the like that do go up on certain bonfires in Belfast in particular. Maybe insular young people doing these things do think it’s hilarious, but where are the mature community figures and elected representatives explaining to them that it’s unacceptable?

  • Jim M

    I was specifically talking about politicians’ posters being burned as a ‘hate crime’. I’m iffy about the concept of ‘hate crimes’ in general but yes, inciting violence (KAT etc) should be treated as a crime, and racist slogans about Celtic players etc should be treated with revulsion and contempt. What I was trying to say (maybe not that well) was that the priority has to be safety and legality. Focusing too much on ‘offence’ can lead to a cycle of ‘nah nah nah your culture’s bigoted’/’nah nah nah your culture celebrates terrorists’. I certainly don’t think bonfires are wrong per se – I think it’s an ancient human instinct to stand around a fire with your mates, and I ‘get’ that much more than I do marching bands etc. They do however have to avoid illegality and disruption to other people. I certainly don’t think burning tricolours is okay, let alone effigies of hanging priests etc.

  • Mike the First

    Is burning an election poster a crime? I’d be surprised if it was.

  • I Can Confirm This

    I think they know it’s unacceptable fine well that’s my point. As nowadays thanks to the Irish News, bonfire builders know such messages will get their ‘bony’ in the news. Just like building the biggest one gets attention, as does an incredibly insulting message, while at the same time lift the spirits of those on the bonfire site. To the tune of: ‘no one likes us – we don’t care’.

  • mickfealty

    MU,

    Do we really think the position of the civil authority vis-a-vis the Sandy Row bonfire – that is, allowing but not leading or even taking part in a Loyalist event for Loyalist people – is more troubling than the role of the Irish state in 1916 commemorations?

    Yes. Now, Jobstown, I do find troubling on a number of fronts. Both in terms of the Guard’s conduct of the prosecution, but also the hideous way the Tanaiste of the time was treated by a fellow parliamentarian.

    What happens in a vacuum, where there is no state and no collective regulation? We’ve seen this time and again, with the cops being attacked for dealing with rioters in one situation then not dealing with them in another.

    On the 11th the Fire services were both physically attacked and then politically attacked for not turning their hoses on the bonfires themselves. What’s missing here is collective public authority.

    Public servants cannot act authoritatively in the public space without that.

    It’s the long term public cost of state building on tribalist lines. The south’s commemoration was contained (to the 26 counties), but was an assertion of the monopoly of force owned by the democratic state.

    We don’t have that. In NI there are places where the writ of the law dare not go in fear of the political consequences. (Remember the outrage which followed the outing of Provos as a complicit in the McGuigan murder?)

    How many in Derry or West Belfast have been maimed in the last year as a result of punishment shootings and beatings? Is anyone even keeping count anymore?

  • mickfealty

    If you are going to make a sweeping statement like that, you ought at least try to match it to the legislation. I suspect the DPP would have trouble following through.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The Twelfth is really a kind of annual rededication of the tribe by its self-appointed guardians – and as such it’s a piece of communication much more to Protestants than Catholics, though it is to both. It’s basically saying, “We’re still here.” It’s like a defensive team huddle. It sends a message to the ‘other side’, sure, and that is important – the OO operates within the context of being a threatened people and the threat is perceived to be implicitly or overtly from C/N/R Ireland – but is secondary. It’s mainly about maintaining group bonds and seeking solidarity within the tribe. But really in an ethnically contested place, those things are two sides of the same coin. And the OO is not the only vehicle in N Ireland for expressing culture positively on the one hand while simultaneously asserting it quite forcefully so the other side keeps their distance. A number of nationalist cultural outputs show deep hostility to the British tradition on the island. I think the more critical nationalists need to come out of denial over this – it’s not just Loyalist culture that needs to look deeply at the negative messages it sends about tolerance and parity of esteem.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    You are right of course – the erosion of civil society, of shared values and of state authority has been disastrous.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Indeed – people are sick of the double standards and the logic goes, if they are doing that, then we’ll do this.

    Much as I love the GFA, this is the working out of the ‘soft landing’ the governments gave the paramilitaries. We lost the killing at the cost of retaining and even boosting ethnically assertive street cultures.

  • murdockp

    In the Irish republic the government took hold of the celebrations to stop the shinners hijacking the event.

    Deep down most in the republic have moved on. Just like in the US.

  • murdockp

    A peaceful 12th is said like that should be celebrated. It is like saying you have a good husband because he does not beat you.

    People being peaceful is a norm we expect in a civil society yet we talk about peace on the 12th being a abnormal event we are suprised. as it violence was expected and we were lucky it didn’t kick off.

    This is not normal. Very far from normal.

  • ted hagan

    As regards your remarks about the 1916 commemorations in Dublin, surely you could say exactly the same about the United States celebration on July 4? The Republic has matured, Northern Ireland is still in the stone age.

  • Korhomme

    The story about the damage was in the Irish News. (I looked, saw none obvious.)

  • grumpy oul man

    Sorry mick but if the law doesnt recognise a banner about a black footballer eating bananas or a coffin with a recentally deceased persons face on it as hate crime it should!
    I suspect if it was done anywhere else but a 11th night bonfire it would treat it as a
    Hate crime.
    Certainly the burning of election posters flags and relegious items (admittedly missing this year is arguably a hate crime.
    If it happened anyehere else in Britain it would be treated as a hate crime.
    In England a few years ago a town wanted to burn a effigy of Alex Salmond on Guy Fawkes that wasnt allowed.
    It is disingenuous in the extreme to ask is it against the the law.
    A much better question is why it is being tolerated by the law.

  • grumpy oul man

    Nothing to say about the rest of the “curtural” tradition, secterian banners effigys etc?

  • mickfealty

    It’s a simple question, easily answered.

  • Aodh Morrison

    I was in Dublin at the time of the 1916 event (not I hasten to add because of it) and yes it was disappointing to see the Irish Head of State together with the arms of the state pay homage to the IRA “heroes”.

    Talking to people there they seemed unable to see the strong and direct line of connection between the uncritical appraisal of the events of 1916 and the contemporary mini-me celebrations of PIRA atrocities by the likes of Sinn Féin and others; and of course the fact that ‘1916’ is used to justify the ongoing murderous activities of the so-called ‘Real IRA’ (or the rump-PIRA: much closer to the mark).

    That being said the modern day Republic is very far removed from that envisaged by De Valera and his gang. For example, the acceptance of Equal Marriage by a large majority in the South would have those in the GPO who knelt for the Rosary before their murderfest spinning in their ‘hallowed martyrs graves’.

    I believe that the 1916 dream of an Ireland that was to be solely, and suffocatingly, Catholic, Gaelic and Nationalist will continue to be eroded.

  • grumpy oul man

    Thanks for clearing that up.
    In the main i agree with you, i however believe that the lack of respect and concern shown by the bonfire builders to the owners of the propertys around the bonfires is just another side of the disrespect shown to those percieved to be their poltical or cultural oppenents or indeed ratepayers and the emergancy services
    This is i believe the crux of the matter, have the bonfires, enjoy the 11th night, not my thing but then again niether is the Irish open so i probably wont be attending.
    But show respect for the rest of the community, that means not only paying attention to satety and reducing inconvience to those around you but stopping burning other people symbols etc.
    Is that a unreasonable ask?

  • Old Mortality

    Presumably the waste ground by Gt Victoria St is not without an owner. Why did that owner take no action to prevent the erection of the bonfire or why did the council approach the owner to demand the removal of bonfire material?
    Quite separately, why is there an apparently unlimited supply of what appear to be perfectly serviceable wooden pallets? Can’t these things be reused?

  • JR

    Progress should always be celebrated. Especially when it is hard won.

  • mickfealty

    Tripadvisor is usually worth reading for the 1th each year apparently.

  • Jim M

    I’m sure I remember commentary from SF in W Belfast in the last couple of years to the effect that local hoods burning election posters was a ‘hate crime’. It all gets a bit Dear Leader-ish. Though I do accept that loyalists (or anyone) burning SF election posters is unpleasant and unnecessary.

  • grumpy oul man

    Ok mick heres your answer, get a sheet, write a comment about any blackman loving bananas and stick it on the side of your house for the public to see,
    Or get a coffin and put a picture of someone not long dead and stand that at you gate.
    You at the very least would be subject to a investigation for hate crime.
    This is only tolerated because its on a 11th night bonfire, it would not be tolerated in any other circumtance.

  • mickfealty

    You’re avoiding the question (and taking up valuable space intended for serious discussants).

  • grumpy oul man

    Im not a lawyer mick and niether are you.
    Rascist, homophobic or secterian graffiti is a hate crime is it not?
    My question for you is why do you not think it falls into this category.
    Im sorry if you dont think it is a serious question.
    I imagine those it is aimed at may well take a different view.

  • Mike the First

    I’ve had plenty to say. Read my other posts. Now, back to answering my question…?

  • Mike the First

    That’s a different ask, however, from branding actions which may not even be criminal (I’d suspect they aren’t) as “hate crimes”.

    Assault is a criminal offence. Incitement to violence is a criminal offence. Racial/sectarian/homophobic/transphobic versions of these and other crimes – yes, hate crimes.

    Burning an election poster 2 months after the election has finished? As Mick said, I think the DPP would struggle with that one.

    Hyperbole is really very unhelpful here. Clearly you believe it’s a bad thing (as do I); why conflate it with hate crime?

  • notimetoshine

    Think about it though, if the owner of the land dared to challenge the use of it for a bonfire they (either individual or organisation) would be hounded. Between accusations of hating loyalist culture, bad PR and paramilitary threats I am sure it would be a thoroughly unpleasant experience. What is more considering the inability and unwillingness to challenge these bonfire builders, the owner would be on their own. Disgraceful situation altogether but that’s how NI rolls.

  • mickfealty

    I’m open to persuasion, but I’m not persuaded you’re doing anything but trolling us here with stuff you cannot or will stand over.

  • grumpy oul man

    What is a different approach, i want what can only described as hate crime stopped at the 11th night or anywhere else.
    If that and the other anti social activities cease then i am perfectally content to see 11th night bonfires.
    But we are just talking about election posters, i mentioned burning them among other things and as for hyperbole,
    Put a poster up with the banana remark on it or a coffin with someones face on it in public and we all know the police would be at your door and the items would be removed, why should bonfires be any different.

  • grumpy oul man

    Trolling mick! Avioding the question!
    I believe (and noone has stated different) that the slogans, burning of symbols and other paraphernalia that surrounds bonfires would be regarded as hate crime any where else but a 11th night bonfire.
    Would you deny this,
    To reduce the argument to just election posters ignores everything else that surrounds the burning election posters.
    I think a have explained my point and stood over it, could you now explain why you believe it is not hate crime or not against the law.

  • Georfe Jungle

    While you think it’s a hate crime to burn election posters without any reasoning other than your own prejudices, the PSNI do not and have stated

    “I’m giving you a dose of realism here I think, in that as offensive as these posters might be, these are bits of papers in the eyes of the law, it’s the burning of a bit of paper.”

    http://www.itv.com/news/utv/2016-08-04/burning-of-election-posters-is-not-a-hate-offence/

  • Georfe Jungle

    I doubt it, I personally think it is a legitimate political statement / protest.

    The PSNI seem to concur – see link a couple of posts above

  • Georfe Jungle

    Effigies are burnt around the World, Osama Bin Laden, Putin, Thatcher, Obama and the list it endless. Likewise for Election posters.

    In my eyes, they are legitimate forms of political dissent / protest.

    As for racist posters, they are clearly wrong and am not sure why you have to ask.

  • Georfe Jungle

    There are different narratives to the conflict.

  • Sean Danaher

    Aodh Morrison
    “I believe that the 1916 dream of an Ireland that was to be solely, and
    suffocatingly, Catholic, Gaelic and Nationalist will continue to be
    eroded.”

    This is certainly not the history I learned. There is not one mention of Catholicism in the 1916 proclamation. To me the key text is “The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and
    equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to
    pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its
    parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally…”

    The Republican dream was indeed hijacked by deVelera to become “suffocatingly, Catholic, Gaelic and Nationalist,” as you put however that description which I think is a bit harsh only survived till the 1960s

    As L. P. Hartley said “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”. I can think of no other country it applies to more than the Republic of Ireland

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think that’s right. Still says something though that the event could only be slightly redirected, rather than properly overhauled.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I genuinely don’t think it’s much about supremacy per se, I think it’s much more about the survival of the tribe and resistance to perceived (and real) threats.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I genuinely don’t think it’s much about supremacy per se, I think it’s much more about the survival of the tribe and resistance to perceived (and real) threats.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Would you not accept Republicanism is overwhelmingly a Catholic, to some extent Gaelic and certainly Nationalist thing? I don’t think that stopped in the 60s. Though I do think the Republic has transformed for the better since then.

    There may not be an overt mention of Catholicism in the 1916 proclamation, but by declaring themselves “oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past”, the signatories did dismiss most of the island’s Protestant population as having loyalties of less value than those of the signatories. No need to say Protestant, we got it – our government was “alien” and solely responsible for divisions in Ireland. Such rigorous and fair analysis there.

  • Trasna

    History is not retrospective.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    In some respects yes, but it’s interesting for example that social attitude surveys show people in a very similar place on both sides of the border and in both communities. We have an ethnic clash which tarnishes a lot of public life in N Ireland but we have a way of managing it – we just need to get everyone back on board.

  • Trasna

    Is burning the Irish flag a hate crime? Should it be a criminal offence?

    KAT, about killing most of the population of Ireland and Europe. When did advocating murder/ genocide become culture?

  • Sean Danaher

    I would accept that but this is over 100 years ago and time to move on. The appeal to the spirit of 1798 was misjudged, there is a lot in the 1916 proclamation which has not dated well. I don’t believe in zero sum game politics and certainly don’t believe the Protestant community is of any less value; indeed the throwing on the slag heap treatment of the working class Loyalist Community has been a disgrace.

    The nineteenth century was a disaster for most of Ireland with the exception of the North East corner. In 1800 Dublin was almost certainly the 2nd city in these islands, though the claim that it was the 2nd city of the British Empire was probably a PR stunt (Calcutta was almost certainly far more important). By 1916 it was not even in the top 10 (maybe even 20) and even 2nd to Belfast on the island of Ireland.

    I won’t go into the Famine which was less than expertly handled by the British Government.

    There is no point in going into grizzly detail but there was certainly a perception amongst my grandfathers generation (all from Munster) that Catholic Ireland was treated as a colony and indeed a test bed to practice the techniques of Imperial power. The resentment against the British Government who made them feel like 2nd class citizens in their own country was almost universal, though I would accept Munster was the heartland of republicanism. There was certainly a feeling at the time that the British Government was an alien power. If Germany had successfully invaded England (or indeed Ireland) there might be still some resentment after a hundred years, even if I’m a great admirer of modern Germany.

    As I’ve mentioned before I now live in the NE of England and even here there is a belief that the British Government only cares about London and the SE particularly under Tory rule.

    Brexit is unpredictable, but I wish NI well; as I’ve said before I am totally agnostic about a United Ireland

  • Georfe Jungle

    “Is burning the Irish flag a hate crime? Should it be a criminal offence?”

    Absolutely not.

    “KAT, about killing most of the population of Ireland and Europe. When did advocating murder/ genocide become culture?”

    Ask SF/IRA they seem to have weekly speaking events to honour terrorists, so they would know a lot more than I would or equally you could ask the GAA who glorify such murderers.

  • Georgie Best

    This amoral whataboutery association of the carry on at this time of year with a variety of harmless nationalist events is a bit sad. If you claim that these events have value then argue for that value and not by reference to other events.

  • Trasna

    A fine piece of whataboutery.

    Try answering the question that was put.

  • Trasna

    I would agrue that a peaceful 12th comes from demographics. The CNRs are no longer intimidated because their numbers have at least reached parity. But mostly it was peaceful because the DUP are propping up the Tories. Violence, and the British press would have had a field day.

  • Georfe Jungle

    “”Is burning the Irish flag a hate crime? Should it be a criminal offence?””

    NO

    “When did advocating murder/ genocide become culture?”

    Since the SF/IRA and the GAA started glorifying murderers who carried out genocidal ethnic cleansing of protestants along the Fermanagh/Down and Armagh border.

    So my answer would be from the 1970’s

  • Georfe Jungle

    “the carry on at this time of year”

    “a variety of harmless nationalist events”

    I saw what you did there.

  • El Daddy

    I reject the use of the term Gaelic with regards to ethnicity in terms of the signatories of the Rising, or indeed in broader nationalism. The Gaels are but one group who make up the Irish people – the descendants of Norse-Gaels, Hiberno-Normans, Anglo-Irish and Ulster Scots are all equally entitled to be Irish.

    The only reason that republicanism would be overwhelmingly Catholic is because even including the six counties, that’s what the proportions are on the island, certainly back in the day if not now. But that isn’t even the case, as the upper levels of nationalism had a disproportionate non-Catholic base, relative to their numbers in the population.

    But as others have said, 1916 may have been majority Catholic in terms of numbers, but definitely not in ethos. That came later, post-independence, when any idea of social change intended by earlier movements was abandoned.

  • Korhomme

    Election posters etc usually have coloured photos. Apparently, the dyes or pigments in the inks used for colour reproduction are toxic when burnt. I doubt if there’s enough in the average bonfire for it to be dangerous, but it’s another reason — albeit a high falutin’ one — to ban such articles. Save the environment, or something. (Is that important here?)

  • Trasna

    Thanks for the confirmation that the advocation of the murder of Catholics is acceptable unionist culture.

    Do you consider the murders of over 120 Catholics by the Protestant murder gangs aka as the Glennane Gang also genocide?

  • Trasna

    FFS what else would any movement/political ideology/organization in Ireland be but predominantly Catholic? The Irish are a predominantly Catholic people?

    Everything and everyone is predominantly Catholic, from athletes, musicians, teachers, doctors, judges, fishermen, dancers, women, men, soccer, GAA, rugby, hockey, rowing, lunatics, murderers, etc, etc, etc.

    Of course government was alien, just like the British government is alien in NI today. Never in their history has a British Labour, Tory or Liberal party ever been elected in any part of Ireland.

  • Trasna

    The biggest threat to Protestants are Protestants themselves. The OO is not a British tradition on this island, it’s an Irish Protestant tradition of Ireland, exported to Commonwealth countries. The OO is alien to British Protestants.

    Your description of the OO just reminds me of a dog pissing on a post to mark his terrority.

    Many, many Protestants wouldn’t touch the OO with a barge pole. Around 900,000 Protestants in Ireland and only 35,000 are OO members ought to signify that the OO represent no one but their own members.

  • Trasna

    Overhauled, how so?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    But the OO are, almost all, British Protestants. British is what British people are. So illogical to say it’s somehow not British.

    But yes it’s alien to the culture I grew up in, I was brought up very middle class and things like the OO weren’t our world.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’d like to see a genuine neutrality and a greater awareness in the commemorations of the bitter legacy of 1916, particularly in terms of the othering of British people in Ireland – culminating in our identification as “legitimate targets” for summary execution and the slaughter of so many decent people in the pursuit of that by Irish nationalists inspired by 1916.

    I accept the Republic, as an Irish nationalist state, is unlikely to take that line. But I hope it would also be aware that an Irish nationalist state is perhaps then not the most suitable container for N Ireland in the future – and call off the dogs on the 32-county project. You can’t have a state in charge of N Ireland in the future which is so centrally bound up in its very identity with one tradition over the other. At least in the UK context, we are both minority regional cultures in a big, multi-ethnic patchwork country of many.

  • mickfealty

    Was there tyres in these Bonfires 🔥?

  • mickfealty

    Riddle me that one in plain language?

    You should look up Belfast Gonzo’s blog from 2009 when Ardoyne erupted even when the March was still half a mile away. The mob has its uses.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think both our traditions are theoretically for all – claim to be – but in reality give very strong ethno-religious signals to the tribe. I’m much less persuaded than most of the fine words – you have to look at behaviour too.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I understand that, Ireland is a Catholic country.

  • Trasna

    Why was the 12th so peaceful this year. Surely the answer is simple. The DUP are propping up the Tories, any violence and the British press would have been down on the DUP like a ton of bricks. Which also highlights unionist violence can be turned off and on at will.

    Nationalists, for their part, no longer care enough to rouse themselves to protest anymore. They have moved on.

    Which begs the question, what’s the point of these marches if they no longer intimidate?

  • JR

    I saw plenty in the pictures. In some stacked around the outside and in others piled up through the middle of the pallets.

    We had problems for years on our own land at halloween with bonfires and tyres. I spent a few Halloween nights trying to dismantle bonfires built on our farm under a hail of stones, insults and fireworks. this isn’t just a loyalist issue.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “harmless” to you perhaps – the reality is they are no less divisive than OO walks are, if not more so. Such gloss and respectability for what was the brutal shooting down of people in the street sends a shiver down many a British spine in N Ireland – is this how what was done to us will be memorialised in the future? And yet I wouldn’t attempt to stop nationalists, merely quietly persuade them to think again about what and how they memorialise. That is fair when applied to the OO also.

    I really wouldn’t see this as whataboutery, so much as moving in step and seeking to avoid one-sided narratives. it is making a positive case for toleration and pluralism. We can profoundly disagree with something, as I would with the celebration of 1916, and still let those events continue and not seek to stop others doing what they see fit, within the law.

    The debate of the role of the state in such commemorations is an important one though. For me, it should be minimal, if present at all.

  • mickfealty

    That’s just the same thing you said first time. 🙄 You still haven’t explained it, still a riddle.

  • Reader

    Korhomme: …but it’s another reason — albeit a high falutin’ one — to ban such articles.
    I.e. – an excuse.
    Look, I’m in favour of interfering with the use of huge numbers of tyres. For instance, if a built bonfire contains a large number of tyres, knock it over with an armoured bulldozer and take away the tyres. It won’t take long for the builders to get the message.
    But using the environment just as an excuse to nicefy the occasion is bad for the credibility of any agency that does such a thing – ignore the sofas and worry about the posters instead? Dishonest.

  • Reader

    Trasna: Why was the 12th so peaceful this year.
    Each 12th is more peaceful than the previous one. I doubt that the composition of the UK government is relevant.

  • Reader

    grumpy oul man: …or a coffin with a recentally deceased persons face on it as hate crime it should! I suspect if it was done anywhere else but a 11th night bonfire it would treat it as a Hate crime.
    Apparently not, or I don’t remember the prosecution if so.
    http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-londonderry-northern-ireland-17th-april-2013-dissident-republicans-55658135.html

  • Graham

    I think pictures 10 of 110 and 11 of 110 provide a wonderful counter image of loyalists preparing a bonfire. Compared to the racist (anti-celtic) bed sheet scrawl by one idiot at one bonfire.

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/twelfth/pictured-amateur-photographer-
    captures-extraordinary-images-of-belfast-bonfires-from-above-35919333.html