Bonfires: A Story of Regulation, Enforcement & Leadership

That ‘The Twelfth’ passed off without any major issues yesterday is a direct consequence of the triumph of those maintaining that regulation and enforcement,  of universally applied principles, held the key to resolving disputes in a bitterly divided society.

The last major parade dispute, at Belfast’s Crumlin Road interface, was resolved after loyalists were effectively given an ‘out’ after having boxed themselves into a corner following the Twaddell camp protest.

The fact that mediation, arbitration and enforcement, courtesy of the Parades Commission, PSNI and others, played such a pivotal role in helping provide a framework for the resolution of many disputes points towards the necessity of regulation and enforcement as the critical elements missing in the vexed bonfire saga annually revisited across the north.

The sight of apartment block windows shattering, of boarded up homes being hosed down, of streets cordoned off due to bonfires being positioned in the middle of them, is something that should not be acceptable in this society, and that is before we discuss & deal with the nakedly sectarian and racist dimension of the 11th Night bonfires in so many areas.

There is an obvious path to resolution, and it involves strict regulation of bonfires.

Where a bonfire is sited, who is responsible for maintaining the site, what/when items are to be gathered & burned.

Organising a licensing programme for bonfires will not be difficult, and could resolve problems revisited annually in a very short time.

The problem, of course, is that the will to address the issue is absent, and the reasons for that go to the core of our current political difficulties.

Political Unionism remains ill at ease with a peace premised upon a shared and equal society.

The DUP rejected the Good Friday Agreement, and over the past few months have made clear they don’t even accept the St Andrew’s Agreement.

They oppose the very existence of a Parades Commission and reject the idea of regulating bonfires. They won’t even oppose the erection of flags in shared housing communities. The new South Belfast MP, Emma Little Pengelly, has even suggested that what the bonfire builders decide to burn atop their pyres should be viewed as merely a form of dissent.

It’s about control.

It’s about a desire to cling on to a sense of superiority.

It can be heard in the Deputy Grand Master’s charge that nationalists are ‘militant cultural imperialists’ and in the inevitably doomed campaign to silence Past narratives in conflict with the world as viewed through a Unionist prism.

We are, slowly, moving in the right direction. Stormont will eventually return. Orangeism’s 48 Hours in mid-July will inevitably be strictly regulated to the benefit of all.

But the pace of progress in this society will continue to be contingent upon the willingness of Unionist leaders ‘to lead’. The fact that unionist politicians boycotted the media to avoid having to justify their stance over the Belfast City Council bonfire injunction move to loyalist grassroots supporters speaks volumes about the distance they have yet to travel in that regard.

 

  • Accountant

    Don’t take cheap shots with Grenfell victims tragedy

  • Accountant

    Chris, The leadership shown by unionist politicians in BCC in seeking to regulate bonfires was,in fact, hijacked by cheap SF opportunism (“contractor appointed to dismantle the bonfires” – since retracted, but appalling opportunism when compromise was on the table and may be withdrawn or not so willingly offered next time).

    The disgrace here was not from the unionist councillors going underground when they realised they were getting shafted for having acted reasonably and responsibly.

    How can you build trust and get the right solutions when you get stabbed in the back ?

    Time for McVeigh to issue an apology to unionist councillors for having tried to screw them.

  • NewSouthernMan

    Sorry to disappoint my friends in the North but bonfires didn’t even make page 12 of the papers.
    It’s like spoilt kids screaming in a restaurant, we just politely pretend not to notice the rude behaviour.

  • Steven Denny

    Hi Mick, my limited understanding is that SF collapsed the Assembly on the basis that St. Andrews agreed principles for delivery, were not being carried through by OFMDFM… and that overall, SF had lost confidence in the partnership. Simplistic… but my understanding of the status quo. In a forced marriage/coalition… what is the point in remaining, when your wish list keeps getting bumped to the bottom?

  • Zeno3

    She is a Barrister.

  • 05OCT68

    So a bonfire is lit beside a block of flats, the fire brigade has to douse the flats to prevent them from burning, that tragedy was the first thing that came to my mind but I’m not supposed to comment on It. When did you become the moderator & when did you join the thought police? Perhaps it’s a case of sweeping bonfires under the carpet less it embarrasses our we country. The footage never even made the national news & that’s the problem the good people of GB don’t get to see the craziness here

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Civil unrest still usually voids most insurance policies. It is of course possible to extend insurance to protect against civil disorders or man-made disasters, but it is a speciality add-on, rather than being a part of any form of usual property insurance. Emma is either unfamiliar with this area of law, or is perhaps being disingenuous. As a barrister, in representing a client in a claim which went to court on any issue where civil unrest might complicate the matter, the solicitor would instruct the barrister as to detailed instances of law affecting the case, so Emma may never in her training have encountered the issue of limited or voided liability due to civil unrest.

  • 05OCT68

    Whats more important is the bonfires didn’t make the news in the rest of the UK, nobody’s interested.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    An earlier incarnation of Unionism resorted to arms in 1912 in order to “not accept the democratic decision of the people freely expressed at the ballot box” regarding the Third Home Rule Bill. The outcome has been a century of either hot or simmering violence in the north. The only good thing about all of this is that the money to subsidise any such campaign against re-unification today would have to come from limited local sources, and could not develop anything like significant resistance.

    This talk of “ethnic domination of one tribe over another” is an evasion of the reality that the differences insisted upon were carefully manufactured a century ago, and have since only acquired their patina of age from the artificiality of partition itself. In 1958/62 the Unionist chimera almost broke down under a cross-confessional move of northern voters to Labour who netted 25% of the popular vote. Unless the carefully crafted polarity within the community is systematically nurtured by hyperbolic artificiality such as this “tribe” thing we are all too likely to slide into such “real politics” and forget that we should be at each others throats.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Indeed Granni, “For me love trumps all….it’s magical.”

    With it everything works, without it nothing will have a chance, including children.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “The DUP…….. they’re only one half of the problem.”

    But that half very publicly carrying the banner for such values.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    When that one person probably has more to do with the actual existence of the partition state than any other single person, I’d imagine he should have some voice in the matter.

    And, perhaps, in yet another:

    ‘Lord Craigavon himself said to the local Civil Service mandarin G.C. Duggan in 1937 “Duggan, you know that in this island we cannot live always separated from one another. We are too small to be apart, for the border to be there for all time.” ‘

    It’s really interesting to find the person who pretty much created Unionbism as we now know it being thought of as “unreliable”……..

  • Accountant

    Your point about the damage to the flats is sound, but you shouldn’t use the Grenfell tragedy to make it.

  • 05OCT68

    Sorry Accountant your wrong, Had Grenfell not happened you could make the point that the boney builders are ignorant of the dangers, unfortunately it did & the boney builders didn’t care about the dangers. They probably think what mad man build flats next to a boney site.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “Times Have Changed” Seems not in your mindset, when you still wish the Police to be used as a political battering ram to hammer one community into the ground ? We know from experience how that all works out well, NOT !

  • Granni Trixie

    I don’t see procreation as a key element of marriage/coupledom. As I indicate I see the quality of love and commitment as all important.

    These days not every couple assumes they will have children as in the past though I have known many who were heartbroken to find they cannot have children as it would not have been their choice.

    Funny you should say about ‘anyone or anything’ – I have a friend who tells me she thinks she’s in love with her cat! (I’m not an animal person myself).

  • Granni Trixie

    I saw that some Councillors say they cannot establish what the criteria is for awarding such monies.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    To be quite honest it looks very suspicious and sectarian to award a Celtic Fan Zone 15k and then take away 1k for a Kids 11th Nite Party in Sandy Row 24 hours before the party and make a decision to do so because you claim a bonfire is too big. The organizers of the Kids party have no control over a bonfire size. Luckily the business community along with local residents rallied round the Children’s Party was able to go ahead. If this is SF Unionist Outreach in motion they are a million miles away from achieving any respect only further Polarisation and Hatred !

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “but what makes it so nearly insoluble,” exclaimed the archaeologist, “is that no one seems to really want a solution! How many earthmen respond to the situation by hating all galactic citizens indiscriminately? It is an almost universal disease – hate for hate. Do your people really want equality, mutual tolerance? No! Most of them want only their turn as top dog” – Pebble in the Sky, Isaac Asimov

    I was just struck by it when I read this passage the other day.

  • Granni Trixie

    First let me emphasise the point – if bcc reps seek and cannot get the info re the criteria there is something seriously wrong.

    Secondly, anyone would be sympathetic to pulling the plug on an event for children but you talk as if awarding funds in a “shared out” system makes anything Ok as long as each “side” gets their allotted portion. I don’t agree. I say let’s make the criteria for the awarding of funding transparent and open to all, wherever the chips may fall.

    Whilst I have no knowledge of the conditions of awards to communities re the Twelfth celebrations I imagine they stipulate that certain rules are to be kept to gain the money, safety being a key consideration. And after this year I would add that no effigies of politicians are to be put on fires, that has to stop.

    I am not sympathetic to awarding money to anyone building a bonfire which threatens safety. But this year Even the Newsletter guy, Ben Lowry said the Sandy Row fire was Ott and a danger which ought not be repeated. If the award had not been withdrawn it would be like BCC were encouraging the building of fires which left people in the facinity feeling unsafe in their own homes.

    I read today that Feile has withdrawn it’s application for 15K to rent their TV to people in the Devenish, if so, good. They have seen the light.

  • Toye native

    You would not be against her wishes if she wanted to marry her cat, there is only one differentiation of marriage

  • Toye native

    What you have no history on the true meaning of marriage, tell me what equality means

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’d not imagine that you have encountered any of the life long gay relationships I’ve encountered amongst those I know. To me they are as valid as my own forty year long marriage in which I’ve shared both love and a brilliant companionship with a woman.

    I’m afraid you seem to be swamping the pragmatic reality of things with a rigid ideological position which blinds you to the good that the recognition of others rights can mean to us all. For myself morality is not a matter of strict adherence to culturally instilled rules, but is that which will of its nature create positive goodness in or for others and in myself. No-one is asking you personally to marry a man, and your right to believe what you do at present may be affronted by marriage equality, but is not in any meaningful way curtailed. You are asking the right to curtail the life expression of others in order to enforce your personal views on their lives. No amount of argument from “principal” can alter this simple realty.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Let me respond to some of the points raised in your post .
    1. “If BCC Reps seek and cannot get the info re the criteria there is something seriously wrong”
    Why did BCC not inform this Community Group 2 Weeks in advance that its criteria had not been achieved and the 1K funding would be denied ? Why wait 24 hrs before the event to give such notice ?
    2. “Let’s make the criteria for awarding of funding transparent”
    Totally agree and let us not have any other committee/boards secret side deals. Open and Transparent – No issues with such procedures.
    3. “I imagine they stipulate that certain rules are to be kept to gain the money, safety being a key consideration”
    Here lies the biggest obstacle to overcome for a group of women looking to receive funding for a Kids Party. The organisers of such a party have no control over a bonfire, its remit lies outside their control. The bonfire is seperately managed by the youths of a particular district.
    4. “The Sandy Row fire was Ott” The Bonfire Collectors wished to locate the fire in a more central location in the car park (same as last year) but were denied access because ‘so called wise people’ did not want it as close to Great Victoria Street. This resulted in the fire being moved and located closer to the flats.
    Why did the Fire Authority not insist that the bonfire be located in the same location as the previous year ?
    Engagement with communities is the only solution on the bonfire issue, hopefully as discussed and planned the Unionist Politicians can get a Cultural Forum established in the Autumn to tackle the issue head-on and progress and constructively improve the situation in the future for all, not only the Loyalist People who enjoy 11th Night Bonfires.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/43e257ad6cd777f69757c16aa1754a644b9f8821325563023220d8e379365de1.jpg Picture of Sandy Row 11th Night Childrens Party 2017 which went ahead despite Belfast City Council 1K Funding being withdrawn, 24 hours before the event. Engagement is the solution, equality and respect for this culture – Not Demonisation !

  • Toye native

    It’s not my personal view’s, it’s the differentiation of marriage,
    Your a smart man and I know that you know marriage equality means the( same ). Am talking about fact, your talking about principal that has to suit your views.
    Would you agree with a man wanting to marry his sister, mum, daughter and so on,

  • Granni Trixie

    There are good reasons for incest being against culture and the law – you increase the likelihood of genetic flaws to reproduce in any children you might have.

  • Granni Trixie

    You do not explain why the unionist Councillors went underground – do you not believe our public reps ought to be transparent about their dealings? Or were they infact ashamed of behaving responsibly instead of playing to the lowest common denominator?

  • Granni Trixie

    It’s not cheap,it’s common sense. Fires happen. Lessons have to be learnt. Sorry you want to keep that quiet.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    TN, I know where you are coming from in this. I have no desire to be confrontational on this matter, but the form of marriage you are seemingly regarding as an “absolute” is simply a customary usage, and cannot be called an objective fact. It is a fact that most of us have grown up with the hetrosexual definition of marriage, but this does not make that definition of marriage an eternal verity in itself. Bringing up the incest taboo is not comparing like with like, as none of the potential negative physical consequences of inbreeding are going to be present in any normal same sex marriage.

    My concern here is not to accommodate things to my own views, but to ensure that the principal of human freedom is applied equally to all. The self-same right of an individual to the free expression of their way of being which an open perception of marriage protects, also protects your right to hold your views and be who you wish to be in your life. But this can only exist if we do not permit anyone to employ their opinions, or the opinions of the group they belong, to in order to curtail the right of anyone else to be or do as they wish as long as who or what they are does not actually harm the first party or harm others in the community. You’ll see that imposing the views of your own group regarding marriage onto others not so minded contravenes that same right to freedom of expression which ensures your right to hold your own views.

  • Accountant

    I think if McVeigh had not tried to escalate tensions and had stuck to the agreed, responsible, position that the bonfires need appropriately regulated, we could have made some real progress on getting these “cultural events” into an acceptable form.

    Once outed/shafted by McVeigh, should they have held firm ? Yes, if the council policy was to stop the bonfires getting bigger, but once SF said the contractor was going to dismantle them, where were they left to go, other than silent ?

    Contrary to Chris’ view that they were cowardly, I think the unionist councillors showed brave leadership. And what did SF do to reward this ? Didn’t even meet in them down the middle of a unionist concession. Tried to humiliate and just plain shaft them.

    Absolute disgrace from McVeigh.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It depends on the cat, I suppose.

  • Accountant

    You only learn lessons if you apply common sense. There are dozens of tower fires each year in Europe and, as we know Grenfell was a tragic set of circumstances.

    Trying to link careless behaviour at Sandy Row with the loss of 80 lives is shameful opportunism. Next you’ll be calling the action attempted social murder.

    I don’t want dragged in to your loaded point about wreckless location of a bonfire – what I am protesting about is anyone seeking political opportunity out of such an horrific tragedy.

  • Georgie Best

    Even if the insurer is forced to pay out, they will not offer cover next year when the authorities stand idly by when there is criminal damage of this sort.

  • Georgie Best

    You are being generous. Is there any lawyer in NI who has not some basic grasp of the concept of limited or voided liability due to civil unrest?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/016134658e852e4cfaf8e10f0015459977c41f736b883e74597eb0fe00ff616b.jpg Maybe it is time some people got off the Loyalist Demonisation Ticket and had a look at positive aspects and results that it also contributes to society and began trying to work with such positivity rather than oppose a huge part of Protestant Working Class Culture ! Equality – Respect – Tolerance work go along way !
    Ps : Well done South Belfast Young Conquerors Flute Band on a great effort for NI Cancer Fund for Children. A very worthy cause.

  • Granni Trixie

    Look, I do not get hot and bothered about bonfires. Live and let live is my motto. However I do have empathy with residents left powerless with a huge fire near their front doors not knowing how it’s going to end. Or for firemen and policemen who put their own lives on the line for us. Where’s the political opportunism in having regard for people needlessly put in positions of danger?

  • Accountant

    None, your and their grievances are entirely justified.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Catholic Church supports gay marriage?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    No, it would have to happen, I’m just saying it wouldn’t actuallly necessarily mean the island’s two peoples were any more united than before in reality.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    unionism 50 years ago maybe – not now. No one serious thinks in those terms or thinks of anything other then power-sharing in the long term. And that’s been the case for decades.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I am always concerned to try, Georgie, even as I speculate, to give others the benefit of the doubt. We do not know what is actually going through Little-Pengelly’s head when she made the comments and it may simply be that she is just a very poor lawyer who has not recognised the insurance issue. Certainly, if she is properly aware of the actual issues regarding insurance, then her statements are clearly misleading and evasive. I’m not sure which of these qualities I’d prefer in my representative, but of course in NI people other than myself sometimes vote on issues other than the qualities competence or skill their MP can show.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Of course SF and the Catholic Church are different institutions. SF has espoused the issue of single sex marriage (“Gay marriage”?) while Cathoicism so far has not. This conflation of Catholicism and the wider “church” of Irish Nationalism has been one of the most enduring of Unionist myths, but its longevity does not in any sense “prove” the truth of something which was always simply a propaganda ploy for anyone not in the “my Union right or wrong” camp:

    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/03/27/sinn-fein-makes-equal-marriage-a-key-issue-in-northern-ireland-power-sharing-talks/

  • Granni Trixie

    If only those in power would punch above their weight to promote a vision which is more about uniting than dividing people.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Sadly, all too true. We have been on “hold” politically for twenty years almost while the same dreary old tropes are rehearsed over and over by people with no vision.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    what dominance?