The Ghosts of Bonfires past…

I remember back in  the day, probably around Easter 1971, my pal and I threw down two sticks on an area of open ground in Tyndale Gardens in Belfast and said ‘That’s the boney started.’ Other kids probably do the same thing around the same time of year to this day. There were no pallets then and no tyres. We collected waste wood and the ‘big lads’ cut branches off trees in neighbouring Carrs Glen. I often think about that … Read more

Towards a Respectful Future report launched

The DUP, UUP and PUP groups on Belfast City Council launched the Towards a Respectful Future document this morning in Belfast City Hall. The Councillors present were Lee Reynolds, John Kyle, Billy Hutchinson, George Dorrian and Jim Rodgers. The full report is available here but some of the key findings were •The vast majority of bonfires and associated activities are well organised and managed. These include events which are part of and separate from the Belfast City Council Bonfire and … Read more

You know things are bad when Stacey Dooley comes to town…

You get the feeling they must be tripping over camera crews in loyalist areas. The recent DUP/Conservative deal has turned the eyes of the UK media towards Northern Ireland. A steady stream of film crews has been making the trip recently. You know the format by now: lots of footage of explosions, the obligatory standing in front of a peace wall, marveling at bonfires, the arty shot at the end as flames leap into the sky. The latest documentary is … Read more

The DUP heartland: who are the supporters? – Video from The Guardian…

Very slick video from The Guardian, well worth a watch. From The Guardian post: East Belfast is the heartland of Protestant, unionist politics and therefore, one would believe, the natural support for Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party. The Guardian travelled to East Belfast to meet the core support for the party – which has just completed £1bn deal to prop up Theresa May’s government – and ask what they truly believe and what they want from the DUP whose main … Read more

Belfast City Council to discuss bonfire motion

Belfast City Council will hold a special meeting tonight at 6:30pm to discuss a motion on bonfires brought by Sinn Fein. The text of the motion is as follows; “This Council is opposed to rogue bonfires where they present a threat to life, to property, to the environment, where they cause damage to public amenities and where they facilitate hate crime activities. “On the basis of these concerns this Council gives permission to our Council officers to remove bonfire materials or … Read more

Boys and young men who would once be proud builders of World-class Ocean liners are now relegated to building bonfires…

We all felt sorry for the articulate young man whose apartment near Sandyrow was damaged by an 11th Night bonfire.   He, sensibly, didn’t want to be recognised so the interview was done off camera.   He wanted to live in safety, he wanted compensation for the damage but above all he didn’t want to annoy anyone or interfere with “cultural expression”.   These seem reasonable middle-class values and who could argue with them?  His neighbour, a thirty-something woman, equally articulate, praised the … Read more

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 … Read more

Bonfire Porn and Our Contempt of the Working Class…

While the last pallets were gathered and stacked in estates around the country yesterday, moralising social media pundits were already unleashing patronising vitriol. It grows in vigour as the sky-scraping pyres rise ever higher across the province, the self-assertion of Northern Ireland’s armchair intelligentsia whose smug classist intolerance is as easy and cheap as the ignorance they supposedly are criticising. There are, of course, unsavoury and deeply rooted elements of this celebration that are commandeered for sectarian purpose and are … Read more

Protestant Identity, Vulnerability and Bonfires.

Chris Jenkins writes for us about his experiences touring some bonfires last summer…. The cameraman runs up towards the bonfire. The wooden pallets tower over him. Teenagers begin to light the colossal structure with flaming torches. “He’s gone too close”, I think straight away. The fire started to move quickly, and the young men lighting it stayed a step ahead, using their torches to light the petrol in the middle of the wooden structure. One of the teenagers who we … Read more

Gavin Robinson: “I don’t think we can leave it for another year … to make sure we manage all of the bonfires in a much better way” … but what can be done?

Six fire engines and 35 fire crew sprayed cold water on houses and trees facing the East Belfast Chobham Street bonfire to keep them safe from the savage heat and flames on the Eleventh night. Speaking to the BBC today, local MP Gavin Robinson said: Elected representatives, community representatives, statutory agencies, the police and those of influence with the community – they were all ignored and I think that’s greatly regrettable. … I don’t think we can leave it for … Read more

If progress is to be made on dangerous bonfires, the political footballs need to be kept firmly in the bag

The bonfire is not, as you would think from all the commentary, an exclusive feature of July Orangeism. In my own Tyrone village for instance – which is predominantly Catholic in population, but broadly quite apolitical in attitude – various housing estates would traditionally compete at Halloween time to see who could build the biggest bonfire. Yes, there were even incarnations of those bonfires that were situated rather recklessly. Fundamentally, the concept of the bonfire is something which working classes … Read more

“Mammy, why do we not have a flag on our house?”

Mairia Cahill writes on her impressions of visiting a bonfire site on the lower Shankill yesterday, and how a child’s eye view, unencumbered by the narrative framing of cultural matters, helped her see another side to the celebrations of The Twelfth. A week ago, I caused consternation amongst some of the hardline Loyalist community for raising the issue of flags flying from lampposts. I asked was there any “need” to fly large Union Jacks from in an effort to understand … Read more

Would you mind moving out of your home we would like to risk burning down our whole neighbourhood?

I blame the pallets. Back the olden days, when I was young, there was no way of building 11th Night bonfires high enough to scare the neighbours out of their homes. Pallets are eminently combustible, readily available and endlessly (it seems) stackable. And now, no one in authority knows what to do other than tell people whose homes might burn down to get out of them. Veteran local councillor Jim Rogers is still trying to use the gently gently approach… … Read more

Beacons and the hornet’s nest of bonfires

Bonfire in King George V Playing Fields in East Belfast

Driving into work every morning I pass a number of bonfire sites. The stacks of pallets strewn across the sites on the Donegall Road have been gradually sculpted into tall towers. It’s good to see an absence of tyres at Monarch Street. (Their bonfire suffered from being lit prematurely in 2011 and was given a Council-provided beacon and a hastily reconstructed tyre-ridden replacement bonfire.) Bonfires have rarely been out of the news headlines in recent weeks: Agreement was reached to … Read more

“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 … Read more

Some more Bonfires/Bonefires/Bonies

Cluan Place/ Junction of Albertbridge Rd. The tarmac has been protected by a layer of sand. It hadn’t been repaired since last years bonefire. 3 days on from my last visit…… Donegal Pass which has no tyres or flags on it (at lunchtime) and also has a beacon. This makes me think that this might be a bonfire site signed up to the Bonfire Management Scheme. There are countless smaller bonfires across the city If anyone is in town tomorrow … Read more

NI Fahrenheit 45 101 – Fire Service seek to burn a blog

“I just want someone to hear what I have to say. And maybe if I talk long enough, it’ll make sense.” I didn’t expect to return to my costing 11th bonfires blog series until a final entry bringing together all the drains on the public purse. However I’m forced to revist the topic today as the first entry in the series attracted an unexpected response from the Freedom of Information Co-Ordinator [sic] at the NI Fire and Rescue Service. I  … Read more

Synchronicity? Or cribbing?

A quick aside. I see Tommy Burns MLA quite regularly at our gaelic club and we have an occasional chat. We’ve never discussed Slugger to my recollection and certainly haven’t chatted about my posts on the costs of 11th July bonfires.

I’m surprised to see that completely independently he has asked the exact same questions on costs to the Fire Service that I had answered back on 19th August.

The Irish News, Belfast Telegraph and UTV all say;

The figures were revealed by the Assembly after a freedom of information question from the SDLP’s Thomas Burns


Update: As per Nevin’s comment below – it was synchronicity. What are the odds on that?

Read moreSynchronicity? Or cribbing?

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