Belfast Telegraph

Bone-headed bonfire builders are embarrassment to Orange parades

By Alf McCreary

Now the Twelfth demonstrations and parades have passed off peacefully, people can look forward to the rest of the summer. Praise is due to the Orange Order leaders, as well as politicians and community workers, in ensuring that this year's parades had hardly a hitch, and that there was no sectarian music at St Patrick's Catholic Church in Belfast.

There was a welcome maturity among demonstrators on both sides, which gives us hope and is also an indication that grass-roots people are ahead of most of our politicians.

The recurring problem around the Twelfth is a minority of loyalist thugs among the woodpiles and tyres. Once again, they have held the whole community to ransom.

Belfast City Council was unimpressive in its handling of the whole affair. The silence from unionist politicians was deafening, and Sinn Fein, true to form, tried to stir things up by demanding that the bonfire material should be removed.

The only people with the courage to speak out were a pastor from east Belfast and newly-appointed Methodist President, the Rev Dr Laurence Graham.

Dr Graham praised the "respectful and dignified manner" in which the Orange parade took place at the Ardoyne.

In contrast, he underlined the bad behaviour of some bonfire enthusiasts, who burned election posters of their political opponents, as well as the effigy of the late Martin McGuinness.

These were the acts of people who were smart enough to want to create trouble, or stupid enough not to know any better. However, what they did was purely sectarian, and in law possibly hate crimes. They also caused needless problems for the hard-pressed fire service, and endangered the homes of householders living beside the bonfires.

This has been happening for the past few years but once the Twelfth has passed, most people forget about it for the next year or so, until the problem rears its ugly head again, and in a worse form.

Such lawlessness must not be forgotten, and it is incumbent on Belfast City Council, the police and anyone with influence, to produce a plan where this cannot happen again.

Sadly, however, the problem is not just physical, or one of security. The real challenge lies in getting through to the boneheads at the bonfires who believe that it is good fun to burn the posters and effigies of their political opponents.

If they would stop to think for a moment, provided that they actually can think strategically, they might conclude that it is not all that smart to burn posters and effigies.

By doing so, they reinforce the latest mantra of Sinn Fein, who prattle on about "equality and respect" at every opportunity. Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has now found a simple slogan that can be used on all occasions to further his ends for a united Ireland.

The demand for "equality and respect" provides Sinn Fein with endless scoring of points. So when loyalists burn posters and effigies of their opponents, they are playing into the hands of Mr Adams and Sinn Fein, who are busily rewriting history to show they are the 'good guys'.

The more boneheaded loyalists who decided to burn the effigy of Martin McGuinness, did not recognise, or wish to recognise, that despite his earlier dark career he walked more than the extra mile in his later political life to try to bring reconciliation to this troubled community.

Martin McGuinness, like Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson but not Arlene Foster, had the political skills to keep the Assembly going. His fatal illness and alarmingly quick deterioration allowed Sinn Fein hardliners to take centre stage and place us in the political situation where we remain today.

It is clear to all thinking people, except the bonfire enthusiasts, that the one effigy they should not have burned was that of Martin McGuinness, who was their political friend in a way that they are incapable of understanding.

This remains a serious situation, and I am glad that the Methodist President and the east Belfast Pastor have had the courage to speak out.

I hope other Church leaders, now strangely silent but presumably on their holidays, will also have the courage to speak out when they return to reality.

Belfast Telegraph

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