Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Now the smoke has cleared the Executive must tackle burning issue of monster loyalist bonfires

Stormont needs to act to fill vacuum created by absence of unionist leadership, writes Alban Maginness

Published 13/07/2016

An Eleventh Night bonfire in Newtownabbey
An Eleventh Night bonfire in Newtownabbey

This year's concerns over the size and position of the monster bonfire at Chobham Street in east Belfast is a bizarre repeat of the concerns expressed last year. Despite the fact that the bonfire in 2015 was monstrously high and posed an obvious danger to the surrounding properties - and, more importantly, the local residents - no significant action was taken by any public authority to intervene and deal with this problem in the first instance.

I acknowledge that remedial action was taken by the Fire Service to hose down the surrounding houses to prevent physical damage and to deal with the fire once it inevitably toppled over. In all, six fire appliances and 35 firemen were required on the Eleventh Night last year. The Housing Executive also boarded up homes and evacuated some local residents to provide them with safety.

But all of these actions - laudable as they were - could not be described as preventative, or seriously addressing the kernel of the problem of uncontrolled, anarchic and lawless bonfire-building and burning.

This year we had a repeat of last year; this time with Belfast City Council removing children's play equipment from a playground close to the new monster bonfire site. All this, of course, at the expense to the public purse - as was the case last year.

The PSNI, council, Housing Executive and relevant Government departments have all failed or avoided making any effective public intervention and have washed their collective hands of any responsibility, citing an inadequacy in the law. All the relevant public bodies which might have some input into preventing such a reoccurrence have remarkably sought refuge in a legal vacuum. But surely this can't be an acceptable or responsible position in a civilised society?

Where else in the civilised world would there be such a civic paralysis? Where else in the world would a Government or its agencies, particularly its police service, become a mere spectator on the sidelines of a potentially very dangerous fire becoming an actual risk to life and property?

Where else would the public become helpless witnesses to outrageous defiance by self-appointed groups of young people in the loyalist community who, according to Jim Wilson, himself a loyalist community worker in east Belfast, are "putting two fingers up to loyalism"?

Even if no serious injury or damage to property occurred, can we as a society continue to tolerate such lawlessness? This raises the whole question of political responsibility and the failure of our Government to take action to fill the legislative vacuum that clearly exists in the regulation of bonfires. It is not as if this is a new problem as it occurs - and recurs - on an annual basis.

The only serious initiative was the Belfast City Council-led bonfire management scheme to give activity grants for good management around bonfires. This voluntary scheme - good though it is - has only been partially successful and does not in any event address the totality of the problem. For years we have seen the excesses which have occurred around bonfires on the Eleventh Night.

These range from the danger posed by the bonfires themselves to drunkenness, hooliganism, even rioting. The accident and emergency departments of our hospitals routinely anticipate an annual stream of injuries on the Eleventh Night, ranging from burns to violent injuries.

A house catches fire at the Lower Shankill bonfire as it is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
A house catches fire at the Lower Shankill bonfire as it is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
A house catches fire at the Lower Shankill bonfire as it is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
The Lower Shankill bonfire is lit during July 12th celebrations in Belfast , 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
A bonfire is lit on the Shankill Road in Belfast on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
A man dampens down a building as a bonfire is lit on the Shankill Road in Belfast on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
A man dampens down a building as a bonfire is lit on the Shankill Road in Belfast on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
A bonfire is lit on the Shankill Road in Belfast on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
A bonfire is lit on the Shankill Road in Belfast on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
A man uses petrol to light a bonfire on the Shankill Road in Belfast on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
Bonfire at Tennent Street in west Belfast. 11th July 2016. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Highfield Estate bonfire in west Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Bonfire at Tennent Street in west Belfast. 11th July 2016. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Bonfire at Tennent Street in west Belfast. 11th July 2016. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Eleventh night bonfire in the Highfield Estate in west Belfast July 11 2016. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Eleventh night bonfire in the Highfield Estate in west Belfast July 11 2016. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Eleventh night bonfire in the Highfield Estate in west Belfast July 11 2016. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Eleventh night bonfire in the Highfield Estate in west Belfast July 11 2016. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
A huge bonfire in Tigers Bay area of Belfast before it is lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
An 11th Night bonfire at Edgarstown, Portadown, covered in at leat 30 Sinn Fein and SDLP election posters. This follows a complaint to police about another bonfire in Portadown's Corcrain Estate as a hate crime by Sinn Fein.
A huge bonfire in Tigers Bay area of Belfast before it is lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
A huge bonfire in Tigers Bay area of Belfast before it is lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PA
Loyalists climb up one of the largest 11th night Bonfires with Irish tricolour flags in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Two women take photographs of one of the largest 11th night Bonfires in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. AFP/Getty Images
Children atop the huge bonfire in Sandy Row, Belfast with a banner displaying an offensive message directed at SDLP MLA Clare Hanna. PA
Loyalists gesture at the foot of one of the largest 11th night Bonfires after raising Irish tricolour flags in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Loyalists gesture from the top of one of the largest 11th night Bonfires after raising Irish tricolour flags in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
A youth balances on a fence as Union flags flutter in the breeze beside one of the largest 11th night Bonfires in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Loyalists climb up one of the largest 11th night Bonfires with Irish tricolour flags in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
A youth balances on a fence beside one of the largest 11th night Bonfires in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
A youth balances on a fence as Union flags flutter in the breeze beside one of the largest 11th night Bonfires in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Foreign tourists take a tour past one of the largest 11th night Bonfires in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
A man climbs up one of the largest 11th night Bonfires in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
A woman steps out of a taxi to take a photograph of one of the largest 11th night Bonfires in the lower Shankill road area of Belfast, Northern Ireland on July 11, 2016, ahead of the lighting of the traditional 11th night bonfires. The Eleventh Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, an annual Protestant commemoration of the famous battle were Protestant King William III of Orange defeated Catholic King James II at the battle of the Boyne on July 12, 1690. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITHPAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 11: Loyalists make final preparations to their bonfire on the Newtownards road on July 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The lighting of the bonfires at midnight on the eleventh night marks the start of the annual twelfth of July celebrations within the protestant community. The Orange marches and demonstrations celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II on the banks of the river Boyne. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 11: A woman walks past tables stacked with sweets, fizzy drinks and crisps as Loyalists make final preparations to their bonfire on the Newtownards road on July 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The lighting of the bonfires at midnight on the eleventh night marks the start of the annual twelfth of July celebrations within the protestant community. The Orange marches and demonstrations celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II on the banks of the river Boyne. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 11: Loyalists make final preparations to their bonfire on the Newtownards road on July 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The lighting of the bonfires at midnight on the eleventh night marks the start of the annual twelfth of July celebrations within the protestant community. The Orange marches and demonstrations celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II on the banks of the river Boyne. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 11: A Loyalist poses for a drone as he is filmed making final preparations to a huge bonfire on the Ballymacash estate on July 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Ballymacash bonfire is reported as the largest bonfire construct in the province. The lighting of the bonfires at midnight on the eleventh night marks the start of the annual twelfth of July celebrations within the protestant community. The Orange marches and demonstrations celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II on the banks of the river Boyne. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 11: Loyalist Peter Stenhouse carries a wooden pallet as he makes final preparations to a bonfire on the Ballymacash estate on July 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The lighting of the bonfires at midnight on the eleventh night marks the start of the annual twelfth of July celebrations within the protestant community. The Orange marches and demonstrations celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II on the banks of the river Boyne. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 11: A Loyalist poses for a drone as he is filmed making final preparations to a huge bonfire on the Ballymacash estate on July 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Ballymacash bonfire is reported as the largest bonfire construct in the province. The lighting of the bonfires at midnight on the eleventh night marks the start of the annual twelfth of July celebrations within the protestant community. The Orange marches and demonstrations celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II on the banks of the river Boyne. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 11: A Loyalist poses for a drone as he is filmed making final preparations to a huge bonfire on the Ballymacash estate on July 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Ballymacash bonfire is reported as the largest bonfire construct in the province. The lighting of the bonfires at midnight on the eleventh night marks the start of the annual twelfth of July celebrations within the protestant community. The Orange marches and demonstrations celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II on the banks of the river Boyne. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 11: A Loyalist poses for a drone as he is filmed making final preparations to a huge bonfire on the Ballymacash estate on July 11, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Ballymacash bonfire is reported as the largest bonfire construct in the province. The lighting of the bonfires at midnight on the eleventh night marks the start of the annual twelfth of July celebrations within the protestant community. The Orange marches and demonstrations celebrate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II on the banks of the river Boyne. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Men construct a bonfire in the Ballymacash area of Lisburn, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
File photo dated 10/07/16 of a completed bonfire in the Hopewell area in the Lower Shankill, Belfast, as huge bonfires, are to be lit in loyalist communities across Northern Ireland ahead of the main date in the loyal order parading season - the Twelfth of July. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.Issue date: Monday July 11, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
An bonfire under construction in the Ballymacash area of Lisburn, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
An bonfire under construction in the Ballymacash area of Lisburn, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Men construct a bonfire in the Ballymacash area of Lisburn, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Men stand on a bonfire under construction in the Ballymacash area of Lisburn, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A completed bonfire in the Hopewell area in the Lower Shankill, Belfast, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A completed bonfire in the Hopewell area in the Lower Shankill, Belfast, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A bonfire under construction near Chobam Street, Belfast, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Men construct a bonfire in the Ballymacash area of Lisburn, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A completed bonfire in the Hopewell area in the Lower Shankill, Belfast, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A completed bonfire in the Hopewell area in the Lower Shankill, Belfast, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A completed bonfire in the Hopewell area in the Lower Shankill, Belfast, as building continues on huge loyalist bonfires, which are traditionally lit on the "Eleventh night" to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 10, 2016. Authorities in Northern Ireland are cautiously optimistic the main fixture in the loyal order parading season can pass off peacefully, but have a major policing operation planned to deal with any unrest. See PA story ULSTER Twelfth. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Pacemaker Press 11/7/2016 A on looker watches on at the preparations the for 11th night Bonfire at Ballymacash in Lisburn, ahead of the 12th of July celebration across Northern Ireland. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 11/7/2016 Preparations the for 11th night Bonfire at Donegall Road in Belfast, ahead of the 12th of July celebration across Northern Ireland. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press Belfast 11-07-2016: Pallets for a bonfire are stacked near Sandy Row in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Picture By: Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 11-07-2016: Pallets for a bonfire are stacked near the Comber Greenway in east Belfast, blocking a cycle path leading into the city Swings and a climbing frame have been removed from a £250,000 playground next to the Comber Greenway in east Belfast because of the dangers posed by an Eleventh Night bonfire. Homes and windows are being boarded up near the bonfire. Picture By: Pacemaker.
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2016 Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2016 Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Pacemaker Press Belfast 11-07-2016: Pallets for a bonfire are stacked near the Comber Greenway in east Belfast, blocking a cycle path leading into the city Swings and a climbing frame have been removed from a £250,000 playground next to the Comber Greenway in east Belfast because of the dangers posed by an Eleventh Night bonfire. Homes and windows are being boarded up near the bonfire. Picture By: Pacemaker.
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2016 Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2016 Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2016 Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2016 Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2016 Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2016 Ballymacash bonfire in Lisburn in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye © Sunday 10th July 2016 The Bonfire at Drumtara, Ballee, in Ballymena which is stacked with tyres.
The Edgarstown bonfire in Portadown in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Photo: PressEye
The Edgarstown bonfire in Portadown in the final stages of preparation for the 11th July celebrations. Photo: PressEye
Ballycraigy bonfire in Antrim
Pacemaker Press Belfast 08-07-2016: Bonfire in the Loyalist Ballybeen estate in Dundonald, close the Parliament buidlings, Stormont. Picture By: Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 08-07-2016: Bonfire in the Loyalist Ballybeen estate in Dundonald, close the Parliament buidlings, Stormont. Picture By: Pacemaker.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th July A bonfire is prepared on the Milltown Road in south Belfast ahead of the 11th night bonfire celebrations which will take place across Northern Ireland this Monday night. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Credit - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast, UK - July 07 , Tyres on the Ballybeen Bonfire in Dundonald on July 07, 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Credit - Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph Belfast, UK - July 07 , Tyres on the Ballybeen Bonfire in Dundonald on July 07, 2016 ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
Pacemaker Press 5/7/2016 Preparations get well under way at Chobham Street Bonfire in East Belfast, on the run up to The 12th of July. Pic Pacemaker

The bonfire sites are too often excuses for the flagrant display of sectarian and political hatred, with offensive racist signs, the burning of Irish tricolours, or the burning of nationalist or republican election posters.

I myself have had the indignity of seeing my own election posters elevated onto bonfires, much to the disgust and annoyance of friends and family.

The outrageous painting last week of 'Foreigners out at a bonfire site on the Newtownards Road is yet another example of uninhibited racism and a shameful indictment of loyalist bonfire culture.

Those loyalists who promptly removed it are to be congratulated. But there is a failure by unionist politicians to unequivocally condemn, or even acknowledge, the problems surrounding bonfires.

This failure by them encourages the excesses which we regularly have to endure.

All of us are losers in this situation, but the biggest losers of all are, ultimately, the loyalist community, which will become even more marginalised.

However, it is now primarily up to the Executive to legislate and to regulate a long-term problem that has steadily got worse because of political avoidance and denial.

Unless this problem is urgently - and imaginatively - addressed it will proliferate... and the consequences could be very grave.




































Belfast Telegraph

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph