Belfast Telegraph

These ill-considered remarks will have caused great offence

By Nelson McCausland

Presbyterian Moderator Dr Frank Sellar has been visiting north Belfast this week and his press release states that he visited congregations, community groups, the PSNI and interface areas.

I do not know who organised his itinerary, but I am disappointed that he omitted to meet with the elected representatives from the area. I cannot speak for other political parties, but I do know that the Member of Parliament for the constituency and unionist MLAs were omitted from his programme.

In his speech at the Ulster University he spoke of inclusion, but this was a case of exclusion and one on which I hope he will reflect.

His comments on bonfires were ill-considered and inaccurate. He condemned bonfires on environmental grounds and for "passing on the sins of our fathers".

There is a tradition of bonfires in many parts of the world and indeed across the United Kingdom, including here in Northern Ireland.

Last week the failure of the Gunpowder Plot was remembered in many communities in England with bonfires and fireworks and the traditional 'Eleventh Night' bonfires recall the arrival of William III and the Glorious Revolution.

Is Dr Sellar suggesting that these historic events were "the sins of our fathers" and that they were somehow sinful?

Many people in the unionist community will look back on their earlier years and recall helping to build bonfires.

I am horrified to hear it suggested that we were somehow "passing on the sins of our fathers". Some of the things Dr Sellar said elsewhere in his speech were fine - but the focus of public attention and media attention will be on some confused and confusing remarks which will have offended many people and which should not have been made.

  • Nelson McCausland is a DUP Assembly Member for North Belfast, and an Orangeman

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