Belfast Telegraph

Doug Beattie: Burning flags and posters 'doesn't make you a greater unionist'

Speaking out: Doug Beattie
Speaking out: Doug Beattie

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie has urged bonfire organisers not to burn flags, effigies and posters on pyres, stating "it doesn't make you a greater unionist".

Mr Beattie made the comments ahead of the annual Eleventh night celebrations on Thursday, when hundreds of bonfires are to be lit across Northern Ireland.

In the past, election posters belonging to nationalist politicians and banners bearing anti-Catholic slogans have been placed on pyres.

Posting on social media, Doug Beattie said it is important unionists do not "undermine" their identity, culture and traditions by showing "intolerance, hate or ignorance".

"Therefore, I am asking that those responsible for bonfires throughout Northern Ireland refrain from burning banners depicting anti-Catholic slogans, or the burning of election posters," he said.

"I also ask that they consider burning only historical effigies as is traditional for unionist bonfires.

He said that he "fully understands" why some may view the Irish tricolour as a flag associated with "republican terrorists", but it reality is the national flag of Ireland.

"It is also the flag of many who I have served alongside within the Royal Irish Regiment who have freely given their loyalty to the UK Armed Forces.

"Therefore I ask that those in charge of the bonfires show real maturity and do not burn the national flag of Ireland and remember a safe and respectful bonfire promotes an inclusive union we all aspire to.

"Burning flags, effigies, posters and banners does not make you a greater unionist, but does undermine our traditions, culture and heritiage."

Earlier this month, a DUP councillor came under fire for posing for a photo in front of a bonfire with the Irish national flag burning in the background.

Councillor Margaret Tinsley, newly elected as deputy mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, had been attending the traditional July 1 bonfire at Edenderry in Portadown.

Sinn Fein called the image "deeply offensive" and a "hate display", but the DUP hit back, stating Sinn Fein is "in no position to lecture when it comes to commemorative events".

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