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Foster rails at those who ‘demonise’  Ulster-British culture at this time of the year

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Arlene Foster

Arlene Foster

Arlene Foster

Former First Minister Arlene Foster has criticised what she called “sneering” at expressions of Ulster-British culture in Northern Ireland. 

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph on the eve of the traditional Twelfth celebrations, the Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA said that while she and the British community here looked forward to the celebrations, she recognised others did not.

“Irish republican activists view the Twelfth as another opportunity not to understand their neighbours, but instead to demonise them; this year the subject of demonisation is bonfires,” she claimed.

"On other occasions it can be parading, or the erection of the national flag.

“Republican separatists have recently tried to portray a united Ireland as a place where all would be welcome — the latest slogan is ‘A united Ireland is for everyone’. This is arrant nonsense, of course.

"Look beyond the anodyne slogan and listen to the vice president of Sinn Fein and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, who declared as a fact last Friday that “bonfires are not a celebration of culture”.

“Obviously, Michelle (O’Neill) has not bothered to take the time to find out why loyalists in Northern Ireland light bonfires on the eve of the Twelfth.

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"If she did, she would know that it is a re-enactment of lighting the way for William as he arrived on the island of Ireland through Carrickfergus.

“In short, it is very much a cultural activity revisiting what happened in that famous prelude to the Battle of the Boyne.”

Mrs Foster also criticised Tory MP Simon Hoare, who chairs the NI Affair Committee in Parliament, for what she called "sneering Twitter comments” about Eleventh Night bonfires.

"He later apologised for the ill-judged remarks, albeit by trying to justify them as tongue-in-cheek banter,” she said.

In her article, the former DUP leader also said political posters should not be placed on bonfires, and applauded boxer Carl Frampton’s pre-Twelfth call for respect and tolerance.

“As Carl Frampton, who was brought up in a loyalist area, said: ‘Whether you agree with it or not, the bonfires play a big part in a lot of people’s cultures and traditions here. All cultures should be respected and I hope that the 11th and 12th celebrations pass by without any trouble’. I couldn’t have put it better myself.”


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