Suzanne Breen: Vile bonfire acts have become a repulsive race to the gutter
Every July we have become accustomed to various obscenities occurring on the Eleventh Night. Last year, an effigy of Martin McGuinness in his coffin was placed on a bonfire at Clonduff Road in east Belfast.
It's normal in this part of the world for flags and election posters of those identified as 'the enemy' to be burnt at a certain time of year.
But there was something deeply disturbing about seeing McGuinness's face stuck on a mock casket on the pyre. The former Deputy First Minister was dead just three months.
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Whatever the view of him in the loyalist community, this was crude, ugly and utterly devoid of class.
Republicans have long occupied the moral high ground regarding such incidents in loyalist areas. But events at this year's bonfires show a repulsive race to the gutter by the worst elements in both communities.
The placing of the names of murdered prison and police officers on the Bogside bonfire on Wednesday was a vile act.
Only mindless morons could think it fitting to gloat about the deaths of David Black, Adrian Ismay, Stephen Carroll and Ronan Kerr in that way.
Unfortunately, it wasn't a one-off and follows a sign on a Newry bonfire mocking Willie Frazer's dead father Bertie last week.
The disgust voiced by David Black's son Kyle and Stephen Carroll's widow Kate will be shared by all decent people on both sides of the political divide.
I have heard it said that the placing of the names of the deceased police and prison officers on the bonfire was the work of a small number of young bonfire builders. That's not an adequate excuse.
Why did nobody older and wiser - political or community figures - intervene to remove the placards?
We see the exact same absence of leadership in loyalist areas with Eleventh Night pyres.
Such material is clearly a hate crime. One community aping the other in depraved and disgusting behaviour is extremely depressing for all who want to build a better future.
It seems the new maxim regarding Northern Ireland's bonfires is 'when they go low, we go lower'.