Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Contentious bonfires are blight on society

Trouble at bonfires, like nature's rain and cool breezes, seems to be an inevitable sign that summer in Northern Ireland is under way, as it affects both main communities
Trouble at bonfires, like nature's rain and cool breezes, seems to be an inevitable sign that summer in Northern Ireland is under way, as it affects both main communities

Editor's Viewpoint

Trouble at bonfires, like nature's rain and cool breezes, seems to be an inevitable sign that summer in Northern Ireland is under way, as it affects both main communities.

Last month a couple of contentious Eleventh Night bonfires - one at Avoniel in Belfast and the other in Portadown - dominated the headlines for days, and inflicted sheer misery on all those living in areas nearby.

Not surprisingly, residents were fearful of the risk to their property and their personal safety while the rest of us looked on helplessly as the sheer lawlessness played itself out.

Just to show that this anti-social behaviour is not the hallmark of one particular community, it is now the turn of the people of north Belfast to feel themselves under siege and equally helpless as a bonfire to mark the 48th anniversary of internment has left people worried about their personal safety and the safety of their homes,

Once again we in the general public join the local residents in remaining appalled at the anti-social behaviour being played out around them.

In the last 24 hours there have been more disgraceful scenes, with menacing graffiti targeting the contractors tasked with removing pallets. The situation was so bad yesterday that they had to move off the site.

As violence flared, one PSNI officer was hit by a missile, and police subsequently pulled out of the area as lawlessness seemed to have won the day.

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The residents who were stuck in the middle of the continuing misery had little choice. They could remain where they were, or try to seek temporary safety elsewhere.

This is no way for people to have to live in the Northern Ireland of today. Once again it is clear that some elements are taking advantage of yet another anniversary to create disorder and unrest. What is equally clear is the fact that the people do not want this anti-social and unruly behaviour.

Local politicians have been working on the ground, but so far with only limited success. It is obvious that these issues have to be headed off before they gain momentum, but that is often easier said than done.

No one wants this kind of behaviour where others seize, almost as of right, opportunities to create mayhem on the anniversaries of certain events.

Unfortunately, there are enough memories of contentious periods in our joint and shared history to give excuses for demonstrations on almost every day of the year.

What is needed is a whole new mindset about the past, which will take a long time to manifest itself.

Meanwhile, ordinary people here should not have to dread summer every year in a world where most people elsewhere are able to enjoy it as best they can.

Belfast Telegraph

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