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Editor's Viewpoint

Celebrate your culture without adding fuel to sectarian fire

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Messages and posters on the Cregagh bonfire in east Belfast

Messages and posters on the Cregagh bonfire in east Belfast

Messages and posters on the Cregagh bonfire in east Belfast

On the one hand those who oppose the tradition of Eleventh night bonfires are admonished as attempting to deny the right of a cultural celebration.

On the other the images come thick and fast of election posters, Irish flags, hate messages aimed at ‘the other side’.

Everyone has the right to celebrate their culture.

But does it have to be a celebration at the expense of someone who doesn’t share the same opinion?

Sadly we’ve seen it all too often in Northern Ireland.

There have been bonfires set alight with the images and names of prison officers murdered by the IRA, or unionist politicians, of security force members. The Union flag sent up in flames.

And what we had on Monday night was different, only the same. Sinn Fein, SDLP and People Before Profit election posters and KAT slogans (Kill All Taigs). A plethora of “pathetic scrawled messages” and a series of sectarian slurs.

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Some in Northern Ireland still salivate over the distasteful and until that bitterness is diluted, either by proactive political representation or by those who organise and build bonfires of whatever colour, fuel will continue to be added to the flames.

And all the time these events are billed as ‘fun for all the family’.

The vast majority of those who attend the Twelfth and join in the celebrations want nothing to do with the hatred on display.

The condemnation rightly comes afterwards, but too often the majority stay silent and simply allow it to happen.

There is a poison still leaking from elements and it’s affecting the society in which we all live.

And when you have an elected councillor being asked by his children ‘why are you on a bonfire?’ what hope is there for the next generation?

Whatever our background, whatever out beliefs, we should all be proud of the culture we come from. We should be allowed to celebrate that. But for every culture to be accepted and tolerated perhaps it’s time to take a step away from antagonism and move towards understanding. It’s only through understanding that political and religious barriers can be broken down.

It’s a good thing to be proud of your heritage, but we need a present to be proud of too. And with a little more dignity, perhaps there will be a little more acceptance all round.

Instead all some people do is give cause for retaliation with a constant rubbing of faces in the dirt which does nothing to stop the sectarian cycle so many of us want to get off.


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