CONTROVERSY, sectarian threats and violence have long been associated with July 11 bonfires and the season of marches. “Kick the Pope” bands and bigoted hate music and songs are a regular feature of many Loyal Order parades.
Again this year, election posters of Sinn Féin, representatives of the SDLP and the Alliance competed for space on the bonfires. Effigies of Mary Lou McDonald, Michelle O’Neill and Naoimi Long hung from makeshift gallows. Bigoted, misogynistic and abusive slogans were nailed to bonfires. Among them ‘KAT’ – Kill all Taigs; “All Taigs are targets.”
Also this year, a young man from Larne died when bonfire builders clashed over who could build the biggest and tallest.
This aspect of what trade unionism euphemistically describes as “culture” dates back at least 200 years. The Orange Order was created to defend British interests and British rule in Ireland. Andrew Boyd’s seminal book – ‘Holy War in Belfast’ – and Michael Farrell’s ‘The Orange State’ are among those that record the use of bigotry by the British state and Unionist political elite to maintain their supremacy in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Riots and sectarian pogroms were a familiar pattern in Belfast during this period. The effigies also played their part. Lundy, or rather an effigy of him, is burned each year in Derry as part of the Lundy Day parade to mark the Siege of Derry in 1688. Lundy was the Governor of Derry who offered to surrender but was thwarted when the apprentice boys have locked the city gates.
One of the worst examples of prolonged sectarian violence occurred in August 1864 when loyalists burned an effigy of Daniel O’Connell on the Boyne Bridge between Durham Street and Sandy Row, then attacked the Catholic Pound area in the Falls region. In the days of violence across Belfast that followed, 11 people died and hundreds were injured. More than 800 families were forced to flee their homes and 247 houses were destroyed.
Despite the bigotry surrounding the July bonfires, there are those in the media and within political unionism who insist that it is not a threat but part of the cultural tradition of unionism. .
If similar effigies and slogans against people of color, Muslims or Jews were to appear in any other state of the European Union, the United States or even Great Britain, they would immediately be qualified as hate crimes and steps would be taken to suppress and detain them. responsible legally responsible. Not here.
Instead, the PSNI and the Public Ministry are not resisting this behavior. No action has been taken to remove the offending content. No action taken to dismantle bonfires carrying this material. And hate crime charges are unlikely to be brought anytime soon. I have personal experience of this. In the past, I filed a complaint for sectarian threats made against me.
I understand the frustration many feel now after another bonfire period in July. It is unacceptable. Let the Twelfth be celebrated. The Orange tradition is part of who we are. But unacceptable excesses around bonfires, sectarian chanting or chanting, and certain locations and sizes of bonfires cannot be tolerated.
If we want to build a better future, there can be no room for bigotry – no matter who is responsible for it. The Good Friday Agreement clearly states that citizens have the right to be “free from sectarian harassment”. We must make this fundamental principle a reality by enshrining in law an effective legal definition of bigotry with legal penalties and strong provisions on incitement to hatred. Those who use effigies, slogans and posters as symbols of hate must know without a doubt that they will be prosecuted. And if someone wants to build a bonfire, there should be rules and regulations governing where, when, and how high.
In the new Ireland, there will be a place for Orange. Marches and bonfires will be part of it. But there can be no tolerance for bigotry and hatred, wherever they come from.
Heartwarming reference from a strong community
I LOVE spending as much time as possible outdoors. Now, in case I give the wrong impression, let me clarify that I’m not walking or hiking all the time. I do it sometimes, but most of the time I just sit. That’s why I love benches.
I have one that I inherited from our old neighbor Billy McCulloch. To be honest, I only inherited the metal ends. The wooden shrouds had long since given up. Billy was a big little man. A lover of poetry. The guys at the Mens’ Shed in Cooley fixed his bench for me. I celebrate Billy’s friendship by sitting on his pew and raising a glass to his memory. Then I read a poem aloud. That of Seamus Heaney or Patrick Kavanagh. So this bench for me will always be Wee Billy’s bench.
The great, late Desi Ferguson made me a wonderful bench. Des was a powerful woodworker as well as a great footballer and lovable pitcher. And a great friend. His bench is powerful. He made me other wooden furniture. Martin McGuinness also benefited from Des’s generosity and carpentry skills. Des’s bench will outlast me. He survived Des. And Martina. It is constructed from old hardwood and it is shaped to allow the keeper maximum comfort. The arms are also constructed to allow you to place a glass or plate next to you. They widen. Practice. I often think of Des, but I feel particularly close to him when I sit on the bench he made especially for me. Go raibh maith agat, Des.
I think there should be benches in all of our public spaces. In the Parc des Chutes, benches are dedicated to local populations. It’s a good idea. There are also good benches at the town cemetery. But only at the front. Why not at the back? And why not outside? There are none at all in Milltown, I note. Why not?
Decades ago, when our community set out to reclaim our public spaces, some people rightly feared that these renovated areas would be overrun by anti-social elements. Others felt that we could not let this determine the way we live. This was also my point of view. We needed strategies and resources to address antisocial behavior and many good people do this in multiple ways. De Féile has many youth initiatives, our local schools, multiple sports groups, a brilliant community and voluntary sector. We are blessed with good people.
And in the meantime, our civic space is expanding with new walkways on the mountain, at Colin Glen, the Bog Meadows, the Springfield Dam, beautiful Dunville and Falls Parks, the new greenways, Casement and future development of this part of the district. The renovated Saint Comgall. The front of Coláiste Feirste. Our mountain trails would benefit greatly from a few discreet, strategically placed benches. We can’t all hide in the heather. The views are magnificent. Imagine yourself sitting in comfort above all else. On a nice bench. Looking towards Scotland and Strangford. Or Lake Neagh.
It’s also great to see the many cafes and other small restaurants with their sidewalk tables and chairs well used in this nice weather. Although I do note a number of shabby abandoned stores in stark contrast to our award winning new architecture. But I’m sure these too will be settled in the time to come.
In the meantime, let’s dot our streets with benches. A community bench is a very democratic civic essential. This encourages people to go out knowing that they will have a place to sit if the idea or the need takes them. It becomes a focal point for pedestrians to rest a bit and watch the world go by or have fun with other citizens. Bí I do shui agus lig do scith.
For example, the bottom of Whiterock Road where it joins the falls is perfect for a bench. And above Connolly House at The Busy Bee? Surely room for a few benches? And in all our neighborhoods. Small civic spaces. Small community gardens. Community benches.
Do you have anything to say on this issue?
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