8 August 2017
Why do some nationalists copy loyalist bonfires?
Small groups appear hell-bent on copying unionists with their own pyres on 15 August
WHY do some elements within the nationalist community copy the behaviour of the Eleventh Night bonfire builders who do so much damage to their cause?
In areas such as the Bogside in Derry, places with a long and proud history of republican resistance to oppression, small groups of young people (and some not so young) appear hell-bent on copying loyalist bonfire builders with their own pyres on 15 August.
Not only are they imitating loyalists in causing damage and disruption, they also cover their bonfires in stolen election posters and flags purely to provoke.
When asked why they insist on building bonfires that the local community has made it clear they don’t want, the invariable answers are ‘Because they do it’ or ‘It’s traditional’.
Some maintain it is to commemorate the anniversary of the introduction of internment in 1971, which is strange as that is not the date of its introduction (9 August). Others will say it’s to mark a Catholic religious feast, the Assumption. At least they get the date right for that one but the connection to burning pallets, tyres, flags and election posters is unfathomable.
Such bonfires are often accompanied by the painting of kerbstones and the flying of flags on lamp-posts to mark out territory. It is not only an insult to the national flag and what it stands for but it is also a pathetic attempt to copy loyalism. It is not republicanism.
The majority of local residents in areas where these bonfires persist have made it clear that they do not want them. The vast majority of ex-internees and former prisoners have also said this. Nevertheless, hundreds turn out to watch every year, whether out of curiosity or some misplaced sense of nostalgia.
It is too simple to say that if no one attended these bonfires then they would end, but it would remove any appearance of support or even ambivalence towards such displays of sectarianism from within the nationalist and republican community.
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Contributions from key figures in the churches, academia and wider civic society as well as senior republican figures