Today, with only 6 days until the 11 July bonfires, once again debate raged around the yearly cultural events.
There has been a long term agenda to bring all bonfires under the umbrella of a statutory enforcement scheme, which would have eventually sought to neutralise and finally eradicate bonfires.
I have written extensively about this in the past as well as successfully raising legal points challenging the validity of statutory led schemes. This led to a reversal in North Down and Ards- some articles can be found here;
During today’s debate we consistently heard the Alliance party’s Paula Bradshaw mention the need for regulation. This was echoed by commentator Chris Donnelly. Mr Donnelly’s call for regulation stems from his desire to eradicate bonfires per se. Looking at the success Nationalists have achieved using the Parades Commission to wage war on Unionist culture, they see the benefit in statutory regulation and therefore are continually attempting to bring flags and bonfires under such a remit.
Such statutory regulation, which again would be designed to limit and police the cultural expressions of primarily one community, must be strongly resisted by Unionism.
Any form of racism is absolutely disgraceful and should not be tolerated. You, quite simply, cannot be a loyalist and a racist. Therefore, it is in this context that I say the racist slogan on an East Belfast bonfire is not reflective of loyalism.
Given the widespread agenda to demonise bonfires and to find some mechanism of opening the door to statutory enforcement, I am not wholly convinced that the racist slogan wasn’t placed there by an agent provoctetour in order to give an excuse for statutory intervention and thus opening the door for a precedent being set for the PSNI to remove items from bonfires.
The East Belfast Act initiative deserve credit and praise. As soon as it became apparent the slogan was on the bonfire, East Belfast Act representatives had it removed and, I understand, will continue in discussions with local residents and bonfire builders about a range of issues pertaining to that particular bonfire.
I believe such positive leadership within loyalism should be showcased and promoted. Often the positive deeds within loyalism go unnoticed, perhaps due to a reluctance to engage positively with the media
Chastising the media for covering stories about bonfires and flags will only serve to deepen the alienation and isolation of loyalism. Instead loyalism must engage and challenge the negative narratives, whilst promoting the positive work being undertaken.