Flag-burning and culture

It’s odd what you hear on the radio. And what you don’t hear.  This morning on BBC Radio Uladh they had a man from the Polish community, talking about the burning of Polish flags on top of Twelfth bonfires. Naturally it was something he felt fairly strongly about and he urged that action should be taken. He wasn’t looking to have the perpetrators of what verged on a racial hatred crime pursued by the law; he thought it would work better if other means, such as not making grants available to such people, would be an idea.  Claire Hanna of the SDLP was on and she took a similar line. It appears a Polish man was an SDLP candidate at a recent election, so that might have been a motivation. A suggestion was made at one point that it’d be good to explain to the Polish community the significance of the Twelfth and what was being celebrated. It was also queried whether these particular bonfire makers had been recipients of state funding.

That was the ground covered in the discussion. Not once did any of the interviewees volunteer, nor were they asked, their views on the burning of tricolours. Maybe it’s the rarity principle at work: when something happens rarely, it can have news value; when something happens every year, it has less news value. So that’d explain why nobody bothered to mention the burning of Irish tricolours. Because it’s not newsworthy.

Would it be worth pursuing these tricolour burners? Probably not: what they’d done would be seen as a fine, patriotic act by some in their community, and any legal procedure might elevate them to the rank of martyr for the cause. They shouldn’t, of course, be given public money; but that’s not likely to matter much to them. I saw a giant  pyre of pallets a couple of weeks ago with an attached sign ‘Culture B4 Cash’.  Right. And the burning of tyres and tricolours is a time-honoured, priceless part of that culture.

Should we laugh or weep? Maybe both.

8 Responses to Flag-burning and culture

  1. Robert Gillespie July 19, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    The burning of Polish or Irish flags is of the same hatred which led to the Horrific murders in Bulgaria.

  2. Anonymous July 19, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    Campaigners against suicide in the North have condemned the loyalists who erected a slogan on a bonfire in Belfast earlier this week poking fun at nationalists who have taken their own lives.The slogan reading “Up the Ardoyne bungee jumpers” was erected on a loyalist bonfire ahead of the annual Twelfth of July celebrations.It was a clear reference to the high incidence of suicide among young men in the nationalist Ardoyne area.The bonfire was part-funded by Belfast City Council as part of moves to limit the environmental damage caused every year as a result of the massive blazes.Campaigners have now called on the council to withdraw funding from any future bonfires unless there are guarantees that that no sectarian or insulting banners will be flaunted.Phil McTaggart of the Public Initiative to Prevent Suicide in Ardoyne said the slogan at Monday night’s bonfire was deeply insulting, while Margaret Wylie of the Shankill Mothers Hope group said Protestants were just as offended as Catholics.Local priest Fr Aidan Troy also said the banner had remained on top of the bonfire for three days after he complained to the police.Loyalist bonfires are traditionally draped with Irish tricolours, Sinn Féin election posters and anti-papal slogans.

  3. Anonymous July 19, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    I thought Fr Troy had moved to France.Is Fr Gary Donegan not his replacement ?

  4. Anonymous July 19, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    Yes he did move to France a number of of years ago. This is a reply to those wondering what is eating the people of Ardoyne

  5. Anonymous July 19, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    5.7 million to police last years “festival”, while funny wee men in suits ” march” the streets for days, the austerity stricken british taxpayers run around worrying about dept. When is somebody going to let them know where a large chunk of their dosh goes?

  6. bangordub July 19, 2012 at 9:06 pm #

    Perhaps we need a bill of rights that includes legislation on incitement to hatred?

  7. giordanobruno July 19, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    Should we laugh or weep?
    Weep most definitely.
    Of all the nasty pointless activities to be found in this part of the world somehow the sight of bonfires with effigies and flags ready for burning deeply depresses me.

  8. James Farrell July 23, 2012 at 8:40 pm #


    I’m writing to you from Dublin and I am quite certain that if a survey were conducted in this neck of the woods 90% of people would be unaware of the annual ritual of burning our national flag.

    Such is the level of reporting from a biased media. All we hear is of the “festival” and the holiday atmosphere.