Last year around this time an effigy of Gerry Adams was hung from a bonfire. Mr Adams, I believe, asked his solicitor to report the incident to the PSNI on the grounds that it was a hate crime. Odd – I don’t remember anyone being prosecuted for that over the last twelve months. Do you?
This year, as well as last year, effigies of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have been hung on a bonfire. The same bonfire has also featured an image of Bobby Sands in a coffin, and a related tweet inquiring “Would you like to try a cheese burger bobby sands?”
The Alliance councillor Michael Long has called on police to investigate after an image of his wife Naomi was among those erected on Eleventh night bonfires. Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said it was “very much a community matter” and explained that arrests would be unlikely since the evidence had been burned.
There are a number of disturbing facts arise out of those incidents. The first is that the PSNI is not prepared to interfere in any way with any bonfire, regardless of what’s placed on it – rubber tyre, pictures of politicians, flags of various states. It’s “a community matter”. In other words, the PSNI either sympathise with the bonfirers and don’t want to intervene or are afraid of the bonfirers and don’t want to intervene.
Almost equally disturbing is that I don’t recall – and I’m subject to correction if someone can cite examples – I don’t recall a single unionist politician speaking up and saying that this kind of revelling in contempt for the political views of the other half of the community, and the obvious hatred that accompanies it, is shameful, wrong and should be stopped immediately. Not one. Either they approve of this kind of primitive, goading behaviour, or they’re afraid to open their mouths in case their constituents mightn’t like it and choose not vote for them in March next year.
We really do live in a sad state. The representatives of the people refuse to give leadership when they see their followers indulge in primeval and mindless animosity, while the guardians of the law do their version of monkey hear no evil, see no evil.
Or maybe there are decent unionist leaders appalled by these effigy-burnings and who are at this minute preparing to give their people a more civilised lead, and we’ll hear from them any day now. Maybe.