During the worst of times in Ballymurphy, my grandmother’s Protestant neighbor, Rossi, would come to family gatherings and sing her party tune, The Auld Orange Flute. Her grandsons, Andre and Ihab Shoukri, were Loyalists.
The Cahills were Republicans. People were killing each other out in the street, and yet I never remember anything but the respect and friendship between the two clans.
There are many examples like this. We could perhaps all go back to the drawing board when it comes to mutual respect in Northern Ireland. The Irish media, for their part, could start giving equal weight to all votes.
“Politician berates louts who drove car into campfire with ‘total disregard for community’.”
“Vandals wreak havoc… with huge bonfires and robbed elderly.”
“Firefighters attacked around the campfire.”
“Man killed after being attacked by campfire.”
The headlines above have nothing to do with July 12th, but with the Halloween bonfires in Dublin.
Imagine the anger if I criticized the behavior taking place around some bonfires in central Dublin and a station has no Dublin voices to illustrate that it is not representative of the community as a whole? Balanced? I do not think so.
Kilkeel, Co. Down: A singing trio in war uniforms perform We’ll meet againwhile children sit on their fathers’ shoulders, eyes wide with excitement, feeling the warmth of the orange flames licking around the wood of the parish beacon.
Earlier in the evening, Ulster Scots dancers took to the stage, followed by kilt-clad baton twirls and flutes dueling Lambeg drums.
Culture? Of course.
Cregagh, Belfast: More excited children jostle their mums and dads to pick them up to see their bonfire, which is adorned with ‘All Taigs are Targets’ signs and election posters. Culture? Not so.
The Falls Road: Four men (why is it almost always men?) set fire to a Union Jack and a Northern Ireland flag.
A crowd cheers and a car beeps in support as it drives by.
Intolerance? Without a doubt.
Only one of those events on the 12th made headlines south of the border. Guess which one?
On Wednesday, Joe Brolly, who criticized bonfires with sectarian signs and likenesses of politicians on them, told Newstalk: “We essentially have the Ku Klux Klan operating in the north.”
I almost crashed my car. Like Joe, I’ve seen my fair share of awkward behavior that exists everywhere, even in (whispers) nationalist areas.
In August, anti-internment bonfires will be blazing with signs reading “Kill All the Huns” and Union Jacks burning, or a huge crowd will be chanting “Ooh Aah Up the Ra” at Féile an Phobail (before it happens, please ignore everyone in West Belfast supports the IRA).
Likewise, not every Orangeman, campfire-goer, or Loyalist is sectarian or racist, and while I, like Brolly, believe sectarianism should be proclaimed, perspective is important. Viewing images of the KKK isn’t exactly helpful.
Less dire was Newstalk’s failure to have a union voice on the air.
Share: There are over 250 bonfires, around 15 of which, like the nefarious ones making headlines this week, are controversial.
Loyalist Moore Holmes has been collecting wood for his local bonfire since he was six and says of the latter: “Those who display sectarian messages or images are the runaways and people like me are just as disgusted as anyone else.
“Sectarianism has no place in campfire culture — it’s undesirable.”
An important statement for someone in their community. Union politicians Doug Beattie and Jeffrey Donaldson also rightly condemned the demonstrations.
If it’s important to emphasize the negative, then it’s just as important to celebrate the positive.
On Wednesday, the PSNI confirmed that this year was “one of the safest and most peaceful July 12 events in recent memory.”
You didn’t hear that on Newstalk.
Too far south of the border, the 12th of July holiday has been painted in a particular light – David Attenborough-esque; similar to another species declaration, inherently offensive to many unionists unrelated to sectarianism but loving the holiday.
To put it bluntly, this depiction is akin to Irish people being stereotypically portrayed by others as drunks with pet leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day.
Both are unacceptable.
I say this as someone who protested marches as a teenager. Both sides exchanged insults and other flying objects, and hated the ground the other was literally walking on.
changed times. I’ve been to bonfires and orange marches to learn ever since, and been made just as welcome as the next person.
If we want to get anywhere in this country, we all have to make an effort.
There is a solution. A campfire code of conduct to eradicate sectarianism is long overdue. Presenting culture requires that it be seen in its best light.
Those behind problematic bonfires need to get rid of the non-cultural offensive elements, and the Oranje Order has some work to do to highlight its positive events.
The Irish media also have a responsibility to change their own culture and disseminate a cross-section of unionized voices to ensure airtime is not given solely to Northern nationalist narratives.
It’s important to hear (and hear more about) Unionism, Protestantism, Loyalism, and Orangeism in all their diversity—and not rely on the same voices to enlighten others on contentious issues.
Perhaps they could visit the Ballygowan Flute Band, formed in 1876, and explain how thousands of children have learned to read music and play an instrument through similar bands, or how family tradition, religion and community cohesion are cemented around a holiday that has existed for over three centuries.
This is not to say that sectarianism should not be criticized. However, transmitters should strike a balance.
Reporting a handful of problematic fire events and ignoring the rest is irresponsible and unrepresentative.
As the song says, the sash was eventually “worn in Derry, Aughrim, Enniskillen and the Boyne”.
Sometimes listening to the radio from the south, it seems that a comprehensive understanding of Northern Ireland lies somewhere in outer space.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/a-bonfire-of-the-orange-stereotype-now-that-is-a-march-i-would-join-41845346.html A campfire of the orange stereotype – this is a march I would join