Boxer Carl Frampton’s criticism of those who burn flags and effigies on bonfires are a “thoughtful” contribution which should not be shouted down, loyalist Jamie Bryson has said.
Mr Bryson, who has acted as spokesman for a number of Belfast bonfire builders, was commenting after the former two-weight world champion said the disrespect for other traditions should end.
In a BBC documentary due to be screened tonight, Frampton said he enjoys watching the bands of the Twelfth of July but believes some aspects of the Eleventh Night celebrations need a rethink.
The Protestant fighter from north Belfast is married to a Catholic from the west of the city and commands huge respect within both communities.
He said: “I’m not saying there shouldn’t be bonfires. But I think that it gets to a point where effigies are being burnt and pictures of people and tricolours and everything else.
“I think in this day and age they need to come away from that.
“That doesn’t do the Protestant community any good. And I think it’s something they all maybe need to look at.”
Although Mr Bryson has strongly defended loyalist bonfire builders on a number of occasions, he said those who place flags and election posters on bonfires – for the purpose of sending “political messages” – should ensure their actions can stand up to scrutiny.
“I don’t agree with all of Carl’s views, but we shouldn’t be afraid to engage with different viewpoints and to face challenges which are put our way,” he said.
“I think that Carl’s view is something that some people will be uncomfortable with, but he is as entitled to comment as anybody else. If somebody is brave enough to put a viewpoint forward, and puts that idea into the public domain, then we as a community have to be brave enough to engage. Just shouting somebody down or abusing somebody for having a particular viewpoint doesn’t serve any purpose.”
Mr Bryson added: “People are still angry and burn [Irish] tricolours on the bonfires because they see that as the flag of those who – while not in a military sense anymore, but in a political sense – continue to wage war on our community and continue to try and demonise and isolate our community. So that is an expression of that frustration.
“A lot of the people think the world has ended in relation to some of the displays on bonfires, which sometimes are racist which is never acceptable and should never happen, but sometimes bonfires are used to make political messages, in relation to Sinn Fein or whatever.
“However, overall I think it’s a thoughtful intervention from Carl.
“Let’s have that debate and let’s do it respectfully.”