The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has spoken out on the issue of loyalist bonfires, saying they are “an integral part of the Twelfth of July period.”
The institution issued its statement amid controversy and raised tensions at a number of bonfire sites around Belfast and beyond.
Whilst explaining that the bonfires are rarely organised formally by the institution, Grand Secretary Mervyn Gibson said he recognised that the tradition is an integral part of the Twelfth period.
“Bonfires are a historic expression of community identity – a tradition which can be seen around the globe. Whether that be Guy Fawkes day in Great Britain or in the United States when on the eve of the fourth of July, bonfires are lit in some parts of New England in preparation for the celebration the next day,” he explained.
“Bonfires were lit in Ulster on the occasion of William and Mary’s joint coronation and again to welcome King William as he arrived in June 1690.”
The Orange Institution has re-printed its ‘Burning Passion’ leaflet, which highlights the history and significance of the bonfire tradition as well as reinforcing a number of safety considerations for event organisers.
Rev Gibson pointed out that the institution’s message remains unchanged: “Respect your community, respect others, respect property and respect the environment.”
The Order’s Grand Secretary added: “We want people to enjoy the Twelfth period and enjoy the celebrations responsibly and safely.”