Bonfires are an enjoyable spectacle but leadership is needed with regard to them
A letter from Arnold Carton:
The tradition, skill and expertise displayed in some of our 11th July bonfires cannot be denied.
Many of us from the unionist tradition enjoyed the spectacle of bonfires during our youth and bonfires are not going away.
But unfortunately, every few years we see events that should worry and embarrass unionist leaders.
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On Sunday night I observed in Belfast two small bonfires built directly on public roads, preventing the passing of cars and inevitably damaging the road surface.
Even worse are the films of dangerous bonfire collapses and the video of someone on fire running away from a bonfire in Ballysillan, Belfast.
It is time for unionist politicians to provide some leadership.
Why not try to divert the competition between Belfast estates for the biggest, most spectacular bonfire into a one-week Festival of Orange.
Run a one week structured bonfire building competition at specified locations with very clear rules, sponsored by the council and judged by elected representatives.
Mix this with band competitions over a series of nights near the bonfire locations.
Ensure that bonfires are lit earlier in the evening and follow sensible safety rules so that so that families feel safe bringing their children.
The Festival of Orange could bring in other activities not usually associated with the 12th, storytelling, Scots and Irish Dancing etc. (The YouTube video by Dr Ian Malcom singing The Sash in Irish on the banks of the Boyne is an example of the creative ideas that could be explored.)
Is it conceivable that a West Belfast nationalist estates could be tempted to take part in a bonfire competition and some of the other activities?
I know that some people and some organisations will prefer to keep bonfires as they are, but could we provide leadership so that our bonfire culture evolves into something safer that all can enjoy?
Arnold Carton, Belfast BT6
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