Young unionist people ‘need to learn’ bonfire culture

A report has found many young people are unaware of the historical context of Eleventh Night bonfires
A report has found many young people are unaware of the historical context of Eleventh Night bonfires

Young people living in unionist areas need to be educated about their history and cultural traditions , according to a new report on future provisions for Eleventh Night bonfire celebrations.

The report was published on Friday by the DUP, Ulster Unionist Party and Progressive Unionist Party groups on Belfast City Council, and among its recommendations was a dedicated community space which could be used for bonfires as well as other annual commemorations.

The 11-page bonfire report stated that: “Many [young people] are unaware of the historical context of bonfires and the Twelfth of July celebrations. Indeed there is not only a lack of educational provision on these matters but a widely held perception that the education system actively sought to airbrush this period of history from the teaching curriculum.”

The report said the vast majority of bonfires and associated events are “well organised and well managed”, adding that a small number of bonfires raised concerns, primarily in respect to health and safety, anti-social behaviour and racist graffiti.

Having spoken to community groups, the report found that many believe there is a concerted campaign against traditional unionist celebrations including bonfires.

Discussing the “gap” in regard to bonfire culture, the report, prepared after consultation with around 70 community groups in the greater Belfast area, said: “Many believe that attention should be given to the creation of programmes, for example in partnership with the Orange History Museum, which enable young people to increase their knowledge of the reasons and historical background to the Orange celebrations.”

PUP councillor John Kyle put forward a case for some bonfires being relocated.

He said: “There is a case for trying to create community event spaces where you can try and do everything from Christmas celebrations, Armistice Day events, Eleventh Night events – a sustainable dedicated community event space.

“That requires political support and will take some planning but I think that is one way forward.”