Is it not long past time that the Orange Order ceased closing its eyes and turning its back on the actions of those associated with its July 12th marches and bonfires?
The burning of the Irish national flag on bonfires throughout the North has become such an integral element in Orange Order and loyalist culture that it does not even warrant comment in much of the media anymore.
However, we are confronted by sinister new developments in sectarianism in the North.
Effigies of the late Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in a coffin on bonfires are now incinerated alongside Polish national flags, election posters of Polish Assembly election candidate Magdelena Wolska and Hong Kong born Alliance Party candidate Anna Lo.
Those responsible should be prosecuted for hate crimes. These appalling acts of sectarianism and racism are new lows even by the standards of ‘normal’ July 12th Orange Order celebrations.
Following the ending of the Second World War in Germany, an extensive body of legislation was put in place to outlaw all remaining elements of anti-Jewish culture that had grown up around the Nazi party.
Is it not imperative that similar measures be introduced in Northern Ireland to deal with the endemic anti-Catholicism so prevalent in large parts of the unionist facade?
Nowhere else in Europe would the annual ceremonial burning of many hundreds of the national flags of peaceful neighbouring states go virtually uncommented upon.
What if every Bastille day the Union Jack was burned across France, or if every St George’s day the flags of Pakistan, Jamaica or Nigeria were burned in British cities? Understandably, there would be harsh diplomatic protests and perhaps riots in the streets.
But in Northern Ireland this systematic and deliberate incitement to hatred has been allowed to become an integral part of unionist culture to such an extent that it hardly draws comment from British Secretaries of State, unionist politicians or the British government.
Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland endured 50 years of sectarianism and religious discrimination and sometimes brutal repression, followed by unionist and British suppression of demands for reform.
These policies successfully suppressed the size of the population, forcing sufficient permanent emigration to exclude the possibility of nationalists/Catholics voting themselves out of their predicament.
Tom Cooper, Chair, Irish National Congress, Dublin 2