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No argument can justify bonfire

NOT for the first time a bonfire has made headlines in most of the media outlets. However this time the offending pyre is one constructed by young nationalists, not young loyalists.

The bonfire was lit on Monday night in the Bogside area of Derry, reportedly part of the old tradition celebrating the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven.

This practice has largely fallen away in most of the country, partly because after the introduction of internment in 1971 bonfires were lit on August 9 every year as a protest against that draconian measure.

But even that practice takes place in very few nationalist areas now and with significant opposition from residents where pyres are constructed. Instead over the decades community festivals were encouraged as a more constructive way of addressing social concerns. These festivals include everything from concerts to public debates.

The reason why this more constructive path is infinitely preferable was demonstrated in Derry on Monday night and into the early hours of yesterday morning.

The bonfire included many tyres which are a public health hazard when burned, especially in the middle of such a residential area. There were also disturbances surrounding the event and most seriously an explosive device was thrown at a police patrol.

As a result of that bomb attack residents had to evacuate a number of homes while the device was made safe. No argument can justify these events. Burning hazardous material adorned with a mixture of loyalist emblems and Sinn Féin posters is certainly not a suitable way to celebrate a religious feast. Neither is it wanted by the majority of people in the country as a protest against a draconian measure which ended 40 years ago.

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