Leading article

Opinion: Bonfires and flags cause avoidable tensions

A bonfire in the car park of Avoniel Leisure Centre, east Belfast

It is depressing that entirely unnecessary tensions over developments connected to flags and bonfires almost inevitably surface in the approach to the July 12 period.

No section of society has a monopoly on intimidating behaviour but there can only be significant concern when politicians engage in questionable conduct at such a sensitive time.

It is particularly hard to understand why the DUP deputy mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, Margaret Tinsley, and her husband James Tinsley, who is a DUP councillor in Lisburn and Castlereagh, felt it necessary to attend a gathering which involved the ceremonial burning of an Irish tricolour.

As we reported on Thursday, they then posted social media images of themselves posing in front of the emblem in flames and said it had been a `brilliant bonfire' and a `great start to the July celebrations.'

Their party then issued a curious statement which said that while according to the DUP the couple had been there in a personal capacity, 'culture is not the burning of flags or posters' but both communities should work to express their culture in a dignified way.

It is difficult to see what is dignified about the enormous pyres constructed on council-owned land in Portadown which have resulted in nearby residents being advised to leave their homes for at least 24 hours.

A housing association has told its tenants that they face a serious health and safety risk and should accept the offer of temporary accommodation in a youth hostel some ten miles away in Armagh city.

There will be widespread support for the decision yesterday morning by Belfast City Council to remove tyres which had been piled up to be illegally burnt in the Ravenhill Road area.

Police were on duty to protect the contractors and it will be recalled that similar action was required at this time last year over bonfires which had been built to dangerous heights in two other parts of east Belfast.

A related intervention may well be required in Portadown, as it is not acceptable for ordinary citizens to be evacuated in such traumatic circumstances.

Responsible attitudes need to be maintained over the coming week and it is essential that all our elected representatives should display their support for the police as they implement the rule of law and order.

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