Bonfire builders in Northern Ireland lack imagination in designs


It was a pleasure to read Geraldine Brown’s letter – ‘Northern Ireland still has much to learn’ (July 28) – which on the whole was well balanced in response to my contribution, which I hope to make each July on the topic of events we classify as the Twelfth and separately, the Eleventh Night.

For the record, I do not walk in any parades, neither did I defend them. Rather I was looking to give a different perspective that included a partial explanation of the defensive aspect of Orangeism. The AOH parades I used to watch as a child were in a Donegal village which also had one or two Orange lodges walking in July. The AOH farmers and Orange farmers helped each other during crop harvest time. When the draft legislation on cultural respect gets royal assent, it would make sense to legally challenge the existence of static arches such as in Lisburn. After the cultural law passes, those seeking change may argue that temporary ‘welcome to marchers’ arches be taken down in a reasonable period.

My recent letter avoided the thorny issue of bonfires. The one in Larne, where a man fell to his death, made it clear that competitions to have the biggest bonfire makes no sense whatsoever. It reminded me of the biblical narrative about the Tower of Babel. Ruins of Ziggurats help to visualise that. In these islands we use the word ‘folly’ to describe a permanent construction with no practical purpose. 

Bonfires are temporary towers of wood, with ill-defined purpose. In Luxembourg there is a tradition practiced at village level and only in a few places which is known as ‘Buergbrennen’  –Buerg in German translates as ‘castle’ and ‘brennen’ is ‘burning’. The event happens at the end of winter, so possibly of pagan origins. In Judaism there is the clearing out of unleavened bread from houses before that feast. Buergbrennen is similarly a ritual cleansing of a village although it may also celebrate a defeat of a corrupt ruler’s castle.

Bonfire builders in Northern Ireland lack imagination in designs. They should be required to hold a basic certificate in fire safety and perhaps some further education colleges could look to the provision of courses. Someone in authority should determine a safe, maximum height of 50 feet.
Let the bonfire builders enter into competition with other sites for bonfires. In that way, Derry bonfire could win in terms of creativity of design over a Larne tower which had little imagination.

Holywood, Co Down


Belfast now a model city

The visionary bravery of John Hume and David Trimble have forged a much better future. Belfast on a sunny day now bears no resemblance to the dreary city of the ‘Troubles’ and it’s a real joy to ride a city centre Glider (or a double decker bus) in the summer sun. The absence of security zones, armed soldiers, bomb sites, cordons, checkpoints or helicopters, is welcome news for locals and tourists alike. 

New city centre high rise buildings, with their clean and shiny lines, contrast with the run-down and dirty or derelict buildings which littered the city in the past, relics of conflict and post-industrial decay. A declining city, which once shed or scared away its brightest young people, is now on the tourist trail and hosting cruise ships. There is something utterly amazing, perhaps miraculous even, about a place once synonymous with strife and conflict, now being seen as a model for international peace building and reconciliation. Middle aged or older people, familiar with 1980s Belfast, cannot help but marvel at the wonderful improvements. 

The cleansing from past defilement, plus the associated change of heart, remind me of a Bible promise clergy might normally reference in connection with personal spiritual renewal, rather than a national or a city clean up: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” 

Belfast BT5


GAA and RTÉ don’t care about Northern Ireland

The GAA and RTÉ have set their own border against the people of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down and Tyrone by not letting them enter their competitions. I thought the GAA was a 32-county organisation and RTÉ was the same, apparently not when it comes to competitions. The people in the six counties are not allowed to enter them. If that is not setting a border against the people of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down and Tyrone, what is it?

It shows me the GAA and RTÉ don’t care about the six counties in the north of Ireland. They say there is no border in the island of Ireland but the GAA and RTÉ have set their own border in my eyes.

Downpatrick, Co Down


Don’t let Sabina be victim of cancel culture

Irespective of who she is married to, as an Irish citizen Sabina Coyne Higgins has the same individual right to have opinions and express opinions as any other citizen. In agreeing with the main thrust of her letter, her call for a ceasefire in Ukraine, the stopping of deaths, injuries and destruction, one caveat to its content is the unrelated and unnecessary mention of the climate change scare. Don’t let Sabina Coyne Higgins be a victim of cancel culture.

Blarney, Co Cork


Attitude to gulls cruel and unnecessary

During the summer holidays there are almost always scare stories of gulls ‘attacking’ people. These ‘attacks’ are usually exaggerated by the media and are very rare indeed, but inevitably lead to calls to cull them.

The holiday period coincides with the birds’ breeding season and, being such fierce defenders of their young, the birds may occasionally become aggressive to see off any perceived threat to their nest and babies. To cull wild animals for protecting their offspring is nothing short of ludicrous. Despite this, even if gulls are causing issues, there are a number of effective, humane methods that can be used to discourage them from nesting on flat roofs or chimneys, or from rummaging in our rubbish. Animal Aid has free advice sheets that detail several humane, non-lethal methods that people can use to deter gulls and other unwanted guests.

We should show tolerance to these birds, not least because they are just being good parents, and some gull populations are in very serious decline.

To order a factsheet please email info@animalaid.org.uk or download one at: https://www.animalaid.org.uk/the-issues/our-campaigns/wildlife/unwantedguests/

Animal Aid