Current Affairs Politics

Burning Flags Is Not Our Culture

The Ballymurphy Massacre, Belfast 1971 - British war crimes in Ireland
The Ballymurphy Massacre, Belfast 1971 – British war crimes in Ireland

The anniversary of the 1971 imposition of internment or imprisonment without trial in the British Occupied North of Ireland is upon us and various events are being held to commemorate it. Traditionally these have taken the form of communal bonfires symbolising the original reaction within Irish communities across the north-east of the country as the British Forces took away hundreds of men and boys from their homes and places of work to face prolonged detention and days or weeks of torture in the likes of the infamous Long Kesh Concentration Camp or the naval ship HMS Maidstone. The period became synonymous with violent repression by the British state in Ireland and is rightly remembered given the military and political consequences that were to follow. Originally the Internment night bonfires were rather small affairs and ancillary to the commemorations as a whole. However in recent years there has been a marked increase in their size and number. While they have not quite approached the ridiculous proportions of the 11th Night bonfires of the British Unionist minority in Ireland during the July 12th celebrations they are increasingly looking like part of some bizarre “bonfires race”.

Also noticeable is the appearance of British and Unionist emblems and flags on the bonfires, again mirroring the offensive behaviour of some members of the Unionist community. Quite simply this is wrong, it is un-republican and to my mind un-Irish.  It is not part of our national character or culture nor should it be. Respect is a two way street and the Irish Nationalist majority of the island-nation of Ireland must lead by example. This practice of burning British or Unionist banners or symbols on bonfires is needlessly disrespectful and counter-productive. Those who engage in it are simply handing political ammunition to the militant leaders of British Unionism in Ireland. They are providing bigots and racists with even more excuses for their hypocritical, Janus-faced misbehaviour.

4 comments on “Burning Flags Is Not Our Culture

  1. Agree completely. Republicans should not parade either. There are better ways to commerate rather than copy the the ugly side of unionism.

    • I tend to agree on the parading issue, Enda. Nothing wrong with rallies or other forms of gathering to commemorate or celebrate our history but I find overtly militaristic parades uncomfortable during a time of peace. As Irish people (and Irish Republicans) they are not really part of our cultural Zeitgeist. Any events I have attended (bar the now annual IDF parade each Easter outside the GPO) were always better without the uniforms and berets.

      A handful of kids and teens in ill-fitting uniforms and shades is the antithesis of what Republicanism stands for, even the revolutionary kind.

  2. I attended the anti internment rally in belfast not to commemorate anything but to highlight that the state continues to imprison republicans by dubious laws. I may not agree with the politics of the people in prison, but as an irish republican it is vital that we dont allow the state to victimise members of our community. To lock up someone for no reason and to not have to give a reason is a law, surely to be challenged by any right thinking person? The deafening silence by so called republicans in stormont and elsewhere is shocking. Just because a person may not agree with their politics shouldnt mean turning a blind eye to abuse by the state. That is why this march happened in the first place ie public representatives arent speaking out about it.
    As a ‘countryman’ who very rarely visited belfast let alone the ardoyne and west belfast, i found my visit a real eye opener and i learned a lot from it. I commend the people of the ardoyne/carrick hill etc for having to live whilst being surrounded by british fascists. The hate i witnessed by these thugs would test the patience of a saint. My heart goes out to the nationalist people of these areas as i for one would hate to live there. So when people pontificate from afar of how republicans should conduct themselves in belfast especially, i would tell these critics to try walking in these peoples shoes before you preach.
    And one final point, Gerry adams tweeted that the people taking part in the anti internment march were ‘masquerading as republicans’. I find this highly offensive even from him but alas i dont need his blessing to call myself a republican. Thankfully the thousands who marched[and trust me it was thousands] dont need his blessing either and the amount of people who greeted us the whole length of the Falls through to andersons town etc suggests they dont need his blessing either.

    • I’d pretty much agree with all of that, WT. I heard it was very well attended and from a wide range of Republicans, aligned and non-aligned. If I get a chance I will post something on it as I do think it has some significance.

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