PAUL GIRVAN: “NON HO PROBLEMI A BRUCIARE UN TRICOLORE”
DUP MLA Paul Girvan said he has “no problem” with burning a tricolour on Eleventh Night bonfires.
The south Antrim representative made the comments after loyalists agreed to move a towering structure in the Ballyduff estate over safety fears.
On Wednesday, organisers said they would not make the bonfire any larger, and it would be moved 500m.
Mr Girvan, who was involved in the “eleventh hour” discussions with the community over their concerns, said putting an Irish flag on top of a bonfire was “part of the culture”.
Speaking on Frank Mitchell’s show on U105, he said: “I come from a society that this is part of their culture to have an Eleventh Night bonfire and what goes into that bonfire is important.
“Also some people feel it’s perfectly alright to put the flag of a foreign nation, which actually at one time claimed that they had some right over Northern Ireland.
I’ve no problem about burning of a tricolour on top of a bonfire let’s be honest. This is the flag of a foreign country as far as I’m concerned.
“It’s just the way we are,” Mr Girvan added.
The Assembly member said the flag burning could be seen as “provocative… [and] blown out of all proportion”, adding: “There are bonfires in August as well where the Union flag would be burned.”
He explained: “I’m just saying it does happen on bonfires and on many occasions the people who put it on a bonfire are saying ‘this is something we do not want to see ruling over us’.”
Mr Girvan said if burning a flag does cause offence, it should be debated in a proper forum.
“There’s an opportunity for people to learn about others culture and where things come from and why certain things happen,” he added.
“Young people need to see that there’s a difference of opinion and they have to respect differences. I think that’s something that comes about through maturity.”
Mr Girvan welcomed the decision to move the Ballyduff bonfire and remove the tyres, commenting that the complaints were over the size of the structure, not its existence.
This year, things are at a more tense stage in relation to bonfires than I’ve ever seen.
“The young men who are building this live in the community as well, so they see the effect it can have,” he added.
“They were not necessarily holding the community to ransom over this. After it was presented in a very coherent and clear form, they were willing to make those movements.”
The bonfire was originally built close to houses, and there were suggestions fire fighters may have doused homes with foam in a bid to protect them from flames and sparks.
The DUP man said the decision to remove the Union flag from Belfast City Hall had aggravated loyalists, which in turn led to bigger structures.
“Part of the reason why bonfires are larger this year is because of the flag protests and the decision that was made at Belfast City Hall. That has had a knock-on effect in my community.
“It affects everyone and now we are dealing with the aftermath of that problem,” he added.