Ulster Unionist speaks out over burning flags

Ulster Unionist councillor Mark McKinty.
Ulster Unionist councillor Mark McKinty.

An Ulster Unionist councillor has spoken out against the burning of flags, posters and effigies relating to other cultures on bonfires.

Mid and East Antrim councillor Mark McKinty said he believes that doing so “diminishes the value of one’s culture”.

Mr. McKinty said: “I may be a minority - I don’t think I am and truly hope I am not - but I don’t need to burn or verbally deprecate the symbols or traditions of anyone else in order to express my culture.

“Indeed, I think doing so diminishes the value of one’s culture.

“Bonfires have been used by mankind for millennia to mark events, guide travellers, and to unite people together. They are a significant element of social history.

“Personally, I have attended my local bonfire(s) for as long as I can remember, without major incidents or trouble. I know the pride and dedication that young people - particularly young boys - put in to building the bonfire, often with extremely considered planning in terms of structure.

“That said, my unionism or affinity to July commemorations isn’t connected to the height or overall size of a bonfire, nor do I think tyres should be on fires.

“Eleventh Night bonfires hark back to the signals which marked the arrival of King William of Orange all those years ago.

“I understand historic sentiments, and how this has been perpetuated within an educational and political vacuum, but I’m confident enough in my own background that I can demonstrate and share it positively.

“I would love to see the day when no flags, posters, effigies, or emblems are burnt by any community against another. Culture should be an expression of positives and available for sharing with others.

“Political and so-called ‘community’ leaders are often silent on these issues, but we in Northern Ireland have much to learn from each other, and rather than looking around with contempt, we should strive to appreciate each other with respect.”