the 12th (cont’d)

Minoring in anthropology meant that I not only had a passion about other cultures, but that I was one of those folks that valued cultural relativity. But it’s been hard to be sensitive the past 24 hours.

Seeing bonfires that are a few stories high is one thing. To then see the tricolor (Irish flag) placed on top of them so that it burns is another. Yesterday, I watched as parents and their children spray-painted hateful acronyms like “K.A.T.” (Kill All Taigs, a derogatory term for Catholics) and “F.T.P.” (Fuck The Pope) onto flags and big pieces of plywood. That’s not what I would think of as a good father/son bonding moment.

Most bonfire sites, and there were MANY, lit the “kid bonfires” early.

Then at midnight the large ones were lit.

This photo is not mine, and is from a few years ago. Yes, that is the Pope being hung on the top.

(Also, this photo is not mine.)

I watched as a dad, after he and several others drenched the wood in gasoline, handed a torch to a 6 yr old to “do the honors.” Everyone cheered, drank, and enjoyed the fire’s warmth on such a cold evening. Then, just as excitement seem to settle, the Irish flag was consumed. The children were the first to cheer, then came the exuberant adults, sounding as if they had just won the lottery or something.

(This photo is also not my own. At the lit bonfires I didn’t have my camera.)

At most bonfire sites, there were DJs and kid-friendly activities throughout the day leading up to the evening festivities. Red, white, and blue was everywhere.

Except for the green, white, and gold that waited  on the wood pile to be torched. I watched as pop music was blasted, kids danced, and parents waived flags…while a 15 ft x 20 ft sign that said “K.A.T.” sat in the background.

The parades this morning have done nothing but added to more tensions, as you can see form this news report and videos from The Guardian. And then many from the Catholic communities will do whatever they can, going out of their way, to get offended, finding an excuse to throw the first petrol bomb.

Again, it’s hard to have sensitivity. This isn’t cultural heritage. It’s drunken, ignorant hate. It isn’t respect for tradition, but a celebration of violence, oppression, and terror. And the worst part is, children are taught this shit from day 1.

The tricolor is obviously called so because of the three colors: Green, white, and orange. The green represents the Catholic, Irish population. The orange, the Protestant, British population (after King William of Orange). The white is for the peace that unites them.


Fires were meant to keep us warm, to be light in the darkness. Not a tool for destruction of a people’s flag. Not for consuming Pope dolls and Nationalist politician signs. Not for hate. But I guess, as an outsider who came here because it’s the YAV “Peacemaking and Reconciliation” site, all I can do is use this as fuel for the last two weeks with the PeacePlayer events I have coming up, knowing even more the importance of continuing the efforts of bringing people (children, especially) together.

Lord, hear our prayers.


About Patrick

I am currently serving through the Young Adult Volunteer program, a program of the PC(USA), in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Just over a year ago, I graduated from Auburn University where I studied philosophy, religious studies concentration, and anthropology. I love spending time in a hammock, a good cup of coffee, and I'm always jonesin' for some Bluegrass covers of pop songs. View all posts by Patrick

3 responses to “the 12th (cont’d)

  • Terry Ley

    Oh, Patrick, there’s still work to be done, there and here! I would find it very hard to watch such a “celebration.” It smacks of the USA South fifty years ago. (And, of course, the KKK and neo-Nazi-type groups still hold such rallies in the USA.) The image of a child lighting ANYONE’S cherished flag is not one I want to keep among my valued memories. We look forward to seeing you here, at home, soon.

  • Hal Hunter

    Patrick, Terry Ley’s comment is very correct. There is so much hate in our world over so many issues. The situation in Belfast and Norn Iron is very close to me. My daughter served as a YAV 2 years ago and brought home the same concerns. What really hits me is that my family is a part of the history of this. I still have distant cousins who live on the family farm near Omagh and who have lost family members in the “troubles.” My own father, who never lived in Ireland (3rd generation US) still carried a strong dislike for anything or anyone Catholic. When I read the history of our denomination and items such as The Scots Confession, I realize how far we have come, but also realize that we have a long way to go to truly follow the direction of Jesus, “Love your neighbors as you love your self.”
    Hal Hunter, JC, TN

    • Nicola

      I like this and trust me there are so many of us in Belfast that share your concerns. I certainly don’t want my children to follow any of this rubbish, it’s just not right and what people are teaching their children is disgusting. We will never have peace in northern Ireland because too many people live with hatred for things they were not even directly involved with and as you say… They drive this shit into their kids from day 1 :((((

      Ps by the way I’m not stalking your page…Gemma told me she had seen this haha

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