MLA has 'no problem' burning Tricolour

Published Thursday, 27 June 2013
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DUP MLA Paul Girvan has clarified remarks he made on U105 in which he admitted he had "no problem" with burning a tricolour on an Eleventh Night bonfire.

MLA has 'no problem' burning Tricolour
Mr Girvan spoke after loyalists agreed to move a bonfire in Ballyduff. (© Pacemaker)

The south Antrim representative made the comments during the Frank Mitchell's show 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 to burn it was "part of their culture".

Speaking on radio, 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, and let's be honest until relatively recently, was claiming that they had some right over Northern Ireland.

I've no problem about the burning of a tricolour on top of a bonfire, let's be honest. I'm not going to make any apologies for that. That's the flag of a foreign country as far as I'm concerned.

Paul Girvan

He continued: "There are bonfires in August as well where the Union flag would be burned.

"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.

In a statement released later on Thursday, the politician said he had "made it clear that the burning of flags can be seen as provocative by those who would hold these symbols dear and I want to see a reduction of this activity".

"This includes when unionist or loyalist flags are placed on republican bonfires," he added.

"We must recognise that Eleventh Night bonfires are an important cultural tradition and if people feel these kind of expressions are under attack it can actually lead to an increase of incidents where flags and other emblems are burned."

Mr Girvan continued: "I will happily work to reduce the incidence of this just as I was happy to help achieve a positive outcome in terms of the location of the bonfire in Ballyduff.

"Hopefully all those who have rushed simply to issue condemnation will be as clear in their support of the right to celebrate the cultural tradition of Eleventh Night bonfires."

I do not encourage anyone to burn flags of any country.

Paul Girvan

Mr Girvan welcomed the decision to move the Ballyduff bonfire and remove the tyres, adding that the complaints were over the size of the structure, not its existence.

"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 firefighters may have to douse 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.

Alliance leader David Ford has hit out at Mr Girvan for his comments on U105.

The South Antrim MLA said: "It is unacceptable to burn any flag no matter what country it represents.

"As we seek to have a peaceful summer, tensions should be kept to a minimum.

"People are entitled to celebrate their culture, however they should not seek to offend others.

"Politicians have a responsibility to show leadership and set an example. I believe his comments fall well short of what is expected from an MLA."

Meanwhile a DUP spokesman said: "All flags should be respected. We don't want to see anyone's culture disrespected."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
268 Comments
Conchur MacGiollaEarnain in County Antrim wrote (367 days ago):
To the young lad from Tyrone! Even if you do see the south as a foreign nation what makes it okay to burn her national flag! This idiotic politician must have forgotten that through his comments he has offended (almost and soon to be) 50% of the norths population! I think it's clear that unionists sometimes forget we exist. And just to end on another point Mr Girvan mentioned about the constitutional status of Northern Ireland! He needs to brush up on his history as Ireland wasn't always an island of two sides! Ofcourse the Irish republic should and has every right to claim ownership of 6 of the 32 historical counties! As you all know these articles were dropped as part of the Good Friday agreement!
John in Ireland wrote (392 days ago):
Ireland is hostile to the north you say tyrone?? What a load of crap you talk. You are hostile to yourself in your own community. Look at your Unionist leaders. Even they cannot get along. Thick comment from you. It's a waiting game i tell you. Time will show you.
Michael in Belfast wrote (392 days ago):
Boru in Ireland you forgot one -Nation: Northern Ireland. Nationality: Northern Irish. National Flag: Red hand of Ulster. Now as I said before, the burning of the Irish Tricolour is an act of defiance that we will never accept it as our flag. It is too entrenched in Republicanism and represents Republican attempts to ethnically cleanse us from this Island. Not saying the other side is any better but I tend to not get so offended when Republicans burn the Union Flag during Internment Bonfires. Thats just me though.
John Paul in Belfast wrote (393 days ago):
Clearly a bigot who has not got with the times. Maybe the Ulster Museum could place him in with the dinosaur exhibition. At least he would be doing something useful there rather than encouraging sectarianism. One word for him PATHETIC
me in tyrone wrote (393 days ago):
The tricolour is the flag of a foreign nation which is still hostile to this part of the UK, so it is only right and proper that it is burned at such times. DUP are in a frenzy again for fear of upsetting Marty and the boys and losing their nice cushy well-paid (over-paid) jobs. Yes, people come here from all over the world, but the countries they come from don't demand to have a say in running this country, nor do they have the right to take our sports men or women. Republic is a backwater and will stay that way until they concentrate on their own affairs and leave ours to us. Do they demand a right to say how Australia or USA are run???
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BRIAN ROWAN
The pictures from Stormont this week showed us how politics here still walks in and out of step.
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