I'll fill out the post with more thoughts and reflections later ... and perhaps explain why AiB was even there! Now updated ...
When I was living in Lisburn, the eleventh night was accompanied by the blattering of Lambeg Drums. Blatter blatter blatter. For hours on end until the bonfires burnt low and people slipped away to bed.
After the earlier show of culture at the launch of Orangefest (including Lambeg drums, thankfully outside the hotel), there was no such display at the main East Belfast bonfire last night.
The only music came from the techno disco van parked well to the left of the bonfire. So the remix version of The Sash echoed out across the park rather than anything more authentic.
And that seemed to echo the overall feel of the night. A sense of non-engagement. Watching the fire, but not really caught up in it all.
While some obviously nimble and gutsy folk had build the enormous bonfire (perhaps bigger than they’d experience of before?), few of the spectators seemed to be to bothered by what was going on.
Yes there was a bit of a cheer when the Gerry Adams / Sinn Fein election poster caught fire.
Yes there was a bit of a cheer when the dummy representing the Pope (and carrying a small “Don’t burn me” notice) finally lit.
And yes there was a larger cheer when the Irish tricolour
burnt melted (polyester doesn’t really burn, just shrinks away).
But I’d expected the cheer to last for ages and to have some passion in it. But they must have been saving their passion for the next goals being scored in the next door Oval football ground.
Sectarian? Yes. Acceptable? No. But extreme hatred? Not really.
And perhaps it’s a sign that it won’t be too long before it’s omitted the nationalist and republican trappings from the annual Twelfth narrative.
Still, burning the Irish tricolour doesn't exactly do a lot to sell Orangefest ... nor uphold the "responsible leadership" that Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland's First Minister, pointed to last night. (And while the Orange Order can claim that the boneys are built by local communities, the Order could perhaps - reluctantly! - learn a lesson or two from Sinn Fein about how to influence community think and change attitudes.)
Anyone for a game of "Spot the
ball burning tyre"?