In response to my post about bonfires last year, my colleague Nick McKnight made the comment that bonfires always reminded him of the Tower of Babel...
There's something to be said in that, both in form and symbol... They are one of the clearest markers of community division in Northern Ireland... Not only between Protestant and Catholic, but also between "working class" and middle class Protestants... Indeed my son asked me only last week why we didn't have a bonfire in the area where we live, while there are many in the estate where I work?
This year, the chaotic state of the bonfire site closest to our church is also symbolic of the chaotic state of the loyalist community... Over the past few years it has been well marshalled and organised... This year the debris has been scattered across the local green for months, with people from far and wide, many of whom will never go near a bonfire on the 11th night, dumping all kinds of rubbish... much of which would poison anyone who tried to burn it.
People dumping on loyalist communities then standing at a safe difference as everything goes up in flames... maybe that's symbolic too...
ps. Prof. Billy McWilliams offers his own unique Ulster Scots perspective on bonfires in Nick McKnight's neck of the woods here.
pps. This was drafted long before last night's little spat between local rioters and police, linked with recent weapons finds in the area and reported refusal by the police to let the local refuse tip/bonfire to be lit.