Thursday, 19 July 2012
Flag-burning and culture
It's odd what you hear on the radio. And what you don't hear. This morning on BBC Radio Uladh they had a man from the Polish community, talking about the burning of Polish flags on top of Twelfth bonfires. Naturally it was something he felt fairly strongly about and he urged that action should be taken. He wasn't looking to have the perpetrators of what verged on a racial hatred crime pursued by the law; he thought it would work better if other means, such as not making grants available to such people, would be an idea. Claire Hanna of the SDLP was on and she took a similar line. It appears a Polish man was an SDLP candidate at a recent election, so that might have been a motivation. A suggestion was made at one point that it'd be good to explain to the Polish community the significance of the Twelfth and what was being celebrated. It was also queried whether these particular bonfire makers had been recipients of state funding.
That was the ground covered in the discussion. Not once did any of the interviewees volunteer, nor were they asked, their views on the burning of tricolours. Maybe it's the rarity principle at work: when something happens rarely, it can have news value; when something happens every year, it has less news value. So that'd explain why nobody bothered to mention the burning of Irish tricolours. Because it's not newsworthy.
Would it be worth pursuing these tricolour burners? Probably not: what they'd done would be seen as a fine, patriotic act by some in their community, and any legal procedure might elevate them to the rank of martyr for the cause. They shouldn't, of course, be given public money; but that's not likely to matter much to them. I saw a giant pyre of pallets a couple of weeks ago with an attached sign 'Culture B4 Cash'. Right. And the burning of tyres and tricolours is a time-honoured, priceless part of that culture.
Should we laugh or weep? Maybe both.