Loyalists bonfires in Northern Ireland, 2014-2019
Although the conflict between Irish Catholics and British Protestants in Northern Ireland officially ended in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement, it – after nearly 20 years of this peace process – echoes back recurrently and significantly to this day. Even if the conflict’s amplitude has significantly weakened, it does continue to take a hard toll on the residents of the region.
With time Belfast city center has taken on the look of most developing European capitals in which new office or university buildings lift the skyline and the urban horizon thickens with cranes reaching for the clouds.
Yet at the same time, annually and for many a decade now, in the months leading up to the 11th of July, colossal towers of wooden pallets arise amidst the modern towers of steel. These are the Loyalist bonfire structures of the working class, erected to commemorate a British victory over the Irish – the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The date – especially the 12th of July on the current calendar – is a crucial element in Protestant identity, anchoring a belonging to United Kingdom. The turrets, often surpassing 40 meters in height, are set alight during a portentous celebration culminating at midnight on the 11th into the 12th of July. This often leads to additional tensions between the Protestants and Catholics during the summer “marching season” of British Orangemen parades crossing the whole of Northern Ireland, a time already exceptionally overwrought with apprehension.