Eleventh Night bonfire organisers have been urged to show respect and refrain from placing national flags, effigies or election posters on bonfires.
That was the message from local MLA Doug Beattie MC: “I am a proud unionist and support the promotion of my unionist identity and culture.
“Although I am not a member of the Loyal Orders, a large part of that expression of identity and culture is based around the Twelfth of July celebrations. I, like many other people, want to see those celebrations take place in a positive light and be seen as respectful and inclusive. Therefore, I believe it is important that all unionists, of every shape and colour, should be mindful not to do anything to undermine that very identity and culture we hold so dear.
“As a soldier I have served with many nationalities within the British military and alongside members of other national armed forces.
“I have stood toe to toe with individuals from the Irish Republic - some were members of the Irish Defence Force, others were members of my own unit, the Royal Irish Regiment. These brave men and women hold allegiance to their own national flag, the Tricolour, while some freely give their loyalty to the United Kingdom as a member of the UK Armed Forces.
“Therefore, I ask all those who celebrate this Twelfth season to think about the perception that is created when some choose to burn the Irish Tricolour on bonfires.
“I fully understand that some people see the Tricolour as being linked to Republican terrorism, but at the same time it is the national flag of our neighbours, military colleagues and friends.
“With that in mind, I ask all those who are building bonfires to refrain from burning the Irish Tricolour or any other national flags or effigies of any kind, on them.
“Having just had two recent elections, there will doubtless be many election posters in circulation. I believe the burning of any of these posters on bonfires is also wrong. Doing so undermines unionism and enables others to brand unionists as bigots.
“It is little more than an open goal which some offer yearly to those who wish to portray unionists in a bad light for political gain.
“I fully support the right of unionists to express their identity and culture and trust that eveyone will enjoy a peaceful and happy Twelfth of July.
“All I ask is that as we approach the Eleventh Night, those organising bonfires take steps to ensure that they do not burn any national flags, effigies or election posters on them.”