The fires of hell are one thing, but fire on earth is quite another.

The moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has branded bonfires as sinful.

The Rev. Frank Sellar said the controversial bonfires, which take place in loyalist areas in Northern Ireland during the Twelfth of July celebrations, were “a means by which we pass on to succeeding generations the sins of our fathers.”

The July bonfires celebrate the victory of the Protestant William of Orange over the Catholic King James II in 1690.

A small number of bonfires are also lit in republican areas of Belfast and Derry in August to mark the introduction of internment without trial in 1971.

Speaking at the Ulster University in Belfast, Rev. Sellar said: “Dotted over this city at certain times of the year in both communities are bonfires, which give off the toxic fumes of fear rather than light.

“Given our history and fortress mind-sets, while celebrating and commemorating the past divisively, they are also a danger to the environment, property and human well-being.

“They are not bonfires fuelled by inclusiveness, respect and healing, but a means by which we pass on to succeeding generations the sins of our fathers.”

Rev. Sellars was taking fire this week for his words.

North Belfast DUP MLA, Nelson McCausland, described the comments as “ill-considered and inaccurate.”

“Is he suggesting that these historical events were ‘the sins of our fathers’ and that they were somehow sinful?” he asked.

DUP MP Geoffrey Donaldson said: “The moderator is someone I have great respect for, but I am not sure that these comments help address and resolve the issues around bonfires.”

Clarifying his comments on the BBC the next day, Rev. Sellar said: “If some have taken my remarks out of context and that has caused hurt, obviously I regret that.

“The more debate we have on this, so that next year is better than last year, last year better than the year before – that is progress and that’s what I would love to see.”

In recent years loyalists have been building larger bonfires on the Eleventh Night, some of which have come in for criticism from residents because of their vicinity to homes.

During this July’s celebrations two homes were gutted in the Shankill area of Belfast when flames from one bonfire spread to neighboring houses, with a child and pensioner narrowly escaping injury.


This article appears courtesy of the Irish Echo. For more stories, visit their website here