If you want to convince your neighbors that you're serious about their equality, burning their national flags and religious symbols on giant bonfires, year after year, probably isn't the most effective way to do it.
But Paul Givan, Northern Ireland’s Minister for Communities, doesn’t see what the problem is.
Givan, a senior member of the Democratic Unionist Party, has just been blasted by critics for attending an Eleventh Night bonfire, an annual loyalist tradition where Irish tricolors, election posters, and even religious symbols are regularly burned on top of giant pyres.
But not only was Givan pleased to attend this year, the beaming Communities Minister was photographed as he set stacks of wooden pallets ablaze in County Tyrone.
Givan, an ardent creationist, seems to have no problem setting fire to creation.
Earlier in the day the minister, who takes a keen interest in culture, announced a new £200,000 scheme to pay for musical instruments for marching bands (widely expected to be the marching bands of the Orange Order and loyalism).
Givan told the press: ”Our parading culture has been described as 'Northern Ireland's best kept secret' and the reinstatement of this funding for the purchase of musical instruments will be welcome news for those who participate in this important sector.”
Givan’s nationalist neighbors, who often spend the Eleventh and the Twelfth of July indoors or even abroad, will probably wonder just how “secret” he thinks these often threatening bonfires and parades actually are?
Meanwhile the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has had its budget for 2016-17 reduced by almost £500,000, with government sources insisting that there is no connection between the two decisions.
Givan’s own department's main responsibilities include urban regeneration and social legislation and equality briefs, leading Sinn Fein Minister for Education John O'Dowd to lament Givan’s surprising involvement at the blaze when he should be "setting an example as a minister.”
But Givan reportedly attended and helped light the bonfire at Annahoe Orange District in south Tyrone.
Later he posted on Facebook: "Enjoyed a wonderful Eleventh Night at Roughan Orange Hall opening a new £320 pitch and celebrating the traditional lighting of the bonfire."
Givan is a rising star within the DUP, where his anti-gay and anti-science views have endeared him to the party faithful.
Bust whilst calling on his nationalist neighbors to respect the culture and traditions of unionism, wouldn’t it behoove him to ask himself if burning their symbols and effigies is the most sincere overture that unionism could make?
Meanwhile in Belfast burning embers from a giant blaze set fire to nearby homes and left dozens out on the street. Some community leaders immediately blamed the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) for failing to prepare to fight fires caused by wind blown embers from the massive bonfires. The NIFRS countered that setting massive blazes in residential areas can lead to undesirable results.
Here's one of Givan’s DUP colleagues explaining why it's okay to burn the Irish flag on a bonfire: