Now that the smoke has finally cleared over this years round of loyalist bonfires, we are left to count the injured and the ruinous cost of keeping the peace each 12 of July.
That cost is becoming too high. It's too high a price to ask the public to pay for the annual attacks on peace and public order.
The enmity these bonfires and some of the marches create simply run too deep. That's why the time is coming for these medieval provocations to come to an end. It's absurd and indefensible in the era of Facebook and Twitter that a lone outpost on the edge of modern Europe is still indulging in cathartic rituals by fire, the last of the Mohicans, like willful holdouts from the modern age.
There is one insuperable reason why these bonfires will eventually end: they're not smart.
If you live in a small country, one that contains just six counties, how wise is it to celebrate a victory over your neighbors when they often live just a street away?
Why is it difficult to understand that celebrating your triumph, not just once but annually, for centuries, by igniting giant bonfires and burning your neighbors flags, is counterproductive to living in peace?
If your neighbors don't get the message from your flag burning (or the sectarian songs you sing and the drums you play to inspire your compatriots and intimidate your foes) they will get the message when their streets are blockaded.
Some loyalists tell the world that it's their culture and tradition to build these bonfires, thinking that saying this somehow inoculates them against the riots and drunken mayhem that usually follow in their wake.
But calling it culture and tradition doesn't let them off the hook. Tires and wooden pallets are often burned on these bonfires, which are hardly traditional artifacts, and they pollute the air. How exactly is that culture? What tradition of tire burning existed in 1690?
Burning effigies of Irish political leaders, burning Irish flags and burning symbols of Irish faith aren't culture or tradition, they're hateful provocations. The truth is that bonfires are and always have been blunt expressions of Protestant political power. But that era of supremacy and domination has long ended and these fires should go the way of it too.
Because you can't claim to be sincere about reaching an accommodation with your political opponents when you're still busy igniting their traditions and symbols.
That's why each summer the so-called “marching season” becomes a kind of Groundhog Day, where the same cast of often boozed up characters enact the same toxic pantomimes with the same toxic results.
No wonder Northern Ireland is hemorrhaging its young to the UK, Europe and America. Despairing for their futures they vote with their feet.
There was outrage in 2013 when a statue of the Virgin Mary stolen from the Holy Cross Church in Ardoyne appeared on a bonfire at Lanark Way. Another statue of the Virgin appeared on another bonfire this year.
In 2015 grown adults are indulging in dark ages desecration. Is this culture and tradition or disrespect and demagoguery?
Loyalists have a legendary mistrust of the world's media for good reason. They feel they are misrepresented, but they overlook how their own traditions contribute to it. Hoisting confederate flags and swastikas and KKK flags to fly over their housing estates doesn't persuade onlookers of their sincerity when it comes to the search for peace.
Recall that the Irish tricolor represents peace between Irish Catholics (green) and northern Protestants (orange). In their enthusiasm for giving offense to their neighbors, it's instructive that loyalists are even willing to burn a symbol that represents themselves.
If American states can come to see the confederate flag for the symbol of oppression it manifestly is, what will it take for loyalists to one day understand the giant bonfires they build also damage themselves?
It will take time. History can move at a snails pace. But, as America has just reminded us, when a toxic “tradition” has been comprehensively exposed it can end overnight.
One day these fires will go out. The world has moved on, and eventually even Northern Ireland will have to.