In Northern Ireland, there are fears that the town of Ballybilly will be consumed in a massive conflagration on the night of July 11/12. Along with their counterparts throughout the province, Ballybilly loyalists will be kicking off the celebration of the battle of the Boyne victory with traditional bonfires. This year, however, so many have been built that it looks like the entire town will disappear in an inferno the like of which has not been seen since the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Leading loyalist alderman, Billy Williamson, seemed unconcerned when we asked him to comment on the possible catastrophe, claiming the whole thing is a scare story and a sinister plot by nationalists. Alderman Williamson said "We hear this every year from them uns determined to prevent loyalists celebrating their culture. They said this would happen last year and we only lost the community centre, the technical college, and a few houses. They're just like yon Jeremy fella in the bible - always predicting the worst. Our young fellas have been building their bonfires since last November and have gone to great lengths to keep the sites as tidy as possible. We did have a minor incident when some of the lads were pissing off the top of one of them down somebody's chimney, but they thought the house was occupied by chinks."
We pointed out to Alderman Williamson that it was the Department of the Environment that had expressed concern. "Riddled with socialists, hippies, and fenians - the same people who tried to stop us burning car and tractor tyres," retorted the alderman.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the great divide, Sinn Fein councillor, Kevin Barry, has been calling on the authorities to provide better facilities for young people after a ten-year-old boy was injured during a midnight riot. Councillor Barry said "The weans have nothing to do when the mammies and daddies are at bingo and the pub, so it's hardly surprising they're out drinking Buckfast and getting up to mischief."
We suggested that throwing bricks and petrol bombs at the police was a bit more than mischief, and reminded Mr Barry that these same kids had burned down their own youth club. An unrepentant Mr Barry replied "That's slanderous - if our weans hadn't burn it down, them uns would have nicked the timber for their bonfires. As for the riot, the peelers started that so they can get some overtime in for their holiday pay."
One positive result of all this is that savings will be made when the lighthouse on the Ballybilly coast is shut down. A DoE spokesman said "There is absolutely no need for a lighthouse here; the ferries never have trouble spotting Ballybilly as there is a blaze somewhere in the town every night."
We asked him to comment on Alderman Williamson's claims that the DoE was out to thwart loyalists celebrating their culture. "Listening to that lot talking about culture is like listening to cannibals discussing table manners," he replied.