The Clonduff Cultural Expression Committee has issued a statement following the persist demonisation and exploitation of young people in the area by Alliance, SDLP and the Irish News.
The statement, issued via JWB Consultancy, stated:
“The Clonduff Cultural Expression Committee has been set up in recent years to work with disengaged young people in the community, with particular emphasis on the local cultural expression bonfire group.
“This work has consistently been made more difficult by the exploitation of these young people- and indeed PUL communities more generally- by particularly Alliance and SDLP councillors, and sections of the media. The Irish News’ language, derogatory tone and the descriptions it has indiscriminately bestowed- with a broad brush- on every young person involved with the bonfire is utterly reprehensible. The unionist/loyalist community is not there for Alliance and SDLP representatives to generate headlines for themselves, and for failing media outlets to fill pages by sensationalising a kid’s bonfire as social media clickbait.
“None of those who have written in such derogatory terms about the young people have taken the time to try and engage with them. Instead, the only contribution is sensationalist, unhelpful and collective demonisation press statements and ‘reporting’.
“The true story is that the young people were promised a particular cultural expression area after losing their community centre. This area was earmarked between two football pitches, and upon seeing a slope on the ground, the local adults themselves flattened this area of grass so the young people could have their bonfire. The young people also significantly scaled it back, not wishing to damage any new sporting facilities.
“This year there was a bonfire hut and some over-exuberant young people erected flags inside. This hardly warranted front page news or the sensationalist reporting it attracted. In comparison to thousands of young people singing ‘up the Ra’ at Feile, it is rather benign silliness. In equal terms, some misguided individual scratching into a pallet a disgusting symbol is youthful silliness, and certainly doesn’t warrant an entire community being labelled with this.
“The bonfire was being stripped back and whilst it was, wood was being stored closer to the football pitches. This has now been moved, and the young people have cleaned that whole area.
“It is time for the SDLP, Alliance and Irish News to stop using this community to get themselves into or to fill newspaper pages. If they want to engage, then they should speak directly to the local cultural expression group, particularly the young people, rather than blanket demonising them for their own selfish agendas.”