Blitz memorial councillor is down but not out in plans for city tribute

Pacemaker Press Belfast 14-04-2016: 
Gillian Clarke and David McCallion from the War Years Remembered pictured at the front of Belfast City Hall which seen wartime-style spotlight and the names of those killed in the Blitz shown on the Big Screen as part of the 75th  anniversary of the Belfast Blitz.  
Picture By: Arthur Allison Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press Belfast 14-04-2016: Gillian Clarke and David McCallion from the War Years Remembered pictured at the front of Belfast City Hall which seen wartime-style spotlight and the names of those killed in the Blitz shown on the Big Screen as part of the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz. Picture By: Arthur Allison Pacemaker.

A Belfast councillor has vowed to keep fighting for a permanent memorial in the city to victims of the Blitz.

However, the UUP’s Jeffrey Dudgeon believes it may be time to seek a new location for the memorial other than the grounds of Belfast City Hall.

Frustrated at the lack of progress made on the Belfast Blitz memorial, Mr Dudgeon said the hold up began when his proposal was “tied in” with a proposal by republicans for a statue to Irish independence activist Winifred Carney in the grounds of city hall.

For this he blames the Alliance Party for siding with Sinn Fein and drawing his motion into a contentious debate.

The proposals for a memorial to the victims of the Belfast Blitz and a statue commemorating Carney are being looked at jointly by the council’s historic working group.

Mr Dudgeon said: “The linking of the Blitz memorial to the Carney statue has made it impossible to detach it and progress it. The notion of getting a Blitz memorial to the 1,000 dead Belfast citizens at city hall grounds is now impossible.”

Mr Dudgeon blamed Alliance who he said had called for the issues to be dealt with collectively.

He said: “The Alliance Party has, yet again, taken sides with Sinn Fein and turned the statues into a contentious issue. They want conflict so they can sit above it, so they can resolve it. It’s a peculiar facet of liberal terror.”

He added: “The Belfast Blitz was a terrible catastrophe for the whole city and it shouldn’t be allowed to be drawn into this debate.”

Mr Dudgeon said he was in the process of seeking another location for the Blitz memorial with Buoy Park close to the Ulster University one site being looked at.

Responded to Mr Dudgeon’s criticism, Alliance leader on Belfast City Council Michael Long said: “We have actually done some research of figures rather than assumptions. We found in terms of recorded votes over the past two or three years, half the time we voted with Sinn Fein and half the time we voted with the DUP. We vote on the merit of issues.

“Mr Dudgeon is showing his prejudice in his comments about our party’s voting habits.”

He added: “I don’t think the statues issue is a contentious issue.

“We had a programme to deal with the memorabilia in city hall which has resulted in a hugely successful exhibition which is bringing more tourists into city hall than ever before.

“The next logical step was to look at outside space and seek an agreement on how it can be developed with additional statues and memorials.”

He said all the parties agreed to have all the issues and proposals relating to outside space looked at together.

Mr Long commented: “Mr Dudgeon is behaving rather like a schoolboy. He’s saying, ‘Let’s agree on the thing I want’. We’re saying, ‘Let’s deal with the whole issue’.

“We need a shared space which reflects the changing history of the city.”

Responding to Mr Dudgeon’s comments that the Alliance Party wanted conflict so it could rise above it and resolve it, Mr Long said: “I found that quite bizarre. He seems to be the only person seeking conflict.”