Condemnation of new paramilitary murals

An INLA Mural on Northumberland Street, Belfast
An INLA Mural on Northumberland Street, Belfast

Nationalist and unionist representatives have united to condemn a west Belfast mural of armed and masked IRA gunmen firing a volley of shots over a coffin.

The Slemish Way mural, off the Andersonstown Road, relates to the funeral of Kieran Doherty who died while hunger strike in 1981.

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said his party believes it is “now time we all advanced healing and national reconciliation by moving away from promoting violent images of the past. There are too many murals in west Belfast which highlight armed men and violence”.

He added: “It is important there is a consistent message from all parties condemning murals which promote armed men, or paramilitary organisations, whether it is in east Belfast or west Belfast.”

Alliance councillor Nuala McAllister also condemned the mural.

“There can be no place for images of paramilitary gunmen in our society,” she said. “I am opposed to any mural or image which would seek to glorify terrorism. This mural must be replaced.”

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said the mural is “a glorification of terrorism and an attempt to drag Northern Ireland backwards”.

He added: “There is no place for such glorification, whether in a mural such as this or in a speech delivered by republican elected representatives.”

PUP leader, Belfast councillor Billy Hutchinson, responded that he was “pretty much astounded by the hypocrisy of Sinn Fein” on the matter.

He added: “Every time a flag is raised in a loyalist area or a mural goes up on a wall, republicans lead the procession of criticism.”

But Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan rejected suggestions that the mural glorified violence. “Those people in Cavan Monaghan who elected Kieran Doherty as a TD aren’t saying that and the people in Andersonstown where the mural is aren’t saying that,” he told the BBC. “Because in those particular areas Kieran Doherty is seen as a hero, a man who sacrificed himself on the hunger strike.”

Meanwhile, DUP councillor Brian Kingston condemned a new mural of INLA men unveiled in Northumberland Street in west Belfast.

“These are people who engaged in murderous and destructive crimes and they should not be held up as role-models for the young people of today,” he said.

But Irish Republican Socialist Party spokesman Gerry Foster disagreed: “People in this area thought there was nothing in the area to commemorate these four volunteers and the families were in agreement about a mural.”