Cool response to priest’s Twaddell interface memorial plan

Image of the Twaddell roundabout, north Belfast. The blue marks a suggested spot for a peace memorial, the orange the Protestant side of the interface, and the green the Catholic side. (C) 2016 Infoterra Ltd & Bluesky. Map data (C) 2016 Google

Image of the Twaddell roundabout, north Belfast. The blue marks a suggested spot for a peace memorial, the orange the Protestant side of the interface, and the green the Catholic side. (C) 2016 Infoterra Ltd & Bluesky. Map data (C) 2016 Google

Politicians have given an unenthusiastic response to plans from a prominent cleric for a major Troubles memorial at one of the Province’s most volatile interface flashpoints.

However Father Gary Donegan, who was until recently the long-standing rector of Holy Cross in north Belfast, has declared that he will “never” give up on the idea.

He had first publicly unveiled his idea for the monument exclusively to the News Letter last week – read all the details here, right down to the type of rock it would be made from.

However, his idea for a large stone memorial on land next to the former Twaddell loyalist camp risked controversy, because he had envisaged that it would bear a white cross for every life which was lost in the surrounding area during the Troubles – including paramilitaries.

Now, over a week later, the plans have been met with little political support.

Father Donegan said he had first privately presented his proposals to the First and Deputy First Ministers during the summer.

However, asked to offer a view on the proposals now, the Executive Office – representing the two top ministers – failed to respond at all after several attempts to obtain a comment.

When it comes to oppotion parties, the SDLP likewise offered no response.

The UUP issued only the following statement: “This is a typical example of one of the many issues which need to be resolved as part of a comprehensive approach to dealing with the past.”

Alliance meanwhile said: “Any such memorials would be better dealt with as part of a wider, all-encompassing strategy for dealing with the past.

“Given the contested nature of this site, particularly in recent years, careful thought needs to be given to whether it’d be the best location for a memorial.

“Regardless, the approach must be victim-centred and respect the views of those most directly affected.”

Speaking to the News Letter this week, Fr Donegan – who still works in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast, despite having left the role of rector – said that since the article about his plans was first published last Monday, he has been in Berlin so had heard little talk about it (although he returned to the country to find a number of missed calls from journalists).

When it was put to him his idea has little political support, he said: “In one sense it doesn’t surprise me because it’s not a vote-winner is it?”

He said after Christmas he will consult with the parties himself about the idea.

Asked if he may give up on it, he said: “No – never.”