Members of George Best’s family have expressed their regret that a mural depicting the late football legend has been replaced with a UVF gunman.
Norman McNarry – who is married to Best’s sister Barbara – said he believed that when he attended the artwork’s unveiling in November 2010 it signalled a more positive future for east Belfast.
As part of the city’s “re-imaging” programme, European funding was secured to create the mural of the Manchester United and Northern Ireland star at the height of his career.
Members of the Best family attended the unveiling at Inverary Court, in the Sydenham area, along with invited guests from both sides of the sectarian divide and both sides of the Irish border.
Speaking to the News Letter yesterday, Mr McNarry said: “Any replacement of a mural of George by that of a paramilitary figure is something I would view with regret.
“We are of the opinion that George’s mural in Sydenham was a reflection of the positive attitude that society was taking, by leaving the past in the past and concentrating on the positivity in Northern Ireland.”
Mr McNarry added: “The mural being replaced by a paramilitary one is not for me to judge but for others to make their own minds up about, but any retrograde step – which some people will obviously view this as – is to be viewed with some degree of apprehension and regret.”
Some Sydenham residents have said the UVF has been “flexing its muscles” over a new housing development in the area.
Although work has resumed on the Inverary Avenue development, contractors walked off the site earlier this year after residents formed a picket to complain about the allocation of the 14 new houses – the protestors alleging that foreign nationals were being given priority over local families.
Commenting on the Inverary Avenue housing project, a spokesman for Trinity Housing said: “We are aware that there were protests a number of weeks ago, during which the contractor informed us that they would not be going on site.
“It was the contractor’s decision and they advised us of that at the time.”
The spokesman added: “At the present time we are pleased that work has resumed on site to provide these much needed social homes in the area.
“Trinity Housing allocates homes fairly on a points basis and in accordance with the procedures outlined in the Common Selection Scheme.
“There has been no change to how we are doing that.”
The previous George Best mural plaque read:
‘Work hard to develop the talent you were born with.
‘Be dedicated and embrace every chance you have to learn.
Then your dreams can be realised.’
The text on the new UVF gunman artwork reads:
‘Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed’