A paramilitary mural branded a “disgrace” by an east Belfast PUP councillor has now been completed.
Earlier this month, Cllr John Kyle said he was disappointed that a George Best-themed artwork in Sydenham was being painted over to show a UVF gunman.
Members of the football legend’s family were present when the Inverwood Court tribute was unveiled in 2010.
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.
Speaking earlier this month, Cllr Kyle described the new painting as a “disgrace” and added: “We should be celebrating some of the great people who have come from east Belfast and the progress that we have made here in recent years.”
Best’s brother-in-law Norman McNarry also expressed his regret at the change.
He 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.”
Yesterday, Cllr Kyle said: “It was absolutely wrong to replace the George Best mural with a mural of a masked gunman.
“From what I can tell it does not have the support of the local community – that people do not want their children looking at murals of masked gunmen.”
Cllr Kyle added: “The overwhelming view of east Belfast people is that they want to look to the future and create a peaceful and prosperous future, and begin to sort out the many problems that we have in east Belfast. Painting gunmen on gable walls does not sort out the social, economic and cultural problems that we have.”
Robin Newton of the DUP said: “The Inverary mural in memory of George Best was paid for by public money from Belfast ratepayers. It is therefore deeply disappointing that on the 50th anniversary of George Best’s first game for Manchester United this mark of respect to his football skills is obliterated. All the more so that it should be done in the part of the city he called home.”
Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle said the use of a Martin Luther King quote on the mural was “perverse beyond belief”.
“It is unacceptable that an image which once depicted the world-class talent of George Best has now been replaced by a paramilitary gunman,” he said.