Vandals have burnt a mural of unionist leader Edward Carson, just days after it was attacked with paint - despite having been endorsed by Sinn Fein.
The mural to the original Ulster Volunteer Force has proved controversial as it appeared in republican west Belfast on the eve of the Easter Rising anniversary.
The artwork replaced an image of dead IRA convict Kieran Nugent, and on Friday around 20 protestors from the dissident republican 32 County Sovereignty Movement stood at the site, branding it an “insult” and part of a “revisionist agenda”.
On Saturday night, the painting was burnt, although those responsible failed to obscure most of the depiction of Lord Carson.
Last week, Sinn Fein’s former chief propagandist expressed bafflement at the appearance of the mural in republican west Belfast on the eve of the Easter Rising anniversary.
Danny Morrison told the News Letter the Carson-era UVF was “fascistic”, and that whilst he does not know why the mural had appeared he “cannot see it being there on a permanent basis”.
Mr Morrison, speaking from Toronto, said he knew nothing of the new mural, but said: “The view that I held in the 1960s is the same view I hold today. The UVF of 1912 was, to me, quite fascistic.
“It was anti-democratic. It went against the [public] will in nine successive general elections, where the Irish people across 32 counties voted for Home Rule. My view of Carson hasn’t changed.”
He said that when he had been chairman of Feile an Phobail (the West Belfast Festival), “we had many former loyalists at our events”, and that he was aware of current discussions in west Belfast about the Somme.
Asked if he viewed the mural’s appearance in an IRA heartland ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising as a step too far, he said: “I don’t know the background to it ... I don’t want to be drawn into saying something about something I am ignorant of.”
Sinn Fein said that those criticising the mural were “out of touch with the views of the local community”.
The artist behind the mural, Danny Devenny (whose social media profile lists him as a former Sinn Fein employee), had condemned those who vandalised the mural in midweek as “insolent morons”.
Sinn Fein said that the old republican paramilitary mural will return after the 1916 centenary celebrations,
West Belfast MLA Fra McCann said: “The shortsightedness of the handful of protestors in opposing this mural shows how out of touch they are with the views of the vast majority of local people who support the mural and the wider commemorations.”