Glengormley residents welcome Somme mural in place of UVF gunmen

At the unveiling of the new artwork were Mark Downes (Ballyduff Redevelopment Group), Phil Hamilton (East Antrim ACT) and John Read (Housing Executive good relations officer)
At the unveiling of the new artwork were Mark Downes (Ballyduff Redevelopment Group), Phil Hamilton (East Antrim ACT) and John Read (Housing Executive good relations officer)

Residents of a loyalist estate in Newtownabbey have welcomed the eradication of a paramilitary mural as part of a reimaging project.

The fresh artwork on the gable wall of a property at Queens Avenue in Glengormley, depicts soldiers at the Battle of the Somme.

The long-standing mural which it replaces showed gun-toting UVF men.

The wording on the new piece includes a tribute from King George V to the 36th (Ulster) Division.

The quote is a slight contraction of the King’s statement: “Throughout the long years of struggle, which now so gloriously ended, the men of Ulster have proved how nobly they fight and die.”

Following a consultation with the community, the Friends of the Somme Society facilitated the reimaging of the mural in Queens Park “to commemorate those who fought at the Somme and celebrate our shared history”.

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive funded the investment in the estate.

Phil Hamilton of East Antrim ACT (Action for Community Transformation) is pleased with the finished piece and calls it “a visibly more welcoming mural”.

He said: “It’s been a terrific opportunity to explore our shared past and commemorate those who fought at the Somme.

“I’d like to thank the Housing Executive for their support of this initiative which we hope will create further opportunities within our community.”

According to the Housing Executive, residents in the estate are “delighted” with the new artwork.

The Housing Executive’s local good relations officer, John Read, said: “The community’s wholehearted backing and the resulting artwork has achieved the groups’ aims of creating an area that’s more visibly friendly and acceptable to the wider community.”

Jackie Shaw, PUP spokesman for Newtownabbey, said: “It’s far nicer. The artwork is far supreme.

“It looks pleasing to the eye and there’s a bit of history involved in it. It’s tidied the whole thing up tremendously.”

However, he added that across the Province there appear to be youths who prefer the old, paramilitary images.

“They really don’t know what we all came through,” he said.

“It’s hard to convince them that there’s another way, a better way.”