Department confirms NI centenary stone removal as ‘no permission sought’

Conor Murphy’s Stormont department has confirmed it was behind the swift removal of an unauthorised Northern Ireland centenary commemorative stone placed in the grounds of Parliament Buildings at the weekend.

By Mark Rainey
Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 7:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 8:23 pm
TUV East Belfast candidate John Ross unveils the Northern Ireland century stone at Stormont. Picture: Peter Morrison/PressEye
TUV East Belfast candidate John Ross unveils the Northern Ireland century stone at Stormont. Picture: Peter Morrison/PressEye

The small block of granite, complete with a plaque, was placed close to the statue of Lord Carson and unveiled by a group of loyalists on Saturday evening.

The event was being promoted on social media in advance of the weekend by the ‘Restore Uk’ grouping.

TUV candidate for East Belfast in the next assembly elections John Ross made a short speech as he unveiled the stone.

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During his address, he recalled how an attempt to have an official commemorative stone placed at Stormont was vetoed earlier this year.

“We were denied by the people who seek to destroy Northern Ireland,” he said.

Confirming the removal of the stone, a spokeswoman for the Sinn Fein minister’s finance department said: “Permission was not sought for this and it was subsequently removed.”

On its Facebook site, the Restore UK project is described as “a genuine attempt to amalgamate Unionists, British people who have difference in belief, culture, way of life and lifestyle”.

A spokesman for the TUV said the party had no involvement in organising the unveiling event, but added: “We do note the speed with which this memorial was removed is in stark contrast to the lack of action from councils and statutory agencies when it comes to illegal memorials to terrorists across Northern Ireland.”

The plaque on the now removed commemorative stone includes the James Craig quote, “Let no man ever think for a moment that I will not stand to the very death if it is necessary in the interests of Ulster and of the Ulster people.”

Below is the slogan ‘For God and Ulster.’

During this centenary year, Sinn Fein representatives have prevented a number of events from taking place, including the illumination of Parliament Buildings, and a proposal to light up Belfast City Hall.

Other initiatives vetoed by republicans include an official commemorative stone, at no cost to the taxpayer, and the planting of a centenary rose bed filled with specially bred NI centenary rose – both in the grounds of the Stormont Estate.

In October 2018, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said her party would not take part in events where unionists celebrated the creation of what she called their “wee statelet”.

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