Unionists praise SDLP councillors for removing AK47 IRA sign

Unionists have welcomed a move by SDLP councillors to take down a contentious IRA sign near the entrance to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

The IRA sign outside the Royal  Victoria Hospital was removed by SDLP councillors
The IRA sign outside the Royal Victoria Hospital was removed by SDLP councillors

The sign, which featured an image of an AK47 above the letters ‘IRA’, was removed by SDLP councillors Donal Lyons and Tim Attwood on Wednesday.

Tweeting a picture of the sign in a bin, Mr Lyons wrote: “No excuses, no justification, no place for paramilitary trappings in our city.

“Into the dustbin of history you have gone and in the dustbin of history you should remain.”

The move has received praise from unionist councillors, with the DUP’s Brian Kingston saying he was pleased the “menacing” image had been removed.

He told the News Letter: “To give credit where it is due, I commend those who intervened to have this sign removed, and I trust that it will not reappear.

“The RVH is a major hospital used by people from all communities and no-one should feel intimidated entering or leaving it.

“If the IRA has gone away, as Sinn Fein tell us it has, then it should be confined to history and not celebrated, out of respect for its many victims and their families.”

Ulster Unionist councillor David Browne also welcomed the move, stating: “Fair play to them for taking it upon themselves to do this.

“It is just a shame that the people who put the sign up in the first place didn’t have the decency to take it back down themselves, knowing the level of offence it would cause to a lot of people who use that hospital.”

A PSNI spokesperson said police had not received any complaints in relation to the sign.

Explaining the decision to take matters into his own hands and remove the sign, Mr Attwood told the News Letter: “Everyone says that dealing with signs like this is someone else’s responsibility, so we thought that it was important to make a statement that places such as this should be neutral and free from these sorts of political emblems.

“We all need to act collectively. These sorts of emblems should be consigned to the past where they belong.”

When asked if this should apply to all contentious signs in public places across NI, he added: “Where there is a blatant disregard for shared spaces, be it hospitals, churches or schools, people should act to remove symbols that are unwanted and could be seen to be threatening or intimidatory.”

As reported in the News Letter, SDLP councillors on Newry, Mourne and Down Council last month refused to back a DUP motion which sought to change the name of a play park that had been named after IRA terrorist Raymond McCreesh.

Mr Attwood told the News Letter: “I am not comfortable with that and I don’t think any park or shared space should be named after any paramilitary figure.”