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Stiff Little Fingers blue plaque snub 'elitist snobbery'

By Joanne Fleming

A campaign is under way to recognise the role of local punk bands such as Stiff Little Fingers who united Protestants and Catholics at the height of the Troubles.

Amateur punk historian Dee Wilson, author of The Punk Trilogy, approached the Ulster History Circle with a proposal that a blue plaque be erected at what is now Wolsey's Bar in Bangor.

Forty years ago bands including SLF and Ruefrex made their debuts at the pub, then known as the Trident.

It also features in the lyrics of SLF anthem Alternative Ulster.

However, the Ulster History Circle has said no.

"We had our own organic peace process before the 'other' peace process even began," Dee told The Guardian newspaper. "I came from a loyalist east Belfast background and it was only because of the punk scene that I met people from Catholic, republican communities and, in doing so, forged lifelong friendships. The politicians and the negotiators of the Good Friday Agreement only picked up where we left off."

The 56-year-old former guitar player for The Idiots pointed out that the Ulster History Circle had already erected a plaque commemorating the Belfast rhythm and blues scene of the Sixties on the site of the Maritime Hotel.

"My reaction to their attitude is one of anger," he said in the interview.

"The Ulster History Circle say they do not celebrate buildings, although a blue plaque was placed at the spot of the Maritime Hotel. This plaque clearly celebrates a building (that is no longer standing) as well as an era. It's middle-class snobbery and elitism to ignore the contribution of punk here."

Last week SLF announced their 40th anniversary homecoming concert to take place at the Belsonic festival this August. Jake Burns, the band's lead singer, has backed the blue plaque campaign.

"I think it's only reasonable that one of the bright spots in a fairly dark time in Northern Ireland's history should be commemorated," he said. "We're all too willing to put up reminders of things that divided us, so surely it's only right that something that helped bring young people together should be celebrated as well."

Alan Boyd of the Ulster History Circle said it stood by its decision "because it was not for a specific individual or achievement".

"We have a small number of plaques to particular 'groups' of people," he explained. "However, these plaques were erected quite a few years ago now.

"The circle has streamlined our criteria since then and we now erect plaques exclusively to individuals who have connections of birth, death, sojourn, education, etc, with particular buildings.

"The circle wishes the organisers every success in their project to celebrate the punks' place in Bangor's local history."

Wilson has since set up an online petition at causes.com.

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