Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Unionists condemn new IRA mural facing Casement Park

Part of the mural at Slemish Way in west Belfast depicting an IRA tribute at the funeral of hunger striker Kieran Doherty in 1981
PUP Leader Billy Hutchinson

GAA fans will be confronted with a new mural featuring hooded IRA gunmen which has appeared close to the flagship Casement Park venue in Belfast.

The mural is on the corner of Slemish Way, off the Andersonstown Road, facing the stadium.

It features several hooded gunmen standing over a coffin.

The mural – which is still being completed – is believed to have been organised locally.

A Sinn Fein spokesman described it as a "refreshing" of a previous mural of Kieran Doherty, an IRA man who died on hunger strike at the Maze Prison in 1981.

He grew up on a street nearby.

The painting is understood to be a reproduction of a photograph of Doherty's funeral when a volley of shots was fired over his coffin at Commedagh Drive.

The mural comes ahead of a multi-million pound redevelopment of Casement Park.

The Ulster Branch of the GAA clarified that the mural was not on property owned by it.

The mural has been slammed by unionists, who say it is not appropriate to be sited close to a major sporting venue.

DUP MP and spokesman on sport Gregory Campbell said there was no place for the "glorification of terrorism".

"This mural is a glorification of terrorism and an attempt to drag Northern Ireland backwards," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"There is no place for such glorification, whether in a mural such as this or in a speech delivered by republican elected representatives."

The East Londonderry MP and former Sports Minister at Stormont added: "This mural needs to be condemned by representatives from all sides, and agreement that terrorism has never been justified.

"It is important that no distinction is drawn between those who engage in violence and terror today and those who may have used such tactics in the past."

UUP MLA Danny Kinahan said such murals belong in the past.

"I look forward to the days when such threatening murals are consigned to the past where they belong," he said.

"The subject matter hardly provides a welcoming scene and the location so close to a major sporting venue is also far from ideal.

"It does nothing to promote a shared future or a united community."

Sinn Fein declined to comment on the criticism of the mural by unionists.

A spokesman for the Ulster Council of the GAA said the mural was not on its property and it would not condone it in any way.

Casement Park is currently closed ahead of the major redevelopment.

Local SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said: "The SDLP believes it is now time we all advanced healing and national reconciliation and moved away from promoting violent images of the past."

PUP Leader Billy Hutchinson said: "I am pretty much astounded by the hypocrisy of Sinn Fein and republicans who seem oblivious to their own double standards. This is just another example of how they cast out judgments on others for the very things they do themselves regularly and as a matter of course."

He added: "Every time a flag is raised in a loyalist area or a mural goes up on a wall, republicans lead the procession of criticism.

"We are not against republicans comme morating their history as they see fit, but they should allow loyalists to do the same."

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