Fury after £22k Belfast war memorial 'hijacked by UVF'
The presence of a UVF plaque on Housing Executive property has been branded "divisive" amid calls for it to be removed.
The plaque is dedicated to the "fallen comrades" of a section of the terror outfit associated with the Village area in south Belfast.
It appeared in a £22,000 memorial garden which the Housing Executive funded the building of in November 2013. It replaced a previous garden which was demolished in a recent redevelopment of the area.
A spokeswoman for the Housing Executive said the garden was developed and built with community engagement. It originally had two plaques, one which paid tribute to those from the area that had lost their lives fighting in the First World War, and a second which commemorated those who lost their lives in the Second World War, Troubles and other conflicts.
Recently, however, loyalists added a memorial stone to UVF members who were killed.
Alliance councillor Paula Bradshaw called for the plaque to be removed.
"This should have been a shared commemoration to those who lost their lives from all sides, so it is regrettable that this divisive plaque has been placed in this memorial garden," she said.
"I hope that a positive outcome will be achieved which will see the removal of this plaque."
Ukip councillor Bob Stoker has insisted, however, that no one has complained about the UVF plaque. "It is in a local area that is not going to give offence to anyone, and I have not heard anyone making any complaints," he said.
Residents were reluctant to speak to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday. But South Belfast UDA chief Jackie McDonald said he understood people were "content" with the tribute.
"I think you'll find if you do a survey of local residents they do not have a problem with this," he said.
"Murals of reflection are all over the country. I don't see what the big argument is about the Village."
A spokeswoman for the Housing Executive said it is negotiating with the community to remove the plaque.
"For over a year the local community has enjoyed the use of this garden and to date we have not received any complaints," she said.
"We are disappointed that since its construction, other images have been added to the garden. We are now trying to reach agreement with the local community to remove the additional images which were not agreed with us."
Story so far
The memorial garden in the Village area of south Belfast was built with £22,000 of funding from the Housing Executive in October 2013. It replaced a previous memorial garden which was demolished during a regeneration project in the area. An unauthorised UVF plaque was added without the permission of the Housing Executive.