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Illegal paramilitary memorials on Housing Executive land in Northern Ireland

By Adrian Rutherford

More than 100 paramilitary memorials are illegally sited on Housing Executive land across Northern Ireland.

They include large stone monuments, plaques, murals and gardens.

In many cases the tributes - both loyalist and republican - have been in place for years without the required planning permission, yet nothing has been done.

The Housing Executive said it is "almost impossible" to remove the memorials. However, the organisation has faced criticism over its lack of action.

DUP MLA Tom Buchanan accused the Housing Executive of "washing its hands" of the problem.

Figures obtained by the Belfast Telegraph show a total of 119 memorials are illegally sited on Housing Executive land. All but a handful are linked to paramilitaries.

They include:

  • An IRA memorial garden, comprising a monument and flag, at Twinbrook in west Belfast.
  • A UDA memorial garden with benches and three black marble slabs at Ballybeen in Dundonald.
  • An Oglaigh Na hEireann memorial at Ligoniel in north Belfast.
  • A hunger striker tribute at Bishop Street in Londonderry.
  • A memorial to LVF leader Billy Wright, including two flagpoles and a black granite plinth stone, at Ballycraigy in Antrim.

The details were released by the Housing Executive after a Freedom of Information request by this newspaper.

Previously the Belfast Telegraph reported on the case of an IRA memorial built without planning permission in Castlederg in west Tyrone. It was erected in 2013 to honour republicans, including two IRA men killed when their bomb exploded prematurely.

Unionists and victims of republican violence voiced anger when it was unveiled in 2013. Yet nearly four years on nothing has been done about the memorial.

Mr Buchanan, whose West Tyrone constituency includes Castlederg, said the lack of action on illegal memorials was unacceptable.

"Nobody is saying this is not a difficult issue but there seems to be a complete lack of will to tackle this problem," he said.

"The memorial in Castlederg is a matter of great concern. This is an area which had 29 people murdered and no one brought to justice, and it causes great hurt to people, particularly relatives of those who died. Yet the Housing Executive has done little or nothing to remove this memorial on its land, or the many others across the wider area. There seems to be no will at all to get rid of these memorials."

TUV leader Jim Allister claimed there was a clear unwillingness to act against memorials to terror.

"The reluctance of the powers that be to tackle the scourge of illegal paramilitary memorials is something which has exercised me for some time," he said.

"I have repeatedly pressed planning and roads ministers to take action on the issue. The presence of memorials to illegal terrorist organisations and convicted terrorists is grossly offensive to innocent victims. It is obvious that there is no will to act and remove these insults to innocent victims."

The Housing Executive strongly denied the organisation was turning a blind eye to illegal memorials. It said it was a problem for society in general, not just the Housing Executive. It added: "Far from the suggestion that the Housing Executive is 'washing its hands of the problem', we have been to the forefront of removing paramilitary symbols in our estates and we will continue to do all we can to assist our communities to move forward in a constructive way.

"It has proved almost impossible to remove these memorials, even in cases where no planning permission existed and where there was significant doubt as to whether there was popular local support."

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