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Infamous Belfast UDA murals disappear, but only so they can be repainted

By Rebecca Black

Published 04/06/2015

One of the damaged walls being replastered
One of the damaged walls being replastered
One of the murals which will be repainted
One of the murals which will be repainted
Murals down the years ... former IRA sniper and Sinn Fein politician Martin Meehan aiming a rifle
Murals down the years ... The Shankill Star Flute Band in Belfast carries a Lambeg drum dedicated to the memory of Brian Robinson, a UVF terrorist who shot Paddy McKenna dead at Ardoyne in 1989
Murals down the years ... A huge UFF mural was beamed to the world as cyclists passed it during May's Giro d'Italia
Republican mural depicting former north Belfast IRA man Martin Meehan is revealed in the Ardoyne area of Belfast.
Republican mural depicting former north Belfast IRA leader Martin Meehan revealed in the Ardoyne area of Belfast
UVF mural is being painted in Willowfield
The UVF mural painted over one of George Best at Inverwood Court in east Belfast
Going back: The absurd psychology of paramilitarism fixating on UVF gunmen and Bobby Sands instead of icons like George Best, shows their mawkish self-mythologising
A mural at Free Derry Corner depicting the events of Bloody Sunday.
Residents gathered to watch the unveiling of the new mural opposite the Catholic church in Harryville, Ballymena, County Antrim. The old loyalist paramilitary mural close to a Catholic church which was the scene of weekly protests in the 1990s was removed at the weekend. It was replaced by an Ulster Scots mural featuring symbols such as a shamrock and Red Hand of Ulster. 2/4/06
Bobby Sands
Fading Memories. A mural of David Healy at Carnforth Street, east Belfast

Four of the most infamous murals in Belfast have disappeared - but they will be repainted exactly as they were, it can be revealed.

So-called Freedom Corner on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast comprised four murals and are some of the most instantly recognisable in Northern Ireland.

They have been on the gable walls for an estimated 35 years, depicting UDA symbols, gunmen, loyalist slogans and the crest of the Ulster Young Militants.

The iconic giant Samson and Goliath cranes at the Harland and Wolff shipyard form a dramatic backdrop to the murals.

However, over the past year the paintwork on the walls had started to peel badly.

Dee Stitt, of Charter NI - a community group which helps negotiate the re-imaging of murals - said the damage to the paintwork had been caused by police water cannon deployed during trouble at the nearby interface.

He confirmed to the Belfast Telegraph that the murals were "owned" by the UDA and that the illegal paramilitary group was undertaking the work to repaint the images.

Although some 23 paramilitary murals in east Belfast are currently being re-imaged, Mr Stitt described the Freedom Corner murals as historic, and said there was no plans to remove them permanently.

"They are an internationally recognised tourist attraction," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"West Belfast tour guides even bring people over here to see them.

The new mural, honouring UDA gunman Stephen McKeag, in the lower Shankill area
The new mural, honouring UDA gunman Stephen McKeag, in the lower Shankill area
The sabotaged mural of former Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers on the International Peace Wall in west Belfast
Murals down the years ... former IRA sniper and Sinn Fein politician Martin Meehan aiming a rifle
Murals down the years ... The Shankill Star Flute Band in Belfast carries a Lambeg drum dedicated to the memory of Brian Robinson, a UVF terrorist who shot Paddy McKenna dead at Ardoyne in 1989
Murals down the years ... A huge UFF mural was beamed to the world as cyclists passed it during May's Giro d'Italia
Republican mural depicting former north Belfast IRA man Martin Meehan is revealed in the Ardoyne area of Belfast.
Republican mural depicting former north Belfast IRA leader Martin Meehan revealed in the Ardoyne area of Belfast
UVF mural is being painted in Willowfield
The UVF mural painted over one of George Best at Inverwood Court in east Belfast
Going back: The absurd psychology of paramilitarism fixating on UVF gunmen and Bobby Sands instead of icons like George Best, shows their mawkish self-mythologising
A mural at Free Derry Corner depicting the events of Bloody Sunday.
Residents gathered to watch the unveiling of the new mural opposite the Catholic church in Harryville, Ballymena, County Antrim. The old loyalist paramilitary mural close to a Catholic church which was the scene of weekly protests in the 1990s was removed at the weekend. It was replaced by an Ulster Scots mural featuring symbols such as a shamrock and Red Hand of Ulster. 2/4/06
Bobby Sands
Fading Memories. A mural of David Healy at Carnforth Street, east Belfast
A project recording experiences of key figures from the Troubles and the peace process has been launched
File photo dated 03/05/07 of a Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) wall mural in north Belfast.
The mural by artist Ross Wilson celebrating King Williams 1690 battle with King James replaces a UFF mural on a gabel wall on Linfield Avenue Sandy Row.
The Civil Rights mural in the Bogside.
Parade commemorating Brian Robinson - Shankill Road, Belfast
Born identity: The UDA mural in east Belfast where many young Protestants say pride in the British Army, and anger at flag protests, have reinforced their sense of Britishness
One of the mural, "Bernadette" in the Bogside. Supplied Picture
A Loyalist mural on the Newtownards road in Belfast
A Thomas Devlin murder appeal poster beside a UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) mural in the Mount Vernon area of North Belfast opposite the flats where one of his killers had lived.
UDA wall mural in the Shankill Road area.8/9/09
Healy among the greats at Windsor Park
Belfast murals. A mural off the Newtownards Road dedicated to 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' author C.S Lewis who was from the area. 2010.
Republican mural in West Belfast. 1998
A republican mural in the Ballymurphy estate in Belfast on March 14, 2009
A loyalist mural in the Shankhill area of Belfast on March 14, 2009
A republican mural off the Falls road area of Belfast on March 14, 2009
YCV paramilitary mural in the Village, Belfast

"The murals have been there for over 35 years, they are part of the fabric of east Belfast. They are never going to go away."

Mr Stitt explained that his group was not directly involved with the work at Freedom Corner.

"The UDA is involved in a re-imaging programme.

"Charter NI is currently involved in negotiating around 23 images - just not those four (Freedom Corner)," he said.

"They are an integral part of east Belfast, they are simply being repainted and freshened up.

"However, there are a number of other murals which are coming down, including several on Lord Street."

The UDA was formed in 1971 and claimed to be defending Protestant areas. The terrorist group the UFF is also associated with it. The UDA was finally outlawed in 1992.

It has officially been on ceasefire since October 1994 and ended its armed struggle in November 2007.

However, the group has been associated with several acts of violence since, including the murder of Brian 'Brick' McIlhagga in January, while police earlier this year blamed the group for a string of shootings and beatings across the north Antrim and Coleraine areas.

The Ulster Young Militants is seen as the youth wing of the UDA and has been heavily involved in street and interface violence in the area over the past number of years.

In 2014, the book The Belfast Mural Guide estimated that in Belfast alone, there were approximately 300 "quality" murals on display on the city's streets, with many other murals in varying degrees of age and decay.

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