Martin Meehan mural in north Belfast branded 'an insult'
DUP MP hits out over new memorial to veteran Provo
A new mural of former IRA sniper and Sinn Fein politician Martin Meehan aiming a rifle has been branded "an insult".
Meehan was the first person to be convicted of membership of the Provisional IRA.
The prominent republican, who led the IRA in north Belfast's Ardoyne area, died in 2007 from a heart attack.
Meehan's family held a commemoration in Ardoyne yesterday, followed by the unveiling of the mural.
It shows Meehan aiming a weapon while wearing a black beret. The mural was last night described as a "backward step" for community relations in the north of the city.
Mr Meehan's son, also Martin, said prior to yesterday's commemoration that his father's "contribution to Irish freedom is legendary", adding: "Our father defended Irish national sovereignty as well as countless communities against unionist and British attacks."
But DUP deputy leader and MP for North Belfast Nigel Dodds branded the mural "an insult".
"The unveiling of this mural which glorifies terrorism is wrong and is a backward step for north Belfast," he said.
"Terrorism should be condemned, not romanticised or celebrated. As Northern Ireland moves forward, decisions such as this remind us that there are those who want to drag us back. The PIRA was responsible for 60% of all murders in the Troubles. This mural is an insult to the families of those innocent victims."
North Belfast Alliance councillor John Blair also condemned the mural. "This move is not representative of the local community, which does not want to see the image of a paramilitary gunman displayed on their doorsteps," he said.
"Alliance is against any murals or banners that demarcate territory and glorify violence of any kind. They have no place in a safe and shared community.
"I would urge those behind this banner to remove it immediately."
Last month there was anger when a new UVF mural depicting two masked men with rifles was painted off the Woodstock Road in east Belfast.
It appeared soon after the controversial painting over of a mural of George Best in Sydenham with a depiction of a UVF gunman.
Meehan joined the IRA in the mid-1960s. He was behind bars for nearly two decades in total.
In 1975 he was the last republican released from the Maze when internment without trial was ended.
Meehan later became a leading member of Sinn Fein, serving on the party's national executive and as a councillor in Antrim.