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Mural anger: Loyalist says mass killer McKeag a 'hero'

By Allan Preston

Published 23/09/2016

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
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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
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File photo dated 03/05/07 of a Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) wall mural in north Belfast.
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The Civil Rights mural in the Bogside.
Parade commemorating Brian Robinson - Shankill Road, Belfast
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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.
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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

A senior loyalist has defended a new mural of a UDA member linked to 12 murders.

There was a furious backlash this week against the mural on a Housing Executive property in Belfast's lower Shankill area, which features an image of Stephen 'Top Gun' McKeag with the words "remember with pride".

Critics accused it of glorifying terrorism, and questions were also asked of the Housing Executive, which said it did not give permission for the mural, but has no plans to remove it.

However, Jim Wilson, an east Belfast community worker and former Red Hand Commando, called the criticism unfair and said many people still saw McKeag as a hero.

"He's a hero to certain people - no different than Bobby Sands would be a hero to a lot of republicans," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback.

"I don't regard him as a sectarian killer. I didn't say I regarded him as a hero. He was a soldier who thought he was right in the way he was fighting."

"I don't challenge the claim he's a hero because he's a hero to some people in the community."

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of McKeag's death after a drug overdose in 2000.

He earned the 'Top Gun' nickname for frequently being named the UDA's volunteer of the year, given to members who carried out the most murders.

On one occasion in September 1993, McKeag walked into a hairdresser's on the Donegall Road and killed owner Sean Hughes.

Asked if a mass murderer should really be remembered with pride, Mr Wilson replied: "Yes, I'm telling you there are plenty of mass murderers on the republican side who are involved in politics today. They're not on the walls, they're involved in politics... so let's get real about a mural dedicated to a loyalist."

But SDLP MLA Clare Hanna said: "I don't think it's something to celebrate, and I apply the same principle to all paramilitaries and all murals. I don't think this is someone to remember with pride. I regard it as a visual promotion of terrorism - I regard it as propaganda."

Journalist Hugh Jordan told Mr Wilson during the show: "There is nothing about Stephen McKeag worth remembering with pride. He was a drug user, a drug dealer, he was a mass murderer - 14 people at least are dead because of him. This mural is a backward step."

Mr Wilson then said: "Stephen McKeag was seen as a soldier fighting against republicans in his community."

But Ms Hanna added: "Or hairdressers."

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