Belfast Telegraph

Planning probe focusing on who owns IRA monument site

By Adrian Rutherford

Planning officials are working to establish who owns a piece of land where an IRA monument has been illegally erected.

The Department of the Environment has confirmed that the memorial, built in a Castlederg housing estate, required planning permission.

No application was made, and the stone structure has been described as "unauthorised".

A DoE spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph that planning officers are working with the Housing Executive to find out who owns the site.

UUP councillor Derek Hussey said it should be torn down.

"I don't think it should have been built in the first place," he said. "It is insulting to the memory of the many, many innocent victims in the Castlederg area to have this structure foisted upon the community."

The Belfast Telegraph revealed earlier this month that the monument, built in the Hillview estate, was in breach of planning laws.

The huge stone structure commemorates "those in the Castlederg and Aghyaran area dedicated to the cause of Irish Freedom".

It was organised by the Sinn Fein Commemoration Committee and funded by residents in Hillview estate. Sinn Fein councillor Ruairi McHugh, who chairs Strabane District Council, said he was aware planning permission had not been sought. He said that when residents were surveyed, every one expressed support for the monument except for four people, who indicated they had no opinion.

However, Mr Hussey said he was aware of concern in the wider area. "I personally have received comments from other residents who are unhappy but are reluctant to make public comment, given where they live," he added.

Mr Hussey said he was determined to pursue the matter.

A DoE spokesman said: "The site was inspected by DoE Planning on August 12. A decision has been taken that while the monument is unauthorised and requires planning permission, further information is still required."

Tensions have been running high in the Castlederg area following a contentious march in memory of two IRA terrorists blown up by their own bomb.

Hundreds of protesters, including some family members of IRA murder victims, staged a counter-demonstration.

FACTFILE

Planning – the law:

While it is not a criminal offence to carry out development without first getting the necessary permission, carrying out unacceptable development could lead to remedial action, including demolition of a structure or building. When planning regulations are not complied with, the DoE will attempt to resolve the issue by discussion rather than initiate enforcement action.

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