Belfast Telegraph

Row erupts in Lurgan over illegal Easter Rising shrine

By Rebecca Black

An illegal memorial garden in Lurgan dedicated to the Easter Rising has been blasted as an attempt by dissident republicans to claim control of the area.

Work is still ongoing to the substantial structure in the Tarry area of the Co Armagh town.

Located just yards from a school, St Ronan's, it consists of eight grey brick pillars and is intended to remember republicans who died in the 1916 Rising and since.

But Republican Sinn Fein has received neither permission from the Housing Executive - which owns the land - nor planning permission from Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council. The Housing Executive has said it cannot remove the memorial, despite receiving complaints.

DUP councillor Carla Lockhart said she had contacted the chief executive of the council to investigate taking forward a planning enforcement case.

She said she was concerned by the memorial, and questioned whether dissidents were trying to stamp their authority on the area.

"I have requested to meet with the Housing Executive locally and also spoken with the Social Development Minister asking him to investigate," she explained.

"There should be no place in our society for the glorification of terrorism and this monument appears to be an attempt by dissident republicans to stamp some level of authority on this part of Lurgan."

A spokesman for Republican Sinn Fein told the Lurgan Mail that the memorial was being erected in memory of Edward Costello, who it said was a Lurgan man who died during the Rising.

He had moved to Dublin seeking work and ended up joining James Connolly's Irish Citizen Army, which along with the Irish Republican Brotherhood, staged the revolt against British rule.

The spokesman said the monument would also be in memory of all those who died in the Rising.

He claimed that the group had carried out door-to-door collections to raise money for the monument, and no one had raised any objections to it.

A spokesman for the Housing Executive said the memorial was on its land and was being built without permission.

"We can confirm the memorial is on Housing Executive land," he said.

"It has recently been built without planning permission or the approval of the Housing Executive. We have never been asked for permission and would not have supported a memorial of this nature."

But he added: "The replacement or removal of symbols such as murals and memorials is a complex and sensitive matter. No one single agency can work on its own to do this.

"To this end we will continue to work with those who live on our estates, their representatives and other agencies to look at an alternative use for these spaces."

Ms Lockhart said: "It is being constructed by Republican Sinn Fein who have made it clear that its purpose is to celebrate not just those who participated in the Easter rebellion, but those who engaged in a terrorist campaign here in Northern Ireland."

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