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Sinn Fein youth activists offer to carry out clean-up at vandalised Belfast war memorial

By Angela Rainey

Published 04/06/2016

The memorial which was vandalised in Woodvale Park
The memorial which was vandalised in Woodvale Park

Sinn Fein activists have offered to clean a war memorial damaged in a sectarian attack.

West Belfast MLA Fra McCann said Sinn Fein Republican Youth members came forward because they were appalled by the vandalism in Woodvale Park this week.

Mr McCann, who said there was no justification for the act, added: "I was contacted by several youth activists expressing anger at the attack.

"They made it abundantly clear that under no circumstances did they want this attack to be viewed as an act carried out by, or indeed in the name of, Irish republicans.

"This led to them contacting a Shankill community group that had posted the images of the attack online, volunteering their assistance. It is a sincere and a mature offer that I believe must be commended."

Ryan McCrory, of Sinn Fein Republican Youth, said he thought the attack on the memorial and a similar one on the republican plot in Milltown Cemetery were "equally repulsive" and nakedly sectarian.

"Upon hearing about the attack on the memorial, we contacted a community group based on the Shankill, offering our support and assistance to them," he added.

"(We also told them) that under no circumstances was this attack in any way, shape or form associated with Irish republicans.

"Earlier this week, we also contacted the National Graves Association, offering our assistance to repair damage caused by vandals to the republican plot in Milltown. Both attacks are equally repulsive.

"It's important to state that the attack on the First World War memorial cannot be justified under the guise of reprisal. To attempt to do so is wrong. Both of these attacks were motivated by naked sectarianism.

"A core and fundamental aspect to Irish republicanism is anti-sectarianism, striving to unite the island and its inhabitants - Catholic, Protestant and dissenter.

"In no way does the attack advance that ideal. Instead it is completely counterproductive, only serving to heighten cross-community tensions at a time when we need working-class solidarity more than ever in the face of an austerity-driven government in Westminster."

The memorial in Woodvale Park in west Belfast was daubed with green paint by vandals who also destroyed wreaths dedicated to soldiers from across Europe in the incident on Thursday.

The graffiti included "Up the Springfield", as well as references to the IRA and mockery of soldier Lee Rigby, who was killed by Islamic fundamentalists in an attempted beheading in England three years ago.

It is the third time the memorial and adjacent peace tree, which was planted in 1919, have been desecrated and daubed with sectarian slogans.

Afterwards political representatives from across the divide came together to condemn those responsible.

Earlier this week, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness criticised those behind the "shameful" vandalism.

"It is as repugnant as the attack on the republican memorial in Milltown Cemetery," Mr McGuinness said.

DUP MLA William Humphrey added: "The memorial is there to mark both unionists and nationalists who fought side-by-side in the Great War.

"Those who did this have sick and depraved minds and are completely ignorant of their own history."

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