Belfast Telegraph

Strabane gunmen mural 'an insult to victims of IRA'

By Leona O'Neill

The niece of a UDR man murdered in Strabane by republicans has branded a new mural depicting two masked gunmen with a machine gun and the words 'Unfinished Business' as sick and "an insult to IRA victims".

The mural, by republican group Saoradh, was erected in the Springhill Park area of the town on Thursday.

Some local residents have condemned the mural claiming that it is intimidating. They say they are furious it has been erected near a play park and community centre.

However, the dissident republican political party Saoradh say that other residents have praised the mural and insist it's staying put.

Shelley Gilfillan's 39-year-old uncle Lexie Cummings was murdered by the IRA on Strabane's Main Street in 1982 as he left the menswear store where he worked to go for lunch.

She said the mural will normalise violence for the children of the town and that it was an insult to IRA victims everywhere.

"That will teach the children what to do," she said. "It's sick. It will make the children of the area more used to violence.

"It's beside a play park and a community centre - what were they thinking? I cannot understand their mentality.

"It is normalising violence. Those type of people don't think. They think this is okay, they see nothing wrong with doing something like this.

"This is an insult to IRA victims and their families around Strabane and elsewhere. These people have one agenda in their minds and that is themselves."

Local independent councillor Paul Gallagher said the mural "ghettoises" the Springhill estate and that those "who don't know the war is over are deluding themselves".

"There has been no consultation with people on the estate on this," said Mr Gallagher. "This is an attempt to ghettoise Springhill.

"The mural is beside a play park and community centre in an area where kids are playing and it could give the impression of intimidation.

"Most of the people in the estate don't want this at all.

"The residents I spoke with think this is disgusting. They are eager to say this in no way represents them and they want to see it gone. This is an image from the past and bears absolutely no relevance to today's society.

"It is a poor attempt to mimic a military operation against the British using a photo from the mid-80s of Provisional IRA men. The war is over and whoever doesn't know it is deluding themselves."

However, Lorna Brady, spokesperson for Saoradh, says the mural reflects the fact that there "is unfinished business" in republican areas and the statement should not be seen as a threat.

"Unfinished business is not meant as any type of threat," she said. "If you go through any loyalist area you can see flags, the kerbs are painted, there are murals and all different things.

"I can't see that anyone would see 'Unfinished Business' as a threat, because there is unfinished business. At the minute in Strabane there is constant harassment of republicans, there are still armed British soldiers on our streets, they are still holding republicans POWs. There are innocent men being interned.

"The men of the republican movement, the men who fought and died and sacrificed their lives for this country, as far as I'm concerned, they were heroes."

Ms Brady said that far from being outraged, many of the residents of Springhill she has spoken to have praised the mural.

She said that anyone who had concerns with the mural should speak to a Saoradh member.

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