UDA boss to help unveil portrait of republican icon James Connolly
A senior loyalist is expected to take part in the unveiling of a new portrait of republican icon James Connolly in Belfast City Hall.
UDA leader Jackie McDonald has confirmed he will make an address at the event being held in the Sinn Fein mayor’s parlour next Friday.
Sinn Fein Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin is also due to speak at the unveiling, which has been organised by Siptu, the Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union.
“Working with the Prison to Peace group, I have been engaging with all the republican groups anyway,” Mr McDonald, a Siptu activist, said.
“For too long working-class loyalists have been forgotten about or demonised. Myself and a number of colleagues thought it was time we got our message across and how we feel about the things that have happened to us and our community over the years.
“This is a good opportunity to make our voices heard. I will be talking about the poor and disadvantaged and the need to get jobs for our young people and about the need to give them ambition in life.”
The artwork commemorates the 100th anniversary of the arrival of James Connolly in Belfast to organise dockers and mill workers and was painted by Belfast artist Frank Quigley.
Connolly was executed by firing squad for his role in the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.
The portrait is to be erected in Mayor Niall O’Donnghaile’s office in Belfast City Hall. In June the mayor caused controversy by removing portraits of the Royal family.
James Connolly was born in Edinburgh in 1868. He joined the British Army but deserted in 1889. In 1896 he moved to Dublin to organise the Dublin Socialist Society. Later he founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party. In the 1916 Easter Rising, his Irish Citizen Army fought beside the Irish Volunteers. He was executed on May 12, 1916.