Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Shameful hijacking of commemoration by the UDA

It is sickening that the garden should have been hijacked by the UDA to commemorate members from the area who were killed during the Troubles
It is sickening that the garden should have been hijacked by the UDA to commemorate members from the area who were killed during the Troubles

The replacement of a paramilitary memorial in south Belfast by a commemorative garden remembering the fallen of World War One was a project designed to give the area a more positive image. Given that this is the centenary of the beginning of that war it was seen by many as a fitting tribute to the many who had died to guarantee our freedoms.

It is sickening that the garden should have been hijacked by the UDA to commemorate members from the area who were killed during the Troubles. While the official plaque in the garden does not mention World War One by name it is clear that it is not any kind of paramilitary memorial.

To equate dead terrorists with the heroes who fought at the Somme or any Great War battles is to sully their memory.

Some people may accuse the Housing Executive, who provided the money for the memorial garden, as somewhat naive.

Perhaps the organisation should have insisted that the signage on the garden made it crystal clear what it was commemorating. But would that have put it out of bounds to the terrorist organisation which organised Thursday evening's event? Such organisations care little for the feelings of local people.

Instead the UDA – like republicans – insists on public commemorations for dead members. They seek through such events to give legitimacy to the terrorist acts committed, even including murder. Some of those honoured by the UDA were thought to have been involved in up to 20 killings, including murders in the immediate vicinity of the memorial garden.

This is another issue which falls into the poisoned chalice of dealing with the past. Republicans and loyalists insist they have the right, indeed duty, to remember members killed in the conflict. Whatever anyone's view on that argument, such commemorations should not inflict further pain on those who suffered at the hands of terrorists.

The people of Annadale have shown by the creation of this garden they hold no truck with the UDA, but that organisation doesn't seem to get the message.

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