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Take away murals of hate, say Unionists

THE Ulster Unionist Party in Larne and Protestant clergymen have condemned what it describes as "the proliferation" of paramilitary murals in the borough.

They are particularly concerned by new UPRG/UDA gable wall paintings in the Factory district of the town and in nearby Ballycarry village.

Earlier this week a University of Ulster academic, who has just released a new book about murals, said that loyalists in many hardline areas were beginning to clean up their act by replacing murals depicting hooded gunmen and paramilitary imagery with ones featuring historical themes such as First World War and images of Ulster-Scots language, culture and history.

In a statement, Larne UUP members said: "The demotion of traditional folk murals - such as those depicting King William crossing the Boyne - in favour of so called 'memorials' for dead paramilitaries is to be utterly deplored.

"These latest acts of graffiti are grossly offensive to Protestants as well as Catholics in the borough, and serve only to heighten fear and division. They should be condemned without equivocation by all political parties through their local representatives."

The UUP statement urges "the weight of public opinion to be exerted upon the organisations responsible" to remove the murals.

And it adds: "We note that efforts to attract inward investment and tourism to our borough can only be hampered by these displays of paramilitary slogans, symbols and insignia.

"At a time when positive moves have been made at a community level in other areas of the province to replace aggressive militaristic displays with murals of a more historic and cultural nature, we are highly concerned at these latest developments."

The Rev Stephen Ford of St Cedma's Church in Larne said: "Murals that celebrate paramilitary violence add a chill factor when they go up and leave people feeling excluded from one area or another.

"It has been a peaceful and positive summer in Larne and these murals are going against the flow of attempts to paint the place in a new light with current progress happening in the town.

"For example, the council is working towards revamping the local playground for children of the area. And there are positive moves to build community relations and attract new business."

The Rev Colin McClure, of First Larne Presbyterian Church, added: "As a newcomer to the area I have found the local people, from across the community, to be open and warm and we would certainly want the entire area to reflect that in all sorts of ways."

In staunch loyalist areas of Newtownabbey many paramilitary murals have been removed, with consent of the organisations responsible, through dialogue with community groups.


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