Belfast Telegraph

Members clash over plans for war memorial upgrade

By Leona O'Neill

A row has broken out over the upkeep of war memorials in the North West - with one republican councillor suggesting ratepayers should shell out for IRA monuments as well as those for the Armed Forces.

It came as Derry City and Strabane District Council presented a report at a committee meeting which stated that the local authority had the powers to maintain the city's iconic War Memorial in the Diamond, dedicated to those who lost their lives in the First World War.

Ownership of the memorial - and therefore who had responsibility to clean it - had previously been called into question.

The DUP's Graham Warke, a former soldier himself, welcomed the report and said that he was looking forward to seeing the "people's memorial" being brought back to "pristine condition".

However, independent councillor Paul Gallagher asked if the council was now going to maintain other war memorials in Derry and Strabane - such as those paying tribute to "fallen IRA or INLA volunteers".

"There are many war memorials across both sides of the community," he said.

"Are we going to take ownership of them all? I know in Strabane there are several war memorials to fallen volunteers in the Provisional IRA, Official IRA and INLA and to those who were in the First and Second World Wars.

"Are council going to take ownership for the cleaning and maintenance of them?

"There is also no clarity in costs. Is this a blank cheque from the ratepayer?"

However, Mr Warke said council can now move ahead and get the Diamond War Memorial "up to scratch, like it should be".

He said: "I asked other committee members what other memorials they were referring to. Nobody was able to answer me.

"It's now up to the working group to push this forward and get the Diamond War Memorial cleaned. There were questions raised about the ownership of the memorial. In my eyes, it's the people of the city who own it."

The report given to the committee stated that the council's legal team had researched the matter "and determined that council has the powers to maintain and upkeep the memorials should members consider this appropriate. These powers arise under the Local Government Act (NI) 1923 Section 7 and apply only to war memorials as defined within this act".

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