A new paramilitary mural has been condemned as a “despicable sectarian banner” by Sinn Fein.
The depiction of two masked gunmen from the East Belfast Battalion of the UVF holding rifles, with the words ‘The prevention of the erosion of our identity is now our priority’ has appeared on a wall in Belvoir Street, east Belfast.
Last week Sinn Fein called on the DUP to make clear its opposition to loyalist paramilitary groups after masked men removed the republican party's election posters for their North Belfast general election candidate John Finucane.
The party’s South Belfast MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir has now urged the DUP to condemn those behind the mural. He said: “In just the past week loyalist gangs have intimidated the DUP’s electoral opponents, erected banners targeting John Finucane and his family, and are now issuing public threats of violence.
“It is of note that this criminality is taking place as the DUP continue to cosy up to these groups in the mouth of an election.
“The DUP should unequivocally condemn these banners, those who erected them, and the spate of recent criminality carried out by these gangs.”
In response, a DUP spokesperson said: “Sinn Fein has the unrepentant Shankill bomber on their canvass team, spends most weekends celebrating and glorifying the IRA so no one will take a lecture from anyone in Sinn Fein on paramilitaries.
“Frustration over culture and identity should not be an excuse to cause fear and intimidation within a community. The DUP is against any glorification of paramilitary groups — loyalist or republican. Our party condemns all those who cling to criminality and violence. Flags or any other emblems supporting paramilitaries have no place in our communities.”
SDLP councillor Seamas de Faoite said the mural is deeply alarming and totally unacceptable, while Alliance councillor Michelle Kelly said there was no place in society for images of paramilitary gunmen.