Questions remain after iconic Teenage Kicks graffiti removed
Two community groups in East Belfast have denied that they were ever involved in a consultation over the removal of an iconic piece of graffiti after the Department of Social Development claimed they had agreed to it.
The piece of graffiti referencing The Undertones' 1978 classic song Teenage Kicks had been on the Bridge End flyover since the day after the death of legendary DJ John Peel, and its removal brought about criticism from many high profile faces across Northern Ireland.
Both the East Belfast Partnership and the Ballymac Friendship Group deny claims from the DSD that they were involved in a consultation process as part of an improvement scheme for the area.
Allison Baxter, centre manager of the Ballymac Friendship Group said that they had never even been asked by the DSD about removing the graffiti, let alone part of a consultation.
"The answer to the question were we asked about the removal of the graffiti is no. A while back one of our community support officers did a community walk about with a member from DSD where they were asked whether the piece was a community art project, but that was it.
"There was no indication that it would ever be removed or that we were even being consulted on it. Since the removal we have had some preliminary talks with community members in the Short Strand about a possible community art project in the area but no contact from the DSD about the proposed improvement scheme that they mentioned.
A DSD spokesperson said: "DSD is currently taking forward a £300,000 Public Realm scheme in this area. Each one is assessed individually and community consultation is carried out. Through consultation all aspects of the scheme were agreed with all statutory and community groups and this included the removal of this and other graffiti. We do not remove graffiti as a stand alone issue, however, we will always remove graffiti, after consultation, as part of any scheme if it falls within a scheme area.
"Community representatives from the area have made initial contact with the department to develop a proposal to bring together teenagers from the Short Strand and Newtownards Road area to design alternative community art work in this location.
"The department has funded similar schemes in other locations and does not foresee any issue with an agreed new community mural, subject to consultation with DRD Roads Service who own the wall."
Alliance representative Chris Lyttle said local people were "frustrated" by the art's removal. He said: "There is certainly a question being asked as to why this popular, non-divisive mural was painted over and more contentious ones have been left as they are.
"I have contacted DSD with a view to getting what had become an iconic image for the residents of east Belfast restored as soon as possible and I hope that will be the case."