UFF mural with huge gun sparks new war of words in east Belfast
A notorious paramilitary mural being repainted at 'Freedom Corner' in east Belfast will discourage investment in the area, it has been claimed.
The mural paying tribute to the terrorist UFF has been on a gable wall on the Newtownards Road for more than 25 years, but it is currently undergoing a facelift.
It features a hooded gunman on a red background beside a large handgun and a scroll bearing a quotation from a 14th century declaration of Scottish Independence.
It replaces one that differed little in appearance save for the hue of its background.
It is one of four similar paramilitary-themed murals commemorating the outlawed UDA which are said to have become damaged in recent years as a result of trouble at a nearby sectarian interface.
The UDA claims to "own" the mural, one of two-dozen being 'reimaged', with the Freedom Corner images being described as an "internationally recognised tourist attraction".
Alliance Party councillor Michael Long said the image of terrorism depicted by the murals had "no place in our future".
He said he supported recent efforts to redesign many murals emblazoned across the walls of east Belfast using positive images, most notably those celebrating CS Lewis, George Best and the Titanic legacy.
"Those are the types of murals that continue to attract tourists," he maintained.
He said there were other ways to remember loyalists who died during the Troubles "without having to almost glorify or celebrate this kind of action".
"I think it's totally unacceptable that we have images of paramilitary organisations being painted and I think it sends out a very bad message.
"It sends out negative messages of east Belfast and if we are trying to attract inward investment it's not a very good way of doing it," he said. East Belfast community worker Jim Wilson said the history of the community and the people affected by the Troubles should not be consigned merely to films and books.
"This mural has been up for 25 years and it's being cleaned and repainted to make it more presentable," he said.
"They are tourist attractions and they are part of our history and people need to get real.
"These things happened in our history and people are quite entitled to remember those who died in the cause of freedom against republicanism.
"There's been a lot of positivity in east Belfast and a lot of murals taken down.
"It's not a negative. When tourists come to this country they come to see its history."
Local PSNI Chief Inspector David Moore said: "We are working with community representatives and relevant agencies in relation to the painting and repainting of murals."