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Contentious murals make way for community artwork

Suzanne McGonagle s.mcgonagle@irishnews.com

THREE contentious murals in east Belfast have been replaced with community artwork in the same week that a new painting dedicated to the UVF was completed.

A programme to transform 22 paramilitary murals in the east of the city to reflect more positive images of the area is under way.

The new artworks have replaced loyalist paramilitary murals at Templemore Street, McMaster/ Lendrik Street and Kenbaan Street.

Designed by artists John Stewart and Blaze fx, they feature east Belfast boxers including John Lowey and Luke Wilton, as well as Colonel Tim Collins of the British army.

A third mural depicts changing times in inner east Belfast.

The unveiling of the non- sectarian murals comes at a time when tension is high in the east of the city following the completion of a tribute to four UVF men killed during the Troubles.

The new mural at Carlingford Street, which commemorates a UVF commander who shot dead an IRA man as he slept in his bed, has sparked widespread anger.

Other names featured include two men killed when their own bomb exploded prematurely.

Just weeks ago another new UVF paramilitary mural was completed at Inverwood Court, which replaced one of football legend George Best.

Community organisation Charter NI will today officially unveil the latest three murals as part of the 'Communities Moving Forward Reimaging Programme'.

It hopes they will "express culture, identity and heritage in a way that is non-threatening and is more inclusive of the wider community".

Sam White of Charter NI said he hoped that it was the start of transforming more than 20 paramilitary murals.

"The Community Moving Forward Programme is a progressive process, albeit given the complexity in and around reimaging in east Belfast," he said.

"The concept highlights the positive attitudes that lie within working class communities and further showcases the will for change."

Alliance councillor Maire Hendron, chairwoman of Belfast City Council's Good Relations Partnership - who has been critical of the latest paramilitary murals - said she was pleased by the new community artwork.

"I'm delighted to see new artwork on the streets of east Belfast that shows positive images the vast majority of people living in this area want to see," she said.

"Charter NI has shown great leadership in working with local people to find out how they want their community to be represented."

PICTURES: Mal McCann (main) and Matt Bohill

* Contrast: Main picture, the UVF mural at Carlingford Street in east Belfast which was completed this week. Above, a peace mural in east Belfast

* PRIDE: A new mural on Templemore Street in east Belfast shows boxers from down the years, the most recent being the young unbeaten flyweight Luke Wilton

PICTURE: Mark Marlow

* RESPECTED FIGURE: A new mural to Colonel Tim Collins in east Belfast

PICTURE: Matt Bohill

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