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Planners ask for Castlederg IRA memorial 'equality' assessment

The memorial was unveiled in 2013 during a controversial republican parade in Castlederg, Co Tyrone
Brendan Hughes

PLANNERS deciding whether to demolish an IRA memorial built without permission have requested an 'Equality Impact Assessment'.

An Ulster Unionist MLA last night branded the move a "fudge" by the council's planning department.

The Castlederg monument was built in 2013 to honour republicans including two IRA men killed when their bomb exploded prematurely.

Unionists and victims voiced anger when it was unveiled during a contentious parade supported by Sinn Féin to commemorate IRA dead.

An investigation was launched after it emerged the memorial was built on Housing Executive (NIHE) land without its consent and no planning approval.

But more than two years on, no decision has been made by planners on the Hillview estate monument.

Documents obtained by The Irish News reveal planners recently wrote to NIHE about the probe into a "breach of planning control".

In a letter from Derry council's planning office in September, the housing body was asked to carry out a "comprehensive Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA)".

"To date the memorial is still in place on site and the council would seek to move forward with the case as it has been ongoing for a significant amount of time," it said.

Planning powers were transferred to the north's 11 new councils earlier this year under reforms to local government.

Another letter, uncovered through a freedom of information request, shows officials from the old Strabane District Council had recommended for NIHE to carry out an EQIA back in 2013.

UUP West Tyrone MLA Ross Hussey said he was disappointed that planners have requested an EQIA.

"This is a fudge on the part of the planning department. I am not aware of any legal requirement for an EQIA in such circumstances," he said.

"If this were a business the notice to remove the structure would have been supported by an enforcement order by now."

DUP MLA Tom Buchanan said the memorial passing an EQIA would be a "contradiction in terms".

EQIAs are aimed at promoting good relations by assessing the adverse impact of any policy decisions.

Derry City and Strabane District Council said it will "review and consider the issues" surrounding the memorial.

"As part of this process, the council's planning enforcement section has been in contact with the landowners in relation to the memorial and sought further information," it said.

"The findings will be taken into consideration in the final planning decision."

However, last night NIHE said an EQIA is "not applicable in this instance".

"We are working with those who live on the estate and their representatives to look at an alternative use of this space," a spokeswoman said.

The 'Tyrone Volunteers Day' parade in August 2013 was cited by DUP leader Peter Robinson as a key factor in his decision to shelve the Maze peace centre project.

It was also the subject of an online post by unionist councillor Ruth Patterson that led to her receiving an informed warning from police.

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