Housing Executive didn't investigate IRA memorial despite saying it would

The memorial at Ardoyne in north Belfast
Brendan Hughes

THE Housing Executive did not investigate receiving rent from an IRA memorial site despite saying it would examine the controversy.

A year ago The Irish News revealed the housing body is receiving rent for land being used for a republican memorial at Ardoyne in north Belfast.

The monument at Butler Place bears the names of more than 130 people from the area killed during the Troubles, including a central plinth dedicated to IRA members.

A community association behind the memorial is leasing the land from the Housing Executive (NIHE) for an annual rent of £200.

Unionists had branded the memorial an "outrageous abuse" of public property, but Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said people "have a right to remember their loved ones".

At the time the Housing Executive (NIHE) said it would be "investigating" following the memorial's construction.

However, in response to a Freedom of Information request, NIHE confirmed there has been "no correspondence" about the matter since it was raised last year.

TUV leader Jim Allister, who had called for the lease to be terminated, criticised the lack of action by NIHE.

"Memorials like this which celebrate terrorists – whether to loyalists or republicans – not only send totally the wrong message to future generations but re-traumatise victims," he said.

"Glib assurances that they were 'investigating' have proved to be so much hot air from the Housing Executive."

The North Antrim MLA added: "It seems that in the brave new world created by the peace process the feelings of victims count for nothing."

The memorial garden was granted planning permission in May by officials at Belfast City Council under delegated authority.

In a statement, NIHE said it has "no plans to take any further action".

It said the site had been assessed as having no development potential for social housing and the lease is "restricted for use as a community garden only".

"The land is leased with a rental of £200 per annum, to be reviewed every five years," a spokesman said.

"The lease also contains additional covenants on the part of the heritage association regarding its use of the land.

"The Housing Executive carried out a full review of our procedures. We have also met with the group to discuss and have no plans to take any further action."

It's not the first time the Housing Executive (NIHE) has faced controversy over memorials on its land.

In 2014 a loyalist memorial in south Belfast sparked controversy after The Irish News revealed it was built with £11,000 of NIHE funds.

The monument near Annadale flats is now being used annually in a parade honouring UDA men Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder, who were linked to numerous Troubles murders.

Each year a temporary plaque bearing their names has been fixed to the memorial.

NIHE said the remembrance garden was intended as a First World War monument.

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