Northern Ireland news

Row over 'equality impact assessment' for IRA memorial

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

A ROW has erupted over planners requesting an ‘Equality Impact Assessment’ for an IRA memorial built without permission in Co Tyrone.

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 or planning approval.

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

A letter obtained by The Irish News reveals planners recently asked NIHE to carry out a “comprehensive Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA)”.

The correspondence from Derry council’s planning office expressed a wish to progress with its probe into a “breach of planning control”.

“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.

However, the NIHE has said an EQIA is “not applicable in this instance”. In a response last month it said EQIAs are only used for “overarching policy”.

Unionists have criticised planners’ request for an EQIA, which is aimed at promoting good relations by assessing the adverse impact of any policy decisions.

UUP West Tyrone MLA Ross Hussey said: “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.

“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”.

“Having dragged on for so long this process should now be completed as soon as possible and the memorial removed,” he said.

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

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

“Council continues to liaise with the Housing Executive and will, in due course, consider the matter in relation to the material planning considerations of the case,” it said.

The NIHE said it is working with residents “and their representatives to look at an alternative use of this space”.

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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