Northern Ireland news

Housing Executive urged to explain inaction over UDA memorial

Brendan Hughes
22 September, 2016 01:00

THE Housing Executive has been urged to explain why it failed to stop the building of a new memorial honouring a notorious UDA killer.

In recent weeks a new brick memorial has been constructed on the housing body's land in west Belfast's Shankill area in memory of Stephen McKeag.

The monument is beside a mural of the loyalist paramilitary that has been replaced with a new design ahead of the anniversary of his death.

Nicknamed 'Top Gun', McKeag was considered one of the most dangerous men in the north during the 1990s and was linked to numerous sectarian murders.

The 30-year-old died on September 24, 2000 of a drugs overdose.

His memorial has been built at Hopewell Crescent on land owned by the Housing Executive (NIHE). The site previously had a smaller memorial behind metal railings.

The mural shows McKeag in paramilitary garb and includes UDA and UFF crests.

Last month NIHE said it was unaware of works on the site and would be "making enquiries" after being contacted by The Irish News.

However, the monument has recently been completed and the mural replaced.

SDLP West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood said: "The use of Housing Executive property in this way is clearly deeply concerning.

"There have been very positive moves across Belfast to remove murals celebrating those involved in sectarian violence and this undermines that progress.

"The Housing Executive has had a month to pursue its enquiries and it appears that there has been no action. This is not an easy issue to deal with but there is an obligation on the Housing Executive to explain what they have or have not done."

The Housing Executive said it will "continue to discuss and engage".

"A number of weeks ago we were informed that work was to be undertaken by a family to tidy up a mural and associated surroundings at Hopewell Crescent," a spokeswoman said.

She added that on Tuesday the housing body was "made aware that the mural on a gable wall had been replaced and that a wall has been built on adjacent land".

"In a post conflict society, issues, such as these, present a challenge for the whole of society. We will continue to discuss and engage with others and with local communities to find a resolution to such issues," she said.

In 2014 The Irish News revealed NIHE has recorded more than 200 paramilitary murals on its properties across the north.

Flags have been erected in over 200 different NIHE housing estates, with almost 100 memorials constructed without its consent.

22 September, 2016 01:00 Northern Ireland news

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