Northern Ireland news

Winifred Carney statue row divides councillors

Bangor-born republican Winifred Carney who died in 1943. Plans are underway to erect a temporary statue of her in the grounds of Belfast City Hall
Paul Ainsworth

A decision that a statue of republican Winifred Carney will only be erected temporarily in the grounds of Belfast City Hall has been described as a "gross imbalance" by Sinn Féin councillors.

Members of the party 'called in' the decision following a row sparked by plans to erect new statues to join the sculpted memorials surrounding City Hall.

The statue plans follow an Equality Impact Assessment in 2012 that highlighted a lack of female and nationalist representation among memorials in the grounds.

Plans are underway to erect six new statues, two of which will remain permanently. The other four will eventually be removed and relocated to other sites in Belfast.

The two permanent statues will be of the first female president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), the late Inez McCormack, and SDLP founder Paddy Devlin.

Among proposals for the temporary statues are an application by the ICTU for a sculpture of Winifred Carney, the Co Down-born trade unionist, suffragist and Sinn Féin 1918 election candidate who died in 1943.

However, the suggestion that it would be removed after a period of time was slammed by Sinn Féin.

The party's leader on the council, Ciaran Beattie, said retaining a Winifred Carney monument would counter the "over-provision of white, male, British/Unionist, and middle/upper class" figures in the grounds.

"Winifred Carney was a trade unionist, suffragist, working class, a rights campaigner and a republican female," he said.

"A statue to Winifred Carney would be a small step in the right direction to address the gross imbalance in statues and displays in Belfast City Hall grounds.

"Republican citizens of Belfast need to know their history will not continue to be excluded from the grounds... and that the imbalance against republicans will begin to be properly addressed."

During the debate at last night's meeting, Sinn Féin Lord Mayor told members: "There needs to be a place for republicanism in this city."

However, speaking before the meeting, DUP councillor Lee Reynolds described the motion by Sinn Féin as an attempt to "rewrite history" and claimed there was a move to exclude the husband of Winifred Carney, George McBride, from the memorial plans.

Mr McBride was a prominent Orangeman and a member of Carson's Ulster Volunteers.

Cllr Reynolds added: "Another reason Sinn Féin is motivated to do this is they want to write Paddy Devlin out of history. There is no exclusion here, and what has been agreed is a fair and balanced package."

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