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Ardoyne mural 'disrespectful'

Marie Louise McConville m.mcconville@irishnews.com

MURAL depicting IRA gunmen due to be unveiled in north Belfast next month has been described as insensitive and disrespectful to victims.

The painting, which features three armed men alongside a Celtic cross and a 'blanket-man', is on a wall in Ardoyne Avenue.

It was criticised yesterday by Alliance assembly member Stewart Dickson, who said there is "no place for images of paramilitary gunmen on our streets" and should be removed.

"This image goes against all the work to build a safe and shared future for everyone," he said.

"We cannot move our society forward while images of gunmen continue to be placed on our streets. Depicting IRA gunmen in a mural is not just insensitive but disrespectful to those who lost their lives during the Troubles.

"We do not need murals depicting gunmen or violence, instead we should look to promote more positive images that can inspire our young people."

The comments come two months after controversy over a similar mural in Andersonstown in west Belfast.

Billy Hutchinson, leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, accused Sinn Fein of "double standards" over the artwork, which showed republican gunmen at the 1981 funeral of hunger striker Kieran Doherty.

Unionists also condemned a mural depicting former IRA leader Martin Meehan as a gunman which was unveiled in Ardoyne last November.

Loyalists have also been strongly criticised over the last year for re-painting pictures of gunmen over positive murals erected as part of community efforts to remove paramilitary images.

Sinn Féin councillor Gerry McCabe last night said the Ardoyne Avenue mural is "dedicated to local republican activists who died over the course of the conflict".

"They will be pictured on the final piece and this is an indication of the high regard in which they continue to be held in this community," he said.

"It is a re-dedication of a historic commemorative mural that has been a feature in the area for over a decade.

"The mural itself contains elements of a reproduction of a historical photo from this period. It is part of an larger piece containing elements of our past and of remembrance."

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