Nine loyalist paramilitary murals to be repainted
NINE loyalist paramilitary murals are to be repainted in east Belfast as part of a £30,000 re-imaging project.
Funding from the Housing Executive's Community Cohesion scheme will allow Charter NI, a loyalist think tank which studies the causes of conflict in the north, to complete the painting work in Lord Street.
Artists from Blaze FX are due to complete the new artwork, with themes "agreed by the local community" by the end of this week.
Concerns have been raised previously about paramilitary murals in loyalist areas which have been replaced, only to be repainted again with new depictions of paramilitaries.
In 2008 a UVF mural in Dee Street was repainted with a scene from the Chronicles of Narnia, only to be replaced three years later by a painting of a loyalist gunman.
And a painting of George Best in Inverwood Court, painted as an attempt to tackle paramilitary murals in east Belfast, was replaced in 2013 by a UVF mural.
The repainting work in Lord Street forms part of a wider regeneration programme in the area, known as The Diamond Project, which includes plans to bring empty social housing back into use.
Deirdre Crawford from the Housing Executive said feedback had been "very positive."
She said: "The community is pleased that this work is now taking place after a long consultation process and they would like to see more plans in progress."
Ms Crawford added: "This activity is all part of a wider process which has been taking place for several years to change hearts and minds. It is about moving forward and embracing peace."
Former UDA prisoner Dee Stitt, now chief executive of Charter NI, said: "The beginning of this work signals a step forward for the local community and it brings to fruition the positive results of many years of dialogue and conversation."