Unionist fury as Housing Executive spends £5,000 on Easter Rising mural

The mural on the Lower Ormeau Road in south Belfast. Picture Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

UNIONISTS have accused the Housing Executive of wasting public funds for spending almost £5,000 on an Easter Rising mural.

The mural is being painted on a blank gable wall of terraced houses along the Lower Ormeau Road in south Belfast.

It was commissioned as part of a community project during the centenary commemorations focusing on a local family's involvement in both the 1916 rebellion and the Battle of the Somme.

Featuring Cumann na mBan and the Irish Citizen Army, the mural is being created at a cost of £4,900 to the Housing Executive.

The housing body said the mural helps to "create a focus on heritage rather than a potentially insular and divisive time in Belfast".

But unionists have branded the mural, which has not replaced any previous contentious display, as a waste of taxpayers' cash.

Former city lord mayor Jim Rodgers called for an fresh examination of how Housing Executive funds are being spent.

"The vast majority of people in our city will be horrified that money has been wasted in this way," the Ulster Unionist councillor said.

"I am aware that the Housing Executive has paid for certain things including memorials in unionist areas which I totally oppose, and it's the same with murals.

"I don't think it's in-keeping with a city I want to see that we can all live peacefully in and respect each other."

He added: "As far as I'm concerned it is a waste of public money."

The mural is part of a wider project on the history of the Corr family, who had two sisters join the Rising and a brother killed in the same year at the Somme.

It includes references to the family's involvement in the First World War in France during 1916 as part of both the Australian and Canadian armies.

Of 11 children in the Corr family, five played key roles in different battles during the turbulent period in Irish history.

Henry Corr joined the Irish Volunteers and was involved in the Rising, while his sisters Elizabeth and Nell Corr also took part within Cumann na mBan.

But while they rebelled against British rule, two brothers were fighting in France.

George Corr was killed fighting for the Australian Army during the Battle of the Somme, while another brother Charles, fought for the Canadian armed forces.

He survived the war and returned to Canada, having been gassed several times on the Western Front.

Overall the Housing Executive gave £12,500 for the mural and 22 banners displayed lampposts during the Rising centenary to remember the Corr family.

The wider project was supported by Lower Ormeau Residents Action Group and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

A Housing Executive spokeswoman said: "The Housing Executive funded a mural, at a cost of £4,900, as well as 22 banners, which complemented a wider project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, aiming to create a focus on heritage rather than a potentially insular and divisive time in Belfast.

"The project has created an opportunity to explore a shared heritage and give people a fascinating insight into events in Belfast, Ireland and the world during 1916.

"The wider project includes an exhibition, The Corr Family Witnessing History, hosted at the Ulster Museum and the Linen Hall Library."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access