Northern Ireland news

Belfast memorial to Irishman who supported Israel state damaged in hate crime

The damage caused to a mural of Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Patterson on Northumberland Street. Picture by Declan Roughan
John Monaghan

A MURAL of an Irishman who advocated the creation of an Israeli state has been damaged in an attack which is being treated as a hate crime by police.

Police said that at around 1.30am on Thursday, two containers were set alight close to the memorial to Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Patterson at the junction of Beverley Street and Northumberland Street, off the Shankill Road.

Born in 1867 in Westmeath, to a Protestant father and a Catholic mother, Mr Patterson joined the British Army and gained notoriety for shooting man-eating lions responsible for killing construction workers building a railway between Kenya and Uganda.

In the First World War, he commanded a volunteer force known as the Jewish Legion and later became a committed supporter of the creation of a Jewish state.

Mr Patterson became a close friend of Benzion Netanyahu, the father of the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin, during campaigning for Israel in New York.

A large star of David is written on the memorial with words from Mr Netanyahu: "In all of Jewish history we have never had a Christian friend as understanding and devoted."

Mr Netanyahu has previously described the Irishman as the "godfather of the Israeli army".

The Israeli Prime Minister said: "[Patterson] had absolute confidence that the Jews would make remarkable soldiers - not adequate soldiers, but remarkable soldiers. And I think he had a lot to do with that. He began the reconstitution of the ability of the Jews to defend ourselves."

Mr Patterson died in the US in 1947, a year before the state of Israel came into being.

His ashes, along with those of his wife Frances, were re-interred in Israel in 2014.

Police have appealed for anyone with information about the attack to contact officers on 101.

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