UVF mural completed despite outcry in east Belfast

The new mural has replaced an image of the Belfast-born footballer, George Best

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A new paramilitary mural that had been stalled after a public outcry in east Belfast has now been completed, despite objections from public representatives.

The image, which depicts a masked gunman, replaced a mural of the Belfast-born footballer George Best.

It is dedicated to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), which murdered more than 500 people during the Troubles.

Earlier this month, work on the mural was suspended due to the objections, but it has now been finished.

'Disgrace'

John Kyle, a Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) councillor for the area, said he was "very disappointed" at the decision to proceed with the paramilitary image at Inverwood Court, Sydenham.

"I've said that I think it's a disgrace and that it doesn't represent the views of the people of east Belfast," Mr Kyle said.

"I think the people of east Belfast deserve better. The vast majority want to look to the future and not to the past."

The PUP councillor, whose party has links to the UVF, was among the people who had criticised the mural when it first appeared several weeks ago.

He later welcomed the decision to suspend the work, saying that those behind the painting had recognised the "huge public outcry".

However, speaking on Sunday, Mr Kyle said: "It's been clear that some of those responsible have decided that, regardless of what people have said, they have gone on ahead and finished the mural."

'Sinister shadow'

The councillor said he did not know "what engagement there has been with the people who were painting it or who are behind the painting of this" in the two weeks since the suspension took place.

But he added: "I know that people have contacted me and said that they are not happy with it, it's not the sort of mural that they want, that it's a move backwards.

Mr Kyle said he would now like to see people in the local area getting a chance to make their views known about what sort of image they would like to see in their estate.

George Best mural before it was painted over The George Best mural was erected with the help of public funding three years ago

"I think it's important that takes place without intimidation or without any threats, that people are able to say what they would like in terms of their street art and public art," he added.

"I think that they will find that they will want to celebrate people like George Best and some of the people and events from east Belfast that we can be truly proud of."

Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle said the mural only succeeded in glorifying violence.

"The completion of this mural casts a sinister shadow over everything that is positive in east Belfast," he said.

"It is unacceptable that an image which once depicted the world-class talent of George Best has now been replaced by a paramilitary gunman.

"Political representatives have rightly condemned the glorification of terrorism in recent weeks, and must be united and clear in their rejection of all murals of this kind - if we are to build a safe and inclusive society for everyone in Northern Ireland."

The George Best mural was erected at the site in 2010, with the help of £1,500 in public funds.

The money was allocated by Belfast City Council, as part of it's PEACE III project called 'Tackling the 'Tackling the Physical Manifestations of Sectarianism'.

When contacted earlier this month, the council said it had been "unaware of any plans" to replace football artwork.

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