Northern Ireland

Annadale UDA memorial 'not funded by Housing Executive'

Annadale memorial
Image caption The UDA plaque was placed below a larger plaque the Housing Executive says is a tribute to the dead of World War One

The Housing Executive has said a plaque to UDA members in south Belfast was not part of a memorial garden it funded in the Annadale Flats area.

A parade and commemoration was held in memory of five UDA members on Thursday.

Wreathes were laid at a plaque at Annadale Flats bearing the names of the UDA members.

The Housing Executive said the garden of reflection and large plaque it funded in the area was in memory of those killed in World War One.

"The garden at Annadale and commemorative plaque was funded by the Housing Executive and designed to commemorate the First World War centenary. It was completed two months ago and we have had no complaints about the garden," it said.

"There is no sectarian or paramilitary imagery in the garden. This was supported by the Housing Executive as it replaced a large paramilitary memorial and was seen to be a key part of re-imaging this neighbourhood.

"A parade took place last night and we understand a separate plaque was brought into the garden - it is not a permanent fixture and was taken away again.

"The Housing Executive was not aware and had no involvement in the parade and would not have sanctioned the additional imagery that was placed in the garden."

It confirmed that the permanent memorial has no dates or wording that refers to World War One. However, it said it had images of poppies "which are a symbol of remembrance of the world wars".

Parade concerns

Several hundred band members made their way from Ballynafeigh Orange Hall on the Ormeau Road to the memorial on Thursday evening.

The Ulster Defence Association (UDA) was formed in 1971 as an umbrella group for a variety of loyalist groups.

Image caption A flute band banner in tribute to UDA members Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder

At its peak it was the largest of the loyalist paramilitary organisations. Its members were responsible for murdering hundreds of people during the Troubles.

The UDA members commemorated on Thursday included Joe Bratty and Raymond Elder, who were shot dead by the IRA 20 years ago, just weeks before the republicans declared a ceasefire.

Sinn Féin councillor Deirdre Hargey said she she has been contacted by local residents "shocked" that the parade was given the go-ahead without restriction.

"It beggars belief that given the high public attention recently given to the flags issue in the area and dramatically changed demographics that this parade was not deemed as sensitive by either the Parades Commission or the PSNI.

"As I understand it this parade was applied for by a 'cultural and historical society'. I must ask of the Parades Commission what consultation was carried out as to the rationale for this parade."

Events 'insensitive'

Meanwhile, a man whose wife was killed in the 1993 IRA bomb on a fish shop on the Shankill Road has said events commemorating paramilitaries must try to show some sensitivity to victims.

Alan McBride was speaking after the memorial ceremony for UDA members was staged in south Belfast.

Image caption Wreathes were laid at a plaque to five UDA members

Mr McBride, whose wife Sharon was one of nine Protestant civilians murdered by the IRA in the Shankill bomb, said he had no problem with people remembering their dead, but there were ways of doing this that did not offend victims.

"I do believe when you have parades and speeches and plaques and all this sort of thing and the media are there and the whole thing is talked up, I think it becomes something that is triumphalist and that does cause some offence," he said.

"Last year was the 20th anniversary of the Shankill bomb - that was on the 23rd of October - and the Sunday before that you had the commemoration to Thomas Begley [one of the IRA bombers] in Ardoyne.

"I had tried to get word to the family that I have no problem with them remembering Thomas Begley, they lost their son, they're entitled to do so, but if they have the colour party, the speeches, the parade, then I think it does cause further offence and it did cause offence.

"So for me it's not about whether we remember or not, it's how we remember and I have to say the same about the parade last night on the Ormeau Road."

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