City to build a permanent memorial to honour Belfast Blitz victims
A plan for a permanent Belfast Blitz memorial has been narrowly approved by Belfast City Council.
About 1,000 people lost their lives in German air raids on the city in April and May 1941.
A motion seeking council backing for the memorial was put forward by UUP councillor Jeff Dudgeon.
It was carried by 26 votes to 22 at a full council meeting on Monday, with six councillors abstaining.
Belfast was one of 16 cities across the UK to be bombed by the German air force in World War Two.
The Luftwaffe (German air force ) carried out four raids on the city between 7 April and 6 May 1941.
More than half of Belfast's houses were destroyed or badly damaged in the attacks.
The memorial will be erected in Cathedral Gardens, also known as Buoy Park, close to St Anne's cathedral and the Belfast campus of Ulster University.
Councillor Dudgeon said Cathedral Gardens, which was destroyed in the raids, was a more appropriate location than City Hall.
"The proposed design, which is already in place, is for an extensive memorial with all the names of the over one thousand people killed," he said.
"The north of the city was the worst hit and the east after that, plus the city centre and all parts after that.
"It's a broad issue - it's not an issue about equality or diversity as everyone was killed."
The motion was seconded by the independent councillor Patrick Convery, but the SDLP and Sinn Féin voted against it.
SDLP Councillor Tim Attwood said that was because they were waiting for a wider review of all city hall memorials and statues to conclude in the near future, and not because they were opposed to a Blitz memorial.
"We were working on that basis, to get a consensus of opinion around all these issues including the Blitz memorial," he said.
"That was the positive way forward and that would have been resolved this month.
"I just thought it was premature to bring it forward this month, even though we support it.
"There was a range of issues that were being discussed by parties and we were hoping to reach a consensus among all parties about all of those issues at the same time."
There is also a plan, for example, to erect a statue of the feminist and 1916 Easter Rising veteran Winifred Carney in the grounds of Belfast City Hall which is yet to be approved.
Mr Dudgeon denied that his motion was premature and said he had to act now to ensure a memorial was in place for the 80th anniversary of the Blitz in 2021.
"I waited for three and a half years and I've decided to move now because of the urgency of the timing," he said.
"The City Hall grounds review is now entirely separate, and a memorial coming to Cathedral Gardens is without prejudice to what may or may not be decided there.
"It can't wait."
Mr Dudgeon also said that Northern Ireland War Memorial had previously offered to pay most of the cost of the new memorial, which could reach more than £100,000.
Erecting the memorial will now be part of the council's financial planning for the 2019/20 financial year.