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Tuesday, 25 July, 2000, 22:08 GMT 23:08 UK
'Offensive' UFF mural removed

The mural caused outrage among victims' families
A mural which glorified some of the worst atrocities carried out by loyalist paramilitaries during the Troubles has been removed from a west Belfast street.

The mural was put up on Dover Street, off the mainly Protestant Shankill Road in west Belfast, and referred to murders carried out by the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF).

These included the killing of eight people in a pub in Greysteel, County Londonderry and a massacre at Sean Graham's bookmakers on the Ormeau Road in south Belfast.

Alongside a UFF slogan, were the words: "Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time!"

The mural had caused outrage among the victim's families.

John White
John White: Mural was "in bad taste"
John White, chairman of the Ulster Democratic Party, which is linked to the UFF, said the mural had been in "bad taste".

He said he had made unsuccessful attempts to have it removed when it was painted a number of weeks ago.

"I think given that we're in a peace process and trying to put the past behind us, murals like this don't help," he said.

Mr White was accompanied to see the mural on Tuesday by the convicted UFF leader Johnny Adair.

White, himself a convicted double killer, said murals on both sides of the religious divide caused offence.

Johnny Adair
Johnny Adair: Convicted UFF leader
"There's a mixed reaction, because people are seeing murals put up in republican areas and statues put up to commemorate IRA volunteers, and that causes a great deal of offence.

"I think it's wrong to gloat over anyone being killed.

"I can understand the UFF being proud of their role in the conflict of this last 30 years, but I think it's wrong to glorify the death of any human being."

But some local residents said they did not find the mural offensive.

"It's doing me no harm," said one resident. "There's no names mentioned."

Another said he did not think it should be painted over.

"If you go onto the Springfield Road or Falls Road you'll get the same there," said another.

Deputy lord mayor of Belfast Frank McCoubrey, also a member of the UDP, personally removed the painting on Tuesday afternoon.

I hope now that this is a step forward - a confidence building measure

Frank McCoubrey
Mr McCoubrey said the removal had been done at the request of the nationalist community and some people on the lower Shankill Road.

"If people were as courageous as me on the nationalist community, we would take further steps forward instead of steps back," he said.

"The people here on the Protestant side of this community have put out the hand of friendship many a time, and it has been thrown back in their faces.

"I hope now that this is a step forward - a confidence building measure."

The move has been welcomed by Carmel Hanna of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party.

She said Mr McCoubrey's actions in removing the "offensive" mural "deserved to be acknowledged".

"He has demonstrated leadership and courage," she said.

"Hopefully it is steps such as this, which will rid our society of graffiti and depictions which give genuine offence to sections of our community."

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See also:

23 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
UFF lifts ceasefire threat
25 May 00 | Northern Ireland
UFF rejects arms call
14 Sep 99 | Northern Ireland
Loyalist paramilitary leader freed
06 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Johnny Adair: Feared loyalist leader
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