An Upper Bann MLA has asked the DUP minister in charge of the NI Housing Executive why nothing has been done about an ‘illegal’ memorial to 1916 in Lurgan.
Ulster Unionist Assembly member Jo-Anne Dobson has written to Department of Social Development Minister Lord Maurice Morrow regarding the structure which is being built in Lurgan Tarry.
The NIHE received complaints about the monument which is being funded by Republican Sinn Fein.
The government body, which is under the umbrella of the DSD, also confirmed it hasn’t given permission for the structure which is on NIHE communal land and formerly housed a number of garages.
Mrs Dobson said she was “deeply concerned by the apparent confirmation from a Republican Sinn Fein representative that this is in memory of ‘all those who died as a direct result of British occupation in Ireland’”.
The MLA added: “I am however concerned that the Lurgan Housing Executive Office was made aware of this ‘memorial’ last month and would be grateful for an update as to the action take by the Housing Executive following receipt of this information and indeed their confirmation that the erection is indeed ‘illegal.’
“I would also be grateful if you could update me on the action take by your Department given the blatant disregard being shown towards due process and also the feelings of those who would be offended by such a ‘memorial’,” she said.
Meanwhile Lurgan DUP councillor Carla Lockhart described the erection as a ‘blatant case of terrorism being glorified’.
She said: “As Northern Ireland moves forward we should not be romanticising violence of yesteryear. This incident makes the case for new legislation to enhance and strengthen anti-terrorism and anti-glorification of terrorism laws.
“I will be writing to the Director of Public Prosecutions asking what he believes constitutes glorification of terrorism in Northern Ireland.”
Councillor Lockhart added: “Its size will make it a dominating feature of the area and its placement beside a school is deeply concerning. It is being constructed by Republican Sinn Fein who have made it quite clear that its purpose is to celebrate not just those who participated in the Easter rebellion in Dublin, but those who engaged in a terrorist campaign here in Northern Ireland.
“I have no doubt it will also be used to muster support for dissident republicans who still engage in terrorism today and wish to drag Northern Ireland back.
“I have contacted the Chief Executive of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council to investigate taking forward a planning enforcement case. I have requested to meet with the Housing Executive locally and also spoken with the DSD Minister asking him to investigate.”
A spokesperson for Thomas Harte Cumann, Republican Sinn Fein, North Armagh said it “has undertaken a huge project to erect a memorial garden as a fitting tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of Irish freedom over the past 100 years.
“Our members have for the last year collected funds week in week out, in the form of our monthly lotto from the good people of Lurgan and Craigavon, to make this project possible to coincide with this year’s 1916 centenary. Work has now commenced on the site which has been carefully chosen on reclaimed land which previously had garages on it.
“Our members are working hard and tirelessly to have it completed in time for the Easter Week centenary anniversary.
“The aim of the Thomas Harte Cumann RSF is to pay tribute to all men and women who fought and died for Ireland. The main focal point of this is on Edward Costello from Church Place in Lurgan. While working in Dublin he joined the Irish Volunteers in 1915. He was mobilised on April 24, 1916 and took part in the Easter Rising. He received a fatal bullet wound to his head on April 25, 1916 and later died in Jervis Street Hospital, Dublin. He was only 27 years old. “We hope that the completion of this memorial garden will go some way in honouring Ireland’s patriot dead.”
A spokesperson from the Housing Executive said: “We can confirm the memorial is on Housing Executive land. It has recently been built without planning permission or the approval of the Housing Executive. We have never been asked for permission and would not have supported a memorial of this nature.
“The local Housing Executive office was made aware of the memorial being built on our land approximately a month ago.
“The replacement or removal of symbols such as murals and memorials is a complex and sensitive matter. No one, single agency can work on its own to do this. It needs a number of agencies and bodies to work together, as well as involving the public and relevant communities.
“To this end we will continue to work with those who live on our estates, their representatives and other agencies to look at an alternative use for these spaces.”