01 April 2006

Mural removed near protest church


Geoffrey Calderwood (right) and Andy Conner at the UDA mural

A loyalist paramilitary mural close to a Catholic church in County Antrim which was the scene of weekly protests in the 1990s has been removed.

The UDA mural near the Church of Our Lady at Harryville in Ballymena was taken down after cross-community talks.

It has replaced by an Ulster Scots mural featuring symbols such as a shamrock and Red Hand of Ulster.

Tricolours were removed from the north end of Ballymena in a deal brokered by Harryville Ulster Scots Society.

Youth workers also painted out red, white and blue paint from railings around Harryville church.

Harryville priest Fr Paul Symonds was present for the official Ulster-Scots mural unveiling on Saturday.

He has been working closely with the Ulster-Scots group and he has welcomed the replacement of the UDA image for a "non-militaristic mural".

"This is very positive for the area and it is a great gesture," he said.

Geoff Calderwood, chairman of Harryville Ulster Scots Society, welcomed the Harryville scheme saying: "We think it is great for the area."

March objections

The church was the scene of loyalist protests and sporadic trouble over the past few years.

There was a series of loyalist attacks on the church last year, including paint attacks and grafitti.

Loyalist protesters mounted a weekly picket outside the Harryville church during Saturday evening Mass between September 1996 and May 1998.

The protests were called off shortly after the Good Friday Agreement received 71% support in a referendum.

The picket was mounted because of loyalist anger over nationalist objections to a march by the Protestant Orange Order through nearby Dunloy.

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