DUP anger over IRA memorial comments

The War Memorial in the Diamond, Londonderry. DERR3715GS099
The War Memorial in the Diamond, Londonderry. DERR3715GS099

The DUP in Londonderry has reacted angrily to a suggestion that the local city council might look into the maintenance of IRA and INLA memorials.

Independent republican councillor Paul Gallagher made the suggestion following a committee meeting this week at Derry City and Strabane District Council where the maintenance of the iconic cenotaph in Londonderry city centre was discussed.

DUP Councillor Graham Warke.

DUP Councillor Graham Warke.

The committee had received a report that clarified the council’s authority to maintain the historic war memorial at the Diamond in Londonderry.

The cost of repairs was estimated by the council in 2016 at £250,000.

Council officer Stephen Gillespie outlined how agreement had been reached previously by councillors to carry out the repairs, but that this had been put on hold for officers to consider who owns the monument, and to consider other memorials in the area.

While the report did not state who owned the memorial in the Diamond, it did establish that the council had authority to carry out the repairs if councillors decided it was appropriate.

Cllr Gallagher, speaking to the News Letter on Thursday, said that if the council is looking into the maintenance of war memorials, it should be considering the maintenance of “all memorials”, including those to members of the IRA and INLA.

There are memorials to INLA and IRA men in neighbouring Strabane.

Mr Gallagher claimed this would be discussed “at a later date” but did not elaborate on whether this might be put forward as a formal proposal to the council.

The independent republican said: “This will need to be considered in its entirety. That should include memorials to IRA volunteers and INLA volunteers. I know in Strabane there are memorials to volunteers from the IRA, and the INLA.

“Council won’t be spending a fortune around Strabane maintaining memorials and then deciding to leave them (the IRA and INLA memorials) out, if we’re talking about this on an equality basis.”

He continued: “That’s what we’ll discuss at a later date. If and when we’re going to undertake the upkeep and maintenance of war memorials, we’ll need to define what are the memorials. And, we will be saying, ‘those are war memorials’.”

DUP councillor Graham Warke branded Mr Gallagher’s comments a “disgrace” and lambasted the council for dragging its feet on the maintenance of the cenotaph.

“The council officers presented us with a report showing that the council has the authority to maintain war memorials,” Mr Warke said. “It doesn’t include Irish republican murderers.”

Mr Warke added: “It is a disgrace, War memorials don’t include IRA murderers who were killing people in our community and so many innocent people in this city.

“It is a disgrace that we’re having so much trouble here even trying to see the war memorial maintained. The First World War should never be politicised.”