‘Mural painting effectively frozen in Ballyclare’

A new UDA mural at Erskine Park. INNT 28-807CON
A new UDA mural at Erskine Park. INNT 28-807CON

Elected representatives have held a meeting to discuss the emergence of new paramilitary murals in a number of housing estates in Ballyclare.

South Antrim MLA Steve Aiken OBE and UUP colleague Cllr David Arthurs have held a meeting at Mr Aiken’s Constituency Office with representatives of Antrim and Newtownabbey Council and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive on the recent mural changes in Ballyclare. The pair arranged the meeting, the second in as many weeks, following concerns raised by residents that reserved walls and new murals may represent a destabilisation in the town.

Speaking following the meeting, Steve said: “We arranged to meet the council and the Housing Executive both to communicate the concerns of residents, but also to clarify and collaborate in finding out their take on recent developments. We have been really pleased with progress made so far in that our first meeting last week ended with the guarantee that mural painting had been effectively frozen in the town.

“We still, however, have concerns over the reservation of walls by organisations trying to have a more visible presence in their communities. In our conversations we were pleased to hear how eager both the Housing Executive and Antrim and Newtownabbey Council are in engaging with groups in Ballyclare; in steering them towards being an asset to their communities and contributing great works of social art such as the widely praised Somme mural at the entrance to the Grange estate. We have pledged to continue to play an active role and voicing the concerns of the wider community whilst ensuring everyone in Ballyclare feels the benefit of the peace we now enjoy.”

Echoing his colleague’s remarks, David said: “We have been engaging with a number of constituents who have voiced their concerns over new murals and how it raises tensions in their area and encourages questions from their children and grandchildren – all too young to remember the turmoil of the Troubles. We are keen to see all organisations that want to represent and commemorate the historical achievements and milestones of their communities to be engaged with; to play a constructive, positive role.

“Both Steve and I are pleased with the progress made so far in our discussions with the Housing Executive and the council and are satisfied that both organisations are ready and receptive to those keen to make that step towards putting their area and community on the map for all the right reasons. We have seen the official unveiling of the Somme mural in the Grange estate just this weekend. That mural is now a Ballyclare landmark that makes such a positive contribution and humbly commemorates our brave forefathers that fought in the Great War. Let’s have more murals like that, not murals reminiscent of the darkest years of the Troubles.”