Unionists threaten republican memorial
BY PEADAR WHELAN
Unionist members of Down Council are again threatening to have a memorial to IRA Volunteers torn down.
The latest move, revealed on Monday 6 November, is spearheaded by the DUP's Billy Alexander, who is threatening legal action to prevent moves by the South Down National Graves Association (SDNGA) to buy the plot in Dunleath Park, in Downpatrick.
The memorial, erected by local republicans was unveiled on 13 February this year on the spot where IRA Volunteer Colum Marks was shot dead by undercover RUC members. Since then, unionists have tried everything to have the memorial removed.
Unionists claimed the monument was illegal and put pressure on council officials to tear it down but they were thwarted when the Policy and Resources Committee of the council accepted a compromise. Norman Stewart, director of the committee, agreed the council could sell the land on which the memorial was built to any body concerned with its upkeep.
It was at this point that the SDNGA got involved and offered to purchase the land and Liam Shannon of the Belfast National Graves Association along with representatives of the SDNGA met with Norman Stewart.
At that meeting, according to Liam Shannon, ``we made Mr Stewart aware of who we were and of our interest in the site and its upkeep. Everything was agreed except a purchase price''.
Following this meeting, the Dublin-based National Graves Association Ireland intervened, saying said that neither the South Down National Graves Association nor the Belfast National Graves Association had anything to do with the Dublin-based group, thus putting the compromise deal in jeopardy.
Carlin explained that the Dublin-based group, by its public intervention, has caused council officers to question the legitimacy of the SDNGA and to a reluctant to go ahead with the sale.
Speaking to An Phoblacht, Carlin said the SDNGA was determined to go ahead and buy the plot ``to ensure the upkeep of this memorial. Nor will republicans allow the DUP or anybody else stop us from honouring our republican dead''.