Signs of change in Belfast

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Signs honouring deceased republicans including Maire Drumm, Bobby Sands and 1916 Rising leader James Connolly were erected around Belfast this week as part of what organisers Lasair Dhearg say is a campaign to highlight British State colonialism, and historic figures associated with it, in Ireland.

Queen’s University was renamed ‘Mairead Farrell University Belfast’ with signage erected across its prominent front gates after the former student and IRA volunteer, killed in Gibraltar on active service in 1988.

The streets surrounding Belfast City Hall including May Street and Donegall Square were renamed after three hunger strikers - Joe McDonnell, Bobby Sands and Kieran Doherty - who died in Long Kesh in 1981.

Group spokesperson Pól Torbóid said that they had “compiled a list of place names from across the city” that they say featured “prominent individuals responsible for historic abuses in Ireland”.

He added: “Belfast’s streets, littered with the poverty of its people, its homeless and jobless; are also littered with the names of those whose attitude to Ireland was one of subjugation, and who, by force of arms, forced a political and economic system upon our people, which became the foundation for partition, and for the current economic struggles faced by the Irish people.

“These street names, monuments to those who delivered misery across our nation in one form or another, also serve as monuments to the political and economic system that they helped to build in Ireland.

“These street names, the symbols of oppression, hate and servitude, must be stripped away. “They must be replaced with the names of those who sought to build a better Ireland, the names of those who fought against oppression, against hate and against servitude.”

“They must be replaced with the names of heroes: of normal people. Not lords. Not kings or queens; but rather those who weren’t the heirs to vast riches.

“Those whose only inheritance was that which they tried to carve out of a political system that railed against them.

“It is our inheritance as Republicans to end the oppression immortalised in these street names and statues.

“It is our duty to end colonialism, to end the normalisation of imperialism and, consequently, the political and economic system that maintains it.”

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