Published Sunday, 22 September 2013
It emerged earlier this month that the tribute to Best, on a wall at Inverwood Court in Sydenham, was being changed to a paramilitary image.
A UVF gunman is now on the wall along with the Martin Luther King quote: 'Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed'.
PUP councillor Dr John Kyle said that he was "very disappointed" with the development. Last week, he told UTV that the painting of the mural had been suspended amid ongoing discussions with those responsible for carrying out the changes.
However, on Sunday, it emerged that the mural had been completed.
Cllr Kyle said: "I think it is a disgrace to replace a mural of George Best with a hooded gunman. I don't think that's what the community of east Belfast wants.
"I don't think it represents them or represents their views. They want to look at the future and create a positive and prosperous future."
He described the new paramilitary mural as a "backward step."
Cllr Kyle said that he had not been in contact with those behind the mural but had noticed the finished work on Saturday.
He added that the PUP had made it clear since work first began on replacing the artwork that they viewed it as "a retrograde step" and were opposed to it.
Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle said that the new mural only succeeds in glorifying violence.
The completion of this mural casts a sinister shadow over everything that is positive East Belfast.
East Belfast Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle
"It is unacceptable that an image which once depicted the world-class talent of George Best has now been replaced by a paramilitary gunman," he said.
"Political representatives have rightly condemned the glorification of terrorism in recent weeks, and must be united and clear in their rejection of all murals of this kind - if we are to build a safe and inclusive society for everyone in Northern Ireland."
He added: "This mural is anti-civil rights and anti-East Belfast and should be replaced immediately."
The Best tribute was created three years ago as part of a regeneration project managed by Belfast City Council to tackle sectarianism.
On Sunday, East Belfast DUP MLA Robin Newton said the former mural was "paid for by public money from Belfast ratepayers".
"It is therefore deeply disappointing that on the 50th anniversary of George Best's first game for Manchester United this mark of respect to his football skills is obliterated. All the more so that it should be done in the part of the city he called home," he added.
Earlier this month, the council said that they were not been aware of plans to replace the artwork.
A spokesman said: "In 2010, Belfast City Council, as part of the council's PEACE III project 'Tackling the Physical Manifestations of Sectarianism', provided £1,500 towards the material costs of a mural in memory of George Best.
"This mural replaced an old UVF mural and was welcomed by the community at the time.
"There was no stipulation, relating to the granting of funding for the original project, as to how long the mural had to remain in place.
"The council was unaware of any plans to replace it."
© UTV News