Published Wednesday, 04 September 2013
Work is underway to replace the Best mural, which was painted around three years ago at Inverwood Court in Sydenham.
The mural was originally funded by European money as part of a regeneration project managed by Belfast City Council to tackle sectarianism.
The new painting shows a UVF gunman, along with a Martin Luther King quote, which states: 'Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed'.
A council 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."
PUP Councillor John Kyle said that he had had a number of telephone conversations with people in the area, and that it was fair to say that the vast majority did not want "this sort of mural going back up."
He added: "I think we've made great progress in east Belfast. We've some very positive messages and I think that street art should communicate those positive things that have happened here and celebrate some of the great successes we've had in east Belfast."
Alliance councillor Andrew Webb said he was appalled at the move, which he described as a "backward step", and would be asking council officials to investigate.
He said: "The appearance of this paramilitary image is a backwards step, particularly after so much hard work went into the reimaging three years ago.
"I am appalled that a celebration of the life of George Best has been replaced by a sickening image of a paramilitary gunman.
"It is unacceptable that this UVF mural is being used to intimidate and act as a territorial marker."
He added: "This threatening and divisive behaviour is not something that can be tolerated in a society that is seeking to move forward and become more inclusive to all.
"When the council agrees to fund projects such as this to change areas for the better and create more shared and welcoming spaces that are less intimidating, it is done on the basis that the change is permanent.
"I will be following this up with council officials to see what terms were agreed when the George Best image was painted."
George Best mural pictured below (© Albert Bridge cc).
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