One of the most photographed loyalist wall murals in Belfast is set to be painted over. The gable-wall sized Ulster Freedom Fighters mural in Sandy Row is to go after businessmen told paramilitaries that it was bad for investment in the socially deprived area were it is sited.
Sandy Row is a Protestant working class area near the city center with high levels of unemployment.
Many paramilitary murals have been replaced in both republican and loyalist areas in recent years, with most being replaced by cultural paintings. More than 30 have gone in the Sandy Row area alone.
It’s believed that the talks to remove the mural lasted a year. UDA leader Jackie McDonald said: “This shows they are prepared to move into a new era. I salute the people of Sandy Row for accepting we need to change the image.”
Businessmen told the community the mural was “frightening away” companies from nearby office complexes. “They were saying it was a negative image and they were reluctant to invest while it was there,” said Garnet Busby of Belfast South Community Resources.
Artist Ross Wilson said a painting of William of Orange will replace the old mural.
“It has been a process of consultation from schoolchildren to ex- paramilitaries. If that had not happened this would not have worked,” he said. A name of convenience for the Ulster Defense Association (UDA), the UFF were one of the most notorious loyalist gangs of the Troubles, known for their indiscriminate murdering of Catholics.