Controversial memorials in Northern Ireland have been erected in memory of Irish Republican Army (IRA) members who lost their lives in confrontations with British troops and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The Troubles, as this long-standing conflict has become known, has claimed thousands of lives over a 30-year period starting in the late 1960s.
Irish Republican Army
The Catholic minority living in Northern Ireland had experienced discrimination in such matters as employment and housing over several decades. Over time, resentment over their treatment led to violent civil unrest.
The IRA was responsible for a series of bombings and gun attacks in both England and Northern Ireland in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. British soldiers, political figures, police and civilians were all targeted. Catholics were also victims of violence at the hands paramilitary-group members.
Examples of Controversial Memorials in Northern Ireland
Some examples of memorials erected in memory of those killed during The Troubles are:
Black Friday Memorial
"Black Friday" refers to events which took place on July 21, 1972, in Belfast. Along with the nine people who lost their lives when 20 bombs exploded, 130 were injured. While victims' family members attended the unveiling of a memorial plaque in 2000, Sinn Fein members sitting on the City Council chose to stay away.
The reason given by these council members for their non-attendance at the ceremony was that the plaque did not make mention of the fact that police and the military were also responsible for acts of violence.
IRA Memorial in County Fermanagh
A monument was constructed in 2002 in memory of Antoine Mac Giolla Bhride and Kieran Fleming, who were both killed in December 1984. Both Bhride, 27, and Fleming, 25, were members of the IRA. A third man, Joseph McManus, 21, was also memorialized by the granite and marble cenotaph. This monument was originally located a short distance away from the location where two Protestant men died in a hail of high-velocity bullets in 1988. In response to the public outcry, the IRA agreed to move the monument to another location.
That same year, the IRA issued an apology to the families of what they referred to as "non-combatants." They also acknowledged the grief of the families of police and military personnel killed in the conflict.
Statute of INLA Volunteer in Derry Cemetery
Earlier this year, controversy erupted over the presence of a life-sized statue of an INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) volunteer in the [[Images Arlington National Cemetery|local cemetery]]. The monument was erected to honor those who lost their lives in the 1916 Easter Rising. While a local councilor expressed the view that local residents should be able to visit the cemetery to mourn and show respect for the dead without seeing a masked gunman, the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) had a different take on the matter. An IRSP representative stated that the the controversial statue would not be moved or dismantled. He went on to say that the monument was a fitting tribute to the IRSP's "fallen comrades."
Omagh Bombing Memorial
On August 15,1998, 29 people were killed in an IRA bomb attack. (One of the victims was a pregnant woman carrying twins). A local resident, Michael Gallagher, was involved in a dispute with the local District Council over the words that will appear on a plaque honoring the dead. Gallagher lost his son Aidan in the attack and has stated to the media that the facts of what happened on that day must be listed on the plaque. In an effort to resolve the dispute, the Council has decided to take the matter to a mediator.
Controversial memorials in Northern Ireland have been erected to honor those who lost their lives on both sides of the conflict. It would seem that whether a person feels these memorials are appropriate depends on which side of the dispute they are on.