The Northern Ireland Housing Executive is continuing to engage with communities to ensure paramilitary murals are removed from its estates, though it is “not an easy or quick process” its South Area Manager has said.
Speaking at a meeting of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council on Monday, August 22, John McCartan said the housing executive is focused on continuous engagement with the community to find a way forward.
His comments were made in response to a question from Alliance Party councillor Peter Lavery.
The Lurgan councillor claimed the housing executive declined to make a complaint to the PSNI last year following the advent of a paramilitary inspired mural in the Mourneview estate in the town and asked what the housing executive is doing to ensure the removal of “these crime gang artefacts”.
“I have a question in relation to paramilitary façades on housing executive property,” said Cllr Lavery.
“As you will recall the issue was discussed last summer in relation to various paramilitary façades placed on housing executive property in Mourneview.
“There are other paramilitary façades and structures dedicated to various crime gangs unfortunately spread across Lurgan and indeed Northern Ireland.
“Now specifically in relation to the one in Mourneview, I am aware a police investigation took place and at that time, the Housing Executive declined to make a complaint.
“This resulted in the halting of a police investigation into this act of criminality and intimidation and I would like an explanation as to why this was and what the Housing Executive will be doing to remove these crime gang artefacts from Lurgan.”
Before asking Mr McCartan to provide a more comprehensive answer, the NIHE’s Chief Executive, Grainia Long told the chamber the organisation is committed to ensuring its estates are safe and inclusive places.
“Just to be very clear, we are very clear in our role as a landlord in terms of ensuring a safe and inclusive place for our tenants to live,” said Ms Long.
“The decisions, in relation to any murals or any other forms of materials, we would take very carefully.
“We always come at it from the point of view as housing professionals how we manage not just the stock but relationships locally.”
Mr McCartan then confirmed there is continual engagement with local communities to ensure these manifestations are removed from NIHE’s estates.
“We would engage with local communities and representatives to try and find a way forward to see if we can address any of these trappings – murals, memorials etc…,” he said.
“It is not an easy process or a quick process, it is one that takes a large level of engagement. We are continually gauging the appetite for moving forward and will continue to so.
“We do not feel that these manifestations should be within our estates and localities and we will continue to move forward to try and seek their removal.”