7 June 2001 Edition

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Support for Downpatrick monument

A poll on the future of a republican memorial in Downpatrick has received up to 2,000 respondents, with 1,500 said to be in favour of the memorial.

The Downpatrick memorial, unveiled in honour of IRA Volunteer Colum Marks and other republicans from the South Down area in February last year, is at the centre of unionist wrath as both the DUP and UUP are attempting to have it destroyed.

The monument is built on the spot where IRA Volunteer Colum Marks was shot dead by undercover RUC officers in April 1991, but unionists have claimed it was erected illegally on council property.

With Sinn Féin and the Marks family insisting that the memorial stay and the unionists demanding that the council remove the monument, the SDLP brought forward the idea of a poll to resolve the issue. The poll was approved by Down Council's Policy and Resources Committee.

According to Sinn Féin's Tony Lacken, ``the SDLP were embarrassed by the issue. They didn't want to support the republican position yet couldn't support the unionists as it would have politically damaging, so we got this poll and from the soundings Sinn Féin is taking, the majority of respondents say the monument should stay''.

A report is to be prepared for the Policy and Resources Committee in time for its August meeting, when the result of the poll is to be published. The committee will then make its recommendation to the council.

Mural to honour three republican heroes

A new mural honouring hunger striker Joe McDonnell; Kieran Nugent, the first Blanketman; and Mairead Farrell, who took part in the 1980 hunger strike and was assassinated by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988, will be unveiled on Sunday 10 June by the Falls/Clonard 1981 Commemoration Committee.

The unveiling of the mural will be preceded by a march from the Falls Road Sinn Féin Advice Centre, commencing at 1:30pm and proceeding to Slate Street.

Sean MacManus, the Sinn Féin Mayor of Sligo, will be the guest speaker at the ceremony.

Sunday also sees the culmination of three soccer tournaments in which local youth teams played for the Joe McDonnell Cup, the Kieran Nugent Trophy and the Mairead Farrell Trophy.

``The tournaments,'' said Robert McClenaghan of the `81 Committee, ``were contested by over 100 young people over the past month. We will be asking Sean MacManus to present the trophies to the winners on Sunday afternoon.

``We are delighted that Sean, whose own son, Volunteer Joe MacManus, was killed on active service in 1992, agreed to carry out the unveiling and present the awards.''

The finals will take place at the Grosvenor Leisure Centre at 10.30am on 10 June, and the local hunger strike exhibition will be on view in the main hall at the same time.

Sinn Féin councillor Fra McCann, who will chair the event, has called on the people of the Falls/Clonard area to show their support. ``The local 1980/81 Committee need as many people as possible to show their support for the McDonnell, Farrell and Nugent families and let them know that the people of the area will never forget their sacrifice on behalf of us all,'' he said.

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