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PHOENIX UP RISING; EXCLUSIVE Republican art to go down in flames after loyalist fury.

Byline: BY VICTORIA MCMAHON

A SCULPTURE featuring an IRA symbol which was set to overlook a loyalist area has been scrapped after a backlash, it emerged yesterday.

Not one but two 18ft phoenix figures were designed to mark the official opening of the pounds 2.9million five-storey office block at the CityEast development on the lower Newtownards Road, East Belfast.

Belfast City Council paid pounds 40,000 for the artwork but because of the outcry it has been forced to scrap the sculpture and go back to the drawing board.

The embarrassing gaffe leaves the council out-of-pocket and shelling out thousands more for the artist to modify the statue which is understood to have been completed.

The storm erupted after loyalist paramilitary commanders vetoed the phoenix plan at a recent community meeting.

Sources claimed they told bosses at the East Belfast Enterprise Park - who are behind the office block project - in no uncertain terms the phoenix would not take flight in their area.

But there was little the bosses at the organisation could do because the council is funding the artwork. A local source said: "The lads are outraged. They just couldn't believe the stupidity of it all.

"They took one look at the designs and said, 'Over our dead bodies'. A few people didn't have a clue what they were talking about. But they spelt it out loud and clear that no IRA symbol was going to be rising from the ashes in their area.

"The Scottish artist behind it obviously doesn't know the history of this place and didn't have a clue about how people would be up in arms over it. He just thought it would be a good idea for a piece of art."

Belfast City Council commissioned Malcolm Robertson for the sculpture.

He was chosen above local artists who competed for the lucrative contract. His speciality is public art and his work is seen in countries around the world.

On Malcolm's biography he said: "At the beginning of a project I would normally familiarize myself with the history and culture of the area in question and explore ideas and concepts with both client and the community."

But unknown to the artist the phoenix rising from the ashes has been a symbol of the Provisional IRA since 1969 after it split from the Official IRA.

Last night the council declined to release images of the controversial sculpture.

East Belfast MLA Robin Newton slammed the council and said: "It was an inappropriate design for the area. I think to put it up would have caused annoyance to one section of the community.

"It would have branded the building and it would become alien to the people in a predominantly unionist community."

1969

The phoenix rising from the ashes became a symbol of the Provisional IRA

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PLANS SCRAPPED CityEast development due to be completed in January and, left, the republican phoenix symbol
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 30, 2008
Words:486
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