A row has broken out surrounding plans for the refurbishment of the Museum of Free Derry that management say could potentially jeopardise the entire project.
Several residents of Glenfada Park are so furious that part of the new £2.2 million Museum of Free Derry and National Civil Rights Archive - work on which is due to start in January 2015 - will obscure one of Derry’s most iconic murals depicting the city’s Civil Rights activists that they say they will lay down in front of the bulldozers starting construction and are planning a protest at the site.
The window for objections with the Planning Service closed in February, with full planning approval being granted in March. But some residents say they are disappointed about what they believe was poor consultation with the community on the project on behalf of the Bloody Sunday Trust and that the first time they saw what the proposed structure would actually look like was in an artistic impression in the Derry Journal last month.
The artist impression printed in the media shows a walkway and large glass-topped stone wall obscuring half of the Bogside Artist’s mural at Glenfada Park. Residents have now called for the Trust to reconsider this aspect of the refurbishment.
Sarah O’Hagan, on whose gable wall the mural stands, says the mural must not be blocked.
“Those men and women fought for all our civil rights. They should be celebrated, not hidden away. I wasn’t even aware of what the plans were, I have never seen what it would actually look like until now, no one from the centre consulted me on this. I had no idea the ramp would be built at the side of my house and I live next door to it.”
Another Glenfada Park resident, Susanna Toland, said she was horrified that the building was going ahead in it’s current form.
“The first time I saw what it would really look like was when I read it and saw the impression in the Journal,” she said. “I am so angry and so are many of the residents here. If there was a residents meeting with the museum management about this anytime recently we would have all certainly gone and voiced our concerns over the blocking of the mural.
“We all back the new museum but if they think they will be putting a big wall in front of a mural that means so much to this community they will find me and many of the other residents here in front of the bulldozers. I will camp out in front of it if needs be.”
Vincent Coyle, who’s Civil Rights activist father Vincent is featured in the mural, says the mural should be incorporated into the new building.
“I fully support the regeneration of the museum,” says Vincent, “But we should be honouring the Civil Rights activists, not blocking them out. Surely this mural could be incorporated into the museum and protected. It is a National Civil Rights Archive after all. The opinions of the local people should be taken into account.”
Bogside Artist Tom Kelly, who painted the mural 15 years before the Bloody Sunday Museum opened its doors, demanded to know who could justify blocking the mural.
Adrian Kerr from the Bloody Sunday Trust said despite claims to the contrary, he felt the residents of Glenfada Park had been properly consulted by the Museum.
“We went around Glenfada Park three times since 2010,” he said. “The latest visit being last night. When we announced the plans four years ago we held a public meeting in Pilots Row. The artist impressions of the new museum are on display here at the museum, the revised drawings have been in the press and are at the Planning Office. All the proper planning procedures have been carried out.
“We will talk with anyone. We are here and are very open. Whether it is too late or not is another matter. Changes now will incur massive expenses, we have spending deadlines to meet. This could jeopardise the entire project.
“At the end of the day we are putting a £2.2m investment into a deprived area, bringing in tourists benefitting local business, local B&Bs and shops. If anyone had issues I wish they had of come forward earlier.”
Mr Kerr confirmed that just one public meeting took place regarding the museum since 2010.