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Republican graves groups in dispute

(Darran McCann, Irish News)

A dispute has arisen between two groups which are dedicated to maintaining republican graves.

The National Graves Association (NGA), based in Dublin, has disassociated itself from renovation work carried out at Belfast's Milltown Cemetery.

The republican memorial was unveiled on Sunday under the auspices of the National Graves Association, Belfast.

However the Dublin-based National Graves Association has said the memorial has nothing to do with them and that the Belfast association should not style itself as 'national'.

"We are the National Graves Association, we were founded in 1926," Matt Doyle, secretary of the Dublin-based NGA, said.

"There is no Belfast National Graves Association.

"We have representation in all 32 counties and when you think about it, the name Belfast National Graves Association is a contradiction in terms," he said.

He said all the regional branches had been disbanded in 1988 and affiliation to political parties had ceased following the 1986 split in Sinn Féin.

"We're not distancing ourselves, it's just that (the Milltown memorial) has nothing to do with us," he said.

Mr Doyle said the Belfast association did "tremendous work" which he endorsed and welcomed.

However Liam Shannon of the Belfast-based NGA disputed Mr Doyle's assertion.

"We are the National Graves Association in the Belfast area. We look after the graves and memorials in Belfast, they look after the graves in Dublin," he said.

"(The NGA) is a national organisation in name only really.

"We would network together with the NGA in Tyrone, the NGA in Derry and so on.

"We have assisted the National Graves Association in Dublin in the past, including financially," he said.

Mr Shannon said the Belfast NGA was a charitable organisation.

December 26, 2003

This article appeared first in the December 11, 2003 edition of the Irish News.

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