James Connolly statue unveiled in honour of 1916 Easter Rising leader
Published 25/03/2016 | 17:48
A great grandson of 1916 leader James Connolly has unveiled a statue in the republican icon's "spiritual home" of Belfast.
James Connolly Heron said it was an honour and a privilege to attend the event on the Falls Road in the west of the city.
Addressing a crowd of hundreds, he said: "I feel in some ways that I have come home.
"This is west Belfast and the Falls Road is very much the spiritual home of James Connolly.
"He had many homes. He was a son of Edinburgh; he was a son of New York; he was a son of Dublin and a very proud son of Belfast.
"His family forged their politics in and around this area."
The life-size bronze sculpture, which weighs 200 kilograms, was designed by artist Steve Feeny and is located on the Falls in the west of the city.
It was funded by Belfast City Council and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
Sinn Fein councillor Jim McVeigh, a member of the James Connolly Society, said it was an "exciting day".
He said: "This is the best place for James Connolly, in the place where he lived and among the people whom he fought for."
Culture Minister Caral ni Chuilin was also at the unveiling.
She described Connolly as one of the greatest ever leaders and revealed that his photograph had taken pride of place in the home where she grew up alongside a picture of the Sacred Heart and US President John F Kennedy.
Connolly was born in Edinburgh to Irish parents, rose to prominence during the Dublin lockout of 1913 as general secretary of Irish Transport and General Workers Union and commander of Irish Citizen Army (ICA), which was set up to defend workers from police brutality.
He had close ties with Belfast and lived at Glenalina Terrace close to the Falls Road for a number of years from 1911.
He has been hailed as one of the most influential and effective leaders of the rebellion and on Easter Monday, April 24 1916 led more than 220 ICA members to the General Post Office from where he commanded military operations.
He was executed by firing squad at Kilmainham Gaol in May 1916.
It is hoped the new artwork will attract more tourists into west Belfast.