Political Murals and Traumatic Experience in Northern Ireland

by Bernhard Botz, Vienna

Two murals in Derry / Londonderry (2003)

Visual references to rioting events in 1969 (Battle of the Bogside)

Catholic Nationalist Republican

Protestant Unionist Loyalist

King William III (William Orange) in defeat over catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, Shankill Terrace, West Belfast (2003)

Union Jack alongside UFF / UDA paramilitary mural, Shankill Road, West Belfast (2003)

Republican / Nationalist protest murals

Rubber bullet protest mural, Whiterock Road, West Belfast (2003) Anti-Unionist marching mural, off Ormeau road, South Belfast (2005)

Republican Anti- Criminalization leaflet on garbage bin, Falls Road, West Belfast (2005)

Mural protesting Army raids: British soldier attempting to smash flatdoor with sledgehammer, Derry / Londonderry (2003)

Republican dirty protest (including blankets) in Long Kesh prison (Maze) in Belfast

H-Block structure of cell compounds in Long Kesh

Dirty Protest
Begona Aretxaga: dirty protest  “primordial symbols” designed to achieve “existential recognition” in a battle wherein “prison discipline, with their uniformity, the substitution of names for numbers and extreme forms of humiliation, constituted the ultimate form of erasure”
(Aretxaga in McEvoy 2001:89).

H-Block memorial incl. 10 dead IRA hungerstrikers, Falls Road, West Belfast (2003)

Republican mural in support for female and male prisoners in Armagh and Long Kesh, Derry / L.derry (2003)

Republican mural commemorating 1980 prison protests in Long Kesh and Armagh, Falls R., West Belfast  note the Jesus-like depiction of male prisoner.

Women‘s dirty protest 1
„This was not a mother’s suffering, which ultimately roused the emotions of nationalist people in support of the prisoners. Nor was this the suffering of young men prisoners whose image, naked and beaten, resembled that of Jesus Christ. Unintentionally, the women prisoners in Armagh brought to the fore a different kind of suffering, one systematically obscured in social life and cultural constructions and devalued in Catholic religion and nationalist ideologies: women’s suffering of which menstruation (the curse) is a sign and a symbol”
(Aretxaga 1997:141).

A recognition of the women‘s struggle within the Republican / Nationalist movement, Falls (2003)

Women‘s dirty protest 2
„The Armagh dirty protest sparked a process of cultural change. Unlike the transformation provoked by the women (mothers and wives), a change revolving around culturally hegemonic images of femininity, the political effects of the Armagh dirty protest were triggered by the symbolism of menstrual blood that tapped on an experience of femininity excluded from public discourse. Such transgression made manifest the shifting constructions of gender and sexual difference while simultaneously showing the dynamic work of symbols in political practice” (Aretxaga 1997:122/123).

Hunger Strike support along the Falls Road, West Belfast (2003)  note again the Jesus-like allusions in both images

Hunger Strikes 1
Allen Feldman: “The Blanketmen viewed the 1981 Hunger Strike as a military campaign and organized it as such. Thus, despite its surface similarity to the nonviolent and pacifist protests associated with Ghandi or Martin Luther King, the Hunger Strike in the H-Blocks was not a pacifist or religious action 

Hunger Strikes 2
 for the Blanketmen, the 1981 Hunger Strike involved none of the moral superiority or obligations of a turn away from violence. It was a prelude to violence. This was a result of both self-conscious ideological decisions and the performative, but equally ideological, conditioning by the violence inherent in the H-Block situation”
(Feldman 1991:220).

Civil Rights mural Derry / Londonderry (2003)

Ulster Young Militants mural, Shankill, West Belfast (2003)

UFF plate, Sandy Row, South Belfast (2005)

UVF mural, Shankill Road, West Belfast (2003)

Sinn Féin graffiti-like mural, Falls Road, West Belfast (2003)

“Cherish The Children“, Divis Street, West Belfast (2005)

“Sorry“ painted on asphalt road in Irish and British colours, Botanic Gardens,South Belfast (2005)

Thank You!

The End

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