i may be back from Ireland, but never fear, dear readers, anecdotes are yet to come. and this time, with pictures! first up, Belfast.
murals became an opportunity to express political opinions, to vent frustration, and to honor those who died during The Troubles. they’re painted on the ends of buildings all along Falls Road (Republican), Shankill Road (Loyalist), and Sandy Row (Loyalist)
this first one, painted on the end of a row of houses that also hosts a Sinn Fein bookstore in Falls Road, honors the memory of Bobby Sands, an IRA activist and MP who died while on hunger strike in 1981. the protest arose from the end of Special Category Status–a policy wherein political prisoners were treated similar to those of war and not required to do certain chores or required to wear prison garb. ultimately, 10 people died while on hunger strike in 1981 and Thatcher was not moved.
this second photo, also along Falls Road, illustrates more contemporary political themes. whereas the murals in Derry are more artistic in nature (illustrating specific events and completed by artists), those in Belfast are more subject to change to address political issues, particularly those of disenfranchised or repressed peoples. the ones along this wall included one on Cuba, one on the Basque region in Spain, and a protest of racist treatment.
this final picture is as you enter Sandy Row, a unionist stronghold nearer the center of Belfast. (Shankill Road radiates west, Falls Road roughly southwest). it echos the mural in the Bogside proclaiming Free Derry (more on that to come).
finally, a mural from Shankill Road honoring members of the Ulster Volunteer Force. the hand in the middle (seen here in both red and gold) is the symbol of Ulster. you’ll often see flags depicting the red hand of Ulster on a white background with red cross as a symbol of unionist sentiments. all along Shankill Road this day, in addition to flags with the red hand of Ulster, there were Union Jack banners running between street lights.
there may be peace, but, as i mentioned in a previous post, that doesn’t mean that problems are solved or wounds are healed. there is still occassion to have the “peace wall”, which runs through the middle of neighborhoods along Falls Road and Shankill Road.
there may be a power-sharing government in the north, and the worst of the violence might be over, but the situation of the six counties is far from resolved. at the weekend there was rioting in East Belfast following a rally sponsored by Sinn Fein, but mostly it sounds like people are bored with it–drunk punks, basically. one of the people i’ve spoken with said that in previous times, whole families might go out to watch or participate in protests or rioting. definitely not so much any more.
part of the agreement of a few years back for power sharing is that eventually there will be a referendum held in both sets of counties (north and south) as to the question of unification. if the majority of both favor unification, then it’ll happen. right now, disposition in the north is such that a referendum held today wouldn’t result in unification. but, with the Protestant population holding steady or declining, and the Catholic population growing, it’s only a matter of time before things shift.