Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Belfast Murals

Murals in Northern Ireland have become symbols of this area. They characterize the region's political and religious divisions from the past to present day. In Belfast, on Falls Road, Shankill Road and Sandy Row there are numerous murals depicting these divisions. The Emerald Isle is comprised of Northern Ireland, also called Ulster, and the Independent Republic of Ireland. This entire island was once ruled by Britain, Protestants, but the Irish, mainly Catholics, didn't assimilate according to plan and with the religious differences came the deep-rooted 'troubles' and cultural divide.

There is no doubt the Catholics rule in the Republic of Ireland but Northern Ireland is still Protestant-dominated even with over the third of the population being Catholics.  The Protestants applied policies that the Catholics considered tough which escalated tensions and led to 'The Troubles' in the late 1960's. While progress has been made you can still see the divide between these cultures in the neighborhoods. We did hear from several locals that this is not Protestants fighting against Catholics but extremist loyalists who are Protestants fighting against extremist Republicans who happen to be Catholics. It is these extremists who are content in living in secreted communities and   continue to instigate troubles in Northern Ireland.

On Falls Road, one of the most visited murals is the dedication to the republican hunger striker Bobby Sands.  In 1981, She, along with 9 others, starved themselves to death while imprisoned in Prison Maze. They were protesting for political prisoner status as opposed to terrorist treatment. Prison Maze, located in Northern Ireland, used to house paramilitary prisoners during the Troubles from mid-1971 to mid-2000.
More murals around Falls Road area.
Mural expressing the desire to break down the barriers between the divided communities.
This is the Clonard Martyrs Memorial Garden.  On August 15, 1969 Bombay Street was completely destroyed and 15 year old Fian Gerard McAuley died of gunshot wounds by loyalists (B Specials, RUC and armed loyalists) while defending the Clonard area. The Clonard and Falls area were under heavy gunfire and many Catholic homes were burned.
A dreary wall separates the Catholics of Falls Road from the Protestant Loyalists in the Shankill Road neighborhood. It is called the Peace Line because without it there would be no peace.
This a gate connects the two neighborhoods that was closed for 30 years but through progress, the gate is now open.
Mural dedicated to crossing the Peace Line.
Welcome sign as you enter Shankill Road Quarter.
Two murals dedicated to the Titanic that was built in Belfast.
UVF, formed in 1966, as an illegal loyalist paramilitary organization dedicated to keeping ties with the United Kingdom. Throughout their history, they have been tied to bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and hijacks usually targeting Catholic civilans.
This mural is in Sandy Row, a Protestant working-class community.
It is pretty amazing how much turmoil has taken place over the last 30+ years in Northern Ireland with bombings, fires and numerous killings. Even though there is still a divide, and probably always will be, I am happy to see that the area is moving in the right direction and finding peace. 
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