Murals of Irish history
By Mikailah Shealer
Ireland is a beautiful country with an ugly history. From the moment the Great Famine started, to being colonized by Britain in the 1500’s, to the Troubles in the later 1900’s, to the present day, Ireland has been an example of how to properly ruin a stable society by pitting members against each other. The Troubles were so troubling because Britain had gained so much control that Protestants in the north were at war with the Catholics in the south. Colonization extinguished native culture and drove Ireland into a special kind of chaos.
Like in any traumatic period, expressions of protest/recovery for Ireland came in the form of art. Dublin, Belfast, Derry, and Limerick were affected the most, and as a result, the most controversial, honest, provoking art are displayed as murals scattered among their streets. Some are more graphic than others, like the display in Derry that is monochrome; that is, until your eyes rest on the red bloodstains that paint an otherwise white banner titled CIVIL RIGHTS ASSOCIATION, and then glide to the foot on an armed soldier that covers the “v”.
Even better examples are painted words such as:
YOU ARE NOW ENTERING LOYALIST SANDY ROW HEARTLAND OF SOUTH BELFAST ULSTER – FREEDOM FIGHTERS
COLLUSION IS NOT AN ILLUSION … IT IS STATE MURDER
IRELAND A NATION IRISH AND FREE … IRELAND UNFREE SHALL NEVER BE AT PEACE
It’s clear that there is a long history of conflict in Ireland. So these murals give rise to the question: should they be “taken down” because they resemble controversial times? The past is the past and we’re always told to look toward the future, especially when things haven’t been very good so far. Is it appropriate to keep these murals displayed? I mean, children walk by these with their parents and see men with guns and people screaming and bloody banners. The people of Ireland don’t even acknowledge that any of it happened because it was so intense. So they should be destroyed, right?
Art is meant to evoke extreme emotion. It’s meant to be controversial and address issues in a way that forces an understanding of the artist. In other words, art is a bridge in every sense – physical, emotional, psychological – because creation demands that you be vulnerable and open to possibilities. It also can act as a reminder of the past from multiple perspectives: Northern Ireland oppressed and abused the south, and Southern Ireland massacred the north. The wrongdoings of one doesn’t make the other’s actions any better, but the visual display of history is a way to remember those wrongdoings with the incentive to grow and learn from the trauma and immorality.
So, there are pros: communal development and unity, and cons: a bad aftertaste, tension, controversy. Not that my opinion will determine anything about this subject, but I believe that the presence of these murals is essential. Hypothetically speaking, if I were part of a society/community that was shattered by a manipulative, corrupt power I would want a reminder of what not to do in order to achieve peace. Killing people by denying them food, water, shelter, a stable income, a role in the world, destroying their spirituality, stripping them of identity, disrupting their way of life, and depriving them of any escape are some things to avoid. But again, that’s just my opinion.