Visual History 04 – Paramilitary Murals (1981-1982)

Introduction

The loyalist paramilitary group the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) was formed in 1966 and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) in 1971 (and it began using the cover name “Ulster Freedom Fighters” in May 1973). At first, loyalist murals generally employed symbols – especially the red hand of de Burgh/O’Neill and flags of the Union and of Northern Ireland. These are included in the list at the end of Visual History 1. A few loyalist paramilitary murals from the early 80s are mentioned and shown in Rolston 1991. These are listed at the end of this page; none of them appear in the Peter Moloney Collection. The total number of loyalist paramilitary murals from 1966 to 1982 appears to be approximately 20. Loyalist paramilitary murals appear in greater numbers in the mid- and particularly the late-1980s.

This page thus presents various republican paramilitary murals from 1981 and 1982, of which there are many.

The (republican) Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) was formed in 1969 and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in 1974. Some (not many) simple murals in support of these groups appeared from the dates of their foundings. Graffiti is somewhat more common, of slogans such as “IRA” and “Join your local slua”. As with murals of oppression and resistance, it is with the 1981 hunger strike that paramilitary murals are painted in great numbers.

As with the other themes (prison  protests, oppression & resistance) some of the work is writing only, some involve simple drawings (symbols or portraits), and some are sophisticated murals with depth of field.

Images

Frequent Imagery:
Paramilitary imagery: (anonymous and often masked by balaclavas or sunglasses and scarves) IRA and INLA volunteers, weapons (especially assault rifles but also RPG and even SAM), symbols of the organisations (including Starry Plough and Sunburst flags), memorials (including funeral volleys) to volunteers
The goal of the armed campaign is a united Ireland, and so we see the traditional symbols alongside military depictions: Tricolour, Celtic heroes, Celtic knotwork, Celtic crosses, harp, (occasionally) shamrock
The history of previous struggles are the 1798 and 1803 Rebellions and the 1916 Rising, from which come the following images: the pike, the emblem of the United Irishmen, Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet, Starry Plough, Sunburst, Pearse, Connolly, GPO.
The phoenix, a symbol of the Provisional IRA, makes its first (known) appearance in 1981.

“The Provos (Provisional IRA) are the people, the people are the Provos”. (Whiterock Road)(1981 M00007)

“This is Provo land – éiríodh muíd [sic] arís [let us rise again]” (Odessa Street)
(1981 M00018)

“If you think that can beat us we’d like to tell [you] that you are wrong cause we’re the fighters and we are strong we are the 1st Batt. of the Cuman Na gCailini girls!” Cumann na gCailíní is the junior division of Cumann na mBan, the women’s brigade. (Frederick Street, Derry)

(1981 M00051)

“An réabhlóid abú” (Up the revolution!) (Bishop Street, Derry)
(1981 M00112)

A message for British soldiers: “Your name is engraved on the freedom-fighter’s bullet!” (Lenadoon Avenue)
(1981 M00132)

This image of an open-throated (but anonymous) volunteer with assault rifle would subsquently be painted many times, as would the slogan of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton: “They may kill the revolutionary, but never the revolution.” As always, the Tricolour is on a (1798) pike. (Rockdale Street)

(1981 M00118)

“Violence is the voice of an oppressed people” – Martin Luther King is used to justify armed rebellion. What King actually wrote is “I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government.” Beyond Vietnam (Gransha Avenue)

(1981 M00216)

“Political power stems from the barrel of a gun”, the gun being an AR-18 or AK-47 assault rifle. (Turf Lodge)(1981 M00043)

“God made the Catholics and the armalite made us equal. IRA.” on the walls of Derry, as viewed from the front of Rossville flats. With FTQ, IRA, INLA, UTP, and “Bobby Sands MP” graffiti below.

(1982 M00033)

Three IRA volunteers with various weapons, copied from a photograph – click the reference link below the image to see the photograph. (Shaws Road)
 (1981 M00114)

Incident at Narrow Water. The Narrow Water mural might be unique in depicting a specific IRA operation and as such is perhaps a high-water mark in terms of militarism in a mural (there is some very explicit, gloating graffiti – M00047 M00312 M00400 M00298 M00322 M00328), though even here the guns don’t aim at anything or anyone, and the site of the activity is in the distance, not close enough to allow us to see the victims. (Rockville Street)(1981 M00106)

The Last Post. Republican heroes from after the Easter Rising to the Civil War. This is the earliest ‘roll of honour’ mural that we know of. Just below that is the first roll of honour mural for IRA members of the 1970s. (Falls Road)

(1981 M00149)

Derry Brigade roll of honour, descendants of Cú Chulainn. The last two names – George McBrearty and Charles Maguire – are of volunteers killed in 1981. (Rossville Street, Derry)

(1982 M00174)

The oldest continuously surviving (unpainted) mural is this one in Derry’s Brandywell, with a mix of traditional and paramilitary symbols. For other record-holders, see the page of “oldest” murals.
(1982 M00192)

This mural dates the origin of the IRA (Óglaigh na hÉireann) to the army of the revolutionary Dáil and the War Of Independence. The “1919” on the left would later be changed to “1916”, evoking the Easter Rising instead. (Islandbawn Street)(1982 M00202)

PLO-IRA. PLO = Palestine Liberation Organization. Ariel Sharon became Israeli Minister of defence in 1981 and in 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon. Note that “RPG Avenue” is on this side of the street (Beechmount Avenue); it is gone by 1986’s ANC mural.

(1982 M00587)

This the first (known) mural expressing solidarity with another national struggle; there is a separate page giving the murals of International Solidarity.

On to Visual History 05 – 1983-1987 …

Appendix
Loyalist Paramilitary Murals c. 1981 – mentioned/presented in Rolston 1991
1981 Waterside masked loyalist (p. 41)
1982 Lecale St “VAS” red hand (p. 32)
1983 Inverna St “RSD” red hand (p. 36)
1983 Donemana toilets UVF (p. 38 or plate 10 in Rolston 1992)
und Fountain RHC vol in sunglasses and UDA emblem (p. 33)
und Woodvale volunteer bust (p. 41)
und Woodvale UDA/UVF/YCV (p. 41)

 

This material copyright © Extramural Activity 2017-2019

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