The conflict ground on.
A fourteen-day period in March, 1988, saw the Gibraltar killings of three IRA volunteers by the SAS, three more deaths in a loyalist attack on their funeral, and, at the funeral of one of those three, the capture and execution of two off-duty British Army soldiers.
The political stalemate continued. Unionists continued to “say No”; Sinn Féin continued to make modest gains at the polls despite a broadcasting ban introduced in October 1988, considered “censorship” by republicans.
This page covers murals from 1988 to 1993. Loyalist murals become more prevalent in the late 1980s. Although King Billy remains a frequent subject, they become increasingly dominated by paramilitary murals. Bill Rolston (2017) states, “In the mid-1980s the Loyalist commanders took over control of the walls in their respective areas … Not surprisingly, these commanders were happiest with murals which were advertisements for their organisations.” These are joined by murals of “blood and thunder” marching bands. In addition, individual deceased members of the UVF and UDA were portrayed. Besides these, anticipation of Home Rule in the form of the Ulster Covenant and the formation of the Ulster Volunteers, both in 1912, receive some attention (but not yet to any great extent the 36th (Ulster) Brigade or the Battle Of The Somme) and a few murals were painted for the 300th anniversary of the Battle Of The Boyne in 1990.
Republican muraling continued to mix paramilitary, historical, and issues-oriented murals, as well as including international struggles (for these, see the separate page International Solidarity) and some electoral murals (which also has a separate page). On the historical front, 1991 was the 75th anniversary of the 1916 Rising and the tenth anniversary of the hunger strikes. One issue that received a fair amount of attention was the plight of republican prisoners held in other jurisdictions, particularly the extradition of Dessie Ellis from the Republic Of Ireland. To these familiar categories, cultural murals began to be added, depicting sports, music and dance (the latter two becoming less frequent in subsequent years).
The imagery remains largely the same as listed on previous pages, with the addition of drummers from flute bands, and of Gaelic games and dancing.
“Welcome To Beirut”, that is, west Belfast, with a list of international organisations fighting for self-determination: the IRA from Ireland/UK, the PLO in Palestine/Israel, ETA in the Basque country/Spain/France, and the ANC in South Africa. The other main independence movement which played out nightly on our TVs during the 80s was the Solidarity movement in Gdansk, Poland, but this was not an armed conflict. Belfast and Derry never looked as bad as Beirut, as the British did not employ artillery or aerial bombardments but some areas, such as Ballymurphy, looked quite devastated, with many houses left uninhabitable due to the damage caused by raids, gunfire, and neglect.
“The Bog” is the Bogside, Derry, the formerly marshy area to the west of the river Foyle and the walled city of Derry which became a Catholic enclave. “The bog” is also slang for the toilet. Free Derry Corner is about a block to the right of frame.
The war and its weapons were still popular themes. In this mural, the weapons of the IRA include assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and drogue bombs.
(1989 dating to 1988 M00753)
Weapons of loyalist paramilitaries: pistols, assault rifles, …
… and Uzis.
“Deserted – Well, I can stand alone.” This image, of a farmer’s wife protecting Protestant territory from Home Rule while he husband is off at war, replicates a postcard from the period. Loyalists in Ireland were fighting for Britain abroad while facing the prospect of being abandoned (and potentially subdued) by it at home. The appearance of this mural might have been prompted by the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement which was negotiated without unionist input and which gave the Republic a say in Northern Irish affairs, thus rekindling fears of abandonment.
Ulster was still saying “no” to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. In this mural, the Republic Of Ireland – which rarely appears in loyalist murals – is smashed by the red fist of loyalist paramilitaries.
Even the (Catholic) Pope, waving a scarf in the style of a football fan supporting his team on the terraces, says “No”. (Ian Paisley was not so blasé – he heckled the Pope at the European Parliament in October, 1988 (BBC). John Paul II was indeed a football fan – he had been a goalkeeper in his youth – but apparently supported Cracovia (Krakow), Liverpool, and the Polish national team rather than ‘Ulster’ (WP).)
Still saying “no” in 1993. “We will never accept a united Ireland.”
On March 6th, 1988, the SAS killed three IRA volunteers (Mairéad Farrell, Sean Savage, and Dan McCann) in Gibraltar. Their bodies were returned to Belfast for burial. The funeral cortège proceeded down the Falls Road towards Milltown Cemetery past a quickly-painted mural (with writing on boards) depicting Yann Goulet’s statue at Ballyseedy, Kerry, a memorial to eight anti-Treaty prisoners tied to landmine and then machine-gunned by the Free State Army in 1923.
“Remember the Gibraltar martyrs” in Unity Place, Belfast.
(1990 dating to 1989 M00896)
As the third coffin was being lowered into the ground, UDA member Michael Stone attacked the funeral with a pistol and hand-grenades, killing three people and wounding 60 more. He was pursued and captured by members of the crowd, but rescued by the RUC. Stone was lauded by loyalists as a hero.
This graffiti gives football scores for lethal actions against the Provisional IRA.
Stone at the centre of an Ulster Banner: “Ulster’s freelance loyalist paramilitary” refers to the fact that Stone’s attack had not been officially sanctioned by UDA command.
One of those killed by Stone in Milltown was an IRA volunteer, Kevin Brady. At his funeral, three days later on March 19th, two British Army corporals, Derek Wood and David Howes, inexplicably drove their unmarked car into the funeral procession; they were surrounded by the crowd and subsequently taken away by the IRA and executed. The mural below appears to be the only piece of painting or graffiti in their memory.
“Kick the Pope” or “blood and thunder” is a style of marching band. The drumming is so loud as to be thunderous and so vigorous as to cause the drummer’s hands to bleed. The loudness and energy of these bands made them attractive to younger people in contrast with the more sedate bands then existing. in the level were (and are) parading bands usually consisting only of flutes/fifes and drums (rather than more expensive and difficult to play instruments such as brass), formed in response to the Troubles, with young, working class, males as members, distinct from Orange Order bands, and separate from, though sometimes associated with, local paramilitary units.
Here are two from the East Belfast Protestant Boys:
And one from Tigers Bay First Flute, in north Belfast. “M. Bacon” is perhaps UDA member Mark Bacon, killed by IRA stabbing in July 1986.
See also: 1992 Roden Street Defenders DS2 034
Dozens of murals appeared in Ballycolman estate, Strabane. Here are just a few of them:
IRA volunteers spying an out-of-frame target.
20 Years Of Resistance, 1969-1989
“Armed struggle, 1916-1989”
(1990 dating to 1989 M00862)
“Peace” is included in this Sinn Féin mural. (See also the “Freedom, justice, peace” mural in Belfast on the previous page).
At the same time, however, there is also a “lark of war”. Note that the barbed wire, symbolising republican political prisoners in combination with the lark or a fist, is missing. This lark is in free flight and pretty pissed off, by the looks of it. The cessation of violence is still a few years away.
Because of its close association with the IRA, Sinn Féin as a political party was denied representation on television and radio, despite its increasing success at the polls. The Broadcasting Ban was put in place in 1988; it would lasted until after the (first) ceasefire in 1994. (In the Republic Of Ireland, RTÉ had enforced a ban since 1968.) This was understood by republicans as political censorship and disenfranchisement.
“Britain ignores the force of argument [but employs the argument of force]” in Springhill, Belfast.
(1989 dating to 1987? M00748)
As with the Sinn Féin mural in Strabane (above), the dove emerging from the mouth of the tricoloured head suggests that Sinn Féin is an avenue to peace talks.
(1989 M00743) (See also M00694/M00695 for a censorship mural in Strabane.)
The ‘Stalker’ inquiry ran from 1984 to 1986, investigating alleged “shoot to kill” incidents in 1982. John Stalker was removed from the inquiry shortly before it was concluded and the report was not published, but Stalker published a book in 1988. Various legal cases surrounding the alleged policy continued, including a successful appeal to the European Court Of Human Rights concluding in 2001 (Guardian).
From 1976 onward, the British prison system treated paramilitaries (both loyalists and republicans) as criminal rather than political prisoners, including the mixing of both groups. Both sides wanted political status, including segregation from the other side. As this 1984 prison report (available at CAIN) illustrates, the struggle over segregation in the Maze went through various stages during the 1980s, both during the blanket protest and after it ended. In Crumlin Road, Prisoners in the Crum had segregated cells but not segregated wings. (Allyson Collins Prison Conditions In The United Kingdom p. 35.)
“Loyalists demand separation now”. (Hawkin Street, Londonderry)
With crucial parentheses for clarification!
Republican prisoners in other counties resisted being returned to the UK, where it was perceived they would not receive a fair trail.
The most famous case was that of Dessie Ellis, who went on hunger strike in October 1990 in protest against the threat of extradition from the Republic to the North. This mural was on the Whiterock Road, Belfast.
Here is a 1989 image of the Rockland Street King Billy, featured previously. The mural was apparently repainted with symbols on the sides, but these were later painted over, as in this image. The damage from 1974 has been painted over but is still detectable on the right.
[A tentative and partial history of the mural is: painted ~1932, …, repainted 1969, repainted before 1984 with symbols (see Rolston 1991 plates), symbols removed by 1989.]
(1989 M00710 – image by Alan Gallery)
This and the next image are side-by-side in City Walk/Linfield Avenue in south Belfast. the first is a cartoon-like King Billy, the second celebrates the 300th anniversary of the Siege Of Derry and the Battle Of The Boyne, 1960-1990.
Although paramilitary murals are often accompanied by references to 1690, this is the only mural (as far as we know) putting Williamite soldiers and modern paramilitaries in parallel. It too was painted for the 300th anniversary of the Battle Of The Boyne.
The 36th (Ulster) Division and the Battle Of The Somme would become the dominant theme of loyalist murals after the peace and during the re-imaging campaigns. In this period, however, there are still very few references to it. YCV is the Young Citizen Volunteers, a 1912 civic organisation which merged with the Ulster Volunteers in 1914.
Here are some republican murals with traditional themes.
First, one with traditional symbols such as harp and phoenix, but also (inexplicably) the insignia of the SAS.
The 1916 Easter Rising, with Easter lily and on the right a stand of and halberds/pikes and an armalite, indicating the past and present of the 1916 revolt. For the postcard on which the main figure is based, see this Extramural post.
1991 was the 75th anniversary of the Rising. As just above, pikes serve as a background to both 1916 and the present struggle.
(1993 dating to 1991 M01067)
A Robert Ballagh print (full title ‘1916 Rising 75th Anniversary, The Provisional Government’) is reproduced in large scale on the Whiterock Road by Mo Chara Kelly.
(1993 dating to 1991 M01065)
The mural above shows the principal agents of the 1916 rebellion. Republican dead from many eras, especially 1798, 1916, and 1981, are portrayed in murals. Portraits – as opposed to names (M00559) – of specific deceased loyalists perhaps begin with the Brian Robinson mural below. Robinson was summarily shot by the after killing a Catholic civilian, Paddy McKenna, on the Crumlin Road. (Disraeli Street, Belfast)
Other loyalists portrayed in murals would later include Trevor King 1994; John McMichael 1995 named only; Stevie McCrea ~1997; Billy Wright 2000, Bucky McCullough ~2000; Stevie McKeag 2000; Sam Rockett 2000; Duke Elliott 2001; Robert Dougan 2002; John McMichael 2002; Wadsworth/McIntyre/McGregor/Chapman/Hannah 2002; Cecil McKnight 2003; Denver Smith 2003; Lindsay Mooney 2004; Jackie Coulter ~2005; Craig/Crawford/Seymour/Long 2006; John Hanna ~2008
Also people like George Seawright (see just below), Robert Bradford named but no portrait 2001, David Ervine.
Firebrand politician and lay preacher George Seawright was ostracised by both UUP and DUP and split from the Free Presbyterian Church after incendiary comments about Catholics. He was imprisoned for attacking NI Secretary Tom King. He was shot by the IPLO in November 1987.
(2001 dating to 1993 M02492)
These two early examples of murals displaying Gaelic culture were both in Ardoyne. Many more on this theme would follow in later years.
The first shows a Gaelic footballer and camogie player. (Camogie is the women’s equivalent of hurling.)
Other murals of note …
Female figures (on the outside) serving as symbols of nationhood, with the fighting actually done by the men (in the middle). Above, a red hand flashes the ‘V for victory’ symbol while stomping on a Tricolour.
(1989 M00621. For more stomping on the Tricolour, see 1993 M01031.)
Unusual replacement of the middle of the UVF emblem with a hooded gunman.
First Sands mural in Sevastopol Street. A Sands mural exists on this wall to the present day.
The UVF can find a historical predecessor in the Ulster Volunteers of 1912; the UDA’s origin myth is the B-Specials and UDR …
… or going even further back, Cuchulainn. Cú Chulainn is traditionally a symbol (for republicans) of the 1916 Rising – rebel leader Patrick Pearse was inspired by Cú Chulainn and an Oliver Sheppard statue of Cú Chulainn dying was placed in the Dublin GPO as a commemoration in 1935. (For the statue’s use in a mural, see e.g. 1989 M00750). Sheppard was drawing on the story of Cuchulainn’s death, single-handedly taking on an entire army; loyalists went further in noting that the months of single-combat fights he fought were against the soldiers of Medb of Connacht, sent north to steal a bull, together with the claim by Ian Adamson (e.g. The Identity Of Ulster 1982) that Cuchulainn was of the Pictish or Cruthin race, which pre-dates the Gaels.
(1992 M00959) (There were other Cuchulainn murals in Lincoln Ct, Londonderry and off Island Street (east Belfast).)
On to Visual History 07 – Ceasefire …
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