Murals in Northern Ireland

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Murals in Northern Ireland have become symbols of Northern Ireland, depicting the region's past and present political and religious divisions.

Northern Ireland contains arguably the most famous political murals. Almost 2,000 murals have been documented in Northern Ireland since the 1970s. The murals tend to represent one side's political point of view, or commemorate an event or person(s) involved in the history of Northern Ireland, particularly during the Troubles.[1]


Almost all Northern Ireland murals promote either republican or loyalist political beliefs, often glorifying paramilitary groups such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army, Ulster Freedom Fighters, and the Ulster Volunteer Force, while others commemorate people who have lost their lives in paramilitary or military attacks.[2]

Murals can be described as a mirror of political change, as they have been painted throughout the last century and display all important historic as well as political developments in the scope of unique wall paintings. In 1908 loyalists started to portray King Billy on a white horse in order to strenghten the orange identity of the Protestants in Northern Ireland. Republican wall-paintings started in the late 1970s and can be seen in particular as a visual display of a social movement, which was radicalized after the IRA took over again in the early 1970s to fight for greater political voice and a reunited Ireland. [3]

The most famous of the murals in Northern Ireland may well be Free Derry Corner, where the slogan "You Are Now Entering Free Derry" was painted in 1969, shortly after the Battle of the Bogside. However, some do not consider Free Derry Corner to be a true mural, as it consists only of words and not images. Free Derry Corner has been used as a model for other murals in Northern Ireland, including the "You Are Now Entering Loyalist Sandy Row" mural in Belfast, which was a response to the republican message of Free Derry Corner, and the "You Are Now Entering Derry Journal Country" mural, which is an advertisement for a Derry publication.

Not all murals in Northern Ireland are directly political or sectarian in nature, with some commemorating events such as the Great Irish Famine (1845–1849), and other moments in Irish history. Many portray events from Irish mythology, though images from Irish myths are often incorporated into political murals. A few murals avoid the subject of Ireland altogether, instead focusing on such neutral subjects as litter prevention and the C. S. Lewis novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Murals representing peace and tolerance are becoming increasingly popular with school groups who have children either design or actually paint murals in areas around their schools. Additionally, with many paramilitaries now involved in community work there has been a move to decommission many of the hard-edged murals across Northern Ireland.[4] This change was further highlighted in 2007, when the Bogside Artists were invited to Washington, D.C. for the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival. The three artists were invited to recreate murals in the Washington Mall.[5]


Nationalist and republican[edit]

Unionist and loyalist[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Maximilian Rapp: Murals in Ulster: Symbol kultureller Revolution im nordirischen Bürgerkrieg. In: KultuRRevolution Nr. 61/62 2012.
  2. ^ Maximilian Rapp and Markus Rhomberg: Seeking a Neutral Identity in Northern Ireland´s Political Wall Paintings. In: Peace review 24(4).
  3. ^ Maximilian Rapp and Markus Rhomberg: The importance of Murals during the Troubles: Analyzing the republican use of wall paintings in Northern Ireland. In: Machin, D. (Ed.) Visual Communication Reader. De Gruyter.
  4. ^ "Old masters change murals". BBC News. 31 May 2005. Retrieved 28 November 2008. 
  5. ^ Taggart, Maggie (22 June 2007). "Painting a New Image of NI". BBC News. Retrieved 28 November 2008. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • B. Rolston (1992). Drawing Support: Murals in the North of Ireland. Belfast. 
  • Oona Woods (1995). Seeing is Believing? Murals in Derry. Guildhall: Printing Press. ISBN 0-946451-31-1. 
  • B. Rolston (1995). Drawing Support 2: Murals of War and Peace. Belfast. 
  • B. Rolston (2003). Drawing Support 3: Murals and Transition in the North of Ireland. Belfast.