Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

'The Citizen' painting to take centre stage at the Tate modern

The citizen 1981-3, by Richard Hamilton

A painting of a Short Strand republican is to take centre stage at the Tate Modern in London next year.

'The Citizen'  is based on an image taken during the Maze H-Block's 'dirty' or 'blanket' protests after the British government deprived republican prisoners of 'special category status'.

During the protests, prisoners refused to wear prison uniforms, wash or shave and smeared faeces on their cell walls.

The subject of the painting, Aodh O Ruanai (Hugh Rooney) was pictured originally beside fellow inmate Freddie Toal, from Co Armagh.

According to a report in the Irish News, iconic artist Richard Hamilton chose to paint Hugh Rooney after seeing a 1980 documentary about the protests.

He said in a 1983 interview: "An oft-declared British view of the IRA as thugs and hooligans did not match the materialisation of Christian martyrdom so profoundly contained on film."

Mr Rooney was jailed for 12 years on January 20, 1977, for causing an explosion at Devon's paint shop on the Albertbridge Road on July 23, 1976, and for possessing explosives with intent.

Crown counsel at the time said that Rooney, who failed to recognise the court, had picked up a car in the Short Strand, driven to another street, picked up two men carrying a bomb, and then driven them to the shop and waited for them while they planted it. He was just 19 years old at the time and the trial judge said it wasn't a pleasant task sentencing such a young man to a lengthy prison sentence, but that he was sure Rooney had thought about that "before setting out".

'The Citizen' has been removed from London's Tate Britain for renovation but will return next week and be moved to the Tate Modern next year as part of an exhibition of Hamilton's work.

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