Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

The politics still make their mark as stars ride in

Blessing: Pope Francis

Belfast rolled out the pink carpet to give the Giro d'Italia a warm, united welcome.

However, some republican activists tried to hijack the occasion by creating a massive political message in Italian on the hills overlooking the city.

'Fine Dominio Britannico' was daubed on Black Mountain.

The message – which translates as 'End British rule' – sounded a solitary discordant note when it appeared yesterday, jarring for some the message of unity being sent out by Belfast.

Even First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness appeared in a smiley 'selfie' together, as they put their current disputes behind them – temporarily, at least.

This is the latest in a series of political messages to be propogated on the mountainside.

Last week Time For Truth appeared just hours after Secretary of State Theresa Villiers announced that there would be no review for the families of the victims of the Ballymurphy massacre, in which 11 civilians died at the hands of the British Army.

A week before that the message One Ireland One Vote was put up on the mountain by dissident republican group the 1916 Societies, calling for an all-Ireland referendum on the border. In previous years the mountain has been used for political messages during visits to the city by the Queen and former US President George W Bush.

Meanwhile, the famous pink jersey that every Giro rider has their eye on has been blessed by Pope Francis.

The pedalling pontiff lent his support to the famous race as part of a Giro tradition which dates back to 1946.

Pope Francis has a passion for cycling – as a child in Buenos Aires he was signed up with the San Lorenzo de Almagro team.

There are four jersies up for grabs during the Giro d'Italia, ranging from white for the top youth entrant, red for the top sprinter, blue for the top hill climber and pink for the leader of the race. The pink top, known as the Maglia Rosa, is the most sought-after. It will be presented to the overall winner in Italy.

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