Belfast loyalist district to unveil St Patrick mural
A mural of St Patrick is to be unveiled in a loyalist area of south Belfast this week as part of a project to replace paramilitary street art.
Painter and sculptor Ross Wilson hopes his latest mural in the Village will help overcome misconceptions about the Patron Saint of Ireland.
Ross' previous mural commissions include the Ship of Dreams image, dedicated to the Titanic and Belfast's shipbuilding legacy, as well as King Billy.
The painter has long been involved with image transformation in Belfast as part of a project to remove sectarian imagery. He said his latest design will look at "the real Patrick".
"Patrick came into a system in Ireland that didn't even have Christianity," he told The Sunday Times. "He was an outsider. Within 200 years his legacy had converted Ireland to Christianity without violence.
"A lot of communities steer away from Patrick because he has been turned into a 'green' bishop who drinks beer.
"This is a radical project, looking at the real Patrick as opposed to the sort of Walt Disney version. It's looking at Patrick within a loyalist, working-class community."
Angela Johnston from the Greater Village Regeneration Trust said some residents took a while to convince.
"Every time I went to meet children from schools and youth clubs, they said: 'I didn't realise St Patrick's Cross was in the Union Jack', or 'I didn't realise St Patrick was part of our culture'," she said.
The artwork will be unveiled on Tate's Avenue on Thursday, while the permanent installation will be erected on a 12ft by 8ft aluminium panel, alongside another featuring local children's interpretations of the saint. A third panel will explain why the Red Hand of Ulster is a symbol of both loyalist and nationalist cultures.
Over the last 10 years the Arts Council has pumped some £6m into re-imaging paramilitary and sectarian murals in Belfast.
In 2012 the artist was involved in a Sandy Row mural that featured King William III when he won his most famous battle on the banks of the River Boyne. The £60,000 mural - which replaced a notorious depiction of a UFF gunman - is a tribute to William of Orange, who passed through the Belfast area on his way to the Boyne.