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Pressure grows for Northern Ireland murals to be scrubbed out

By Adrian Rutherford

The writing could be on the wall for Northern Ireland’s world famous murals after politicians said it could be time to have them whitewashed.

As the Belfast Telegraph revealed yesterday there appears to be growing support for the landmark paintings and drawings to be replaced by non-political messages.

SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley, who sits on the culture, arts and leisure committee at Stormont, said many murals were displayed without community support.

“I think it’s time we removed all aspects of paramilitarism from society, and that includes murals,” he said.

“Many of these murals were foisted on communities whether they wanted them or liked them, and do not reflect the views of local people. While there may be some artistic merit in them, it’s time that these areas were unbranded and the murals removed.”

Mr Bradley believes they should be replaced with non-political images reflecting Northern Ireland’s culture.

UUP MLA Ken Robinson, who also sits on the committee, said the murals’ relevance had declined in recent years.

“We are seeing these murals phased out and I think it represents the times we live in,” he said. “Soon there will be no place for them other than as a historical record. However, you have to remember that 30 years of our history is encapsulated in some of these murals, regardless of what you think about the content.”

Last summer the Lower Shankill Community Association was involved in a project to replace 10 paramilitary murals with new images of culture and heritage. The Association’s Ian McLaughlin said there had been a positive feedback from the community.

He said: “It was a community-driven initiative and among the replacement murals were boxers from a bygone era and an A to Z of the greater Shankill area. None of the new murals have been damaged or attacked.”

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