Belfast Telegraph

Bogside mural should have a disclaimer or be painted over, says UUP MLA

By Leona O'Neill

Bogside mural the Petrol Bomber should "come with a disclaimer", Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie said yesterday.

He claimed republicans had "produced a generation of young people replicating the violence of the past because it has been glamourised".

He was speaking after a week of violence in the area which saw over 150 petrol bombs thrown at police officers and into the Protestant Fountain estate.

Mr Beattie, a former officer in the Royal Irish Regiment, said that mixed messages such as celebrating murals and holding commemorations for dead IRA men, while on the other hand condemning street disorder was confusing for young people.

He said: "I can understand, although I oppose, any glorification and why people do what they do with certain images. If you look at that huge mural of the young boy with the petrol bomb in his hand, that is glamourising exactly what we have been saying is awful for those six days of rioting.

"The youth of today see those glamourised images and is it any wonder they then try to emulate what those images are depicting, because people say 'look at this, look at what we did during the Battle of the Bogside'.

"And now these kids are saying that they can be immortalised too if they do something similar.

"I think it's very confusing for young people."

Mr Beattie said that he could understand why people would keep the mural for what they would class as historical reasons, but "the reality is that we can't glamourise violence of any shape or form".

He said: "Anything that does glamourise it in any triumphalist way, we have to stop that.

"Do we paint over it? That is a difficult question.

"For me as a unionist, the very easy answer would be yes.

"But the reality is that I know how important it is for people.

"So you wonder how you can put a message out and nearly put a message below it stating please don't do this, a disclaimer of sorts. You certainly need to do something."

In response, The Bogside Artists, who painted the Petrol Bomber, said the work was nothing more than "art".

"The Petrol Bomber mural is one of 12 murals known the world over as The People's Gallery," it said.

"It is a narrative, a human document so to speak. They tell a historic story - nothing more nothing less.

"They are not propaganda,sectarian or tribal markings, they are art."

Meanwhile Bishop Donal McKeown has offered to meet young people in the Bogside to find a way forward ahead of next month's Apprentice Boys of Derry march and August 15 Bogside bonfire.

He said people have to be careful about the story of the past so as to "not make young people a prisoner of it".

"I'm very conscious that the story we tell about the past, whether it's our personal past or the past of our city, inevitably is a context for us to imagine the future," he said.

"And if we glorify elements of the past then there is always a danger that we tell the next generation that is the way to solve problems."

Bishop McKeown said we "must not demonise young people", but deal with core issues.

"What we do know, from life in the city here, is that we have too many young people who are dying prematurely for all sorts of reasons.

"There are high levels of addiction. I am not using anything as an excuse for anything, but what I am saying is that clearly there is a huge disease among very many young people."

He said that last week's violence was "a manifestation of a greater malaise".

"We have too many young people leaving school with no desire for qualifications, they have no expectations about success for the future, with no role models to look up to other than a footballer or someone who wins the lottery.

"We have to ask ourselves as adults what are we doing wrong that it is poisoning our young people?

"If we are prepared to accept a failing sub-section of our community and just label them as hoodlums, then they will simply act in the way that we have described them as being.

"They will see themselves as being rubbish.

"They will expect little of themselves and some of them will have grown up in violent, unstable and fragmented environments, in places where addiction has been prominent and they are simply a product of that."

The bishop said he accepted many of the young people would not want to engage with him, but he wanted to "open the door".

"If they want to meet me or their representatives want to meet me, I will. That is what I'm here for," he added.

Belfast Telegraph

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