A PAINT-BOMBED mural paying homage to Gerry Adams as a peacemaker became the symbol of a divided west Belfast yesterday.
On Saturday, the newly unveiled mural was the focus of a public protest against the Sinn Fein leader's continued arrest, as Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness railed against the "political" move to a crowd of supporters.
The crowds were no longer on the rainy Lower Falls by yesterday afternoon, but as the world waited for news on whether Gerry Adams would be released by the PSNI, there were mixed feelings and a sense of apathy from those living nearby.
The mural depicting Mr Adams as a "peacemaker, a leader and visionary" was painted in his honour. But it had been daubed with the word 'tout' on the evening before it was unveiled. This was quickly replaced by 'Ar aghaidh linn' – 'Onwards we go'.
Then, on Saturday evening the mural was paint-bombed, in a sign of tension bubbling within the republican community. The damage was hastily repaired by early yesterday morning. Speaking of the paint-bomb attack, one woman living nearby said: "Personally, I could not care less. A lot of people do not care less. That is why it is being done."
Others were more concerned violence could erupt in the area.
"People are worried there may be trouble," said one man. "What will happen if he is charged?"
Black taxi tour operators reported brisk business at the mural and a "lot of people asking about Gerry".
One of the tourists stopping to take photos at the new mural was Kees Offringa from Holland. He said there was a lot of international interest in Gerry Adams' arrest. "Gerry Adams is seen as someone who was involved in peace, but not a Nelson Mandela-type figure," he said. "He would be known as a peacemaker, but as someone with a more controversial past than Mr Mandela. His arrest will be seen as a surprise internationally."
Further up the Falls Road there was more staunch support for Mr Adams.
One supporter said he believed the Sinn Fein leader's arrest was "politically motivated".
"Basically coming up to an election, people are doing their best to damage Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein," he said. "That is the reason behind this. This is very strange. If the police have the evidence they said they have from the Boston tapes, they could have had him down there before now.
"All they seem to have is the evidence of dead people – how does he challenge that in court?"
Like every other local person the Belfast Telegraph spoke to yesterday, he did not want to be named. One pensioner said of Mr Adams: "He is fairly well liked in the area. It is 40 years ago, so it is hard to know how they would bring this to court, though I suppose there are cases going back longer than that."
The man said he was "cynical" about the arrest process and suggested it was a case of going through the motions.
"It is a process they are going through," he said. "What one side gets, the other side has to be seen to get."
One local woman in her 20s, who acknowledged she wasn't a Sinn Fein voter, said: "I think he should have been arrested, but it is the timing of it coming up to an election that is the problem. The talk about support being withdrawn from police – that is not being spoken on behalf of all of us."
Other young people doing their weekend shopping at the Park Centre were more apathetic, and some not exactly sure what Gerry Adams had been arrested for.
"We are really not interested in politics," said one young woman. "I have friends who would be, but it does not really interest me."