Belfast Telegraph

Travel guide's mocking of loyalist mural art criticised as 'sectarian'

Loyalist terror murals in Belfast
Loyalist terror murals in Belfast
Loyalist terror murals in Belfast
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

A victims' campaigner has branded a renowned travel guide that compared republican murals to the works of Michelangelo as sectarian.

Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United (IVU) said the words featured in Fodor's Travel website would be "laughable if they weren't so serious".

"The comments are sectarian in nature and seek to castigate a section of the population based upon their ethnic and religious background," he claimed.

The guide features glowing reviews of street art in republican areas which the author claims "often aspire to the heights of Sistine Chapel-lite".

But they only offer a stinging critique of loyalist murals, which are said to "resemble war comics without the humour".

"Typical subjects include wall-eyed paramilitaries perpetually standing firm against increasing liberalism, nationalism and all the other -isms Protestants see eroding their stern, Bible-driven way of life," it added.

According to the guide, republican artwork featured "themes of freedom from oppression, and a rising nationalist confidence that romantically and surreally mix and match images from the Book Of Kells".

"The Celtic mist mock-heroic posters of the Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick, assorted phoenixes rising from the ashes and revolutionaries clad in splendidly idiosyncratic sombreros and bandanas from ideological battlegrounds in Mexico and South America," it added.

Professor Peter Shirlow, head of Irish Studies at Liverpool University, expressed shock at the content, "which plays on many sectarian myths" and "represented the Protestant community as humourless".

"It represented them as Bible-bashers, against liberalism and it evoked an idea that on the other side there was humour, a capacity for art and also evoked the idea republican violence was something to be glorified and where it represented the unionist community, it is not," he added.

"If it was the Catholic, nationalist, republican community (being lampooned) I would say the same thing. It is just ultimately wrong and gave an incredibly unfair representation of murals in the city.

"The academic issues with how the story of Northern Ireland is presented to visitors need to be addressed."

Mr Donaldson said he has concerns with any mural that glorifies terrorism from any section of the community.

However, he pointed out that many murals celebrate our industrial past, sporting triumphs and the contribution of Ulster to the Great War.

"These images and depictions are to be celebrated by local people and visitors alike," he added.

Fodor's Travel said the content had since been removed from its platforms.

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