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Belfast murals

Updated Friday, 11th September 1998

The walls of Belfast reflect and echo the history of the city.

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This article was written in 1998. Why not try our more recent article on Murals in Belfast?

Mural in Belfast Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: BBC

Sandy Row, South Belfast

The tradition of murals in Belfast began in the Protestant Loyalist community at the turn of the century.

A King Billy mural Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: The Open University

The first was of William of Orange ("King Billy"), painted in 1908, celebrating his defeat of the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. This image has been repeated many times since then, but has become less popular in recent years although most Loyalist murals still tend to be painted around the annual 12th July commemoration of the event.

Other important Loyalist images include:

The Battle of the Somme in 1916, where the 36th Ulster Division suffered heavy casualties fighting for Britain in the first World War.

A UVF mural in Belfast Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: The Open University

Symbolic devices, such as the Union Jack, the Ulster Flag and the Red Hand of Ulster, originally a heraldic symbol which can be seen on both Loyalist and Republican paintings.

A Red Hand of Ulster mural in Belfast Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: The Open University

More militaristic images have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Belfast mural showing a red hand clutching a weapon Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: The Open University

New Lodge Road, North Belfast

Catholic Republican murals began around 1981, prompted by the hunger strike by several Republican prisoners. Since then Republican murals have tended to use more varied styles than the largely traditional Loyalist paintings.

A Republican protrait Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: The Open University

Other Republican images include:

Militaristic images in support of the IRA’s armed struggle have been common since the early 1980s.

A Republican miliary mural in Belfast Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: The Open University

Irish history, including events such as the potato famine as well as traditional Irish imagery.

A mural recalling the years of famine Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: The Open University

Other world struggles such as events in Palestine, Namibia, Russia and Cuba. This one represents the Aboriginal struggle for land rights in Australia.

A mural reflecting the struggle for Aboriginal land rights in Australia Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: The Open University

Take it further

Material Conflicts: Parades and Visual Displays in Northern Ireland
Neil Jarman, Berg

Displaying Faith
Neil Jarman, Institute of Irish Studies

Drawing Support: Murals in the North of Ireland
Bill Rolston, Beyond the Pale Publications - a series of three titles

 

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