17 March 2006

Mural artists see red over black shamrock

Daily Ireland

**See also The Bogside Artists' Studio

By Eamonn Houston
17/03/2006

Anti-war campaigners were yesterday branded ‘fascists’ after defacing one of the North’s best known tourist attractions.
The Bogside Artists, who have produced 12 murals in an area of Derry that witnessed the Battle of the Bogside and Bloody Sunday, condemned the placing of the black shamrock insignia on one of their murals.
All 12 of the gable wall murals, which has become known as The People’s Gallery, have been funded by residents in the area and fundraising events.
A mural entitled The Petrol Bomber had a black shamrock affixed to the image in recent days.
Anti-war activists in Derry have launched the black shamrock badge as a symbol of opposition to the Irish government’s policy of allowing aircraft belonging to the American government to stop over in Shannon airport. The campaign has targeted key landmarks in the city and further afield to help further its aims.
However, the Bogside Artists said that the altering of a mural to promote a political message went against the ethos of their work: “This mural is simply about 30 years of conflict in the North. To try and gain publicity for a political cause is cheap and fascist,” Tom Kelly, one of the three Bogside Artists, said.
“We are not precious about our work. This has been a 12-year project and has depended solely on the support of the people. The people have always been consulted. In this case no one was asked. Personally we would be supportive of an anti-war campaign, the rear of Free Derry Wall has been used for such purposes in the past.
“What has happened here has not been discussed or debated – no consent was sought. Whoever did this is infantile and exploitative – these murals were paid for by the people and we have taken great pains to consult them down the years and gain their consent. The consent of the people has not been sought here,” Mr Kelly said.
Shane O’Curry, an anti-war activist and one of those spearheading the black shamrock campaign, said: “Firstly I think that they [the Bogside Artists] should read some more books and maybe a dictionary to find better words.
“They do have a right to complain, but the tradition of murals and muralists is that they have to interact and contemporise the work. The Bogside Artists have elevated murals to the status of art when they are not art. Their reaction has been rash and intolerant of artistic and creative dialogue.”
Mr O’Curry said that the black shamrock campaign had been a massive success. He said that over 30,000 badges had been distributed in Ireland, Paris and the United States.
The Galway Alliance Against War revealed last night it has sent one of the black shamrocks to US President George Bush.

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