Belfast, Northern Ireland
By Cathal McNaughton
A five meter high mural of a gunman dressed in army fatigues and a balaclava, clutching an AK-47 painted on the gable end of a wall of a house in a residential street – people walk by and don’t even notice it.
In other parts of the UK and Ireland there would probably be outrage – but not in Northern Ireland, where young children happily play on streets with a backdrop of politically charged murals commemorating the violence and bloodshed of the Troubles.
These murals have become street wallpaper for the people living in this small corner of Europe who barely bat an eyelid at a gory depiction of a skeleton crawling over dead bodies that adorns the end wall of a house on their street.
Most of the hundreds of murals across Northern Ireland, which are not only found in major cities like Belfast and Londonderry but in small towns and villages, promote either Republican or Loyalist political beliefs, often glorifying paramilitary groups such as the IRA or the Ulster Volunteer Force with a roll call of the dead written large ‘lest we forget’.
However, since the paramilitary ceasefires in the 90s the distinctive Northern Irish artwork has seen a change. New murals have sprung up depicting local heroes like golfer Rory McIlroy who represent the changing face of Northern Ireland’s political landscape.