The City of Belfast has risen from a troubled history as one of the most popular locations in Europe for a city break. Belfast has undergone major regeneration and development over the past few years and is now an attractive city with plenty to see and do. The political history and its troubled sectarian divide, and the physical segregation of the two communities in many urban areas by high walls, is of huge interest to many of the visitors that visit the city, especially the Belfast Mural Tours. Read on for more…
Prior to your visit to Belfast, you may have seen on television or in print some of the murals that represent the two different communities in the city, both Catholic and Protestant, and have wondered what their significance and meaning is.
The two political groupings in Belfast (Republican and Loyalist, the former being Catholic and the latter Protestant) have a strong tradition of large wall mural painting in their communities. If you head to The Falls Road or Shankill areas of Belfast you will get a good look at what are some of the world’s finest house sized political murals. They change frequently depending on the political climate of the time, and generally the murals are located on the houses of working class estates in the city, representing both communities.
The best way to see these murals on the walls of the two different communities in Belfast, is to take one of the famous Black Taxi Tours of Belfast city where you can get a great view of the content of these murals, and their meaning and symbolism for both the Republican and Protestant sides of the former conflict.
These sectarian murals were created by artists from both sides of the conflict and originally the paramilitary murals were created as a visual depiction of troubled times in the city. The murals represented both the anxieties and aspirations of the two communities.
In West Belfast, these street paintings celebrated the Irish Republican Army, its leaders, murals commemorating the 1916 Rising in Dublin, and travelling through the Falls Road you will see, alongside the Sinn Fein Offices, a large mural paying tribute to the IRA hunger strikers including Bobby Sands who died in 1981.
In Protestant Loyalist areas, such as East Belfast and Shankhill the murals pay tribute to a host of splintered violent outfits such as the UDA, the UVF, and the UFF, and their leaders, and martyrs.
However, in recent years there has been moves by both communities to follow the lead of armed terrorists on both sides of the sectarian divide in “taking the gun out of politics” and replicate this message with the city murals, and making them less offensive, but still representing the community that they are painted in, and in essence making the Belfast Murals a more positive celebration of the two communities’ cultures. You will see this in your tour of the Belfast City Murals.
In Republican areas, there are moves afoot to paint over many of the murals with paintings depicting images and symbols of Celtic Mythology, and many murals have since been changed. In the Loyalist area of East Belfast and also Republican West Belfast, you will see murals in remembrance of Manchester United’s legendary winger George Best, the East Belfast Boy who revolutionised and excited the soccer world in the 1960s, and who died in 2005 at the age of 59. At the time of his untimely death, the George Best mural became an immediate shrine to his memory, with locals from both sides of the communities leaving flowers and notes of condolence.
Some of the major murals in Nationalist areas commemorate civil rights activists of the late 1960′s, and political leaders murals commemorating. In essence, you will notice that the theme of the murals on both sides of the border could not be more different: the Republican murals depict the struggle for identity and a hope for a United Ireland, whereas the Loyalist murals depict a sense of defending their territory.
No tour of the Belfast Murals is complete without a visit to see the Peace Wall in Belfast. The murals in this area depict the struggle and those who have died fighting for their respective causes. The Peace Wall divides the Nationalist Falls Road of West Belfast and the Protestant area of Shankhill.
As your tour takes you down you will notice a wall that is topped with heavy barbed wire. Ironically, this wall created more violence and less peace over the years throughout the Troubles. During your tour of the murals, you will be astounded by the intricacy and artistic accuracy of the murals. The Belfast murals certainly capture the history of the city and its troubles and provide a great understanding for education and questions and it is a worthwhile tour.
If you’re planning to stay in Belfast for a night or two to check out the shopping and sample the nightlife why not book one of our Belfast hotels.