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30 April 2009 Edition

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Mary Nelis Column

Mary Nelis

Mary Nelis







Painting themselves into a corner

IT WAS left to Martin McGuinness to tell it as it is. That a small, unrepresentative, anti-republican group of people in nationalists area of Derry are encouraging vulnerable young people to vandalise and deface their own areas.
These slogans are as absurd as the mindset of the organisations they claim to represent. Despite the best efforts of community organisations and Derry City Council, walls in the republican/nationalist areas of the city are covered with crude language, painted with dirty paint liberated from building sites, paint shops, and people’s homes.
The slogans contain threats, allegations, political innuendos and personal attacks on political parties and their elected representatives with whom the painters disagree. The language is the same, varying only in degree and size and painting of the daft names of organisations that haven’t a political thought in their heads but who think that their no hope message is supported in those communities who have suffered years of abuse at the hands of the British Army and the RUC.
They have not learned that the communities have moved on, inspired by the spirit of resistance and empowered by the first political graffiti message,”You are now entering Free Derry” since it  first appeared on the wall of Kitty Kane’s house.
Free Derry Wall is the most well-known of the icons whose message was, and still is, symbolic of rebellion against the authoritarian structure of the British/unionist state. It stands out in sheer contrast to the embarrassing slogan painted a few weeks ago on walls nearby which proclaimed “Sinn Féin traders will be shot” (sic). One assumes that the ‘artist’ meant traitors but who knows. It could be a Freudian slip of the paint brush, for indeed Sinn Féin are traders, selling the  Peace Process and the unity of Ireland by persuasion and political negotiation to the entire world.
The wall vandals of today would hardly understand the significance of the highly-political slogans written on walls during the 30 years of conflict.
Slogans that reminded us to “Throw well, throw Shell”, “Derry Merry, Derry Free” have all passed into the consciousness of entire generations.
The historic Derry walls, symbolic of unionist domination, became the noticeboard when that great republican activist, Gerry ‘The Bird’ Doherty, passed on to his eternal reward. Who will ever forget the notice “The Bird has flown” painted in such artistic writing that announced the death of this most courageous republican who had escaped from every jail that tried to hold him?
Wall murals in the North became the natural extension of the political graffiti writing during the years of censorship and the broadcasting ban imposed on republicans by both the British and Irish governments. Then the young graffiti artists put on to the walls what elected representatives were prevented from saying on the airwaves. Wall murals became not only a means of expression and education during those traumatic times but would evolve into the major tourist attraction they are today. Indeed, the slogans and wall murals painted by the artistic youth of that period of our history have become icons for political graffiti artists from all over the world.   
The offensive and gratuitously violent scrawl of the current politically disaffected morons are the outworking of the inner torments of some demented souls trying to establish their political credibility by defacing the walls of communities that are sick, sore and tired of such base activity.

An Phoblacht Magazine


  • Don't miss your chance to get the second edition of the 2019 magazine, published to coincide with Easter Week
  • This special edition which focuses on Irish Unity, features articles by Pearse Doherty, Dr Thomas Paul and Martina Anderson.
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