23 May 2002 Edition

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Historic Ballymurphy mural project

An ambitious mural project designed to commemorate the republican dead of Ballymurphy is to take place this coming Sunday, 26 May.

The Ballymurphy Mural Project Committee commissioned up to seven murals in the area, each mural dedicated to IRA Volunteers and the republican men, women and children of the area who died in the course of the conflict. The faces of all those shown on the murals are drawn from photographs of those who died.

"We wanted this tribute to portray our dead in a human way," said Patrick Mulvenna, one of the organisers. "For too long the British and our political enemies portrayed republicans as 'faceless gunmen' in their attempts to criminals the struggle so we decided that we would present our dead as real human beings. The truth is that our republican dead are held in the highest esteem in our communities and this project is all about showing that esteem and respect."

Mulvenna explained that the idea to develop the project came about after the Commemoration Committee unveiled a mural to two of Ballymurphy's most respected Volunteers, Jim Bryson and Paddy Mulvenna. "Everyone thought we should extend the project to include everyone on the Roll of Honour and other local republicans who died of natural causes".

Each of the murals show Volunteers in action poses and on patrol in the area, the underlying message being that the IRA truly is the 'People's Army'. One mural shows a group of Volunteers on stand by in one of the area's many safe houses and is a mark of respect for those many 'householders' whose homes were an open house for Óglaigh na hÉireann.

Sunday's events will begin with a parade, assembling at the Top of the Whiterock Road at 12.30 pm. The Ballymurphy ex-POW group will be marching and this group is extending an invitation to ex-POW groups throughout Belfast and beyond to attend. The parade will then proceed to each of the new murals, where an unveiling ceremony will be held.

Each ceremony will be performed by local republicans, with Harriet Kelly unveiling a mural at Springhill. Harriet, a longtime republican from the area, once confronted the so-called 'Iron lady' Margaret Thatcher in Belfast city centre. Not long after her election, Thatcher visited Belfast and in Royal Avenue Harriet took the wind out of her sails when she demanded political status for the H Block and Armagh prisoners. Despite the massive security presence and Thatcher's attempts to dismiss her, Harriet insisted in making her point, to the annoyance of Thatcher.

A fun day of events has been organised for the children of the area. This will include face painting and bouncy castles.

Among the guests on the day will be the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and veteran republican Joe Cahill.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1