There has been an outcry over the destruction of a republican mural of IRA Volunteer Kieran Nugent who started the blanket protest in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh. It was replaced with a mural depicting unionist leader Edward Carson.
Kieran Nugent was the first IRA PoW on the protest against criminalisation in the H-Blocks. When warders asked him to wear prison uniform, he famously replied: “You’ll have to nail it to my back.” He died in 2000.
Carson led unionist resistance to Irish independence and helped establish the paramilitary UVF. The depiction of him organising UVF gunrunning is understood to have been funded by Belfast city council as part of a ‘reimaging’ project to counter ‘negative’ images from the conflict.
A protest was also held on Friday by the Belfast 32 County Sovereignty Movement which said it was an “insult to the people of the Falls Road”. In a statement they criticised the “revisionist agenda by some in our community”.
They implicated Sinn Fein in the destruction after learning through booklets published by the party that the wall was to be painted over.
“Our mural was paid for by our members and we were never consulted on the removal of our mural, and to replace the mural of Kieran Nugent with Carson was an insult to the people of the Falls Road,” they said.
“The total disregard and lack of consultation is typical of those who wish to portray the ideals and sacrifices of the men and woman of 1916 in their own revisionist way.”
The new mural at the International Wall near the republican Divis area has already been the subject of a paint attack.
Sinn Fein has not yet commented on the incident, but the party has instead praised the council’s erection of a statue of Rising hero James Connolly further along the Falls Road, where he once lived.
His great grandson unveiled a statue in the republican icon’s “spiritual home” of Belfast. Addressing a crowd of hundreds, James Connolly Heron said: “I feel in some ways that I have come home.
“This is west Belfast and the Falls Road is very much the spiritual home of James Connolly. He had many homes. He was a son of Edinburgh; he was a son of New York; he was a son of Dublin and a very proud son of Belfast.
“His family forged their politics in and around this area.”
The life-size bronze sculpture weighs 200 kilograms. Sinn Fein councillor Jim McVeigh, a member of the James Connolly Society, said it was an “exciting day”. He said: “This is the best place for James Connolly, in the place where he lived and among the people whom he fought for.”