Attempt to censor protest mural over St Patrick’s day trip
Attempt to censor protest mural over St Patrick’s day trip


A pro-Palestinian mural criticising Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for attending a St Patrick’s Day event in the White House has been vandalised in west Belfast in a sign of continuing tensions over Sinn Féin’s involvement.

The mural was placed on the Falls Road and is a recreation of a cartoon by famous Brazilian artist Carlos Latuff.

It depicted the leaders of Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael meeting Mr Biden, with the caption: “Ireland says no to Genocide Joe” alongside.

It was covered by black paint, some of which has subsequently been removed.

In a social media post Mr Latuff criticised the vandalism: “I’ve already had graffiti about police brutality defaced in Brazil. My cartoons are banned in Turkey, Egypt and Bahrain.

“But in Northern Ireland under the Sinn Fein government? Usually only dictatorships see cartoons as a threat. Isn’t Northern Ireland a democracy?”

Mr Latuff praised those who attempted to retore the painting.

Alongside the Taoiseach and Tánaiste of the Dublin government, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald and First Minister Michelle O’Neill are set to attend the St Patrick’s celebrations in Washington, as will the Deputy First Minister, ter DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly and British Direct Riuler Chris Heaton-HArris.

The nationalist SDLP said in January it would not be joining in the annual visit to the White House due to the US’s ongoing financial and military support for the Israeli liquidation and genocide in the Gaza Strip.

Announcing that it is boycotting the Washingtn events entirely, and is no longer planning to send a delegation to the US, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that “the situation in Gaza has continued to deteriorate.

“More children have been killed, communities obliterated and thousands of people displaced as a result of this horrifying conflict. And now, during the holy month of Ramadan, we have clear warnings that starvation is being used as a weapon of war against the Palestinian people.

“In those circumstances, the SDLP’s decision not to attend celebratory events at the White House remains. We cannot drink Guinness and have the craic while people in Gaza continue to be persecuted.”

He accepted the protest would be unlikely to force a change in US foreign policy but it was “the right thing to do” and the most powerful step it can take to highlight the inhumanity in Gaza.

“I sincerely hope that the international community wakes up and escalates its interventions to end the genocide, including by securing aid routes to prevent mass starvation. This is a stain on the international order that must be addressed soon.”

Speaking ahead of her visit to the US, Ms O’Neill said: “I am ambitious for a brighter future for our people and I want to harness the benefits of the special connection between ourselves and the US. This relationship was crucial to our peace process and continues today through investment, knowledge sharing and support.

“Now that government here is back up and running it is vital that we seek every opportunity to attract investment, grow our economy and deliver for our citizens.”

Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil he would use his trip to make clear how Irish people feel about the situation in Gaza, and that the US should adopt an approach that will “help to bring about a peace settlement in the region”.

Mr Varadkar was responding to Solidarity TD Mick Barry during Leaders’ Questions, who said the Taoiseach was planning to give a bowl of shamrock and pose for photographs with “a man who has armed and financed mass murder”.

Mr Barry said this was wrong, and that he was confident “large numbers of people on this island think it is wrong also”. The Cork North Central TD said the Taoiseach had the opportunity to “exert some real pressure” and to tell US president Joe Biden there would be “no shamrock when there is not a total ceasefire and an end to the bloody occupation” in Gaza.

Separately, all Irish groups taking part in the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas have withdrawn in a major protest at the organisation’s “super sponsor” funding by the US military.

Scheduled for appearances throughout the festival, including at the now cancelled ‘Music from Ireland’ showcase event, Belfast rap act Kneecap issued a statement on Sunday night confirming their cancellations.

Kneecap pointed out that the tally of 31,000 Palestinians killed - over 21,000 of them women and children - in the past five months is 10 times the number of people killed in the recent conflict in the north of Ireland.

They said the withdrawal was “done in solidarity with the people of Palestine, and to highlight the unacceptable deep links the festival has to weapons companies and the US military, who at this very moment are enabling a genocide and famine against a trapped population.”

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