Peace murals | Out with ‘burly guys,’ in with Georgie

George Best in memoriam. Link to Christian Science Monitor article.Belfast, Northern Ireland | Grisly sectarian murals glorifying violence between Unionists and Republicans have nearly a 100-year-old tradition in Northern Ireland, but posthumous murals devoted to George Best and other mural “decommissionings” are slowly changing the scene. “Imagine a wee boy or girl looking out of their bedroom window and seeing only burly guys with rifles. What does that do to them, psychologically” asks Rev. Gary Mason, a Methodist minister who has worked to replace nine murals thus far. “It doesn’t only say violence is acceptable, which would be bad enough; it says violence is something to be celebrated in colorful paintings.”

Peace murals are also being added in Catholic West Belfast, including celebrations of Celtic myths and the Irish landscape. Best’s mural became a shrine to his memory after his death; other East Belfast subjects include C.S. Lewis, incorporating scenes from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Given the continued outpouring for Best—more than 1,000 people per day visiting his grave in Roselawn Cemetery—the Belfast City Council is considering a permanent memorial. Brendan O’Neill, who compiled the Christian Science Monitor report on Belfast’s murals, wonders on the “Spiked Politics” Web log if Best can legitimately serve as a symbol of unity. “[H]e is fast being turned into a political symbol,” O’Neill writes, “a bland beacon of hope and unity, by cynical politicians and community activists who wouldn’t know what a football was if one hit them in the face.”

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