Signs of Struggle: The Belfast Interface Project

Northern Ireland is covered in images of sectarian conflict, but the Belfast Interface Project aims to refashion old murals to reflect a shared future.

| May/June 2012

An arts program in Belfast is replacing iconic murals depicting violence—a holdover from 30 years of sectarian conflict—with softer images. So far, reports Joanne Latimer in Maclean’s, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has spent $6 million since 2006 on its Re-imaging Communities Program, which aims to tackle signs of sectarianism and racism. It has replaced paramilitary murals with images of First World War soldiers and female munitions workers, and even replaced a famous Grim Reaper mural with an image of loyalist King Billy in a pro-British area of Belfast.

The Belfast Interface Project is under fire. “At least the Grim Reaper was an authentic reflection of what we feel,” one local resident told Maclean’s. “Re-imaging is a middle-class illusion of peace. We aren’t holding hands just yet.”

Joe O’Donnell, strategic director of the Belfast Interface Project, says re-imaging isn’t perfect, but it’s a step forward: “I don’t know if we have a shared vision of the future, but we have a vision of a shared future.”