Sunday, September 03, 2006


West Belfast: Still Europe's most politicized neighborhood

Let's face it, the Irish Republican movement lost its war with Britain.
The border is still in place, the 'Unionist veto' is still firmly intact, the cops
are as violent and bigoted as ever, and with the reinvention of Stormont it looks
like formal, institutionalized sectarianism is here to stay.
Worst of all, the so-called leadership of this movement wouldn't own up to any of this.
According to Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, Danny Morrison (ministers of the Crown all) the situation the movement currently finds itself in is exactly what those 'ten brave men' fought to achieve. To hear Adams spin it, Bobby Sands died for cross-border tourism boards, a couple of seats in parliment (you know, the same one we smashed over three decades ago), a smattering of EU grants, and Ian Paisley as First Minister.
Last time I checked, he died for an end to imperialism and a socialist transformation on his wee island.
The communities that were the backbone of this resistance movement, as exhausted and demoralized as they in many cases are, none the less are some of the most radicalized in the world even to this day. The Sinn Fein leadership may have made it's peace with the system, but clearly the working class people who make up the rank and file of the anti-occupation movement have not. In Belfast, if you want to gauge what a community thinks of itself and world around it that simply browse the walls.
I've walked around Belfast and other cities and small town in Ireland's northeastern six counties and the skyline tells a thousand stories. Not only do shops, apartment buildings, and overpasses tell the story of Irish resistance to British rule, they tell the story of battles for justice around the world. Murals commemorating the farmworkers struggle in the US, the fight against police brutality, and open expressions of solidarity with rebel movements from the Basque Country to Latin America have defined the aesthetic of daily life in nationalist neighborhoods for decades.
The murals I have included here are brand new. They were all painted within the last year or so. You can walk down the Falls Road surrounded by Palestinian flags and portaits of Che and Black Panthers ... and know you are amongst comrades.
"We were just ordinary people", Brendan Hughes onces said, "but history demanded we do extraordinary things"
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