The Art of War: Instability, Insecurity, and Ideological Imagery in Northern Ireland's Political Murals, 1979-1998

Gregory Goalwin
* Final published version available at: * This article examines the purpose behind, and rhetorical content of, political wall murals produced during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. I utilize a semiotic approach to analyze the ways that the symbolic content and physical placement of Northern Irish murals were used by actors on both sides of the conflict. I examine the major thematic traditions utilized by muralists on each side and
more » ... uate them within the historical and political contexts of the conflict in Northern Ireland. This approach highlights the ways that murals did more than simply champion ideological causes, as earlier scholarship has argued, but served an active role in efforts to catalyze cultural support for organizations' political goals. I argue that murals played a key role for organizations on both sides of the conflict, as they each struggled to craft a communal self-identification and legitimizing central narrative that furthered their ideological goals. Organizations on both sides used murals to mobilize cultural support for their political and military struggles. In this regard, murals functioned as a form of mythic speech, attempting to depoliticize highly political ideologies and make the rhetoric used by the competing groups seem natural and pure. The grassroots nature of the mural traditions is particularly telling in this regard, exposing the deep-seated insecurity of organizations on both sides. This insecurity is further reflected by, and served as a catalyst for, the paramilitary violence that was a defining characteristic of Northern Ireland for so long.
doi:10.17605/ fatcat:72xhauoynfbwrcaxq5t2a4m4ru