We Will Never Forget You Edward Carson

Thomas Dixie Elliot with his thoughts on West Belfast's mural controversy. Dixie Elliot is a former blanket protest colleague of the late Kieran Nugent.

We are well aware that the mural of the first Blanket Man Kieran Nugent was taken down and dumped to be replaced by a mural which includes Sir Edward Carson overseeing the Larne gunrunning. The excuse given by the Sinn Féiners behind this is that it incorporates events in 1916.

Complete nonsense.

The Ulster Volunteers were formed in opposition to the 3rd Home Rule Bill in 1912.

Home Rule was supported by Constitutional Nationalists. The Irish Volunteers were established in 1913 in response to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers by the IRB which saw an opportunity to create an armed organisation to advance their goal of achieving a Republic.

John Redmond's Irish Parliamentary Party was initially opposed to the Irish Volunteers but later decided to load the committee with party members.

However Sinn Fein had no involvement with the Volunteers nor the Rising.

The outbreak of World War I in August 1914 saw a split in the ranks of the Irish Volunteers with a sizable majority going to fight on the side of the British.

The Larne gunrunning occurred in 24 April 1914, exactly two years before the Easter Rising.

Those who remained with the Irish Volunteers joined with the IRB, The Irish Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan to fight on the streets of Dublin in 1916, not for Home Rule, but for a Republic as outlined in the Proclamation.

So Carson and the 1914 UVF gunrunning from Larne were separated by two years from the Rising and like Sinn Féin itself, had little connection to the events on that day.


  1. What could possibly be the explanation for something like this? It baffles me. Pure Paddies, tipping their caps to their lords and masters. It is kind of like commemorating the landlords and the British masters for an Gorta Mór.

  2. Dixie,

    sooner or later Unionism and its fears, needs and aspirations will have to be acknowledged and integrated into a collective narrative.

    Unless we make some attempt to step into their position we will never come to terms with the inevitability of partition. Despite the rhetoric of the the proclamation, of striking out in full confidence of victory, republicans and their supporters wilfully ignored the clearly expressed opposition of Unionists to participation in even an Irish Nationalist devolved parliament.

    Maybe some fortuitous and favourable event, in the same way as threatened conscription for Ireland allowed for the rise of Sinn Féin and a claimed retrospective democratic endorsement for the Rising, will emerge to settle the partition issue.
    Republicans can only hope that 'events' will produce an end to partition ... for in all of the diverse manifestations of those assuming the mantle of Irish Republicanism , none of them have anything close to an effective strategy for exiting the Unity/union bind.

  3. Henry Joy,

    there were so many other ways to address the matter. This is less about accommodation and more about opportunism. The contemptuous attitude towards the imagery of Kieran Nugent reveals much.

    If as Danny Devenny says, he is an educator, rather than the establishment figure he told the Financial Times he was, he could start educating. Rather than adorning the walls of a seriously deprived community with images of a privileged unionist politician, he could have put up a mural that conveyed real educative effect: a mural that showed the IRA perpetrating a war crime against 10 Protestant working men in Kingsmill. That might have still enraged some, or many, within the ranks of those opposed to the matter but at least it would have fulfilled the function of an educator-cum-artist - that of nudging people to a different level where they can see beyond the horizon of their own prejudice.

    What educational value is there in the Carson mural other than the unintended one of educating people about how far the Shinners have moved away from everything they ever stood for?

    In my view there is a place for unionist politicians on the international wall (on it and not against it). The essence of unionist rule on the Falls could have been depicted by imagery of the two unionists ministers who were paraded through the area in July 1970 in the back of a British Army jeep to lord it over the residents who were banged up in their homes as a result of the British imposed curfew.

  4. AM,

    none of us can claim to know what is or what was in the artist's mind.
    The piece could though be interpreted as one of an attempt at forging some sort of commonality ... a commonality of resistance by Nationalists and Unionists to Westminster and a commonality of that self-assertion in arms.

    Much umbrage, I'd guess, is taken not solely from the content but also from the fact that it replaced a mural of the late and once iconic first blanket-man Vol. Kieran Nugent. I can't begin to imagine how hard that falls on many of his former comrades and their supporters. Alas though that symbolisation of the utmost defiance and resistance to the authority of the State is no longer what's deemed useful or necessary by those who control the wall and commission the artists.

    The essence of any such piece is probably always going to be more influenced and driven by propaganda interests of 'the Party' rather than by educational needs of the community.

    That said, your comment is well made too.

  5. Henry Joy,

    we can't say we know as a matter of scientific fact what might have been in the mind of the artist. But that can be said in respect of anybody's mind and for the most part when considering things to which there is a pattern and a history we tend to make a reasoned assessment. Yes, it could be viewed as a search for commonality if we are prepared to ignore past form and be very liberal in allowing the widest range of interpretation. Which we could also have done in respect of Martin McGuinness meeting the queen. Even given all that a better choice of artistry could have been made, a different context sketched.

    Ultimately, I don't think it mattered what was in the mind of the artist nor do I think we can rely on him to tell us. He said in the ATN he would be happy enough to speak to those who defaced his work. On his Facebook page he was wholly disparaging them. Having over the past two decades jettisoned every position he ever claimed to have if by retaining it he would have brought him into conflict with the leadership, it is reasonable to say that what was in his mind was what was allowed to be in his mind. So we may look elsewhere for the thinking that lies behind it rather than to the mind of the artist.

    The artist used to come to my home for his lunch when he was painting murals in Ballymurphy. I explained to him where it would all end up and he thought I was away with the fairies. There was no animosity in the exchanges. He was not prepared to think outside the box the leadership had moulded for him.

    In personal terms you will meet much worse than him: he won't pass you without saying hello, he won't shun you. He will argue the toss with you. So, I don't have any particular axe to grind with him. He is a good artist but the message of his art is politically manufactured and massaged and not the result of what is in his mind. Because what is in his mind is what the leadership places in it.

  6. AM

    thanks for the bit of background.

    Those lunch time conversations you had with Danny Devenny could have the makings of a worthy short story or play!

  7. I wonder is it just Carson's image that some find intolerable or would they exert disgust at an image of Maxwell or Asquith for example?

    for the most part, art should not be used as an offensive weapon - for to do so takes away its artistic relevance. Having said that, I don't imagine this was the artist's intention with this work. Art has frequently aroused public tension: so much so that in an irish capacity The Playboy of The Western World cause havoc when first staged in Dublin as conservative types felt morally violated by its portrayal of contemporary Irish society - thankfully Synge's genius won out at the end of the day.

    In many ways this is nothing new; take for example the artist trying to reclam the essence of the swastika pre-Nazi usage. Or John lennon penning a lyric as "Woman is the Nigger of the World"

    Art should be beyond good and evil. It should occupy the space between the past, present and future (the sublime) and generate strong emotion both in the creator and beholder for to do otherwise is not art - think painting by numbers. Which poses the question, Is Devenny's work painting by numbers or is it cutting edge art?

  8. Anthony,

    '..what is in his mind is what the leadership places in it.'

    A mind, if I recall correctly, you once very humorously suggested that were it to be complimented with a secondary mind it would merely make Danny twice as stupid!

    On account of the mural they are now being referred to in unionist circles as 'Clonard Protestant Boys'.

    A wind up exercise as always I sense.

  9. Henry Joy,

    Danny took the soup but it was my soup which he would wolf down!! They were good craic now to be fair. They certainly put the hours and effort in. I suppose that is what gave them the appetites.

  10. Emmett,

    art should be used as an offensive weapon if need be. Why should it be any different from writing? Its artistic relevance can remain despite the offence it gives rise to. It should not have as its exclusive purpose offence but creativity. Sometimes the creative act lies in the offence it generates.

  11. Agreed Mackers which is why I suggested "for the most part"

    What I was trying to get across was that it should not be used for shock value alone, or unjustly offensive - like some of the Rap and Punk artists output over the years.

    "Sometimes the creative act lies in the offence it generates" - This rings true in regards the Carson image. Its mere presence has illuminated the intolerant attitudes of our society while also portraying the essence of northern bigoted intolerance - Lord Carson.

    For me its the most radical falls mural since the ceasefire.

  12. Emmett,

    what was radical about it? You really need to stretch the term to have it fit. The most conservative would be a more appropriate term. It was radical in that it underscored a process of radical departure by SF from everything it ever stood for. Had the Workers Party put it up they would have been laughed out of West Belfast.

    It was put up not as a radical initiative but as part of a wider conservative trend gripping SF. It was done pretty much for the same reasons that banqueting with the queen was done or the call to commemorate British soldiers who died during the Rising was made.

    Does intellectual life in West Belfast need radically challenged? It does. There just happens to be any amount of radical ways of mounting that challenge and this was not one of them.

  13. Emmett,

    'For me its the most radical falls mural since the ceasefire.'

    I find the naivety of this truly astounding. Pity almost, at the ease with which the party can slip the wool over such innocence.

    Similar to what is often said of meteorologists...I think you really need to get out more. Expand your educational horizons beyond a wall that once claimed Adams as a visionary. If that is your benchmark.....

  14. Robert,

    if he had two heads he would be twice as stupid was the quip!

    Emmett has not had the wool pulled over his eyes by the Shinners but rather seems to derive far too much satisfaction from the howls of those he thinks are locked in the past. That however is not the best way to approach this. The people who brought this to my attention are not locked in the past, are forward thinking, campaign on behalf of the disadvantaged, and are not in the slightest sectarian. They are annoyed because they see it as another arrogant act of trampling over people in the area. The International Wall does not belong to the artist to paint on it what he might wish. He can draw Carson on his own living room wall all he wants because that his own space. The Wall is a community project and the community is not consulted about either what goes up on the Wall or comes down from it.

  15. ... an emerging subplot around media control?

  16. In line with quisling $inn £einds train of thought I,ve ordered a couple of hundred UVF "flegs" to sell on the Falls for the Somme commemoration ,after all as"Spike" the RAFIA spokesman says ,it,s all about the money

  17. A person from Clare recently pointed out to me that they understood who Carson was but didn't know who Kieran Nugent was. When I explained and during my explanation I could see their facial expressions harden I realised that Carson had won again! They didn't agree with Carson's views at all but they were able to relate him to their history whereas Nugent had no bearing whatsoever.....made me think of a storm in a tea cup!