Belfast politician calls for flags and mural ban during Giro d'Italia visit

Parties already close to agreeing not to display election posters along route of May's race

by Simon_MacMichael   February 17, 2014  

St_Patrick's_saltire.svg.png

A politcian in Northern Ireland is calling for a proposed ban on election posters being displayed on the route of the Giro d'Italia when the three-week race begins there in May be extended to include flags and sectarian murals.

Anna Lo, assembly member for South Belfast for the non-sectarian Alliance Party, says that with coverage of the opening days of the race potentially being seen by hundreds of millions of television viewers worldwide, Northern Ireland, and the city of Belfast, should be sending out a unified message rather than reinforcing historical divisions.

During the past week, politcial parties in Northern Ireland, encouraged by environment minister Mark Durkan have moved towards an agreement not to display campaign posters for the European and local council elections on 22 May on the route the Giro will follow.

The race begins on Friday 10 May, with the opening two stages starting and finishing in Belfast and Stage 3 beginning in Armagh then heading across the border to end in Dublin.

But Ms Lo urged that if the parties were united in agreeing to remove those posters, "then we should also look to take down the flags that are on the same lamp posts," reports Irishnews.com.

"People are tired of flags being used to mark territory and intimidate local people," said Ms Lo.

"This is not the image that we want to be sending out to the world during such a prestigious event.

"Funding will be made available in towns along the route to improve the image of eyesores such as derelict buildings but I have a bigger problem with images of paramilitary gunmen.

"Do we really want these images to be visible on the route when millions of people will be watching the race on television?

"As political parties were so willing to support the ban on election posters along the route, I hope they will show similar support for a ban on flags and paramilitary murals."

While races such as the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France are often used as a platform to make a politcial point - last year's Grand Depart of the latter on Corsica saw separatists daub pro-independence slogans on the roads the race passed over - the situation in Northern Ireland is different.

The flags and murals that Ms Lo is talking about wouldn't be there specifically for the Giro, but form part of the streetscape in Belfast and elsewhere, and many people, whether describing themselves as unionists or nationalists, wish to keep it that way.

That was brought home in December 2012 when a decision by Belfast City Council to limit the days per year that the union flag was flown from Belfast City Hall - in line with British government guidelines elsewhere in the UK - sparked protests from some loyalist factions who wished the flag to continue to be flown on a daily basis, those protests leading to riots.

As for the murals, there are approximately 2,000 throughout Northern Ireland, the vast majority of them sectarian in nature - some, such as the one commemorating the Titanic above, aren't - and which have become a tourist attraction in their own right since the ending of the Troubles in recent ytears.

Thje route of the Giro itself has come under criticism from the nationalist community; last October, Darach McQuaid, whose Dublin-based sports consultancy Shadetree Sports is organising the Giro d'Italia's visit, defended the decision of organisers RCS Sport not to route the race through the traditionally nationalist area of West Belfast, as well as the Mourne Mountains.

Responding to critcism from Sinn Fein and SDLP politicians, McQuaid - brother of former UCI president Pat McQuaid - told the BBC: "We can't bring the race past every front door in every household in Belfast, or for that matter through Northern Ireland as a whole.

"There is always going to be somebody who'll say: 'Why is the race not coming past our front door, or through our area?" he added.

22 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

the vast majority of them sectarian in nature - some, such as the one commemorating the Titanic above, aren't

Not overtly perhaps. However, the Harland & Wolff shipyards of that time were emblematic of overt sectarian discrimination by some employers. I suspect not everyone would agree that a mural glorifying Harland & Wolff is entirely free of sectarian under-tones.

posted by Paul J [628 posts]
17th February 2014 - 14:49

111 Likes

I bet the Giro has been routed so it doesn't go past any of the "peace walls" which litter Belfast.

Anyway, the camera won't be able to pick up decent mural pictures through the almost inevitable rain.

Edgeley

posted by Edgeley [164 posts]
17th February 2014 - 14:59

109 Likes

Both TTT and Stage 2 will roll through various inter-phases of the city. As I was saying to someone a few months back. The mobile cameras won't pick up on the murals/flags as they will be focused on the riders. Any static camera is going to ensure that the background is pretty much neutral.

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1055 posts]
17th February 2014 - 15:23

111 Likes

I'm sure use of sponsorship banners, carefully placed cameras and some route planning will mean any murals and banners won't be that noticable.
It would however be good if some of the over the top territorial marking were removed.

I was thinking about heading over to see a stage along with visiting family.

posted by thereverent [300 posts]
17th February 2014 - 15:33

105 Likes

Paul J wrote:

the vast majority of them sectarian in nature - some, such as the one commemorating the Titanic above, aren't

Not overtly perhaps. However, the Harland & Wolff shipyards of that time were emblematic of overt sectarian discrimination by some employers. I suspect not everyone would agree that a mural glorifying Harland & Wolff is entirely free of sectarian under-tones.

In Northern Ireland if you want to see a secterian slant to something, you can.
They struggle enough getting relativly neutral symbols, George Best, the Giants Causway and the Titanic being fairly netural.

Only in Northern Ireland would a mural of a man in a balaclava pointing a gun out be ok, but one of a man who died in 1658 riding a horse be too controversial and removed.

posted by thereverent [300 posts]
17th February 2014 - 15:52

107 Likes

I really can't wait to see the Giro over here but my one big fear is that the gabshites on either side may see this as a great way to get their message across and try and pull some stupid stunts on the route (you only have to see the response to the "GAA shirt that wasn't a GAA shirt on Eastenders" nonsense to see that it doesn't take much of a perceived slight to create misplaced indignation among the hard-of-thinking). Is there any chance Bernard Hinault will ride in the peloton in case of any protestors trying to block roads?!? Laughing

Otis Bragg's picture

posted by Otis Bragg [116 posts]
17th February 2014 - 17:05

105 Likes

Potemkin Belfast, great, just what we need. Just pick a route and show it, warts and all.

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [587 posts]
17th February 2014 - 17:36

108 Likes

I reckon this bike race is just the thing to heal all the years of division and pain in Northern Ireland.
I reckon the reasonable people of Belfast will immediately remove all sectarian related paraphernalia for the sake of the Giro.
I reckon Ms Lo is on to something here and i wish her all the best in her endeavours.

posted by Some Fella [765 posts]
17th February 2014 - 20:04

107 Likes

(im being sarcastic by the way)

posted by Some Fella [765 posts]
17th February 2014 - 20:05

107 Likes

giff77 wrote:
Both TTT and Stage 2 will roll through various inter-phases of the city. As I was saying to someone a few months back. The mobile cameras won't pick up on the murals/flags as they will be focused on the riders. Any static camera is going to ensure that the background is pretty much neutral.

I dont know mate, your right about the bike held cameras, but just look at the helicopter pictures we get from the GT's, they show allsorts of images from castles, houses, bridges etc. Some of these images will bound to be picked up by them. However the little Italian, German or French kid watching on their tv probably wont see them for what they are which is good.

‘It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing.’

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2761 posts]
17th February 2014 - 20:56

106 Likes

Another example of politicians sticking their noses in where it's not needed or wanted.
Who would have known or even cared about the religious divide in Northern Ireland before this was article was posted?
And I'd like to know why on earth it would be important to make sure someone in Italy doesn't see an election poster for a Local Council election. The clue is in the word 'Local' - the posters won't influence the voting decisions of anyone in Italy because they won't vote here.
Any wonder nothing constructive ever gets done in Stormont when they find such trivial things like this to argue about!!!

posted by Alan hall [14 posts]
17th February 2014 - 21:01

107 Likes

Asking for common sense in Northern Ireland, good luck with that one

Argon18 E-112 - Scott Spark 910 - Boardman Team Carbon - Planet X XLS

posted by colinth [187 posts]
18th February 2014 - 8:18

106 Likes

Its a minefield, I don't like the Union flag personally, and can imagine that people waving them in support of their fav English riders will do so in the spirit of sport… how that is received once a few bevvies have been downed in certain areas will be interesting.

posted by Trull [62 posts]
18th February 2014 - 8:40

103 Likes

Trull wrote:
Its a minefield, I don't like the Union flag personally, and can imagine that people waving them in support of their fav English riders will do so in the spirit of sport… how that is received once a few bevvies have been downed in certain areas will be interesting.

An interesting point indeed. I'm looking at taking the family to Dublin for the stage finish on Sunday. Many british riders are on Team Sky, but who wants to pay for a Team Sky flag?! Might have to ensure that any union flag gets put firmly away when not actually standing by the barriers waiting for the race to pass.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3198 posts]
18th February 2014 - 12:02

98 Likes

You'd be fine in Dublin.

posted by Paul J [628 posts]
18th February 2014 - 12:39

101 Likes

Paul J wrote:
You'd be fine in Dublin.

Ah, to be sure in Dublin, you'd be grand.

Joselito's picture

posted by Joselito [134 posts]
18th February 2014 - 13:18

100 Likes

jova54 wrote:
Why do you have the St Patrick saltire in the header photo?

The St Patrick saltire was an emblem of the united island of Ireland which no longer exists.

Surely, you should display the Union flag when it's about Northern Ireland and the Irish tricolor when it's about the Irish Republic.


Or a photo of the Giants' Causeway. Which would avoid all the really, really dull debates about flags.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [867 posts]
18th February 2014 - 13:41

100 Likes

Why do you have the St Patrick saltire in the header photo?

The St Patrick saltire was an emblem of the united island of Ireland which no longer exists.

Surely, you should display the Union flag when it's about Northern Ireland and the Irish tricolor when it's about the Irish Republic.

Did Nightrider 2013 and 2014 for Parkinson's UK. Might just have one last go in 2015.

jova54's picture

posted by jova54 [619 posts]
18th February 2014 - 13:42

99 Likes

Quote:
Who would have known or even cared about the religious divide in Northern Ireland before this was article was posted?"

Really??!! You didn't know there was a religious divide in Northern Ireland prior to reading this article on Road.cc?

Blimey!

posted by Bhachgen [91 posts]
18th February 2014 - 13:44

102 Likes

jova54 wrote:
Why do you have the St Patrick saltire in the header photo?

The St Patrick saltire was an emblem of the united island of Ireland which no longer exists.

Surely, you should display the Union flag when it's about Northern Ireland and the Irish tricolor when it's about the Irish Republic.

St Patrick is the patronage saint of Ireland both North & South! & because the Giro is taking place in the island of Ireland, it does not care or give credence to sectarianism & neither should this cycling website, nor cycling for that matter so the choice of emblem is an excellent choice - well done road.cc Applause

posted by bfslxo [118 posts]
18th February 2014 - 15:10

101 Likes

notfastenough wrote:
Trull wrote:
Its a minefield, I don't like the Union flag personally, and can imagine that people waving them in support of their fav English riders will do so in the spirit of sport… how that is received once a few bevvies have been downed in certain areas will be interesting.

An interesting point indeed. I'm looking at taking the family to Dublin for the stage finish on Sunday. Many british riders are on Team Sky, but who wants to pay for a Team Sky flag?! Might have to ensure that any union flag gets put firmly away when not actually standing by the barriers waiting for the race to pass.

It is highly unlikely that folk who will have travelled to watch the Giro will be lining any contentious streets and waving flegs. They will be heading for the City Hall, Stormont, Stranmillis or Titanic Quarter if in Belfast. I think there'll be more agro from motorists during the TTT on the Friday with the whole of the city centre being shut down.

Me I've got my viewing spots for all three stages sorted out and can't wait. Will also get to cycle Stage 2 the week before the peleton show how it's done.

+1 for bfslxo

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1055 posts]
18th February 2014 - 15:36

98 Likes

I strongly suspect it's more about gentrifying Belfast for the world's scrutiny; when the G8 met there last summer, they put up fake shop fronts to cover all the closed, empty lots.

So long as nobody touches the one of Eddie, I shan't be overly bothered.

posted by Lord Fishface [24 posts]
21st February 2014 - 23:50

75 Likes