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The Troubles Murals of Derry, Northern Ireland

You Are Now Entering Free Derry, the most famous Derry mural

“You Are Now Entering Free Derry” – these are the six most powerful words in understanding the period known as The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Since the occupation and eventual partition of the island of Ireland in 1921, murals have been art, propaganda, and an emotional outlet for the residents of this city. As with our experience in Belfast, we entered Free Derry in search of beautiful murals but also wanted to understand this painful chapter in Irish history. We left with more than pretty pictures.

Check current hotel prices in Derry/Londonderry.

Civil rights leaders mural

Civil Rights mural featuring prominent leaders

As we entered the Bogside neighborhood, a light rain began to fall, setting a somber mood for our experience. Truck engines revved as they moved down Rossville Street, and an occasional clap of thunder pierced the air. You could almost imagine the chaotic scene here on January 30, 1972. On that day, tanks and guns were unleashed on a civil rights march organized to protest a policy of indefinite detention and interrogation by the British military.

One of the Derry murals commemorating the events of Bloody Sunday

One of the Derry murals commemorating the events of Bloody Sunday

The peaceful event, modeled after the struggle by African-Americans in the United States, was shattered by young British soldiers who shot 26 people and killed more than half. The events became known as Bloody Sunday and became one of the most significant events ever to happen on the island. The events have permeated public consciousness the world over through films and music, such as U2’s anti-war anthem “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.”

One of the Bloody Sunday Derry murals in Northern Ireland

This mural is based on the same event as U2′s classic “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”

One of the Derry murals memorializing the victims of Bloody Sunday

Mural memorializing the victims of Bloody Sunday

Unlike murals in other cities, these 12 murals are more than just art. We’ve enjoyed murals in cities like Vancouver and Toronto, but they are purely artistic. The 12 Derry murals were done by local artists Tom Kelly, William Kelly and Kevin Hasson, and are really political statements. The murals protest policies by the British against Catholics (in which Protestants were exempt), as well as poor social conditions and the lack of economic opportunity open to them.

Two of the Derry murals -- The Hungers Strikers murala dn the John Hume mural

Hunger Strikers Mural with John Hume Mural in the background

Highlights of the Bogside Derry murals include:

  • The Hunger Strikers – focusing on the plight of hunger strikers in the H-block Maze Prison in Belfast.  When we visited, the mural had been recently vandalized.
  • John Hume – showing the Nationalist leader alongside Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela. No subtlety on this one.
  • The Death of Innocence – depicting Annette McGavigan, a 14-year old schoolgirl gunned down in 1971, but representing the 3,000 lives lost during The Troubles.
  • Bloody Sunday Commemoration – featuring the faces of the 14 victims.
End of Innocence, one of the Derry murals of Northern Ireland

End of Innocence Mural

As we left the Bogside neighborhood, we headed to The Fountain neighborhood where we saw several loyalist murals.  These works relied on the red, white and blue colors of the United Kingdom and the Union Jack.  They presented a different perspective to the Republican civil rights murals in the Bogside.

Loyalist mural in Derry

Derry murals tell both sides of the story — Loyalist mural in the Fountain neighborhood

We left Derry with more than beautiful pictures of the murals, we left with a better understanding of the complex period of history known as The Troubles.

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Union Jack painting

Union Jack painted prominently in a Loyalist neighborhood

Loyalist mural of the Red Hand of Ulster, one of the Derry murals

Loyalist mural of the Red Hand of Ulster

John Hume mural in Derry, Northern Ireland

John Hume mural

Two of the Derry murals -- Operation Motorman and The Runner

Operation Motorman (left) and The Runner (right) mural






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What do you think about The Troubles Murals of Derry, Northern Ireland?

  1. Federico November 21, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    Reminds me of those in Belfast , but these are bigger!

  2. Lance November 21, 2013 at 2:29 am #

    Thanks Federico! The murals in Derry are bigger than Belfast (about three times the size). We’ve also got a post on the murals of Belfast coming up!

  3. Ayngelina November 21, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    Graffiti is one of my favourite ways to explore a city, really shows you so much about the culture and history.

  4. Alexandra Baackes November 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    Beautiful photos and fascinating story. I know far too little about this period in history!

  5. dtravelsround November 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    I love tours that do so much more than just show you a place. This one sounds really educational and fascinating.

  6. Laura @ TravelAddicts November 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    It was amazing to learn more of the background of these incidents, especially since many of them happened so recently. We were really glad to have the chance to visit.

  7. Camels & Chocolate November 27, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

    I need to go back and see these. I was in Belfast in May but didn’t get a chance to check out any of the murals. I dated a guy from there when I was 19 so visited his family frequently in Belfast but think I would have a much greater appreciation for the Troubles now that I’m in my 30s…

  8. Laura @ TravelAddicts November 28, 2013 at 5:02 am #

    The murals themselves are great, but the stories behind them are amazing. So foreign to our way of thinking that your religion could be identified just by sight or saying your name, and for that one reason your life would be at risk.

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