Derry’s Bogside Artists have rubbished claims that one of their famous wall murals “glorifies” petrol bombing.
One of the artists, Kevin Hasson, spoke out after a unionist member of the Northern Ireland Assembly called for the removal of ‘The Petrol Bomber’ mural at Rossville Street.
Jim Allister, leader of the TUV, suggested the painting “promoted” petrol bombing.
“It is little surprise that impressionable youths ape the actions of those presented to them as heroes,” said Mr. Allister, referring to recent street disturbances in the Bogside area.
Kevin Hasson, however, has dismissed his comments as “nonsense”.
The mural, he says, was originally painted in 1994 to mark the 25th anniversary of a seminal event in Derry’s recent history - the Battle of the Bogside of 1969.
“It is not a ‘glorification’ of petrol bombing,” he says. “It is a depiction of an important event from local history.
“To suggest that it, in any way, glorifies violence is utter rubbish. You cannot rewrite history. The Battle of the Bogside happened and this scene of a young man wearing a gas mask and holding a petrol bomb is probably the defining image of that key event.
“However, it is no real surprise to learn that Jim Allister is peddling this sort of nonsense. It suits his agenda.
“More importantly, however, people, both locally and from around the world, know and appreciate our work for what it is - an important chronicle of those events we consider to have been the most significant in recent times.
“Our murals are an historical document. They tell a story. If you walk along Rossville Street, you can clearly see this. There is a beginning, a middle and an end to what is a visual narrative.
“The murals aren’t a glorification of anything. They simply tell the story of the men, women and children from this area who suffered during the conflict. It’s the people’s story.”
Thousands of tourists visit the series of gable wall murals in Derry’s Bogside annually.
They depict scenes from the Troubles in the Bogside, including the civil rights movement of the late 1960s, Bloody Sunday, internment and the 1981 Hunger Strikes.
Since first beginning their work in the early 1990s, the Bogside Artists have won worldwide acclaim with exhibitions across Europe, Australia and North America.
The Rossville Street murals have been hailed as a “moving testament to the power of art as historical document” and have been described as providing a “window into the heart of the Bogside”.