‘Trying to reach the future through the past’: murals and commemoration in Northern Ireland

Bill Rolston

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52 Citations (Scopus)
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Ireland is sometimes said to be cursed with a surfeit of history; memory is seen as oneof the principal causes of an endless cycle of violence. In contrast, this article focuses oncollective memory and examines the way in which this was drawn on as a resource byrepublican and loyalist communities in terms of identity and endurance during almostfour decades of conflict. These identities were displayed in various commemorationsand symbols, including wall murals. During the peace process these murals have beenjudged officially to be anachronistic, leading to a recent government-funded schemeto remove them, the Reimaging Communities Programme. This article questionsthe political motivation of this programme. It considers the attempts by people inrepublican and loyalist areas to come to terms with the peace process by emphasizingtraditional symbols of identity, while at the same time reinterpreting them for a newera. Symbols can be the bridge between the past and the future which makes thepresent tolerable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-307
JournalCrime Media Culture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2010


  • collective memory
  • identity
  • murals
  • Reimaging Communities Programme
  • revisionism


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