Plans to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of hunger striker Bobby Sands on May 5 in New York, have Unionists hot under the collar.
The Irish papers reported that Gerald Kelly, the Belfast painter who together with other artists will create a mural to Sands, had been given a $75,000 grant from the City of New York.
Sammy Wilson, the Democratic Unionist Lord Mayor of Belfast, condemned the City of New York’ s sponsorship deal with Kelly, 44, who was released in 1985 from the Maze Prison, where he had been held on terrorist charges, saying the 30 ft. x 30 ft. mural could only seek to glorify paramilitary violence.
However, a source close to the project says that no application has been made to the City for funding. Further, that the mural, which will be painted on canvas approximately 5 ft. x 5 ft. and then transferred to the 30-foot “advertising mesh,” will cost less than $10,000 to produce, and will be privately funded.
Reports that the mural will drape the side of the Manhattan Bridge are also false, although according to the same source, a building façade on one of the main access roads to the Triborough Bridge has been donated for that purpose.
Sands was one of 10 Irish republican prisoners who starved themselves to death in 1981 to protest treatment by the British authorities, who denied them political prisoner status.
Kelly, who is responsible for a huge West Belfast mural of Sands, told the Irish Times that his new work would be “fitting tribute to all those who died in the `81 strikes.”
He added: “We will try to graphically translate to people the level of suffering endured in the North under the British. We hope it will act as an educational tool to the younger generations of Irish-Americans and Americans who might be unaware of why these men died.” ♦