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Banksy's Dismaland accused of 'exploiting the Troubles'

The 'Northern Ireland riot van' exhibit at Banksy's art theme park Dismaland
Brendan Hughes

ARTIST Banksy's alternative theme park Dismaland has been accused of "exploiting the Troubles" over an exhibit billed as a Northern Ireland riot van.

Crowds have flocked to the art showcase at a derelict seaside lido in Somerset which features works including migrant boats and a Cinderella carriage crash.

Among the exhibits is a "riot control vehicle" that it's claimed was "commissioned to serve on the streets of Northern Ireland".

A description on the Dismaland 'bemusement park' website reads: "An armour plated riot control vehicle built to serve on the streets of Northern Ireland. Equipped with sniper posts, grenade launchers and now – a children's slide."

But questions have been raised over whether the vehicle has anything to do with Northern Ireland at all.

In Pictures: Banksy 'theme park' features armoured PSNI riot van

Police and British army sources say they do not recognise the vehicle as ever being used during the Troubles.

It has led to concerns that decades of conflict in the north have been "exploited" for an art exhibit back story.

Former Belfast lord mayor and Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers hit out at the 'Northern Ireland riot vehicle' exhibit.

"I think it is absolutely disgraceful and deplorable and I would appeal to these people to pull back from this because they're quite clearly misleading people," he said.

"Obviously the intention is to get people to come to see this. I firmly believe they are exploiting the Troubles.

"For anyone to try and benefit from the Troubles in Northern Ireland, I think it's distressing, worrying and will anger many families."

But SDLP North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness dismissed any concerns over the exhibit.

"Banksy is obviously taking a satirical look at Northern Ireland. As someone of international standing, he's well within his rights to use artistic license when looking at this part of the world," he said.

"And with a title like Dismaland, he may have captured the public mood with Stormont at the minute perfectly."

Dismaland did not respond to requests for a response.

The exhibition at the two-and-a-half acre Tropicana site in Weston-super-Mare is due to finish this week following a limited five-week run, with the final batch of £3 tickets selling out in minutes at the weekend.

It features works by dozens of artists including Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer and Jimmy Cauty.

Visitors who enter the park are greeted with a view of street artist Banksy's fire-ravaged fairytale Cinderella castle.

There are boats full of asylum seekers which can be driven round a pond, two juggernauts performing ballet and a camp training guests how to break into bus billboards.

Asked about the meaning of Dismaland, Bristol-based Banksy - whose exact identity has never been revealed - said: "I guess you'd say it's a theme park whose big theme is theme parks should have bigger themes."

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