Northern Ireland news

McWilliams's art 'political' not 'propagandist'

Artist Joe McWilliams

REGARDED as one of Ireland's finest artists, Joe McWilliams was best known for his paintings of The Troubles.

The north Belfast man painted dozens of Orange Order marches over several decades, including one of a bandsman urinating outside St Matthew's Catholic Church in the Short Strand area of the city.

In an introduction to a 1997 exhibition at the Cavehill Gallery in north Belfast, Mr McWilliams said his art had a "political dimension... although not, I hope, a propagandist one".

He wrote: "My Orange parades are not folk parades. My tartan dummers are not musicians at garden fetes. There is aggression in their playing and this underlying violence is suggested by the fury of their drumming and the pixelated anonymity of their faces.

"But the Twelfth of July parade is also a marvellous, colourful spectacle, whatever its political or religious base. The simple mechanics of this event appeal to me as a painter."

Unionists have previously criticised other Ulster Museum exhibits and even the range of books it has on sale.

Earlier this year DUP assembly member Brenda Hale said claimed there was "a distinct bias in the books and literature for sale in the shop of all things of a nationalist and republican nature".

In 2010, then culture minister, the DUP's Nelson McCausland faced criticism after he called on the museum to give more recognition to creationism in its exhibits.

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