United Kingdom: Painting sparks controversy in Northern Ireland


A painting in an exhibition at the Ulster Museum has drawn ire by the Orange Order, an international Protestant organisation based primarily in Northern Ireland, because they say members of their group are depicted wearing Ku Klux Klan garb, the British newspaper The Independent reported.

The group lodged their complaint on 4 November 2015, which prompted two political parties – Traditional Unionist Voice and Democratic Unionist Party – to call for the removal of the work.

The museum stood by the work, but soon bowed to pressure by placing notices at their entrances warning that some may find images in the exhibition “thought-provoking, controversial, and potentially offensive,” though they did not take the painting down, the Belfast Telegraph reported.

“What we will not do is take the picture down, Denise Ferran, president of the Royal Ulster Academy, told The Independent. “Once you go down that road, the problems will never cease.”

The work entitled ‘Christian Flautists Outside St Patrick’s’, which was awarded the Irish News Prize, was the last painting by the late Irish artist, Joseph McWilliams, who died 7 October 2015. The painting itself was of a controversial parade in 2012 where a band played a secular song in front of a church.

“It was seen as a tremendous provocation. It has recently been going through the courts so you can see why the Orange Order is sensitive to a painting depicting imagery like that,” Ferran said.

As of 10 November 2015, the museum has received six complaints about the painting, The Irish News reported.



» The Irish News – 10 November 2015:
Six complaints about controversial Orange Order painting

» The Independent – 6 November 2015:
Unionist parties in censorship row after demanding removal of painting showing ‘Orangemen in KKK clothing’

» Belfast Telegraph – 5 November 2015:
Warning notices placed at exhibition featuring painting of Orangemen as Ku Klux Klan

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