Tackling intimidating murals isn’t just for the Giro – by Peter Osborne

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Vincenzo Nibali won the Giro D'Italia in 2013

Vincenzo Nibali won the Giro D’Italia in 2013


What are the traits of a dysfunctional family or household?  Maybe there is conflict and tension.  Maybe there is poor communication.  Maybe people don’t understand each other and maybe they don’t want to understand each other.

There may be control issues or maybe there is no respect for diversity with an expectation that all family members will behave in the same way.

At times maybe there is bullying, intimidation and violence.

In a dysfunctional household when visitors come calling there may also be a concerted effort to hide the problems and put on the “outward” face – to show that things are “normal”.  No problems here – until the visitors leave.  Then back to as it is.

Is that what is happening in this region when it is suggested flags and emblems, and murals, are removed from the Giro d’Italia route?

Are we the dysfunctional family?  Visitors are coming so let’s clean the place up; Let’s not argue while they are here.  Let’s pretend it is like this all the time.  Isn’t it great?

But for many people flags on lamp posts and murals with gunmen in aggressive poses with bullying and intimidating messages are an everyday reality not just on the route of the Giro D’Italia.

For many they demarcate territory and with them come the messages they are designed to send.

I understand why there are calls to remove the flags, emblems and murals on the race route.  Something is better than nothing.

But isn’t the most important thing that like many dysfunctional families we recognise that some behaviour isn’t normal.  We simply don’t understand each other and maybe still don’t want to understand each other.



Underlying everything is the need to recognise that building a shared and reconciled society will take decades and generations, and will need major resourcing and commitment to make it happen.

And what does not help in that work is allowing intimidating and bullying images to shape space and distort attitudes.

And agencies have a duty of care to all people, including those that feel intimidated whether they are a member of a dysfunctional family or whether they are just living their lives within the community – our community.

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About Author

Peter has worked in community cohesion, good relations and community enablement for over 20 years, running Rubicon Consultants. Peter chairs the Community Relations Council Peter is a Northern Ireland Committee member of the BIG Lottery Fund. He is a voluntary Director of the Extern and Extern Ireland organisation, Peter chaired the Parades Commission from 2010-2013. Peter served as an elected member of Castlereagh Borough Council for 12 years from 1993-2005. He is a former Chair of the Alliance Party, 1999-2001. Peter co-founded and chaired for the first seven years, Landmark East, a large property-based social enterprise in East Belfast with an asset base of c. £3 million.


  1. The race may be the Giro d’Italia, but for God’s sake don’t let the cavalcade fly any Italian flags. Wee Willie Frazer will go bonkers again over that terrorist fleg!

  2. 2 things that you wouldn’t see in a normal healthy society…..

    1. Drug dealers and paramilitaries own the lamp posts and gable walls.
    2. Some of the main political parties see no problem with this and support this set up.


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