‘Obscene’: Son of IRA victim hits out at portrait of Sinn Fein mayor with image of Bobby Sands

A man whose father was shot dead by the IRA more than 35 years ago has described as ‘obscene’ the recent portrait of Sinn Fein mayor, former Belfast mayor Danny Baker, which includes an image of the striker from hunger Bobby Sands.

Ammy Heenan, whose father William was murdered on May 3, 1985 outside his home in Legananny, Co Down, by an IRA gunman, said the image only ‘romanticizes the brutality the IRA has inflicted on society for many years”.

Portraits of Belfast’s former Lord Mayors John Finucane and Mr Baker have been unveiled at City Hall and will now be on public display.

Mr Finucane’s portrait cost £12,000 and Mr Baker’s £14,950.

The portrait of Mr Baker was the work of artist Tony Bell, with the artwork featuring Mr Finucane the creation of Leah Davis.

Unusually, because both men served the same year as mayor, two portraits of Sinn Fein politicians were commissioned.

Mr Baker’s shows him in profile, turning to a small photo of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands on a window sill.

Mr. Heenan was only 12 years old at the time of his father’s murder.

He told the Belfast Telegraph that Mr Baker’s choice of images in his portrait as mayor ‘illustrates the historical revisionism that pollutes our society in Northern Ireland’.

“Sadly people in our society still romanticize the brutality the IRA inflicted for many years through this glorified prism, and Sinn Fein is once again at the forefront,” he said.

“They also kind of justify what happened to our loved ones who were murdered, on both sides of the community.

“This normalization of the imagery of people like Bobby Sands is entirely designed to condition the mindsets of the current generation, that there is legitimacy in terrorism,” he added.

“The way the Republican movement elevates Bobby Sands as an icon of the struggle for privilege and the fight against British rule only forgets that ultimately he was a criminal and was convicted as such, he should therefore be treated with the contempt he deserves.

Mr Heenan said seeing such kind of images standardized in a public space, such as Belfast City Hall, is “obscene”.

“When the IRA murdered my father it just destroyed my life – my mother and grandmother died shortly before and I lost my home. The IRA didn’t care that I was a 12-year-old boy who would come home from school to find his father’s body, or that I would have to run half a mile to raise the alarm – they had no regard for me at the time and they don’t care now,” he said.

“They have no respect for the pain and anguish that many victims of their depraved terror campaign still experience and it is both obscene and repugnant that people like Danny Baker are only fueling this narrative of historical revisionism .

“There needs to be a real change within the nationalist community to try and change this behavior for future generations.”

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