The Gaeltacht Quarter of Mural City: Irish in Falls Road Murals

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Citations (Scopus)


The Falls Road area in West Belfast, an established destination for so-called ‘Troubles tourism’, has in recent years been marketed as the ‘Gaeltacht Quarter’, an Irish language-themed cultural quarter. The ‘linguistic landscape’ (Landry and Bourhis 1997) of this cultural quarter includes not only bilingual signage and advertisements, but also the murals that emerged during the conflict. These provide a high profile and politically charged canvas for a multilingual ‘mosaic of different texts’ (Jaworski & Thurlow 2010, 32) that convey complex messages about the place of different languages and different people within Belfast and beyond. Languages act as ‘emblems of ethnicity’ (McCoy 1997, 117) and can be ‘potent resources in the arenas of politics and identity’ (Cohen 1998, 23), quite apart from what is said in them. While the Gaeltacht Quarter casts Irish as an economic resource rather than a political one, aiming to turn an emblem of ethnicity into a Unique Selling Point, the language never loses its symbolic significance. As Shohamy and Gorter (2009, 14) suggest, ‘Writing on open display…is a genie let out of the bottle’, open to multiple readings. Although Belfast has been called ‘an open-air gallery – a spectacle that is consumed’ (Lisle 2006, 33), no city is only that. Urban division provides sites of spectacle for visitors, but continues to shape local lives: the ‘peace lines in Belfast were not created as a tourist attraction’ (Leonard 2011, 123). Tourism is one way in which residents ‘contend for visibility and for economic and political survival’ (Jaworski and Thurlow 2010, 32). This chapter examines the evolving uses of Irish in Falls Road murals as the latest plan for the Gaeltacht Quarter aspires to double their number.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMurals and Tourism
Subtitle of host publicationHeritage, Politics and Identity
EditorsJonathan Skinner, Lee Jolliffe
PublisherRoutledge Press, New York.
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print) 9781472461438
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2017

Publication series

NameHeritage, Culture and Identity


  • Public Art
  • Northern Ireland
  • Irish language
  • minority languages
  • tourism
  • post-conflict


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