A mural of Che Guevara, who visited and stayed in Kilkee, West Clare has been painted over prior to a Latin Festival celebrating his visit in 1961. The Che do Bheatha Festival is in its third year. The removal of the mural has caused division among county council representatives.
According to The Irish Examiner, “Kilkee Chamber of Commerce President Johnny Redmond said: “Clare County Council has decided it is graffiti and has removed this harmless mural. This at a time when the council says it has no money to kill the weeds that are growing up through the footpath on the promenade but has time and funds to waste on removing an internationally recognised image in the year of the Gathering with Irish-Argentinians coming to Kilkee for the festival.””
The Belfast Telegraph said that the mural was removed because due to an increased number of US tourists, the Americans were upset by the Che mural. “The Americans left town after seeing the mural. The face of Guevara, who visited Kilkee in 1961, had adorned the same spot for the previous two Che do Bheatha festivals.”
Belfast should know a thing or two about the historical importance of murals. The slideshow above (all pictures are my own. Taken in August 2009) is of murals in the city of Belfast depicting the troubles, the heroes of both sides, and historical figures, such as Guevara, that were revered for their patriotism. Taxi and bus tours of Belfast city include the murals in their informational tours.
The image depicted of Che Guevara was made famous by Irish artist, Jim Fitzpatrick, whom I interviewed by telephone in November 2011. You can read the interview here. Fitzpatrick met Guevara when he visited County Clare during a flight stopover in 1961.
Should the Kilkee mural have been painted over or removed because it upset a few Americans? I don’t think so. And I do hope that the Clare County Council will redo the image. Regardless of whether you admire or despise Che Guevara, it is just a mural, and if the locals aren’t offended, why should a tourist be offended?