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Karen Bies

2018-07-31 17:20 — Dublin, Ireland

Belmullet # 7 Uproar

There’s an uproar in Belmullet. Usually life goes calmly through Barrack Street and Main Street, but now emotions are running high. The reason is the brochure for the Belmullet Festival, the party of the year. On 'Heritage Day' people are dressed up as fishermen or farmers. They do old crafts, such as shearing sheep. There’s live trad music and an Irish Dance Competition. Tourists come from the entire country. But that’s not certain this year. 

Northern Ireland is not on the map printed on the festival brochure. The six counties Antrim, Tyrone, Down, Derry, Armagh and Fermanagh have just been cut off. That’s why people are furious. From Northern Ireland a lot of tourists come to visit Belmullet, especially for fishing. But now there’s a call for a boycott. Belmullet Festival’s Facebook-page turns red. I read: 'Disrespect and insensivity'. ‘Disgraceful for Irish culture’. 'Stupid and insulting'. 'Shame on you!' 

One of the sponsors of the festival says: ‘This is a very unfortunate incident with far-reaching effects considering the influence of social media. I extend my apologies to anyone who has been offended in any way by this offensive blunder.’ ‘It is an unfortunate oversight,’ the organization says. ‘The Belmullet festival committee are volunteers who give up their time in a wonderful festival for everyone to enjoy’… ‘Mistakes will inevitably happen’. 

Pathetic attempt of an excuse, some Facebook critics say. ‘A child knows the map of Ireland better.’ ‘Not republican volunteers then!’ And: 'It does not take a professional designer to notice there's six f***ing counties of Ulster missing on the map.’  

The map without the six counties isn’t the map of Ireland, it is the map of the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland is governed by the United Kingdom, but the Irish count it as a part of Ireland. GAA doesn’t acknowledge the border. Irish sports like Gaelic football and hurling do a competition with all 32 counties. Ireland is the whole island.

Publishing the wrong map is a very sensitive mistake. Having a period of twenty years of peace after The Troubles in Northern Ireland (the Good Friday Agreement of 1998) most Irish people hope to be reunited some day. It is the talk of the day. With Ireland in the EU and Brexit coming, the question is what the consequences are for Ireland and Northern Ireland.  

The organization of Belmullet Festival has immediately taken action. New brochures will be printed with a new map. Every shop in town has been asked to throw the old ones away as soon as possible. The organization tries to remove the remarks from Facebook.

Small chance of a boycott. Some inhabitants say: ‘It is a storm in a teacup.’ They hope the people from Northern Ireland do come, everyone from the six counties wearing their county jerseys on Heritage Day.