Mar 032012


In 2007 a poster campaign appeared in Limerick City co ordinated by a group calling themelves A Movement for a Safer Ireland.  The message delivered by the A4 posters’ black on white text was anti-immigrant and racist in tone.  According to the text, foreign nationals were denying Irish nationals work and education opportunities.  This was a standard racist provocation replicated in similar messages by ‘white only’ groups in England and Europe.

The primary display area for the campaign was a regular route beginning at Colbert Station through to John St and it was updated monthly. This route, based on its radius from the station, hinted that the poster team were not Limerick-based.  It could have been a type of public-transport-facilitated tagging strategy where the act is undertaken using the visited city’s transport base as a hub. This is recognised graffiti practice.

Reaction was immediate as the posters were defaced and removed by a coalition of socialists, anti-fascists and offended citizens.  Extra-strong paste initially fixed the posters but after intervention they were reduced to scraps of print on wallspace and street hoardings.  However since the MSI had worked each month to establish their route, even without their full racist text, the scraps began to assert a familiar branded presence.  Concerned individuals began to monitor updates on the route and some even made a habit of carrying tools to scrape off new additions.

For the contested duration, alleyways that were attached to the main poster route quickly became linked units of marked, ripped, and twisted hate text that forced themselves on the walls.  The removal process by the coalition eventually decided on black spraypaint in retaliation, leaving streaks of translucent black lines as a final punctuation.

The remaining poster scraps with their fragmented message were a ragged cartography mapping out a perpendicular route from Colbert Station down towards the Milkmarket.   Even as scraps they continued their taunts on the walls of the area’s flats which were predominantly rented by the racist’s targets

The defeated campaign lasted approximately 9 months. Afterwards there was a report of a MSI team being caught in the act and attacked at one point. This story is regularly repeated but remains unconfirmed.

I began to record the erasures’ finish as end detailing because I participated in the campaign’s removal  and also because I was  interested in the leftover scraps from a communication perspective, an interest that included reflecting on the project’s construction and to identify it as a record of a collective act of protest.

The MSI has a web address printed on the posters and their logo tenaciously floated out and remained in much of the black blobs that marked the route.  The logo remained because often the intervention priority was to erase the printed message quickly, which sometimes meant that the smaller identity in the corners was overlooked.  The posters probably used a type of water-based glue and not conventional paste for application (the traditional term ‘paste’  will always refer to an applied postering process).

The posters were designed to physically bond with Limerick streets.  As much as the volume of racist endeavour is managed on the net there is always a basic street promotion built into the process.  Websites often have templates and encouragement for the application for these posters.  Obliteration by spraypaint became a solution that arose from a late awareness of the rhythms and tenacity of this campaign.

I looked at my collection of decommissioned images.  I had stolen words and half sentences in isolated English.  This archive suggested a reclamation from the overall intervention experience.  I wanted a commemoration of some sort to recognise the work that a group of Limerick citizens, mostly unknown to each other, undertook for the campaign’s removal.  It is continuously mentioned.  When I talk of this time more often than not in Limerick company someone will admit that they too peeled a poster there and then.

“Talk isnt ment about the victims” is a construction of an A0 digital image mounted on shuttering plywood.  Three A4 prints enlarge individual text from the MSI campaign to now read Talk / isnt / about.  These words are then tacked on to a larger image of black paint with the words ‘the victims’ faintly legible.  The final detoured sentence denies a communication of the MSI racist ethos and pays tribute to the collective deconstructive work of the self-directed coalition.

This construction was exhibited in the Limerick Printmakers open exhibition in 2007.  The intention in registering it as an artpiece for the Printmakers Gallery in Robert St took into account that the gallery’s location was in the middle of the route from Colbert Station to John St.  It was hung with a statement on the situation and the process.



Paul Tarpey