- 15 Aug 22
KNEECAP's unveiling of a mural in West Belfast has sparked a fiery debate online.
KNEECAP are trending on Twitter following their unveiling of a new mural in West Belfast on Friday, ahead of their high-profile performance at Falls Park, as part of Féile an Phobail.
The mural depicts a PSNI Land Rover in flames – an image which has also appeared on the hip-hop group's merch – alongside a line from their single 'C.E.A.R.T.A': "Níl fáilte roimh an RUC" [The RUC aren't welcome]
KNEECAP have taken a provocative stance throughout their career – using their platform to address crucial social issues, while also offering up satirical commentary on their experiences as young men from Belfast.
Back in 2018, the trio addressed the controversial lyrics in 'C.E.A.R.T.A'. in an interview with The Sunday Times.
"We wanted this song to break stereotypes," Móglaí Bap, one-third of the group, said. "We’re not saying we agree with using RUC as a term for the PSNI, but it happens in Belfast."
Alliance leader and Northern Ireland's justice minister Naomi Long is among those who have addressed the controversy online – sharing a screenshot of a video taken at the unveiling, of a young boy giving the middle finger to the mural.
"The band in question court controversy: it's publicity and I doubt this latest mural will do them any harm," she wrote. "However, the same can't be said of young children being groomed into sectarian hatred. We've seen this all summer: it needs to stop. We owe the next generation better."
Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), took to Twitter to condemn the mural, describing it as "offensive to every serving police officer in Northern Ireland & to many in wider community."
Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie, Loyalist commentator Jamie Bryson, and many other unionist politicians also criticised the mural online.
Other commentators, however, stated that the issue was being blown out of proportion.
Abortion rights activist Bethany Moore took to Twitter to state: "Kneecap’s mural getting more outrage than UVF flags being sold/carried during marches in Derry… interesting"
"Also LOL at politicians condemning the mural while also asking for the Noah Donohoe files to be released… which one is it folks?" she continued.
North Belfast journalist Amanda Ferguson noted that the "outrage factory is on overtime", in reference to the reactions to the mural.
"There are those condemning a #kneecap #mural but skirt around criticising those who order/throw *actual petrol bombs* at police," she wrote. "Anger at #lyrics by provocative Irish language rappers but no probs with Para/UVF flags on sale in Derry. We see you"
Another commentator, Rachel, also weighed in on the debate – comparing the mural to Beyoncé's 'Formation' music video, in which the singer "sat and stood on top of a New Orleans police car being submerged in rising water, referencing police brutality and Hurricane Katrina."
"KNEECAP sponsoring an anti-PSNI mural is in keeping with many contemporary musicians and artists' work," she added.
In response to the controversy, KNEECAP shared a typically tongue-in-cheek post – thanking the DUP for their help in getting the hip-hop group's name trending on Twitter.
GRMA to the DUP and all our loyal supporters 💚 pic.twitter.com/bbEQjfwyDw
— KNEECAP (@KNEECAPCEOL) August 14, 2022
Following the mural unveiling, KNEECAP went on to play at Falls Park for Féile an Phobail – scoring a "massive reception" from the 10,000-strong crowd.
10,000 fans give Kneecap a massive reception at Féile an Phobail in the Falls Park tonight. pic.twitter.com/TWNcGt1DjX
— Féile an Phobail (@FeileBelfast) August 12, 2022
KNEECAP – whose debut album is reportedly "en route" – have already had a busy festival season this year, and are set to play their first gig on continental Europe tonight, with a set at Sziget in Budapest. Back in November, the group played a major headline gig at 3Olympia Theatre in Dublin.