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Last Updated: Monday, 6 August 2007, 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK
'Terror murals UK's top attraction'
UVF mural
Many paramilitary murals have been replaced
Belfast's paramilitary murals are the UK's "best tourist attraction", according to a leading travel writer.

The Independent described the wall paintings as "an open-air gallery".

Many paramilitary murals have been painted over with non-sectarian images and last year the government announced a 3.3m plan to replace paramilitary paintings.

New murals which have been painted in loyalist areas of Belfast recently include portraits of football legend George Best, the building of the Titanic, decorated soldier Blair Mayne and David Healy scoring for Northern Ireland against England.

Last year, the Northern Ireland Office launched the Re-Imaging Communities Programme, which is aimed to give people the opportunity to "reclaim public spaces for their community".

However, The Independent's travel editor, Simon Calder, praised paramilitary murals in his guide to the top tourist attractions in the UK.

Footballer George Best features on one of the newer murals
Footballer George Best features on one of the new murals

He said: "Wander (safely and comfortably) down the Shankill Road and back along the Falls Road and try to make sense of the Troubles through the dark, passionate and sometimes shocking murals from both sides of the religious divide.

"When conflict passes into tourist attraction, the world is a better place."

Lisa McMurray of the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau said of Mr Calder's praise for the city's murals: "Visitors coming to Belfast do show great interest in visiting the murals, which are of course an interpretation of Belfast's political history.

"But over recent years they have evolved to also depict the city's cultural, artistic and sporting past."

Ms McMurray added that this evolution made them "very unique to this part of this world".

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