Belfast street art tour guide attacked by British and American tourists
Savage attack was carried out by frustrated customers who wanted to see sites from the city's troubled past.
ART ATTACK: Belfast has developed a reputation for contemporary street art but many tourists just want to see the poor quality murals about terrorism. (Sanzolina Kingston/Pump This! Pictures)
A Belfast tour guide has been left hospitalised in a serious condition following an altercation with tourists in the city's historic Cathedral Quarter.
Eyewitness accounts suggest the disagreement started when, due to a misprint in a Visit Belfast pamphlet, a number of English and American tourists had inadvertently booked themselves onto a street art walking tour instead of a Troubles bus tour.
"I heard one of the tourists repeatedly shouting 'Show us where the slaughter happened!' and pushing the poor tour guide around," explained one bystander who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals in their hotel.
"Then a highly strung Englishwoman - you know the sort - demanded to speak to his manager and when he said he's self-employed she just strikes him out of the blue with a slap round the face.
"That sort of lit the powder keg. Six or seven of them just descended on the poor fella, dragging him to the floor, kicking and stamping on him, trying to claw his eyeballs out. It was totally sickening and awful."
Other onlookers described the attackers taking turns kicking the victim's head against a curb outside the Toast Office gourmet grilled cheese sandwich hatch on Hill Street before a "strange sudden moment of clarity seemed to come over them" and they "scurried away in different directions like rats when you turn the lights on".
The Cathedral Quarter Street Art Tours Facebook page describes the tours as, “not mentioning the Troubles or morbidly dwelling on the city’s difficult past.”
One member of the tour group later spoke to a local journalist, explaining: “I wasn’t involved in the violence, but we were all really annoyed when we realised it was just a boring regular street art tour. I wanted to see the crude child-like paintings of skeletons in balaclavas waving around assault rifles. I could see this hipster stuff in any other city in Europe.”
Belfast’s city centre has developed a burgeoning reputation for street art over the last decade, with the Hit The North festival established in 2013 helping draw in visitors.
Liam Smyth, spokesman for the Belfast Guild of Tourist Industries, said in a statement: “We completely condemn the use of violence on this unfortunate young man, and wish him as speedy a recovery as his severe injuries allow. However, the old adage ‘the customer is always right’ does spring to mind. Tourism is absolutely vital for the local economy, so we have to work with visitors, not against them, and try to give them what they want.”