Kentucky Fried Chicken Forced By Caucus and Others to Take Down Anti-Catholic Mural

Posted By: March 29, 2013

Belfast Telegraph. September 19, 2002

By Sean O’Driscoll in Washington

An Ulster Freedom Fighters mural on the side of a government-aided Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet has been painted over this week after it threatened to cost the food chain more than $100 million in stock sell-offs from California and other states.

The mural, on the side of a fast food restaurant on the Shankill Road, caused a storm this week after California, New York City and Connecticut state pension fund controllers considered dropping their stock in KFC to comply with U.S anti-sectarianism laws.

New York city and state officials indicated that they would pull $65 million in pension fund stock out of the company to comply with legislation. Pension fund controllers in Connecticut and California had also expressed concern about the mural, as well as loyalist intimidation of KFC staff at an Antrim outlet.

Amy Sherwood, a spokeswoman for KFC’s parent company, Yum!, said that the mural was “an unacceptable political symbol” and said that the company had asked the Belfast franchise to have the mural removed.

“I can’t tell you exactly when we made the call, but it was in the last few days,” she said. “Our position is very clear, we do not like any unacceptable political symbols at any KFC franchises.”
The outlet’s side wall had displayed an Ulster Freedom Fighters mural of a hooded gunman with a slogan that read “Welcome to The UFF Heartland Shankill Road. Quis Separabit.”

Ms Sherwood also said that she would be examining reports that a KFC franchise in Antrim had asked nationalist staff to relocate to another store or accept a buy-out payment after receiving threats from loyalist paramilitaries.

Heidi Walsh, a spokeswoman for the Investor Responsibility Research Centre, an independent group hired by California and other states to help them comply with the McBride Principles, said that the loss of the California state pension funds could have been the most serious for the KFC stock.

“It’s the largest state employee pension fund in the U.S, so the company have taken this very seriously,” she said. “The fact that the mural was up there for two years shows has to be taken into consideration, and the mural didn’t look good for the Northern Ireland Department for Social Development either,’ she said.

Patrick Doherty, a spokesperson for the New York City comptroller’s office, which controls city employee pension stock, said that the Shankill Road branch was in clear violation of the McBride Principles, which forbid many U.S states from investing in companies that tolerate sectarian work environments.

He also said that he was surprised that the Shankill Road KFC outlet was listed on a Northern Ireland Department of Social Development website as a success under its Shankill urban renewal scheme.

Mr Doherty’s office, which controls more that $35 million in KFC stock, said yesterday that the issue was not over, as they were also complaints that nationalists working at an Antrim town KFC outlet had been moved to another workplace because of loyalist intimidation.

The Irish American lobby group, the Irish National Caucus, had spearheaded a campaign against KFC after hearing complaints from nationalists in Belfast.

Spokesperson Father Sean McManus said that the group had been considering a KFC boycott among Irish Americans but were encouraged to see that the mural had been removed.

“We have had very successful boycotts in the past, and we would have reluctantly done so again. The removal of the mural is a positive step, but you have to wonder why it was there for two years and why this particular KFC Branch was held up as a positive example on a government website,” he said.

Father McManus said the mural and loyalist flag outside the store were also in clear violation of Northern Ireland’s equality laws, which require a neutral working environment. He said that loyalist intimidation of workers at an Antrim KFC branch would also have to be addressed. “We want to arrive at a situation where all people – Catholic, Protestant, black, white or Chinese can go to work free from fear,” he added.

Dr Jonathan McCormack, who has studied more than a thousand political murals across Northern Ireland, said on a related website that the UFF mural was unusual because it was painted on the side of a well known business chain. “There are currently very few murals painted on the side of businesses, and these are mostly local shops rather than national chains,” he added.