In Armagh 2009



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There’s a new tattoo shop in town, and it’s called Primal Ink. The outside of the building blends in with the tan, unified bricks. A red, oval sign hung above the sidewalk swings back and forth in the wind with the word “TATTOO.”

The door greets you with a warning of no children allowed. Fluorescent lights and the white walls blind those who enter. A receptionist, hidden behind a counter to the left, is the only solid form of life in the vast room of colorless light.

From the cutout frame of this empty waiting room comes a distinctive sound stinging the air—a combination of buzzing angry bees and a dentist’s drill, condensed to a low, monotone vibration.

Ritchie Connob sits back in a sterile sea foam green chair. Calmly reclined, Ritchie’s face doesn’t flinch as his girlfriend etches black into his right shoulder.

“It doesn’t hurt,” he grunts. “I can’t feel any pain.”

Ritchie, owner of Primal Ink, is the new addition town, and has already made a mark.

A couple blocks over, another tattoo parlor found its home above Pixis, a children’s clothes store. Armageddon found its home nearly two and a half years ago. Three-feet tall, black, green and red, a folded sign on the street is the only way to know this tattoo joint exists.

However, Lorraine, the owner, is a ten-year tattoo artist. From the young age of eight, she knew she wanted to do art. After years of attempting to finish graphic design course, she kept finding her way back to tattoos.

The city of Armagh now shares these two tattoo parlors. And even though one is 26-year-old entrepreneur and the other is a more experienced and established artist, they have one thing in common: they refuse to do political tattoos.

Ink traced on arms and hands was once a common identification of a Nationalist or a Unionist. Images of hatred, death, kill, or phrases deciphering ones loyalty marked the political soldiers.

Northern Ireland a host to political and religious warfare, where a peace treaty is barely holding, and a country is filled with those who feel forced to pick a side.

A place where if one were to scale the dead and injured numbers as a percentage of population to match the U.S., our fellow citizens would be living in a country where three percent of the population were casualties, the equivalent of 9,00,000 dead and 54,000,000 injured—twenty times the number of soldiers so affected in World War II.

“A flag’s a flag; a football team is a football team,” Ritchie declares. “But in this country, I won’t do political tattoos.”

“We do more covers up,” Lorraine added after shaking her head in disgust of political tattoos.

Tattoo is a permanent image stained on our bodies for life. Both tattoo artists agreed that the best tattoos are the ones with stories. Whether one prefers a tradition Celtic image or trendy stars, political tattoos will not be added to the portfolios of Ritchie Connob and Lorraine.