This is the third mural (see 2014 The Maze Ablaze and 2018 The Battle Of Long Kesh) on the so-called “International Wall” on Divis Street about the ‘Battle Of Long Kesh’, when republican prisoners tried to burn down the cages in protest at living conditions in the camp. CR gas had recently been developed by the British MoD at a lab in Porton Down and is alleged to have been “used against Irish POWs”.
Brady & Faul wrote an 80-page report on the conditions at the camp following the event, entitled The Flames Of Long Kesh. “Telegram to International Red Cross: ‘ … Visited Long Kesh today with others … request immediate investigation into use of “CR gas” … sub-human conditions … SOS … come immediately’ – 20 Oct 1974, Brian Brady & Fr. Denis Faul”.
For the 40th anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strike, portraits of the deceased ten (plus Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan from the 1970s) were placed on the railings of the Ballymurphy memorial garden. There is a new (compared to 2006 and 2008) set of plaques, erected in 2017:
“A Letter To The 22: You have not gone away, you are in the hearts and on the lips of your people. The old speak of you with knowing tongue. The middle aged, as those who worked beside you. The young men and women with a passion not unlike your own. Your names can be heard on the wind taken from the mouths of men who tend their flocks on Slieve Gullion, Cnoc Phadraig, Glenshane. They echo in the small graveyards in Cork, Kerry, Galway, Mayo, Tyrone, Antrim, Derry and Armagh. They are heard among your people at the mass gate on Sunday in the crowd at the hurling game, around the hearth when the bottle is cracked and song is sung. Your image can be seen on the faces of happy smiling children for whose freedom you gave your all. You are in our prayers you have not gone away, you never will. Mise le meas Colm Mac Giolla Bhein 2006. This monument was erected by the Ballymurphy Ex POWs in memory of the 22 hunger strikers who died for the cause of Irish freedom. It was unveiled on the hundredth anniversary of Thomas Ash[e] who was the first republican to die on hunger strike in 1917. He died after five days while being force fed. Thomas Ash[e] an these 21 brave Irish men stood by their beliefs and refused to be criminalised. Fuair siad bás ar son shaoirse na hÉireann. I measc laochra na nGael go raibh siad.”
The Castlereagh (4th battalion) UDA memorial garden behind the Bunch Of Grapes has changed over the years from painted murals (M | X) to spray-painted boards (We Forget Them Not) and now again to tarps within red frames. As far as content is concerned, the UFF, LPA (“We forget them not – past and present”) and UYM (“They shall not grow old etc”) remain but Tim Collins – a product of re-imaging – is out (see On That Journey) and Eddie The Trooper is in. The side wall of the pub has also been employed for the first time, with more hooded gunmen (see the third image, below). Two small plaques have been added to the outsides of the memorial wall.
Republican Sinn Féin and Provisional Sinn Féin were formed in 1986, when Sinn Féin split over the issue of taking Dáil seats. They reject the Belfast Agreement and support the use of force; the poster above calls for political status for prisoners, the same issue that led to the blanket protest and hunger strikes. (Their web site is in fact republicansinnfein.org; they are also on Twitter.)
Inspirational female figures inside Coláiste Feirste: Marie Curie – Duais Nobel, Emmeline Pankhurst – “Vótaí do mhnaí” [votes for women], Alice Ní Mhaolagáin [Milligan], Mary Anne Nic Reachtain [McCracken], Mairéad Ní Fhearail [Farrell], Bernadette Ní Dhoibhilin [Devlin], Angela Davis, Rosa Parks – “Shuigh sí le go dtiocfadh linn seasamh” [She sat so that we would stand], Méabh – Banríon Chonnacht [queen of Connacht], Gráinne Mhaol [Grace O’Malley], Marina Ginestà, Winifred Ní Chearnaigh [Carney], Mary Mhic Giolla Íosa [McAleese] – Uachtarán na hÉireann [President of Ireland], mná Bhóthar Seoighe [women of Shaw’s Road] – scoil Ghaeilge Bhéal Feirste. Dalta Choláiste Feirste – An tusa an chéad laoch eile? [Pupil of Coláiste Feirste, are you the next hero?]
RHC volunteer Stevie McCrea (born 31.5.52, killed 18.2.89) was imprisoned for his role in the killing of 17 year-old Catholic James Kerr in a Lisburn Road garage, on the same day as the RHC bombed Benny’s Bar in Sailortown. He was killed in an IPLO attack on the Orange Cross (the Shankill Social Club). This Village mural is the second tribute to McCrea this year – see also A True Soldier Of Ulster in the lower Shankill, near the former location of the Orange Cross in Craven Street.
“Stevie was raised in The Village Area of South Belfast. He was just a young man when The Troubles started but without hesitation answered the call by joi[ni]ng the Village RHC. He soon started making a name for himself by putting himself on the front line with his brothers in arms in the RHC. These men where [sic] one of the most active units in Ulster by taking the fight the republicans. In 1972 at the height of The Troubles Stevie was sentenced to life for his part in a retaliation shooting and was imprisoned in Long Kesh. After serving 15 years with dignity and courage he was released. On the 16th February 1989 just after receiving his last pay cheque [from a transitional work scheme] he decided to join a few friends in The Orange Cross Club in the Shankill area. This would be his last drink as republican scum decided to target the Loyalist club. Stevie sacrificed himself to protect his friend by throwing himself in front of a hail of bullets. Stevie died 2 days later from his injuries in the Royal Victoria Hospital.”
This UVF LPOW mural in Inverary Drive, east Belfast, probably dates back to the years after the Agreement, when the release of prisoners from both sides was being implemented between 1998 and 2000. That would make the mural about 20 years old.
James Connolly was executed on May 12th, 1916. Both the (freshly painted) Connolly plaque shown above and the Martin Meehan mural on the adjacent wall paint the struggle of the republican prisoners and the Provisionals of the ‘Troubles’ as descendants of 1916’s Easter Rising. Several name-plaques have been added to (what is now officially titled) the ‘Republican Prisoners Memorial Wall’ compared to the number seen in September.
For close-ups of the door and sculptured rocks, see Father Time.