The International Wall (Divis Street)

Divis

The so-called “International Wall” (or “Solidarity Wall”) on Divis Street marks the entry into republican west Belfast.

As you travel out from the city centre, you cross (since the early 80s) the Westlink dual-carriageway and come to Divis Tower, a block of high-rise flats built in 1966 along with a series of other low-rise flats that were demolished in 1993. From 1969 to 2005, the roof and top two floors of the tower were used by the British Army as a helicopter pad and observation post. This image (from 2003) shows a board below the tower protesting its occupation, as well as the surveillance devices on the top of the tower itself.

In juxtaposition to the Army’s listening post there was for a long time – 1988 to 2000 – a large religious mural on the Morning Star hostel across the street.

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This pair of landmarks served as a portal to west Belfast and, beginning in 2003, this transition was acknowledged by various signage on the building below the tower.

Here are the original “Fáilte Feirste Thiar” tarp and “Gateway To West Belfast” board:

Murals were painted in 2011 welcoming tourists to (CNR) west Belfast (Fáilte Go Dtí West Belfast/Fáilte Feirste Thiar) and offering tours by ex-prisoners (Coiste).

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The large corner mural was repainted in 2019 when the new Raidió Fáilte building opened.

A New Horizon

All of this speaks to Divis Tower’s claim to be the gateway to west Belfast.

But a short way above Divis Tower you turn a corner and it is no longer possible to see downtown behind you. You pass between the stately Northern Bank building and the elevated St Comgall’s, and looking ahead you see the mountain in the distance.

(Street View image)

Marking this transition is a wall, about 68 metres (222 feet) in length, covered in murals. When you see the International Wall, you know you have definitely entered a distinctive place. As the wall serves as a manifesto of the community, it’s somewhat surprising, that having left the city centre and the motorway for the foothills of Sliabh Dubh (Black Mountain) and Divis, the concerns of nationalist west Belfast reach out across the globe.

The wall is a perimeter wall of a commercial enterprise, Andrews Flour, which had been on the site since 1895. At the start of the Troubles the wall had advertising hoardings on it. (The hoarding on Northumberland St to the left of frame persisted until it was commandeered in 2017.)

(Unattributed image.
Northumberland St blocked by a lorry in 1969, with the Falls Rd to the left and Divis St to the right. Barbed wire has been strung across Albert Street.)
(Unattributed image.
British Army soldiers directing traffic at the intersection of Falls-Divis and Northumberland-Albert streets)

At the 1980s, after the hunger strike, the wall sometimes sported electoral posters. But in general the wall went unused until the year 2000, which is after the Good Friday Agreement. This is perhaps because of the British Army observation post on the top of Divis Tower (which was not dismantled until late 2005) and because of the quasi-industrial location.

The first mural was a long stencil to victims of plastic bullets, showing in 1:1 scale the distances at which they had been shot (see below). This was gradually replaced with murals and boards, moving from left to right, including, though not exclusively, pieces in support of international causes: by 2002 there were panels about Palestine, Turkish “F-Block” hunger strikers, and imprisoned Native American Leonard Peltier. Hence the name “the international wall”.

The very first spot on the left-hand side of the wall, which is partly obscured by a traffic signal, was not painted until 2006, when a mural to “the first blanket man” Kieran Nugent was painted. Brendan “The Dark” Hughes, IRA OC in Long Kesh until he and several others went on hunger strike in 1980, was later (2008) added. This memorial to the pair is the most permanent fixture on the wall.

2006 was also the year in which the wall was completely filled for the first time. The last spot (on the far right) was given a mural to Liam MacCarthy (of the MacCarthy Cup), replacing a small ETA mural, some boards, a stencil, and graffiti, which together did not cover the entire wall.

In addition to a Nugent/Hughes mural (in the #1 spot), the wall has almost always had a pro-Palestine mural (immediately following Nugent), a POW or “dissident” mural (immediately follow that), and, starting in 2003, a ‘black taxi’ mural (about two-thirds of the way along, but in various positions).

Murals were later also painted on the adjacent wall on Northumberland Street and it also contains many internationally-themed murals and as such can now be considered just as much a part of the international wall as Divis Street. There is a separate page giving a visual history of Northumberland Street. That wall was filled (up to the first set of security gates, at least) by 2014.


Murals

References in parentheses: M = Peter Moloney collection; J = Jonathan McCormick collection; X = Extramural Activity collection; D = squire93@hotmail.com collection

For individual histories of each part of the wall, please see the map.

(bold indicates a new mural)

2000-04: Peter Meddlesome “Telling Lies! Who Me?” (S00140 J0423) – Ban Plastic Bullets 

2001: Blank – Ógra Shinn Féin –  RUC Must Go – Castlerea Five – Peter Meddlesome “Slan Abhaile and don’t forget your passport” – Ban Plastic Bullets – Tommy Crossan/Spoil Your Vote graffiti

2002: Blank – Ógra Shinn Féin – RUC Must Go – remains of Castlerea Five (above)/white Maghaberry (below) – Our Actions Are Political – Turkish Hunger Strike (2001) – remains of Ban Plastic Bullets – Join Now Eire Nua – Political Status Now + Tommy Crossan (above) + ETA + Support the hunger-strikers in Turkey (below)

(M01989 This is not in fact the one on the Divis Steet wall but identical to it, the identity made possible by stenciling rather than painting)

2002-later: Blank – Palestine V/Palestine/Tricolour VMaghaberry barbed wire – Our Actions Are Political – Turkish Hunger Strike (2001) – Saoirse Do Peltier – remains of Ban Plastic Bullets – Join Now Eire Nua + Political Status Now + Tommy Crossan (above) + ETA + Support the hunger-strikers in Turkey (below)

2002 wide shot. About two-thirds of Ban Plastic Bullets remain.

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2004 line-up: Blank – Palestine V/Palestine/Tricolour V – Maghaberry barbed wire – Our Actions Are Political – Turkish Hunger Strike (2001) – Saoirse Do Peltier – PSNI Spot the difference (with red paint over Ban Plastic Bullets; fl. 2003) – WBTA (yellow paint over Ban Plastic Bullets, fl. 2003) – Cherish The Children blue paint over Ban Plastic Bullets – Operation Iraqi Liberation (2004-08) – Castilla Nacion (2003-09) – Llibertat Països Catalans – Join Now Eire Nua + Political Status Now + Tommy Crossan (above) + ETA (below) + Support the hunger-strikers in Turkey (below)

2004 wide shot. Ban Plastic Bullets is entirely gone; the first spot remains unpainted; the last spot remains a number of small boards and a mural and a stencil.

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2005: Blank – Palestine V/Palestine/Tricolour V – Maghaberry barbed wire – Our Actions Are Political – Turkish Hunger Strike (2001) – Bodenstown – WBTA – Cherish The Children – Operation Iraqi Liberation (2004-08) – Castilla Nacion (2003-09) – Llibertat Països Catalans – Join Now Eire Nua – Political Status Now + Tommy Crossan (above) + ETA + Support the hunger-strikers in Turkey (below)

January 2006 line-up: Nugent – Palestine V/Palestine/Tricolour V – Maghaberry barbed wire – Douglass (2006-02?) – Bodenstown – WBTA Gabhal An Chaisleain black paint over Ban Plastic Bullets – Fight Bigotry – Operation Iraqi Liberation (2004-08) – Llibertat Països Catalans – Join Now Eire Nua + Political Status Now + Tommy Crossan (above) + ETA + Support the hunger-strikers in Turkey (below)

With the addition of Nugent, the wall is now full, though the last spot (far right) is something of a mess. It will be cleaned up with the addition of MacCarthy.

2006: Nugent – Palestine V/Palestine/Tricolour V – Maghaberry barbed wire – Douglass (2006-02?) – Bodenstown – Manchester Martyrs shamrock – Fight Bigotry – Operation Iraqi Liberation (2004-08) – WBTA SandsNational Hunger Strike Rally – blank/in preparation (for ‘No Imperialist Intervention In IranJ2803) – MacCarthy

2006 wide shot. Although Iran and MacCarthy on the right are not visible in this shot, the wall is now completely covered in murals.

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2007-02 wide shot 

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?July? 2007: Nugent – Palestine V/Palestine/Tricolour V – Maghaberry barbed wire – Douglass (2006-02?) – Bodenstown – Manchester Martyrs shamrock – Fight Bigotry – Operation Iraqi Liberation (2004-08) – WBTA Sands – Collusion Was Not Only Not An IllusionStop Plan Bush – McCarthy

December 2007 line-up: Nugent – Palestine V/Palestine/Tricolour V – Maghaberry barbed wire – Douglass (2006-02?) – Guernica (2007-08; original plaque at right unveiled by Gerry Adams August 12 – the Guernica and Gaza bombs were added later) – Brigadas Internacionales (2007-08) – Operation Iraqi Liberation (2004-08) – WBTA 8 pounds GPO 35years – blank bookmark – Askatasuna – Stop Plan Bush – MacCarthy

July 2008 (first Google Street View) line-up: Nugent/Hughes (2008-02 Hughes “was added into the [Nugent] mural after he passed away in February 2008” 2012 International Wall Calendar) – Palestine We Will Return – Maghaberry IRPWA – Museum bookmark (+ Sinn Féin Out and then Wolfe Tone) – Douglass (2006-02?) – Guernica (2007-08) – Manchester Martyrs red – Operation Iraqi Liberation (2004-08) (rhs modified in 2009? to include Palestine flag and figures) – WBTA Trax 38 – Meehan bookmark – Askatasuna – Stop Plan Bush – MacCarthy

Maghaberry Prisoners with the Irish Republican History Museum + Sinn Féin Out

(M03989 also X00304)

The “Sinn Féin Out” graffiti was replaced by Wolfe Tone …

(D01705 from 2009-02)

June 2009 line-up: Nugent/Hughes (2008-02) – Barbarian Israeli Aggression (2009) – Maghaberry IRPWA – Museum bookmark + Wolfe Tone – Douglass (2006-02?) – Guernica (2007-08) – Manchester Martyrs red – Arkansas ’57/Ardoyne ’01/South Belfast ’09 (2009) – WBTA Trax 40 – Meehan bookmark -Askatasuna – Cuba 50 years (2009) – McCarthy

(M04821 2010)
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2010 line-up: Nugent/Hughes (2008-02) – Palestine We Will Return with Barbarian Israeli Aggression (2009) – Maghaberry IRPWA – Museum bookmark + Wolfe Tone – Douglass (2006-02?) – Guernica (2007-08) – Ag Fíorú Na Ceathrún Gaeltachta – Raidió Fáilte – Falls Curfew – WBTA Trax 40 – Meehan bookmark – Askatasuna – Cuba 50 years (with “Venceremos”) – MacCarthy

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2010 wide shot

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March 2011 line-up, also July 2011: Nugent/Hughes (2008-02) – Palestine We Will Return with Barbarian Israeli Aggression (2009) – Maghaberry IRPWA – Museum bookmark + Cell – Armagh Women (2010) – Guernica (2007-08) – Ag Fíorú Na Ceathrún Gaeltachta – Raidió Fáilte – Falls Curfew – WBTA Trax 40 – Meehan bookmark – Askatasuna – Cuba 50 years (2009) – Oppose Racism (2010)

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September 2012 line-up: Nugent/Hughes (2008-02) – Palestine 4,400 political prisoners (2012) – Maghaberry End Strip Searches (2011) – Museum bookmark + Cell – Armagh Women (2010) – Guernica (2007-08) – Na Ceathrún Gaeltachta – Raidió Fáilte – Falls Curfew – WBTA Get The Real Story (2012-07) – Hunger Strikers/Frank Stagg (2011) – Cuba Free The Five – Anti-Racism Roma

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2013-02-28 line-up: Nugent/Hughes (2008-02) – Palestine 4,400 political prisoners (2012) – Maghaberry End Strip Searches (2011) – Museum bookmark + Cell – Free Marian Price bookmark – Milltown 25th – Guernica (2007-08) – Na Ceathrún Gaeltachta – Local Volunteers – Falls Curfew – WBTA Get The Real Story (2012-07) – Hunger Strikers/Frank Stagg (2011) – Cuba Free The Five – Anti-Racism Roma

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2013 wide shot 

2013-02-28 MilltownWide+
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2013-08-08 line-up: Nugent/Hughes (2008-02) – Palestine 4,400 political prisoners (2012) – End Internment (2013) – Museum bookmark (M03987) + Cell (M08138) – Free Marian Price bookmark (M09249) – Milltown 25th (M09248) – Guernica (X00299 2007-08) – Na Ceathrún Gaeltachta (M05634) – Local Volunteers (X00671) – Falls Curfew (X00597) – WBTA Get The Real Story (2012-07 M08771) – Hunger Strikers/Frank Stagg (2011 M07524) – Cuba Free The Five (M08097) – Anti-Racism Roma (X00581)

Wide shots, from the left and from the right.

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2013-08-08 IntWallRight+
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2013-09 Gaeltacht Quarter (replaces previous Na Ceathrún Gaeltachta)

2013-10 Free Otegi (replaces Never Actually Existed/Roma)

2013-12 Alec Reid bookmark (replaces Marian Price bookmark)

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2014-02-28 Obama Holds The Key (partially replaces Guernica)

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2014-03-04 Maze Ablaze (partially replaces Guernica)

2014-05-03 Gerry Adams (replaces Falls Curfew)

and is replaced within the month by …

2014-05-28 Time For Our Truth

2014-06-02 Say No To Racism (replaces Cuba Free The Five)

2014-07-18 Gaza/Napalm (replaces 4,400 political prisoners)

2014-08-09 Scairt Amach replaces End Internment (2013)

2014-08-17 Equality For Travellers replaces Say “No” To Racism

2014-09-28 Stop Tory Cuts (incompletely replaces The Big Plan)

2014-10-25 Catalan Vote replaces Hughes/Nugent

2014-10-27 line-up: Catalan Vote – Gaza/Napalm – Scairt Amach – Museum bookmark + Cell – Alec Reid bookmark – Milltown 25th – Maze Ablaze – Obama Holds The Key – Stop Tory Cuts – Local Volunteers – Time For Our Truth – WBTA Get The Real Story (2012-07) – Hunger Strikers/Frank Stagg (2011) – Equality For Travellers – Free Otegi

From the left …

2014-10-27 IntWallLeft+

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… from the right:

2014-10-27 IntWallRight+
(X02314 The Hunger Strikers/Frank Stagg mural is being modified to include Nugent & Farrell (2014-10-29))

2015-01 Slí Na Gaeltachta plaque and Nugent board replaces Catalan Vote

2015-06 Clive Dutton bookmark over remaining part of Na Ceathrún Gaeltachta

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2015-06 100% British (replaces Scairt Amach, briefly …)

2015-08 Defence Of The Nation (replaces 100% British)

2015-07-31 line-up: (Slí Na Gaeltachta) Nugent board – Gaza/Napalm – Defence Of The Nation (in progress) – Museum bookmark – Alec Reid bookmark – Milltown 25th – Maze Ablaze – Obama Holds The Key – Stop Tory Cuts – Clive Dutton bookmark – Local Volunteers – Time For Our Truth – WBTA Get The Real Story (2012-07) – Hunger Strikers/Frank Stagg/Nugent/Farrell – Equality For Travellers – Free Otegi

Images: left, middle, right

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Refugees Welcome (replaces Equality For Travellers)

In 2016 the entire wall was repainted for the centenary of the Rising with a long, multi-panel, mural depicting republicanism throughout the centuries, with a focus on connections to Belfast – with the exception of the 32CSM mural in the third spot and a new IRPWA in the final spot. Work began in March; the mural was launched on August 3rd, on the centenary of Casement’s execution.

The first piece painted was the Carson/loyalist gunrunning panel, followed by the ‘historical predecessors’ panel to its left and the MacDiarmada/magic lantern section (also, the Local Volunteers were given vintage uniforms and weapons).

Here is the wall in early May with these three in progress:

03452 2016-05-10 IntWall2016 whole+
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By mid-July, the Howth gun-running and Shan Van Vocht sections had been added and work has started on the Willowbank/GPO section.

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The wall on August 3rd, the date of its official launch (Casement’s execution). The Willowbank and GPO scenes have been completed, to the hunger strikers mural has been added with the memorial stone from Kilmainham (with Roger Casement walking to his execution in Pentonville). Peltier has been added as a book-end, a pair in red-and-yellow with Wolfe Tone at the other end. (The edge of the in-progress IRPWA mural to Bilal Kayed can be seen on the right.)

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Here are individual images of the 1916-2016 wall, from left to right:

Wolfe Tone and other predecessors

Larne Gun-Running, Edward Carson.
Carson was paint-bombed on at least two occasions prior to the launch, and posters added his face; at the launch, the posters were removed but the latest paint-bombing had not been repaired; the second image (of the restored mural) is from late August.

For the launch of the wall, the 32CSM Defence Of The Nation mural (see above) was covered over with a copy of the call for Irish Volunteers mentioned in the newspaper to the left.

Molly Childers, Mary Spring Rice, Nora Connolly, Ina Connolly:

Ethna Carbery, Elizabeth Corr, Alice Milligan, Nell Corr, James Connolly:

Seán MacDiarmada, Magic Lanterns:

Local (Falls) Volunteers (in period clothing), Training At Willowbank:

Joe Gleeson, GPO, Winifred Carney:

Kieran Nugent, Mairéad Farrell, Hunger Strikers, Roger Casement:

Leonard Peltier:

(version including Seany McVeigh’s Pearse Surrenders To The Developers)

Bilal Kayed

In late 2017, Kieran Nugent was restored to the #1 spot (replacing the Predecessors To 1916):

Ireland Stands With Catalonia (in the traditional pro-Palestinian spot and replacing Carson)

Apart from the first two spots, the “1916” wall remained intact for much of 2017. This next image is from early December, 2017, of Divis Street and part of Northumberland Street.

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2018-05 Battle Of Long Kesh (replaces Cumann na mBan)

In May a small board was added to the Magic Lanterns panel advising tourists to watch their belongings:

2018-06 Protests in Gaza (replaces Peltier/Amaze)

Ruling By Fooling (replaces In Defence Of The Nation/32CSM)

Black Taxi Community Interest Company (replaces MacDiarmada)

Bobby Sands & Brendan Hughes (replaces Bilal Kayed)

“Stop supplying arms to Saudi Arabia – Stop the genocide of Yemeni people” (replaces Magic Lanterns). This mural would not be completed until 2020 – see below.

D Coy added to Nugent

The wall in mid-May, 2019: (Slí Na Gaeltachta) Nugent (board) with D Coy – Republican museum – Ireland Stands With CataloniaRuling By FoolingBattle Of Long Kesh – Dream Dearg – BTCICSaudi Arms/Yemeni GenocideLocal Volunteers/Willowbank Training (1916) – GPO (1916) – Hunger Strikers (1916)Palestine 1917-TodayBobby Sands & Brendan Hughes

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2019 October Kurdish YPG/YPJ and Merdeka West Papua (replaces Liver Brigade/GPO)

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2019-11 Nugent-Hughes-McKee (replaces the Nugent board)

2020-02 Stop Yemeni Genocide is completed.

Áras Uí Chongaile (replaces Kurdish Solidarity)

Fáilte Feirste Thiar (partially replaces Willowbanks Huts)

Both Áras Uí Chongaile and Failte Feirste Thiar were soon replaced by a mural in support of NHS and frontline workers during the Coronavirus pandemic of spring 2020.

Here is an image of the lower part of the wall at the end of April, 2020:

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George Floyd (launched 2020-06-06) (replaces Ireland Stands With Catalonia). The antifa symbol would later be added between “fight” and “racism”.

2020-08 Noah Donohoe (replaces Acht Na Gaeilge)

2020-09 Is Deontóir Mé/Yes I Donate (replaces Yemeni Genocide)

2020-09 line-up (Slí Na Gaeltachta) Nugent-Hughes-McKee – Republican museum – Black Lives MatterRuling By FoolingBattle Of Long Kesh#RememberMyNoahBTCICIs Deontóir MéLocal VolunteersNHSMerdeka West PapuaHunger Strikers (1916)Palestine 1917-TodayBobby Sands & Brendan Hughes

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(X07567)

George Floyd is vandalised and replaced with a #BLM stencil:

x07729-2020-11-06-blm
(X07729)

2020-12 Reifreann Anois (replaces Merdeka)

2021-04 No Profit On Pandemic (replaces the #BLM stencil)

2021-05-05 line-up: (Slí Na Gaeltachta) Nugent-Hughes-McKee – Republican museum – No Profit On PandemicRuling By FoolingBattle Of Long Kesh#RememberMyNoahBTCICIs Deontóir MéLocal VolunteersNHS#TimeForUnityHunger Strikers (1916)Palestine 1917-TodayBobby Sands & Brendan Hughes

(X08105 X08258)

Aontacht Lenár Linn/Unity In Our Time (replaces NHS and Reifreann Anois)

Falls Commemoration Committee (replaces Four Local Volunteers)

A carton of Ben & Jerry’s is added to the Oppression Breeds Resistance mural

2021-07-28 line-up: (Slí Na Gaeltachta) Nugent-Hughes-McKee – Republican museum – No Profit On PandemicRuling By Fooling – Unblock Cuba (in preparation) – #RememberMyNoahBTCICIs Deontóir MéFalls Commemoration CommitteeLenár LinnHunger Strikers (1916)Palestine 1917-Today with Ben & Jerry’sBobby Sands & Brendan Hughes

(X08328)

Unblock Cuba (replaces Battle Of Long Kesh)