The “International Wall” (or “Solidarity Wall”) on Divis Street marks the entry into west Belfast.
When you see the ‘International Wall’, about 68 metres (222 feet) in length, you know you have definitely entered a distinctive place. As the wall serves as a manifesto, or voice, of the community, it’s somewhat surprising, that having left the city centre and the motorway for the foothills of Black Mountain ( Sliabh Dubh) and Divis, the concerns of nationalist west Belfast reach out.
In early days, the wall sometimes exhibited electoral posters but in general went unused until after the Good Friday Agreement, after the year 2000. This is perhaps because of the British Army observation post on the top of Divis Tower (not dismantled until late 2005) and because the wall is a perimeter wall of a commercial enterprise, the area had something of an industrial feel.
At first, it was not “The International Wall”. The first mural was a long stencil to victims of plastic bullets, showing in a scale of the distances at which they had been shot. 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. They have continued to change and are regularly updated to cover relevant news activity across the world.
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 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.
The wall has almost always had a pro-Palestine mural, a POW or “dissident” mural 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. That wall was filled (up to the first set of ‘Peace Wall’ security gates) by 2014 and now continues across onto the Protestant side of the Peace Wall and further onto the Peace Wall itself.