Belfast Northern Ireland Wall Murals


By Karen Lotter

Taking Photographs of Wall Murals in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast, Northern Ireland was a wonderful surprise. After a month in Dublin I hired a car and drove up to Belfast where I knew I’d have to try to remember to use pounds instead of Euro for just over a week until I drove back into the Republic via Derry.

I didn’t know much about Belfast other than what I’d heard and read. It’s a favorite setting for the kind of novels I read, what we call "skiet en donner" in Afrikaans (roughly translated "shoot and #@! up") – plenty are set in Troubles scenarios. You know the Ronin type stories?

Northern Ireland has been described as "one of the most over-narrativised areas of the world", with novelists making a bad situation worse by reinforcing cliches and stereotypes about the causes of violence.

So before I even drove into Belfast one drizzly July day, I already had an idea of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see.













And I remember Bobby Sands and the hunger strikers very clearly. I also knew of the wall murals. I knew about two Roads Falls Road and Shankill, and as my sympathies lay more on the Republican side, I decided I’d be more comfortable in West Belfast near the Falls Road. I couldn’t wait to get my camera and take photographs of the wall paintings.


































All murals create a new type of space; they redefine mundane public space as politicized place and can thereby help to reclaim it for the community.

Neil Jarman



The Belfast Wall Paintings Were Both Loyalist and Republican

The Belfast wall paintings or wall murals that I hunted down over a four day period and photographed were both Loyalist and Republican – Protestant and Catholic in content.

It is quite amazing how different the styles of the two groups are: my observation was that the Protestants use a lot of blue and their wall paintings are often of historic battles and English heroes like Oliver Cromwell. Their other main style is the heavy paramilitary – masked and hooded men with dangerous looking weapons. Or slogans and military badges in heavy red and black.

The Republican or Catholic wall paintings are more commemorative of events in Irish life or of Irish folk and sporting heroes. Or those who have died. I am not expert, but they seem to have a greater connectedness to humanitarian issues that link their Struggle to a greater struggle, like women’s rights and the Palestinian cause. The IRA also supported the Anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.



douglas.jpg blue.jpg





























































To regard the murals essentially, or only, as images is therefore to restrict their power. Their very location affects how they are interpreted and what they mean, while the location is used and treated differently because of the presence of the paintings.

Neil Jarman

Wall Murals in Belfast are Found Along the Parade Routes

Protestant and loyalist wall murals in Belfast are very much found in the Protestant or Loyalist areas, mainly along the parade routes. In west Belfast, believe it or not there is a 20 ft high wall with a fence and gates that get locked at night between the Falls Road and the Shankill road that separates the Green and Orange sides.

Some Images of the Fence or the Wall or Barrier between Fallls Road and Shankill Roads in West Belfast



















Welcome Turn Away from Paramilitary Wall Murals

A Northern Ireland Football Website called ourweecountry explains: Over the last 30 years the walls of Belfast reflected the troubles which were on going with hooded gunmen from various paramilitary groups being the main subject of the street artists. In the pass few years of relative peace, we have seen a welcome turn away from paramilitary murals to those depicting the legacy of the Titanic, the Somme, World War 2, Victoria Cross winners, authors, the suffering of the recent troubles and of course our rich footballing history.



































For the communities themselves the walls have long been regarded as an appropriate place on which to honour and remember the dead and imprisoned. Neil Jarman


If you want to know more about the Wall Murals of Northern Ireland, you must read:

Painting Landscapes: The Place of Murals in the
Symbolic Construction of Urban
Space by Neil Jarman

The Mural Directory - A Directory of Murals in Northern Ireland
by Dr Jonathan McCormick





















© Words and Pictures - Karen Lotter, March 2008