Row over International Wall escalates with threats to artist

There have been a series of attacks on new murals on west Belfast's International Wall. Picture by Ann McManus

THREATS have been made against artists working on one of Belfast's best known tourist attractions as a row over the 'International Wall' escalates.

The series of murals on Divis Street attract thousands of visitors every year and have been used to highlight both local and global political issues.

To mark the centenary of the Easter Rising the entire wall is being temporarily repainted to tell its story from a Belfast perspective.

Work is already well underway and acclaimed artists including Jim Fitzpatrick - famous for the iconic two-tone portrait of Ché Guevara as well as Thin Lizzy's album covers - have agreed to contribute.

However, the project has been thrown in doubt following a series of attacks.

An image of unionist leader Edward Carson and the Ulster Volunteers has been paintbombed, and a poster for the 'People's Parade' - organised for April 24 to mark the calendar date of the Easter Rising - now covers the face of Carson.

Former republican prisoner and leading mural artist Danny Devenny has also been subjected to threats via social media, and scaffolding has been torn down.

"This reaction to what is in effect historical story telling, trying to teach our young people about the history the Rising, is beyond comprehension," Mr Devenny said.

"Trying to tell the Belfast story of that time without including Carson is like trying to tell the story of WWII without mentioning Hitler.

"I would hope people would allow (the wall) to take shape without jumping to conclusions.

"I'm willing to talk to anyone who wants to about what we are doing and that's preferable to throwing paint or putting posters over a piece of republican artwork."

Harry Connolly of Fáilte Feirste Thiar (Visit West Belfast) also called on those responsible for the attacks to come forward.

"The mural was only ever intended to be there for the duration of 2016 after that it will be changed as the artists who take care of the wall see fit.

"When deciding how west Belfast would commemorate the centenary of the Rising and the city's role during that time we consulted with numerous people.

"We also spoke to the organisers of the so-called 'People's Parade' and agreed that we'd leave all the decorative items along the Falls Road until after their planned march.

"Any concerns people have can be talked out without threatening respected republican artists and vandalising a mural.

"We have tour guides asking us about the attacks on the wall and that does nothing for the image of west Belfast or for republicanism in general in this historic year."

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