Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Falls Road

Synonymous with the republican community in Belfast, the Falls Road is a predominantly working class community with a strong socialist tradition. James Connolly, the Irish socialist, lived in the upper Falls for a period in the early 20th century and was involved in organizing the workers in the linen mills.

In the late 1960s, many Catholics from across Northern Ireland began to campaign for civil rights which included an end to religious discrimination in housing and jobs. Loyalists oppposed the Civil Rights movement and raided nationalist areas. Several streets around the Falls Road were burnt out by loyalists in August 1969. In response to the worsening situation, the British Government deployed the British army on to the Falls Road. The troops were initially welcome by the Falls residents, who trusted them to act in an unbiased manner.

This attitude however quickly turned to anger as they came to see the British Army as an occupying force. In 1970, the road was the scene of what became known as the Falls Curfew. After an attack by the Provisional IRA, 3000 British troops sealed off the streets around the Falls road, home to about 10,000 people, setting off CS gas. The British actions were opposed by the Official IRA who engaged them in a vicious gun battle. This event is widely regarded as the end of the British army's 'honeymoon' period with the nationalist community in Northern Ireland. For the following 30 years the British Army maintained a substantial presence on the Falls Road, with a base on top of the Divis Tower (pictured below).

This was removed in August 2005 as part of the British government's Normalisation programme following the IRA's statement that it was ending its armed activities.

In the intervening period, the Falls Road area saw some of the worst violence of the Troubles.

The neighbouring Shankill Road is loyalist, separated from the Falls Road by peace lines. Peace lines range in length from a few hundred yards to over three miles aiming to separate Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods.  They may be made of iron, brick or steel and are up to 25 feet. Some have gates in them and allow passage during daylight but are closed at night. This is the gate separating the Falls from the Shankill Road. The road leading up to this peace line is lined with murals:

It is not those who can inflict the most but those who can endure the most who will conquer.

This is the last one on this stretch, and it is next to the gate of the peace line.

Just round the corner, on the Falls Road is the Peace Wall where large works of art depict George W. Bush's Iraqi War, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, the Spanish Civil War and other global campaigns, past and present.

Lots of stuff about Marian Price all over the Falls Road, graffitti, murals, posters.

'They shall be spoken of among their people and the generations shall remember them and call them blessed', P.H. Pearse.

'Oppression breeds resistance, resistance brings freedom'.

Get the real story, local history from local people, take a black taxi tour.

I walked up and down the Falls Road twice, and every time I stopped in front of a mural, there would be a group there, listening to the taxi driver describing the mural and the story behind it - they were everywhere.

I want my memorial to be peace with justice.

Free the five - five Cuban patriots unjustly imprisoned in political show trials in Miami in 2001 - join the campaign to release them.

The whole of the Falls Road is full of murals depicting the struggle of the Irish people for self-determination. Most of them are painted on the sides of houses.

The most famous one is the one of Bobby Sands who died while on hunger strike in the H Blocks.

This is a church and cultural centre

The RISE sculpture on the Broadway roundabout, as seen from the Falls Road, even though some people call it 'the Balls on the Falls'. A spherical metal sculpture, by Wolfgang Buttress, it is 37.5 metres high and 30 metres wide, the biggest public art sculpture in Belfast and it is visible for miles around the city. It is a representation of a new sun rising to celebrate a new chapter in the history of the city.

The remains of snow on the hills surrounding the city

The blanket protest

Honour Ireland's Dead - Wear an Easter Lilly

A memorial outside the cemetery

More about the blanket protest

Our demands most moderate are - we only want the earth - James Connolly

Women in Struggle... Generations shall Remember them and call them Blessed

Support for the hunger strikers

'In my son's veins flowed blood of Irish rebels', Ernesto Guevara Lynch, Che's Father

The hunger strikers

Murals, plaques - they're everywhere. This must be the most politicised road in the whole world

Very Paula Rego, I thought

Finally, the Garden of Remembrance

a very peaceful, moving place.

The fools, the fools, the fools,
they have left us our fenian dead
and while Ireland holds these graves
Ireland unfree shall never be at peace

Falls Curfew, July 1970

A very long post, but I wanted a record of all I saw.


  1. ...and a fine record too. Don't forget it was Bobby Sands MP.

    1. You're right Ken, I should have mentioned that.

  2. I never knew there were so many murals.