Monday, February 9, 2009

The International Wall

February 9th 2009

The International Wall

Danny Devenny is one of Ireland’s leading artists. A long time ago he and I were in Cage 11 of Long Kesh. Among other things he provided illustrations for some of my prison musings.

Since then he has pioneered mural painting in Belfast and other parts of the world.

He has taught and mentored other artists. A modest and unassuming sort, Danny's work has been the subject of film documentaries, books, magazines. His art has been photographed by people from all parts of the globe.

Some of the work is commissioned and depicts campaign issues or historical events. A lot of it is commentary on issues which Danny is taken by.

He’s an internationalist and the International Wall on Divis Street in Belfast is one of his projects.

When Danny D was first painting the Palestinian mural on the International Wall a group of young Palestinian people, who were visiting Belfast stopped to look at his work.

Danny thought it would be good to have some Arabic on his painting and he asked them for the Arabic for Tiocfaidh ár lá – which they gave him. He faithfully painted that on the mural and wrote it into a jotter.

Several years later he was repairing the mural and repainting the Arabic letters.

Unfortunately he had lost the jotter and was trying to do it using an old photo of the mural.

A man stopped in a van alongside him and got out and told him that the inflection – a fada - was in the wrong place.

He started to tell Danny what was needed. He then asked Danny for the brush, knelt down at the mural and did the lettering himself.

All the time the van was holding up traffic on the Falls Road. And Danny D was wondering how there were so many Arab speakers in Belfast!

Then the onslaught on Gaza started. And the death toll mounted. Danny D was back at the International Wall when Kathleen O'Connell suggested that they should invite local children to write up the names of the young people who were killed in Gaza.

Danny D is often approached by young people when he’s painting murals. They love to be involved. They particularly love to paint up their names or nicknames or their own particular logo. Danny reckons it’s got to do with recognition or acknowledgement. I think it’s very natural. The young people will say to him, ‘Give us a mention Danny’.

So Danny D thought that Kathleen had a good idea. But he couldn’t figure out where he would get the names. That evening he was flicking the TV channels and tuned in to Al Jazeera. And lo and behold they were giving the names of the children who had died.

Back to the International Wall again.

Young Irish people came to the wall to put up the names of the young Palestinians – to give them a mention.

One wee lad asked Danny could he put a question mark after the name he was painting.

‘What do you want to do that for?’ Danny asked him.

‘I want to ask why’.

Another young girl put up a Palestinian name with a love heart instead of a full stop at the end.

It’s a small world.

If you’re a school teacher or a parent or a young person who wants to write a name on the international wall contact Danny D on his meanderings around Belfast gables or contact Kathleen O Connell at the Palestinian Support Group.

Old News

I was in Ballyfermot last Friday launching a ‘Parents Drug Awareness Pamphlet’ published by Aengus Ó Snodaigh. It’s a very good publication and anyone interested in a copy should contact

At the end of our proceedings a man in the audience presented me with a copy of a broadsheet newspaper ‘SINN FÉIN’ dated the 6th September 1924.

It makes for interesting reading – as one would expect – across a range of issues. But not just for the politics. There’s an advertisement for polish which guarantees that one 6 penny tin will polish over one hundred pair of boots – 17 pairs per one penny.

There’s another advertising courses in University College Dublin.

There’s a brown bread specialist and one from Miss McKeon selling millinery. She tells us ‘I do my own managing and give my customers the benefit of the savings in these costs’.

An advert for primus stoves sits easily alongside one for a gramophone record of Kevin Barry and My Father’s Fenian Gun.

So there you are.

And finally.

B'fhearr Gaeilge Bhriste .....

The 2-17 March is Seachtain na Gaeilge which means Irish Week – as in the Irish language – although the 2-17 is clearly longer than a week. But it’s still a good initiative annually undertaken by Conradh na Gaeilge to encourage people to use whatever Irish we have at all times but particularly in the run in to St. Patrick’s Day.

Your organisation or club or your families could decide to organise events – even small events in that period. If so there’s a very useful handbook which can be down loaded from to help you.

Mar sin, bainigí sult agus spraoi as na himeachtaí a nglacann sibh pairt iontu, cibé áit ar domhan ina bhfuil sibh.

Seolfar pacáiste chugaibh i mí Feabhra le póstaeir, balúin, srl.

You will get balloons, posters and so on. So leanaigí ar aghaigh.

Belfast Media Group picture shows (l-r) muralists Mark Ervine and Danny Devenney and Mickey Doherty with visiting artists Conrad Atkinson (centre) and Robert Ballagh (right) who helped paint a version of Picasso's Guernica on the international wall in August 2007.


snake said...

It's great to see that you have a blog!

Anonymous said...

Hello Gerry,A wonderful blog on the work of Danny D. and I also learned some of the Irish(seachtain na Gaeilge). Maybe if you could insert a word or two each week with its meaning you could teach us ignorant decendents of the Irish the language my 4 grandparents spoke before being driven to America. E.F.

Linda Coleman said...

Hi, Gerry,

Thought you'd be interested in seeing this short video from my neighborhood, a mural project involving professional artists and local students:

I know first hand how hard it is for politicians to justify spending money on the arts, so add this to your file for future reference. The old buildings got a facelift, the students learned to work cooperatively on a large project--money well spent!