The end-of-terrace house is being done up. There is a high ladder up against the flat expanse of the gable end, and at the top of it a builder in a high-vis jacket is putting on the final layer of cream exterior paint. The job is nearly finished. At the bottom of the ladder his companion, foot on the bottom rung for safety, gives me the once-over as I pass by.
This wall has history. It’s been a site of loyalist murals for years. During the 2002 soccer World Cup it sported a mural of the Spanish flag with the words “Viva Espana” roughly painted on it; the message was for supporters of the Irish Republic’s team, who had drawn Spain in their last 16 match. Flying from the drunkenly-leaning telegraph pole beside the mural was the flag of Gibraltar. The flags of Ireland’s other opponents were also painted on surrounding walls; that of Saudi Arabia on the wall of the Kimberley Inn cheerfully accompanied the Star of David, which was also fluttering from the telegraph pole. The Israeli flag had been flown in response to Palestinian solidarity being expressed on the Lower Ormeau Road. The corner was colourful, like a mini-UN.
The Kimberley Inn has since been demolished, and apartments now stand in its place. In its day it was frequented by leading loyalist paramilitaries Raymond Elder and Joe Bratty, until they were killed by the IRA on the Ormeau Road in 1994. The outside wall of the bar used to sport a memorial to the two men. In 2003 UDA man Roy Green was shot dead outside the bar during the UDA’s internal feud.
Any visitor unaware of the history of this particular corner would be forgiven for wondering why there is a fragment of wooden scrollwork on the gable wall with the word ‘Fighters’ on it; they wouldn’t know that it’s all that remains of the plaque of a red fist celebrating the Ormeau Road Freedom Fighters.
The builders have painted neatly around it.