The Five Just Demands appeared in 1981 in Beechmount Avenue, Beechmount, in Irish Republican West Belfast. Painted by local youths, though organized by Sinn Féin, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, this was an early example of what became a tradition of political muralism that continues to the present. The mural itself articulates the five demands that were the basis of the 1981 Hunger Strike in which ten Republican prisoners died. The demands were part of a bitter prison struggle provoked by the British government’s decision in 1976 to revoke ‘Special Category’ status (in effect Prisoner of War status) for those convicted of a violent offence committed for political purposes, and to treat such offenders as criminals. Viewed in that context, though the five demands were relatively innocuous, the campaign to achieve them amounted to nothing less than the contestation of the legitimacy of the British State in Northern Ireland.
This mural was painted in Rockmount Street, off the Falls Road, in Irish Republican West Belfast; it was sponsored by the Sinn Féin Trade Union department. The mural commemorates James Connolly, one of the central figures in the Irish Republican socialist tradition who served as a Trade Union organizer in Belfast and contested a local election in 1913. More importantly, Connolly was a leader of the 1916 Rising in Dublin against British rule and one of the seven signatories of the ‘Proclamation’ of the Irish Republic; he was executed after the defeat of the Republican forces. In 1907 Connolly penned a satire on reformists which included an ironic retort to their appeals for the moderation of the program of the Irish socialists: ‘For our demands most moderate are, we only want the earth.’