40 Photographs of The Troubles, The Northern Ireland Conflict


The Troubles, also known as the Northern Ireland Conflict, was a political and nationalistic movement fueled by the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Protestant Unionists/loyalists wanted Northern Ireland to remain a part of the United Kingdom. Catholic Irish Nationalists/Republicans wanted Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom and join a united Ireland.

The conflict began during a campaign to end discrimination against the Catholic minority perpetrated by the Protestant Unionist government and police force. The protests were met with violence by loyalists and eventually, British military troops had to be deployed, initially to support the police and protect Catholic civilians, but resulted in warfare that lasted the next three decades.

The main participants in the Troubles were the Republican paramilitaries like the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA); Loyalist paramilitaries like the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Defence Association (UDA); British state security forces- the British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary; political activists and politicians.

The British government views its involvement I the conflict as neutral, trying to uphold law and order in Northern Ireland and the right of the people to democratic self-determination. Nationalists thought of the state forces as occupational.

The most significant event of the Troubles, named Bloody Sunday, was the killing of 14 unarmed male civilians by the British Army in Derry on January 30, 1972. Bloody Sunday greatly increased the hostility between Irish Nationalists and the British military and government.

The Provisional IRA, in 1972, killed about 100 members of the security forces, wounded 500 others and carried out approximately 1,300 bombings. On Bloody Friday, July 21, 22 bombs were detonated in the center of Belfast, killing seven civilians and two soldiers.

In the 1981 Irish hunger strike, 10 Republican prisoners died of starvation. Bobby Sands’ death, the first hunger striker to starve, resonated among the Nationalists. Over 100,000 people attended Sands’ funeral in West Belfast and there were riots in the wake of his death.

The Troubles were brought to an end by the declaration of ceasefires in 1997 after the Manchester Bombing, by most paramilitary organizations, the decommissioning of the IRA’s weapons, police reform, the withdrawal of the British Army from the streets, and the Irish border as agreed by the signatories of the Belfast Agreement, more commonly known as the Good Friday Agreement.

More than 3,500 people were killed in the conflict. 52% of those killed were civilians, 32% were members of the British security forces, 16% were paramilitary group members.

NORTHERN IRELAND. Belfast. 1971. A British soldier speaking with a young boy. Usually, children and soldiers are on opposite sides during street riots. Bruno Barbey
Father James Chesney was suspected of taking part in an IRA bomb attack in Claudy which killed nine people on 31st July 1972. In 2010 Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said he was “profoundly sorry that Father Chesney was not properly investigated… and that the victims and their families have been denied justice”.BBC
The Ulster Volunteer Force shot dead three members of the popular Miami Show band in July 1975 on a country road after a gig in County Down. Two of their attackers also died when a bomb they were planting on the band’s van exploded prematurely. BBC
In January 1976 gunmen stopped a minibus carrying textile workers home in rural County Armagh. Eleven Protestant workmen were lined up and shot. A Catholic workman was unharmed and one other man survived despite having been shot 18 times. BBC
An IRA bomb targeting a Remembrance Day service at Enniskillen in County Fermanagh killed 11 people in November 1987. The scale of condemnation prompted the IRA to release a statement the following day expressing their “deep regret” at the results of the blast. BBC
21 July 1972 became known as Bloody Friday after at least 20 bombs were planted and detonated by the IRA’s Belfast brigade. Nine people were killed and more than 130 injured in the attacks. BBC
A Belfast man on patrol for the Irish Republican Army, 1987. Pacemaker Press International: Belfast Telegraph Archive
A British soldier drags a Catholic protester during the “Bloody Sunday” killings. THOMPSON: AFP: Getty Images
An IRA firebomb killed 12 people when it exploded in the restaurant of the La Mon Hotel on the outskirts of east Belfast in February 1978. BBC
G.B. NORTHERN IRELAND. Belfast. A little girl is confronted by armed British soldiers at a check point. A. Abbas
GB. NORTHERN IRELAND. Londonderry. British soldiers drag ringleaders from the rock throwing mob and beat them severely. 1971. Ian Berry
In December 1971 a loyalist bomb killed 15 people, all Catholic civilians, in McGurk’s bar in north Belfast. A Historical Enquiries Team (HET) review of the police investigation into the bombing was completed last December. BBC
N. IRELAND. Belfast. Anderstown. 1972. The IRA response to Bloody Sunday [the day after]. Gilles Peress
NORTHERN IRELAND. Derry: Londonderry. 30th January 1972. A victim, Barney McGuigan, lies in a pool of blood as the shooting stops on Bloody Sunday. Gilles Peress
NORTHERN IRELAND. Derry. Rioters throw stones at a British armored car. 1972. Gilles Peress
NORTHERN IRELAND. Londonderry. 1971. Street fighting against British soldiers. Bruno Barbey
NORTHERN IRELAND. Londonderry. 1972. Demonstration at Armagh. Burial of victims of Bloody Sunday. Gilles Peress
NORTHERN IRELAND. Londonderry. Irish Youth and British soldiers come face to face. 1971. Gilles Peress
NORTHERN IRELAND. West Belfast. IRA gunmen walk freely in Casement Park at a rally to mark the 10th anniversary of British Troops arriving. 1997. Chris Steele-Perkins