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Network Members’ Digital Exhibition

Spotlight artifact: Belfast Checkpoint

(Transcript: Stephen Scarth, PRONI)

INF/7/A/7/71 – image of man being checked at Belfast Checkpoint (copy in PRONI 100 Treasures)

‘My name is Stephen Scarth, I’m Head of Public Services at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland. I’m looking today at an image from our Ministry of Information files and this is a series of images which covered life across all of Northern Ireland.

This particular one is of the security gate in North Street, Belfast and it shows pedestrians and some shoppers coming through the gate and then being searched by members of the security forces. They would then go on to visit some of the shops and quite often they would be searched again and this is what was known as ‘The Ring of Steel’. It dates to about 1970s. The date is 1977 and most of the towns and cities in Northern Ireland had a ‘Ring of Steel’. It could have been made of railings or wood, but in all the big towns or big cities, pedestrians couldn’t get into them without being searched by members of the security forces.

Thankfully, today we’re in a position that when walking in pedestrian areas we don’t have to be searched. That’s quite transformative, very different to what it was like when I was growing up.’