Northern Ireland news

Archive shows rare photographs of IRA men patrolling streets of west Belfast

An IRA man in Lenadoon in 1972
Connla Young

RARE photographs of IRA men patrolling the streets of west Belfast during the early days of the Troubles have been donated to a unique online archive.

Dozens of pictures taken across several years have been handed over to the Belfast Archive Project by a former amateur photographer from west Belfast.

The man, who is now aged 78, took hundreds of images in his native city as the Troubles picked up pace in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Using a Pentex camera, the photographer had unrivalled access as the conflict unfolded.

These include rare images of armed IRA members in the Lenadoon area of west Belfast during a gun battle which marked the end of the 1972 truce.

IRA gunman runs for cover in the Lenadoon Flats area during gun battles with the British Army which lasted for six days in July 1972.

The pictures show several unmasked men walking openly though the area while carrying an array of weapons.

Sources familiar with the weaponry of the period have identified the range of guns on display.

In one picture a man is seen carrying a Lee Enfield 303, as he moves through the residential area.

Another image shows a republican with his back to the camera carrying what appears to be a Sten gun, which was also used by the British army.

A third man can be seen ducking as he runs with what is believed to be an AR180 Armalite, which were used by the IRA in the early 1970s.

Some of the pictures in the collection show in stark detail the aftermath of a loyalist attack on Catholic homes in Bombay Street in west Belfast in August 1969.

The archive also includes a photograph of British soldiers erecting the first peaceline in Belfast in September 1969.

In the image troops can be seen erecting corrugated iron at Coates Street after large parts of Belfast were gripped by violence 50 years ago.

Other photos focus on the Falls curfew in west Belfast in July 1970.

The photographer, who was from the Lower Falls area, regrets not capturing more images at that time.

“It’s a good record, I’m sorry I didn’t take more of the wee streets on the Pound Loney and the Falls,” he said.

Veteran photographer Frankie Quinn, who runs the Belfast Archive Project, said local people had unique access to events as they unfolded and praised the quality of the pictures.

“Those pictures of the IRA operating…that's raw guerrilla warfare, people with no masks walking about with rifles,” he said.

IRA gunmen in the Lenadoon Flats during the breakdown of the IRA ceasefire in 1972 which gun battles with the British Army lasting for six days.

“Only people within the communities are able to do that.”

To see more of the collection and other photographs please visit: belfastarchiveproject.com.

Soldiers take cover during a gun battle with the IRA in Lenadoon in 1972.

Aftermath of catholic homes being burnt to the ground in Bombay Street in 1969

British Army camped in the grounds of Clonard Monastery 1969

The Falls Road and Sevastapol Street junction in 1969 now the headquarters of Sinn Fein

Conway Street before the Peaceline was built 1969

The Falls Road in 1969

The first peaceline being erected by the British Army in Belfast 1969

Off the Grosvenor Road in 1970

A man is arrested by the British Army following riots near Belfast City Centre

Riots in central Belfast during the Queens visit 1977

Ross Street and Frere Street in the lower Falls area 1970

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