Ring of Steel event marks 50th anniversary since city centre security cordon

An event has been held in Belfast City Centre to mark 50 years since a Ring of Steel was built during the Troubles.

The security cordon was built to keep bombers out of the city's streets but was dismantled in the advent of peace.

Performance artists have been taking to Belfast's streets to remember what it would have been like for people when the barrier was introduced in 1972.

The 12 hour theatrical event took place at the main entrance and exit points to the city: Donegall Place, Royal Avenue, Castle Street and High Street.

Performance artists on Royal Avenue. Credit: UTV

Professor Kate Catterall, who was born and raised in Belfast and has direct personal experience of the ‘Ring of Steel’, said:

“For over 20 years during the conflict, the series of gates, fences, turnstiles, search stations and blocked roads known as the ‘Ring of Steel’ became an increasingly prominent feature of the urban environment in Belfast. 

"Staffed by both civilian searchers and armed security personnel, the cordon had a significant impact on the daily lives of all who passed in and out of the city centre every day, to work, shop or socialise.

"Ongoing development since the 1998 Peace Agreement has erased much of the evidence of the ‘Ring of Steel’, and only traces remain today to show that it ever existed.

"This work aims to create a record of what was a singular and largely unrecorded episode in Belfast's recent history.”

Paula McFetridge, Artistic Director of Kabosh said:

“Memories of the ‘Ring of Steel’ and regular civilian searches are shared between all Belfast communities, cutting across sectarian, class and gender lines.

"Images of the structures were flashed across the world, becoming part of our global identity.

Shoppers in the city centre in the 1970s. Credit: UTV Archive

‘Drawing the Ring of Steel’ aims to highlight how far Belfast's city centre has developed from those times, into an inclusive shared space. It will ensure that the stories of the older generation are heard and preserved and to support younger generations and those with no experience of the ‘Ring of Steel’ in appreciating both the journey that has been made and how far we still have to travel.”