The gates were gradually transformed from places where everyone must stop and be checked before entering the city to less conspicuous drop-arm barriers preventing access only to vehicles. By 1990, all the pedestrian search points had been removed from the city centre and only a few streets remained blocked off. A single exit turnstile remained at the west end of Bank Street, and this would also be gone by the end of the year with the continuing redevelopment of the area. Belfast city centre continued to undergo a process of pedestrianisation with discreet street furniture restricting vehicle access, wider footpaths and resurfacing of some roads with paving.


A network of security cameras was installed throughout the 1990s, foreshadowing what was to become widespread surveillance practice across UK cities and beyond. Despite the attempts to 'normalise' the city centre, the years of the Ring of Steel left a lasting mark on city centre life, and the after-hours deserted town centre continued late into the 1990s.


In 1995, the CSU was disbanded and the last drop-arm barriers quietly disappeared from High Street and Queen Street in the early 2000s

The Sunday Life announces the end of the CSU on the 1st of August 1995. Image created courtesy of The British Library Board. www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Today, very little remains to remind anyone that the Ring of Steel ever existed. From the mid 1980s onward, the barriers and fences slowly melted away, with little announcement from the authorities, as the delicate Northern Ireland peace process continued to gather strength. As one of the first city centres to become pedestrianised through its enclosure in the Ring of Steel, Belfast continued to undergo development in line with other cities that removed traffic from their centres and increased surveillance through the use of closed-circuit camera networks.

Arthur St/Chichester St junction (L) and Fountain St/Chichester St (R) in 2020. Bollards now mark the location of former gates X8 and X16

Holes in the wall of Berry St Presbyterian church showing the location of Berry St gate prior to 1983 move

Castle Court loading bay gate on Berry Street. This is the same location as the Berry Street gate after 1983 move

Remains of fixtures from William St, blocked off until 1983 - now part of Belfast's Cathedral Quarter and replaced by a CCTV camera

Razor wire still hanging from the wall on College Court, off Castle Street. This street was blocked off from 1972 to the mid-1990s

Kelly's Cellars on Bank St. The black paving leading from the corner of the bar follows the line of the Bank St gate pre 1976 move to Castle Lane end of the street

Despite the fact that none of the security infrastructure remains today, evidence still exists. Holes drilled into walls to fix metal posts, bollards blocking access to roads and lines on the ground give away the locations of some of the gates and fences. The lack of city centre housing, invisible boundaries known to locals and persisting attitudes towards congregation in the city are also remnants of the Ring and the no-man's-land atmosphere of central Belfast during the Troubles. As Belfast continues to move on and this period becomes more distant, the Ring of Steel is often forgotten, eclipsed by more dramatic episodes and features of the city's history and topography. Although much effort has been made to transform Belfast into a modern European city, shades of its past remain on its streets and in the memories of its inhabitants.

Arthur St/Chichester St junction in 2020. Bollards now mark the location of former gate X8

Fountain St/Chichester St junction in 2020. Bollards now mark the location of former gate X16