About the Project

The Ring of Steel project grew out of a 2019 workshop exploring memory and meaning in Belfast City Centre, led by Professor Kate Catterall and hosted by PLACE NI. The workshop addressed remembrance of the Troubles era in Belfast and ways of collectively marking the legacy of the conflict. One of the experiences that stood out among participants was the process of entering the Ring of Steel, a security cordon that completely encircled the city centre during the period.


The heavy security presence in Belfast was one of the most prominent changes brought about by the Troubles. This had a significant impact on the daily lives of all who passed in and out of the city centre. A series of gates, fences, turnstiles, search stations and blocked roads became an increasingly permanent feature of the urban environment, as well as ever-present armed security personnel.


Ongoing development since the 1998 Peace Agreement has erased much of the evidence of the Ring of Steel, and very little remains today to show that any of it ever existed. This work is an attempt at creating a record of what was a singular and largely unrecorded episode in Belfast's recent history.


This website began as an interactive map showing the development of the Ring of Steel from its inception in 1972 until its demise in the 1990s. The research involved in sourcing the data for the map uncovered the information behind the narrative text, which has been split into years representing key phases in the evolution of the Ring of Steel.


This resource aims to highlight how far Belfast's city centre has developed from the environment described here, into an inclusive shared space. It aims to support younger generations and those with no experience of the Ring of Steel in appreciating the journey that has been made.


The site should be understood as a work in progress. It is hoped that more information about the Ring of Steel will become available through public engagement, in the form of personal recollections and other material which users can supply via the contact form.  Information supplied by users will be added to create a further layer to the webmap - stories and images fixed to specific times and locations that will help to create a type of interactive public record. This information will help to stimulate further discussion around the legacy of the past, remembrance of the Troubles and contested spaces.


The mapping aspect of the Ring of Steel project is a component of a wider initiative, including a performative event - Drawing of the Ring of Steel - a collaboration between Kate Catterall and Kabosh Theatre Company, and an exhibition sponsored by Belfast Exposed and the University of Ulster, which will together mark the 50th anniversary of the installation of the Ring of Steel in 2022.


This project has received a Media Grant from the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council, which aims to promote a pluralist society characterised by equity, respect for diversity, and recognition of interdependence. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Community Relations Council.