The Troubles

Recommendations for further understanding around the subject / theme:


Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History BBC iPlayer (8 episodes) 2019

Documentary series offering new insights into the Troubles in Northern Ireland.


Behind the Scenes – Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History 58 mins BBC iPlayer 2019


Review: Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History – Behind the Scenes

By Habibah Hafeji

What did you think about the Documentary, ‘Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History’ from your own viewpoint?

For me, it was such an eye opener into the scale and complexity of what went on in Ireland. I thought it was a profound piece of investigative journalism. It was fascinating to follow all the different perspectives and I was able to appreciate the complexities the investigators must have faced whilst creating this documentary. The human and emotional experiences were very central to the documentary which really connected with me and made it a powerful piece of storytelling. The chilling and very frank interviews with members of the IRA were fascinating to watch as we do not often get to see such unfiltered and direct truths broadcasted on television. Overall, the documentary was powerful storytelling and really inspired me which is ultimately what is at the heart of good journalism.

In the ‘Behind the Scenes’ episode was there any part of what the 3 investigators did that really surprised you?

What I found to be particularly admirable was the tenacity, dedication, and single mindedness of the investigators. There were nail-biting points whilst they were making the documentary where there was so much uncertainty and the sources could have fallen through and despite having multiple setbacks they just kept going. It was fascinating to see the way they built a relationship with their sources over months and almost courted them for information. This kind of journalism sometimes hinges on how much people are willing to open up and I thought the way in which the investigators took time to understand the people they were dealing with was fascinating to see. They were able to get into the mindset of their sources and to build a genuine connection with the family of the two murdered boys. The emotional involvement and passion of the investigators to get to the truth was visible and the rawness of their feelings and the unfiltered adrenaline fuelled fear or anticipation was refreshing and made it all the more gripping for me.

What surprised me was sometimes the directness of their approach, it seemed as though the investigators were always walking this fine line between obtaining crucial stories and sensitive information whilst being careful not to spook the sources. Seeing the anxiety and the obvious fear of ‘blowing it’ when approaching the sources in seasoned investigators was quite a wholesome insight into the world of Investigative Journalism.


Peter Taylor: My Journey Through the Troubles 89 mins BBC iPlayer 2019


BBC On the Frontline Series: Ads on the Frontline 59 mins BBC iPlayer 2019


BBC On the Frontline Series: Squaddies on the Frontline 59 mins BBC iPlayer 2019


Conflicting Memory and Social Media: Memorializing the Northern Irish Troubles on Instagram

Memory can often polarise communities in deeply-divided societies transitioning out of sectarian conflict.

Paul Reilly, Universityof Sheffield in-conversation about this research project and the role that social media plays in remembrance of The Troubles from 19.00 on Saturday 2nd May.

Coding support for the project was provided by Ekatherina Zhukova, Lund University.

Paul and I were joined by Sarah J Reilly, Disability Rights Advocate, Adviser & Researcher for the second part of the online conversation, as we discussed how to overcome the challenges of teaching conflict in a school environment.

100 images selected between September-December 2019 from #thetroubles

Haunting images of Northern Irish Troubles get new life on Instagram – by Paul Reilly

In an interview last year, Don McCullin commented that “If I can haunt people with my pictures I have done my job”. Working in conflict zones throughout the 1960s, the legendary British war photographer focussed attention on previously under-represented issues such as the PTSD experienced by US marines during the Vietnam War. He was one of several photojournalists credited with shaping the ‘visual economy’ of the Northern Irish Troubles in the early seventies. In a Sunday Times photo-story entitled ‘War on the Home Front’, published in December 1971, he captured a series of images illustrating the brutal nature of the clashes between British soldiers and civilians in Derry/Londonderry. Perhaps one of his most iconic images was a photograph of a group of young boys jumping over a graffiti-covered wall after British soldiers had fired CS gas at them, which was compared to an image of a battlefield trench from the First World War.

The iconic nature of this image was cemented when eighties rock band Killing Joke repurposed it for the cover of their eponymous debut album, released in August 1980. Nevertheless, McCullin rejected the suggestion that he was a ‘war photographer’ and later expressed profound regret that these conflict images had so little impact on the longevity of the Troubles. His frustration over the efficacy of this ‘witnessing’ was reflected in the title of his 1973 book: Is anybody taking any notice?

Fast forward four decades and it would appear at least some people are interested in the work of McCullin and his cohort of ‘combat’ photographers during the early days of the Troubles. During my conversation with John Coster as part of the 24 Hour Conflict Reportage Newsroom, we discussed the preliminary results of a new study of mine exploring 100 images tagged #thetroubles on Instagram. I found that many of these had been uploaded to the photosharing site to commemorate the anniversary of key events such as the Battle of the Bogside (August 1969), the Brighton hotel bombing (October 1984), and the assassination of Lord Mountbatten (August 1979). In addition to showing the aftermath of high-profile bomb attacks, many images showed the violent clashes between nationalist youths and members of the security forces that have become so deeply ingrained in collective memories of the Troubles.

What was particularly fascinating was the juxtaposition of ordinary life with the sectarian violence that had erupted in the divided society in the late 1960s. For example, an image originally taken by photojournalist Clive Limpkin showed a young woman standing in the foreground of a rubble-strewn street. It had a certain mutability given that there were no visual clues showing its shooting location, with the exception of the caption which confirmed it had been taken during the Battle of the Bogside.

There were also images showing children playing and even eating ice cream in close proximity to armed British soldiers. The dearth of contextual information meant that they could only be identified as being from Catholic or Protestant working-class neighbourhoods based on the paramilitaries that featured on murals or graffiti captured in the background of these images.

Elsewhere, British army veterans shared photographs of themselves and their colleagues during their tours of Northern Ireland between the early seventies and the mid-nineties. In one case, the caption noted that one of the soldiers that featured in the photograph had been killed by a Provisional IRA sniper in South Armagh a few weeks after it had been taken.

Photographs depicting British army personnel on patrol tended to attract the most antagonistic comments from pro-republican commenters. Photographs posted by British Army veterans were frequently met with antagonistic comments such as ‘Go Home’ and “we’ll fight you for 800 more years”. Their hostile interactions with British military enthusiasts in the comments sections of these images invariably degenerated into arguments over the legitimacy of the British presence in Ireland.

The haunting ‘war photography’ of McCullin and his colleagues appear to have found a new audience on Instagram. Irrespective of whether they are collected or collective memories, it is clear that these photographs do not function as a focal point around which shared narratives on the cause of the conflict can be fostered. Indeed, social media is being used to circulate images that illustrate the persistence of partisan, antagonistic forms of public memory in Northern Ireland, two decades on from the Belfast Agreement.


The Troubles Podcast

Presented by someone who grew up in the Republic of Ireland, is a historical true-crime podcast that aims to explain some of the major events that took place during that time. It’s a non-partisan podcast, aiming to tell the facts and accounts of the many crimes that occurred during the period.


New Media:

Ending the Harm campaign – real-life stories


Ulster University – resource on victims – there is some controversy over how number of deaths were counted in past.




5 thoughts on “The Troubles

  1. Pingback: Timetable: 24 hour Conflict Reportage Newsroom | Conflict Reportage Archive

  2. Pingback: Programme: 24 hr Conflict Reportage Newsroom | Conflict Reportage Archive

  3. Pingback: Discussing #TheTroubles on Instagram during 24 hour Conflict Reportage Newsroom | Dr Paul Reilly

  4. Pingback: Northern Irish Troubles on Instagram | Dr Paul Reilly

  5. Pingback: Event: 24 hr Conflict Reportage Newsroom | Documentary Media Centre

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