Northern Ireland

IRA ceasefire anniversary: Northern Ireland then and now

Twenty years on from the IRA's ceasefire, BBC News NI looks at how life in Northern Ireland has changed.

Image caption On the left of this image is the scene that followed when a 500lb IRA bomb exploded at Moore's of Coleraine in 1992

Northern Ireland's towns and cities were regularly bombed by the IRA during the Troubles. These two images show both the aftermath of bombs and how the scenes look today.

Image caption This image shows the Ulster Hall in Belfast following an IRA bomb in 1992 merged with how it looks in 2014

City centre 'ring of steel'

During the Troubles, shoppers in Belfast had to pass through security gates to enter Royal Avenue, one of the city's main shopping streets. Bags would often be searched for explosives by police. The gates would be closed every evening at 6pm.

Image caption Royal Avenue in 2014: the security gates are long gone

Security checkpoints

When the IRA put its weapons beyond use in 2005, moves began within weeks to transform the security landscape. Work began to demolish watchtowers and bases, and in August 2007 the British army's emergency operation in Northern Ireland came to an end. Lasting 38 years, Operation Banner was the Army's longest continuous campaign in its history.

Image caption Vehicles leaving Newry, County Down towards the border would pass through a permanent checkpoint
Image caption The landscape has changed dramatically, with checkpoints replaced by roads built to ease traffic congestion

South Armagh was referred to by many as "Bandit Country" because of its reputation for lawlessness. The area, adjacent to the border with the Republic of Ireland, was considered so dangerous that troops and police officers could not travel by road, and had to be flown in and out by helicopter. For republicans, these bases were a blight on the landscape, a symbol of everything they opposed, and they were repeatedly targeted.

Image caption The picture on the left of Forkhill RUC station was taken in 1978 following a mortar bomb attack. The right-hand photo shows the same area in 2014

In 1990, Londonderry civilian army worker Patsy Gillespie was told to drive a bomb to the checkpoint at Coshquin near the border, while his family was held hostage. The bomb was detonated by remote control, killing Mr Gillespie and five soldiers. A memorial marks the spot where it happened.

Image caption This photograph was taken after the bombing at the Coshquin checkpoint

Police stations were frequent IRA targets

Image caption The aftermath of a bomb at Fivemiletown police station in County Tyrone in 1992
Image caption The police station in Fivemiletown closed in 2008, and a security firm is now based on the site

More than 300 police officers were killed during the Troubles, the vast majority by the IRA, and more than 11,000 others were injured. One of the most dramatic changes over the past 20 years has been in policing. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) is gone, most republicans now support the police, and more than 30% of the new Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) are Catholics.

Image caption Sion Mills police station in County Tyrone was badly damaged by a bomb in 1983
Image caption Houses have been built on the site of the old Sion Mills police station

Bomb damage and regeneration

Many towns across Northern Ireland were bombed by the IRA during the Troubles.

Image caption The top photograph, taken in 1978, shows the aftermath of a car bomb that exploded in Scotch Street, Dungannon. The bottom photo shows the same street in the County Tyrone town in 2014
Image caption This was the scene when a 1,000lb bomb exploded at the courthouse in Banbridge, County Down, in 1991
Image caption This is how the area looks in 2014
Image caption In 1981, a bomb near Belfast City Hall caused extensive damage to nearby buildings
Image caption This is how the same area looks today
Image caption Buildings in Belfast's High Street were severely damaged by a 500lb bomb in 1992
Image caption A tourist coach parked in the same spot where the bomb exploded shows how far the city has come

Photos by Peter Hamill and Margaret O'Neill

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