Sometime in 1969, Jimmy Vitty, then Librarian of the Linen Hall Library, was handed a civil rights leaflet in a Belfast city centre bar. He kept it. Since then the Library has sought to collect all printed material relating to the 'Troubles'. In the intervening three decades, we have amassed over a quarter of a million items.
The Northern Ireland Political Collection (NIPC) is a unique resource. No other institution in a localised conflict has systematically collected material from all sides. Much less has it been done in the field, and often literally across the barricades.
The Collection documents the activities and views of all parties to the conflict, from paramilitaries to government. It covers publications by organisations on the margins of the direct political process, as well as by those chiefly concerned with social issues. A large proportion of these items are held by the NIPC alone.
The literature ranges from the most ephemeral - stickers, leaflets, posters and Christmas cards - to more substantial collections of books, pamphlets, manifestos, photographs and audio-visual items. The enormous range of periodicals includes both single issues and complete runs of enduring journals of record. This material is complemented by a complete press cuttings service spanning the entire period of the 'Troubles'.
Over the years, the Library has gained a reputation as a 'neutral space'. Within it, the Northern Ireland Political Collection is a place where any opinion can be consulted. It is a place where decision-makers can find material on which to base opinions, or where political opponents can view each other's material. By documenting the conflict and making the material available, the Library aims to play a vital role in contributing to a better understanding of the conflict. In a conflict more renowned for division than common ground, the Northern Ireland Political Collection has been endorsed by opponents right across the political, religious and social spectrum. See Endorsements (below).
The Collection welcomes all visitors. Experienced staff are on hand to answer general queries. Substantial material is available to all researchers.
While all books and pamphlets in the Political Collection are for reference use only, and are catalogued online, for much of the more ephemeral material the direct assistance of staff should be sought. Donations of material are always welcome.
Please Note: Items from the Northern Ireland Political Collection can be accessed at the Issue Desk on
Level 4. Non-members of the Library wishing to consult material from this collection are required to fill in a registration form and present identification.
The heart of the Northern Ireland Political Collection is over 14,000 books, pamphlets and reports, all computer catalogued by author, title, publishing organisation and subject. Manifestos are held from all elections since the mid-1960s. Of current interest is an extensive collection of documents on the ongoing peace process. Whilst many of the books may be held by other libraries, the majority of the pamphlets and material from the political parties is held uniquely by the Collection.
The Troubled Images Exhibition
The Troubled Images Exhibition includes some of the most iconic political and paramilitary images produced during the Northern Ireland 'Troubles'.
The 70 posters (selected from the Library's collection of almost 3,500) reflect all sides of the conflict. They are hugely important, not only in terms of their historical significance, but also their visual impact and artistic style.
The exhibition was launched in the Linen Hall Library in 2001 and has since travelled extensively in three continents, including venues in the United States, the Basque Region and the West Bank.
The Troubled Images CD-Rom is available for purchase in our Shop.
For further information, please contact:
Irish & Reference Department
T: 028 9032 1707
"This Collection, representing the entire spectrum of political thinking existing in the six counties, is a vast history book covering 30 years of political conflict. I recommend it with great pleasure."
Gerry Adams MP MLA, President, Sinn Féin
"I consider the Collection to be of absolutely major importance. When future scholars come to analyse the Northern Ireland conflict it will be the indispensable starting point. Already it is a vital resource for serious researchers."
Paul Bew, Professor of Irish Politics, Queen's University
"As someone who has worked with and managed libraries around the world, I was delighted to discover the richness of the Linen Hall Library collections. It provides an absolutely essential service for all those interested in Irish history, society and culture. The Political section is a particular gem that has greatly aided my work."
Philip Breeden, Press Officer, United States Embassy, London
"When I first came to Northern Ireland as correspondent for the London Times, the Linen Hall Library was the only institution in Belfast which could provide an impartial collection of books on the conflict upon which we reporters could rely. I can think of no comparable institution in a place of such social and political division that has been able to amass such a record. Various attempts to collect documents and books, in Beirut on the Lebanese war, for example, have always foundered, either because aims were misunderstood or institutions suspected of partiality. No politician, no government can conceal the sins and omissions of the past or conceal the possibilities for the future when an ordinary member of the public can walk into the Linen Hall Library and find the record of what all sides said in 1969 or 1974, 1989 or today."
Robert Fisk, Journalist
"The Linen Hall Library is one of the most respected institutions in Northern Ireland and one whose objectivity and impartiality is without question. The Library's detailed and unique Collection is, and will continue to be, essential, particularly to academics seeking a full understanding of a problem that is attracting world-wide attention."
John Hume, Former Party Leader, Social Democratic and Labour Party and Nobel Laureate
"The extensive Political Collection at the Linen Hall Library is second to none. It is an invaluable resource for the people of Northern Ireland, principally because it will tell the truth about the history of Northern Ireland not in terms of the careers of individual politicians, but in terms of the people themselves. It will allow future generations to understand that history is about all the people."
Majorie Mowlam MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, 1997-1999
"As an MP in both Westminster and Europe, a Minister of Religion and Bible College President, an editor, author and broadcaster, I have found the Linen Hall Library, and its Political Collection, indispensable for reference purposes. In my researches, I have discovered with delight that the Library delivers 'the goods and the goodies'."
Lord Ian R.K. Paisley MLA MP
"I cannot say how much I value the Linen Hall's Collection of contemporary works on the current conflict: it is of inestimable worth to all historians, writers, journalists, and members of the public from both communities. [It contains] minutiae unavailable elsewhere and so vital in seeking accuracy and objectivity in such a difficult and contentious conflict."
Peter Taylor, Journalist
"The Linen Hall Library's Political Collection is literally unique. There is no other collection like it and the author who does not avail himself of its facilities has not completed his research."
David Trimble, MLA, Former Party Leader, Ulster Unionist Party and Nobel Laureate
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