The story behind the Female IRA fighter photograph, 1970s

This photo was taken by Irish photographer Coleman Doyle. Original caption: "A female IRA volunteer on active service with an AR18 assault rifle in West Belfast". The IRA regularly holds "weapons demonstrations" showcasing its modern and numerous weapons.

The gun the girl is showing is an ArmaLite AR-18. It was acquired by the IRA from the US in the early 1970s and became an emotional symbol of the IRA armed campaign. IRA fighters named this gun "widow maker". The AR-18 rifle was found to be very well suited for the purposes of IRA fighters as its small size and folding stock meant it was easy to conceal.

In addition, it was capable of firing rapidly and fired a high-velocity round that provided great "stopping power". The AR-18 was originally designed in California in 1963, but was never adopted as the standard service rifle of either nation.

Nevertheless, its production license was sold to companies in Japan and England. The Irish loved AR so much that they even wrote songs about them.

In Ireland, there were women in republican groups such as the IRA, fighting against British forces in Northern Ireland, as well as Loyalist groups who are pro-state and support the continuation of British rule of the region.

Typically, IRA women cadres played some non-military roles in which they exploited traditional gender stereotypes. They hid and carried weapons, as British soldiers hated women searching for bodies as it would lead to a tremendous public rebellion.

The Northern Irish struggle revolutionized the exploitation of women in the visual imagery for propaganda purposes. The imaginings of banging box covers, carrying bombs in prams, or actually preventing sons from being arrested were subtle attempts to subvert expectations of republican motherhood.

Women often went faceless wearing masks and they used midi skirts which showed their femininity. Ultimately, imagery propaganda used women as victims. In particular, the imagery of police brutality on women becomes a major weapon. Many of the murals feature women members of the community who faced death in communal firing or plastic bullets.

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