Welcome to Irish Photo Archive where Irish historical images and documents have been made available for you to purchase online.

We sell historical, archived images from every day Irish life as well as significant events in the country’s history.

From an archive of over 3.5 million images you can see the many significant characters that visited Ireland over the years. Have a look and enjoy!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Oíche Shamhna

It’s Halloween tonight, when people dress up in costumes, go trick-or-treating and watch scary movies. Of course, all these customs are a fairly recent importation from the US. Traditionally, in Ireland, 31 October was Oíche Shamhna, the continuation of a pagan festival.

Oíche Shamhna marked the end of the Celtic Year, when harvests were over after the summer and people prepared for the winter. All fires were extinguished to mark the end of the year, with the new fire being lit on hill-tops and spread to the locality. Tlachtga, near the Hill of Tara, was an integral part of Oíche Shamhna celebrations, with the first fire of the winter season being lit there before the Samhain festivities began at Tara.

Oíche Shamhna, 1952
It was also the night that the doors were open between the worlds; between the supernatural world and our own. The dead could walk the earth again, fairies could roam freely and a spirit called the pooka, a type of horse demon, caused havoc wherever it went. Many people chose to stay indoors that night rather than risk running into that creature.

Snap Apple, 1952
As it was the end of the harvest, all fruit and berries had to be gathered by the end of October. The abundance of fruit at this time of year meant there was some spare for children to play games with, hence the development of Snap Apple and bobbing for fruit. The bairm brack was also baked full of the leftover berries from the summer, but trinkets such as the ring and the coin were included as predictions for the future.

Oíche Shamhna turned into Hallowed Eve when Christianity took over Ireland, which then turned into Halloween.  The eeriness of the Samhain traditions still appealed to people, and led to the development of the ghost stories, the horror movies, and the costumes. The night is an integral part of Celtic culture, and of humanity’s need to mark the changing of the seasons. Whether you throw yourself into the celebrations or lock yourself into your home for the night, there is no escaping Halloween.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Trying Times

Sinn Fein continues to face tough media grilling over the issue of sex abuse and the inadequate measures that the party has employed to deal with the matter.

The party has been under continuous pressure since Mairia Cahill first came forward with her allegations on a BBC Spotlight documentary.

18th January 1988..Today saw the Funeral of Seán McBride.Seán MacBride was an Irish government minister, a prominent international politician and a former Chief of Staff of the IRA. His funeral took place from the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin to the family plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.The Chief mourners were Tiernan McBride,son, Anna White,daughter and Declan White, son in law...Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein is pictured at the funeral of Sean McBride
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Sinn Fein continues to face tough media grilling over the issue of sex abuse and the inadequate measures that the party has employed to deal with the matter.

The party has been under continuous pressure since Mairia Cahill first came forward with her allegations on a BBC Spotlight documentary.

18th January 1988
Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein is pictured at the funeral of Sean McBride

Purchase framed photographs and prints @ Irish Photo Archive

Friday, 24 October 2014

United Nations Day

Today is United Nations Day. The UN is a body that comes in for a lot of criticism, particularly over the Security Council members ‘ ability to veto and peacekeepers inability to intervene in certain situations, e.g. Rwanda, Srebrenica. However, the organization was set up for the right reasons and who knows what state the world’s most vulnerable people would be in right now without it.

Ireland has contributed a lot to the UN since its establishment. This was noted by JFK on his visit in 1963. In his address to both houses of the Oireachtas, he said: “Ireland's influence in the United Nations is far greater than your relative size. You have not hesitated to take the lead on such sensitive issues as the Kashmir dispute, and you sponsored that most vital resolution, adopted by the General Assembly, which opposed the spread of nuclear arms to any nation not now possessing them, urging an international agreement with inspection and control, and I pledge to you that the United States of America will do all in its power to achieve such an agreement and fulfill your resolution.”

JFK and Frank Aiken, 1963
The opposition to the spread of nuclear arms was led by Frank Aiken, who was also Minister for External Affairs at the time of Kennedy’s visit. When his work in this area led to the introduction of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968, Aiken was given the honour of being the first to sign the document.

Seán McBride, perhaps best known globally for his part in the foundation of Amnesty International, also served in several roles with the UN including High Commissioner for Human Rights, High Commissioner for Refugees and Assistant Secretary General. Another Irish politician to serve as High Commissioner for Human Rights was Mary Robinson, who resigned from her post as President to take up this position. Her criticism of the United States led to her being pressurized to leave this role.

Mary Robinson (left), 1989
The Irish Army have also contributed a lot to the UN, many making the ultimate sacrifice as part of their service. To date, 85 members of the Irish defense forces have lost their lives on while on UN peacekeeping duties. Irish forces have served in the Congo, Cyprus, Lebanon, Iran, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo, East Timor, Liberia, Chad and Syria. Our forces have built up a strong but fair reputation for themselves, and are often turned to for help in the most delicate of diplomatic situations.

Body of Private Stephen Griffin, killed in Lebanon, being returned to his home soil
19 April 1980

As one of the “small nations”, we have played our part, as we have in all other aspects of global business, culture and sport. Hopefully, we will maintain our neutral and trusted reputation in the years to come.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Nigeria. St Patrick and the good stuff

Nigeria has officially been declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organisation today. The country has not had a case test positive for Ebola for 42 days – twice the incubation period.

Most of the coverage of Ebola in the Western media has been concentrating on the Spanish nurse and the Texan case, as well as the scaremongering about tests at airports. But there are many reasons why the Irish should be more interested in developments in Nigeria, considering how many links we have with the country:

Nigeria Airways Group visit Dublin
11 September 1961
1. St Patrick
St Patrick is also a patron saint of Nigeria, and 17 March is an important feast day there as much as it is here. Though St Patrick seems to have saved all his snake-banishing efforts for Ireland.

2. Guinness
The highest consumption of Guinness per capita in the world is in Nigeria. A Guinness factory was opened there in 1960, and it has been one the nation’s favourite tipples since.

3. The British Empire
Both countries experienced British colonial rule, and have similar difficulties in our quests for independence. English is an official language of both Ireland and Nigeria, though Nigeria is part of the Commonwealth.

4. Irish builders
The Irish building company, Sisk, were part of numerous building projects in Nigeria in the 1980s, including working on the creation of a new capital in Abuja. Though Lagos remains the most populous city, Abuja is the official capital of the county.

5. Priests and nuns
Irish priests and nuns have worked in Nigeria for perhaps up to 150 – maybe influencing the St. Patrick connection. The Society of African Missions have published a book, We Will Remember Them, which covers all the priests, nuns and monks involved in their missions from 1884 to 2011. But it seems the missionaries are travelling the other way these days, as Ireland is starting to rely on importing priests to replace our own ageing tribe.

It is an unlikely connection between a small island nation on the west coast of Europe and one of the biggest countries on the African continent, but it is these ties built by the Irish abroad that has helped our country punch above its weight so often. And it is these connections that have us delighted that our friends in Nigeria are free from the threat of Ebola again. Long may they remain so.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Last Minute

The Republic of Ireland soccer side took a serious step forward in its campaign to reach the European finals in 2016 when the boys in green secured a 1-1 draw against Germany. They might have left it late but all goals county and John O'Shea's last minute equaliser might come to count for more than most goals.

Martin O'Neill's side were expected to be up against it prior to the game: playing against the world champions, even if depleted by injury is always a daunting prospect.

Ireland v Austria at Dalymount Park, 13th October 1963

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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Birthday boys

Today is Michael Collins birthday. Tuesday was Éamon De Valera’s birthday. De Valera was born in New York in 1882 to an Irish mother and Spanish father; Collins in 1890 in Clonakilty, Co. Cork. Collins was killed by an assassin less than a month before his 32nd birthday; De Valera died peacefully at the age of 92 in a convalescent home in Dublin, having served as both Taoiseach and President of Ireland.

The two men fought side by side in the War of Independence and forced the British Empire to the negotiating table. However, their opinions divided over the offer made by the British; the partition of Ireland. Collins felt it was the best option they could hope for, and the inclusion of Northern Ireland could be negotiated later. De Valera passionately felt the partition was a betrayal of those that had died in 1916 and the War of Independence. Their viewpoints reflected the division of opinion among the population at large; a division that led to the civil war in 1922.

De Valera preparing to turn 80 at Áras an Uachtárain
12 October 1962
Both men feature largely in our Archive; De Valera in his role as President, Collins more as  a looming shadow over Irish politics. The two main Irish political parties are legacies of these two men; Dev’s Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael owing its roots to the pro-Treaty side of the civil war – hence the ‘Civil War politics’ barb often fired by independents and media commentators.

Attendees at the commemoration mass for Collins
20 June 1970

If you were a believer in astrology, you could probably find reasons for the passions and commitment to a cause of the two men. Or maybe it was the similarities between the two men that set them at loggerheads. Either way, I wonder what was going through their head in October of 1922 when they celebrated their birthdays separately on opposite sides of that bitter rift?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Budget 2015

Budget 2015 is being revealed in Dail Ereann this afternoon. Budgets over the austerity period have hit society hard, most particularly those least able to withstand the squeeze.

In Budget 2015 the area of social protection will be closely watched in the media. It is there that the coalition government in particular the Labour Party took a roasting at the most recent European and local government elections.

Minister for Finance, Charles Haughey, prepares to administer some belt-tightening measures on Budget Day 23 April 1968
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Friday, 10 October 2014

Fire Safety Week

The National Fire Safety Week is running from 6 to 13 October, this year. It is a scheme that was initiated in the US after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, but has since spread globally. With Halloween approaching at the end of the month, it is the optimum time of year to get fire safety conscious.

Fire at the Power's Distillery, John's Lane, Dublin
5 July 1961
The Irish Photo Archive has a shockingly high number of fires included in our collection. Perhaps the most notorious and tragic of these incidents is the fire in the Stardust nightclub in 1981 on Valentine's Eve. 48 people died in this fire, with another 214 injured. The fire escalated very quickly, causing the ceiling to melt on top of the patrons and the lights to fail. In the resulting panic there was a stampede for the exit.

However, people became disorientated in the dark and mistook the entrance to the bathrooms for the main entrance. The windows in the bathroom had metal bars and plates on the outside, so people got trapped. The fire brigade pulled these bars down by attaching chains to their engines, and managed to get about 25-30 people to safety that way. There were also chains wrapped around the push bars of the exit doors, hampering escape that way.

In the photo below of the burnt out shell of the Stardust, the pandemonium that must have occurred inside the ballroom is evident from the overturned tables and chairs still lying in the black sludge.

The aftermath of the Stardust fire, 14 February 1981
There are many other fires recorded in the Archive, including the Powers Distillery, the Johnson Mooney & O’Brien mills, and the Loreto convent. There’s also clear cases of arson, such as the burning down of the British Embassy after the Bloody Sunday killings in 1972. But the devastation a fire can wreak on a family is perhaps best summed up by the photo below of Mrs Sheridan and her son James when their home in Walkinstown was burnt down in 1960.

The Sheridan family, 29 September 1960
There is advice on how be fire aware on the Fire Safety Week website,, with tips on prevention, detection and evacuation techniques. If you want more advice, they will be more than happy to answer any of your queries. And though a fire alarm might be annoying when you’re cooking up a fry on a Sunday morning to cure a hangover, don’t be tempted to remove the batteries. Remember, it only takes 3 minutes to succumb to smoke inhalation.

Stay safe, people!