The North - Ten years of violence

From the first riots of the Northern troubles, October 5, 1968, violence in Northern Ireland was brought before the eyes of the world by the cameras of press and television journalists. It was the first occasion in Irish history to be fully documented visually. We present here a visual account of these ten years by some of the world's outstanding cameramen.
(See PDF document of this edition for photographs)

One thousand, eight hundred, sixty two people have died. Over twenty thousand have been injured. More than five thousand have been jailed. Countless thousands of people have been left homeless. Over two hundred fifty million pounds' worth of destruction to property has been caused in this decade of relentless death and violence in Northern Ireland.

The beginnings of the troubles are dated from the October 5, 1968 civil rights march in Derry which was banned by the Government, and then attacked by the RUC (see opposite page). The incident, televised throughout the world, revealed the sectarian and repressive nature of the Northern state.

In the following months, there were more marches. They too were harrassed by the police and in some cases-as in Burntollettassailed by militant loyalists. They saw the demonstrations as a republican attempt to undermine the state.

Prime Minister Captain Terence 0 Neill (see page 16 bottom right) promised several minor reforms, thereby provoking a major right wing backlash within the Unionist Party. He resigned and was replaced by his cousin, Major Chichester Clark (see page 16 bottom left) who attempted to continue the reform programme, but the rising level of violence resulting in the August 12 to 15 riots in Derry (below) and Belfast led to the introoduction of British troops on the streets of the province.

The turning point in the Northern troubles was reached on August 28, 1969 when the British Government implicitly committed British troops to supporting the Stormont regime in return for a reform programme which left untouched the malaise at the heart of the Northern state.

Inevitably, the militants among the Catholic population were "drawn into conflict with British soliders and throughout 1970 and i early 1971 the violence intensified with the emergence of the Provisional IRA.

The murder of three young Scottish soldiers (see above) outside Belfast in March 1971, provoked the first widespread revulsion to their campaign.

The response of the Stormont Government was further repression, There was the Falls curfew in July 1970 and then internment in August 1971, which resulted in communal violence that included the burning of F arringgdon Gardens in the Protestant section of ArdQYne (see below left). The repression failed because of the political mobilization of the Catholic population, which held huge anti-internment demonstrations throughout the province (see below right).

Loyalist para-military forces had begun a covert campaign at this time. Their most destructive operation during this period was the bombing of McGurks bar (see above left) in Belfast in December 1971. fifteen civilians were killed in this, the worst single incident of the troubles in Northern Ireland.

The British Anny was too blunt and innsensitive an instrument for use in a situation of such political delicacy as Northern Ireland. As the fanner sledge hammer of British imperrialist policy, it was often brutal and terrorrising-far from keeping the peace it added considerably to the violence.

But although some British troops welcomed the opportunity for military engagement in Northern Ireland, for most of them it was a nightmare. Two hundred eighty died for a cause far removed from their personal interests or tne interests of the communities from which they came. Over three thousand were injured. Many were forced to live in very primitive conditions.

"It was murder, gentlemen. Sheer unnadulterated murder," said the Derry coroner, characterizing the Bloody Sunday massacre in that city January 30, 1972 when 14 civilians were killed by the British Army during an anti-internment demonstration.

With the escalation of violence, it became clear that the British Army was being given carte blanche to deal with political as well as military opposition to the regime. There were numerous killings of civilians in late 1971 and a major British Army atrocity was widely preedicted, though never on the scale that materialised.

On what was later called Bloody Sunday, British soliders opened fire on the antiiinternment demonstrators in an apparently well-planned operation designed to provoke a military confrontation with the IRA.

Two of the photographs on these pages require special explanation. The photograph on the opposite page top right was taken by an amateur photographer. The youth in the sports jacket in the background at the left is Michael McDaid, who was shot dead seconds later. At the bottom of the opposite page is a photograph of Hugh Gilmore (centre of the picture and insert) clutching his side just as he is also, shot dead.

The relentless escalation of the Provisional catastrophes. Throughout 1972 and into 1973 of the most infamous of these was the Donegal IRA campaign and especially the bombing of . there was a series of atrocities in which a large St. explosion in March 1972 in which six "economic" (i.e. civilian) targets made it number of civilians were killed and hundreds people were killed and 146 injured. All the inevitable that the Provos, too, would cause lost limbs or suffered other serious injury. One pictures on these pages are of that incident except that on the opposite page bottom right. uiere killed and 130 were injured. The scene victims into plastic bags. The scene, which This is of Bloody Friday, July 21,1972, the of the most horrific detestation was at the was widely televised, did more to erode public day on which the Provisionals planted 20 Oxford St. bus depot, shown here. There support for the Provisionals than any other bombs in the centre of Belfast. Nine people firemen shoveled the charred remains of single incident.

Another major atrocity was the explosion at the Abercorn restaurant, Belfast, on March 4, 1972 when two girls were killed and several other young people lost limbs and many more were injured. The Provisionals denied responnsibility for this incident as they did for the devastation of the tiny village of Claudy (right) where nine people were killed but it was later established that the Provisionals were responsible.

It became evident to the British Governnment in early 1972 that the policy of repression wasn't working and that a more fundamental approach to the problem was required. On March 31 the Stormont Government and Parliament were abolished amid massive loyalist demonstrations. The British strategy was to bring the moderate Catholic politicians of the SDLP and the Nationalist Party in from the 'cold and isolate the extremists, including Reverand Ian Paisley who was amassing loyalist support as the Unionist dominance of the province was being threathened from without and within.

With the rightward drift of Unionist i politics was the escalation of loyalist para- I military activity in the form of a murder campaign against the Catholic population. In 1972,45 Catholics were murdered by loyalist assassins.

There were elections for a new Northern Ireland Assembly inJune 1973 andfollowing these Whitelaw began a series of negotiations with political leaders which led to the Sunningdale Conference in December of that year. There the Irish Government, the British Government, moderate Unionists led by Brian Faulkner, the Alliance party, and the SDLP hammered out a power-sharing agreement within the context of continued membership of the United Kingdom and of a Council of

Ireland which would have consultative funcctions. The Executive took power on January 4, 1974 and on February 1, 1974, members of the power-sharing executive and of the Irish Governmeni met at Hillsborough to discuss overall security policy and progress towards the establishment of the Council of Ireland.

The executive was brought down on May 8, 1974 by a combination of IRA violenceeas evidenced by the destruction of Smithfield markets in Belfast (below)-and a strike by a broad-based loyalist coalition backed up by the UDA. Arguably, the collapse of the power-sharing arrangement proved the unreformable nature of the Northern state. Coinciding ( ?) with the loyalist strike, Dublin city and Monaghan were bombed on May 17, 1974 in a joint UDA-UVF operation In all, 34 people died and hundreds were injured. The Dublin bombbings were the worst single incident of the ten years.

Thirty-nine children under the age of 15 were killed in the violence of the ten years and hundreds were injured. The first of these was 14-year old Gerry McCauley who was shot dead in Bombay St. on August 15, 1969. Children played a prominent part in much of the rioting and some of the under-ten miniirioters of 1968 and 1969 are the activists of the IRA, UDA, etc. A generation of children has been reared in conditions of violence and indifference to human life. The consequences are unknown.

The most appalling savagery occurred in South Annagh in early January 1976 when Loyalist murder gangs killed eight catholics, including three members of one family, the Reaveys. The provisional IRA, under extreme pressure from the catholic population retaliated by murdering 10 Protestant workers returning home in a bus at Kingssmills. It was only after the murder of the Protestants that the authorities took action by sending a unit of the SAS into South Armagh. (see photographs at top of page.)

One of the most traumatic incidents of the Northern violence for many young people in the South was the murder of three members of the Miami Showband on July 31, 1975 outtside Newry by a UVF unit dressed in official UDR uniforms. Those killed were Brian McCoy (third from left), Tony Garrity (fourth from left) and Fran O'Toole (first right).

The Provisionals began a bombing cammpaign in Britain in 1973 and intensified it in late 1974. The targets were virtually all "economic" with the exception of same pubs where British soldiers were believed to freequent. Innocent civilians were killed in several of these incidents but the worst such occurance was in Birmingham on November 22, 1974 when 21 people were killed and 159 others were injured. Subsequent to that outrage the British Gouemment again entered into negotiation with the IRA which declared a cease fire in December '74 and again in January '75. The cease fire fizzled out in mid 1975.

It was the killing of three children of a Belfast family (the Maguires) on August 9, 1976 by an IRA get-away car after the driver was shot dead by the British Army which led to the most widespread expression of outrage at the continuing violence (scene of the killing: top left). It gave birth to the Peace Movement, led by Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, aunt of the three children (left). Huge rallies were held in the following months through the province, as well as in Dublin and London, the most notable of these being on the Shankill Rd., Belfast where Catholic nuns were greeted rapturously by Protestant residents (middle left).

But the genuine coalition of emotion for peace was dissipated by confused leadership which ignored fundamental political and secctarian questions in the belief that mere gooddwill could solve the Northern problem.

Inevitably, the peace movement, though. ostensibly apolitical, aligned itself with the state and the forces of law and order, thereby losing any real independent influence on events.

Violence continued, albeit at a reduced level, if the killing of 112 people in 1977 and 62 people so far in 1978 can be dissmissed so lightly. Queen Elizabeth visited Northern Ireland in August 1977, between the anniversary of internment and the Apprentice Boys annual march in Derry.

This current year began inauspiciously with a resumed Protnsional bombing campaign and with another atrocity. Twelve people died in the La Mons conflagration February 19, 1978.

The Provisionals say the war will be further intensified in the near future. There seems no prospect of a political settlement.