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The Civil Rights Campaign - A Chronology of Main Events



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Text and Research: Martin Melaugh
Material is added to this site on a regular basis - information on this page may change

1964

Campaign for Social Justice (CSJ) formed. The CSJ was the forerunner of the civil rights movement and it began a programme of publicising what it saw as widespread discrimination, in a number of areas of life, against Catholics in Northern Ireland.

1967

1 February 1967
The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was formed. The Civil Rights Movement called for a number of reforms one of which was for 'one man, one vote', that is, a universal franchise for local government elections. At the time only rate-payers were entitled to votes, and there were other anomalies to do with additional votes for companies. The association also campaigned for the end to gerrymandering of electoral boundaries. Other reforms pressed for included: the end to perceived discrimination in the allocation of public sector housing and appointments to, particularly, public sector employment; the repeal of the Special Powers Act; and the disbandment of the 'B-Specials' (Ulster Special Constabulary) which was a paramilitary style reserve police force which was entirely Protestant in its makeup.
November 1967
The Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) was formed.

1968

Monday 25(?) March 1968
Members of the Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) disrupted a meeting of Londonderry Corporation to protest at the lack of housing provision in the city.

Saturday 27 April 1968
The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) held a rally to protest at the banning of a Republican Easter parade.

Saturday 25(?) May 1968
The Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) held another protest at the Guildhall in Derry.

Thursday 20 June 1968
The Caledon Protest
Austin Currie, then Nationalist Member of Parliament (MP) at Stormont, and a number of others, began a protest about discrimination in the allocation of housing by 'squating' (illegally occupying) in a house in Caledon, County Tyrone. The house had been allocated by Dungannon Rural District Council to a 19 year-old unmarried Protestant woman, Emily Beatty, who was the secretary of a local Unionist politician. Emily Beatty was given the house ahead of older married Catholic families with children. The protesters were evicted by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and one of the officers was Emily Beatty's brother.

Saturday 22 June 1968
The Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) staged a protest by blocking the Lecky Road in Derry.

Wednesday 3 July 1968
As part of a series of protests against housing conditions in Derry, the Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) held a sit-down protest on the newly opened second deck of the Craigavon Bridge in the city.

Thursday 22 August 1968
Society of Labour Lawyers published a document about alleged discrimination in Northern Ireland.

Saturday 24 August 1968
First Civil Rights March
The Campaign for Social Justice (CSJ), the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), and a number of other groups, held the first 'civil rights march' in Northern Ireland from Coalisland to Dungannon. Loyalists organised a counter demonstration in an effort to get the march banned (a tactic that was to be used throughout the period of 'the Troubles') and in fact the planned rally was banned. Despite this the march passed off without incident. The publicity surrounding the march acted as encouragement to other protesting groups to form branches of the NICRA.

Tuesday 27 August 1968
The Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) organised another protest in the Guildhall's council chamber. Immediately after the protest Eamon Melaugh phoned the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) and invited them to organise a march in Derry.

Saturday 31 August 1968
A delegation from the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) met with members of the Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) to discuss the proposed march. An Ad-hoc Civil Rights Committee was established to organise the march on Saturday 5 October 1968. The Committee did not operate as anticipated and effective control of the march fell to Eamonn McCann and Eamon Melaugh.

Saturday 7 September 1968
A second meeting was held between the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) and members of the Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) to discuss the proposed march (the first meeting was on 31 August 1968).

Tuesday 1 October 1968
The Apprentice Boys of Derry announced their intention to hold an 'annual' march along the same proposed route of the Civil Rights demonstration, on the same day and at the same time. [This particular tactic had been used on several occasions before and many times after the 5 October march. It provided the excuse needed to ban the march.]

Thursday 3 October 1968
The proposed civil rights march in Derry was banned from the area of the city centre and the Waterside area under the Public Order Act by William Craig, then Home Affairs Minister.

Friday 4 October 1968
A Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) delegation met with the march organisers and tried to have the march cancelled. Eventually it was decided to go ahead with the march.

Saturday 5 October 1968
Civil Rights March in Derry
[Considered by many as the start date of the current 'Troubles']
A civil rights march in Derry, which had been organised by members of the Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) and supported by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), was stopped by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) before it had properly begun. The marchers had proposed to walk from Duke Street in the Waterside area of Derry to the Diamond in the centre of the City. Present at the march were three British Labour Party Members of Parliament (MP), Gerry Fitt, then Republican Labour MP, several Stormont MPs, and members of the media including a television crew from RTE. Estimates of the number of people taking part in the march differ. Eamonn McCann (one of the organisers of the march) estimated that about 400 people lined up on the street with a further 200 watching from the pavements. The RUC broke-up the march by baton-charging the crowd and leaving many people injured including a number of MPs. The incidents were filmed and there was world-wide television coverage. The incidents in Derry had a profound effect on many people around the world but particularly on the Catholic population of Northern Ireland. Immediately after the march there were two days of serious rioting in Derry between the Catholic residents of the city and the RUC.

Wednesday 9 October 1968
People's Democracy Formed
2,000 students from the Queen's University of Belfast (QUB) tried to march to Belfast City Hall to protest against 'police brutality' on the 5 October 1968 in Derry. The marched was blocked by a counter demonstration led by Ian Paisley. A three-hour sit-down demonstration followed the blocking of the march. [Following the events of the day the People's Democracy (PD) organisation was formed. PD became an important force in the civil rights movement and a number of those who were leading members in the organisation, for example Bernadette Devlin and Michael Farrell, became prominent political activists.]
The Derry Citizen's Action Committee (DCAC) was formed from five protest organisations which had been active in the city. Ivan Cooper was the first chairman and John Hume the first vice-chairman of the DCAC.

Tuesday 15 October 1968
The Nationalist Party of Northern Ireland (NPNI) withdrew from its role as official Stormont opposition.

Wednesday 16 October 1968
The People's Democracy (PD) organised a march of 1,300 students from the Queen's University of Belfast to the City Hall in the centre of the city.

Saturday 19 October 1968
Derry Citizen's Action Committee (established on 9 October 1968) organised an illegal sit-down at Guildhall Square as part of large civil disobedience campaign. The event passed off peacefully.

Thursday 24 October 1968
The People's Democracy (PD) organised a protest demonstration at Stormont Parliament buildings, Belfast. (?)

Wednesday 30 October 1968
Jack Lynch, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), met with Harold Wilson, then British Prime Minister, in London. The Taoiseach called for the ending of partition as a means to resolve the unrest in Northern Ireland. The Irish Times newspaper carried reported an interview with Lord Brookeborough (former Prime Minister of Northern Ireland).

Saturday 2 November 1968
There was a march in Derry by the fifteen committee members of the Derry Citizen's Action Committee (DCAC). The march took place over the route of the banned 5 October 1968 march. Thousands of people walked behind the DCAC committee.

Monday 4 November 1968
Terence O'Neill, then Northern Ireland Prime Minister, together with William Craig, then Home Affairs Minister, and Brian Faulkner, then Minister of Commerce, met in Downing Street, London with Harold Wilson, then British Prime Minister, and James Callaghan, then British Home Secretary, for talks about the situation in Northern Ireland. The British Prime Minister states that there will be no change in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland without the consent of the Northern Ireland population.

Friday 8 November 1968
Londonderry Corporation agreed to a Nationalist request to introduce a points system in the allocation of public sector housing.

Saturday 9 November 1968
Ian Paisley and Ronald Bunting led a Loyalist march to the Diamond area of Derry.

Wednesday 13 November 1968
William Craig, then Home Affairs Minister, banned all marches, with the exception of 'customary' parades, in Derry from 14 November 1968 to 14 December 1968. [The exception of 'customary' parades meant that Loyalist institutions could parade but civil rights marches would be banned.]

Saturday 16 November 1968
Derry Citizens Action Committee (DCAC) defied a ban on marches in Derry by marching to the Diamond area of the city. An estimated 15,000 people took part in the subsequent sit-down demonstration in the Diamond area of Derry.

Sunday 17 November 1968
A policy of civil disobedience was adopted by the Nationalist Party at its annual conference.

Friday 22 November 1968
Reforms Package Announced
Terence O'Neill, then Northern Ireland Prime Minister, announced a package of reform measures which had resulted from meetings in London with Harold Wilson, then British Prime Minister, and James Callaghan, then British Home Secretary. The five point reform plan included:

  • a nine member 'Development Commission' to take over the powers of the Londonderry Corporation;
  • an ombudsman to investigate complaints against government departments;
  • the allocation of houses by local authorities to be based on need;
  • the Special Powers Act to be abolished as it was safe to do so; and
  • some reform of the local government franchise (the end of the company votes).

    Thursday 28 November 1968
    The Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) became law and abolished university representation and the business vote in Stormont elections. It also created four new constituencies and a permanent Boundary Commission.

    Saturday 30 November 1968
    A Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) march in Armagh was stopped by Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) because of the presence of a Loyalist counter demonstration led by Ian Paisley and Ronald Bunting. The Loyalist crowd then took over the centre of Armagh. [Both Paisley and Bunting were imprisoned in January 1969 for unlawful assembly during this counter protest.]

    Wednesday 4 December 1968
    Following a civil rights march in Dungannon there was a violent clash between Loyalists and those who were taking part in the march.

    Monday 9 December 1968
    Terence O'Neill, then Northern Ireland Prime Minister, made a television appeal for moderate opinion in what became known as the 'Ulster stands at the Crossroads' speech. The speech gained a lot of public support. The Derry Citizen's Action Committee (DCAC) called a halt to all marches and protests for a period of one month.

    Friday 20 December 1968
    The People's Democracy (PD) announced that its members would undertake a protest march from Belfast to Derry beginning on 1 January 1969.

    1969

    Wednesday 1 January 1969
    People's Democracy March Began
    Approximately 40 members of People's Democracy (PD) began a four-day march from Belfast across Northern Ireland to Derry. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) and some Nationalists in Derry had advised against the march. The march was modelled on Martin Luther King's Selma to Montgomery march. The first day involved a walk from Belfast to Antrim. [Over the next four days the number of people on the march grew to a few hundred. The march was confronted and attacked by Loyalist crowds on a number of occasions the most serious attack occurring on 4 January 1969.]

    Thursday 2 January 1969
    The People's Democracy (PD) march continued, on day two, from Antrim to Maghera.

    Friday 3 January 1969
    The third day of the People's Democracy (PD) march took it from Maghera to Claudy.

    Saturday 4 January 1969
    Burntollet Ambush
    The fourth, and final, day of the People's Democracy (PD) march took the marchers from Claudy to Derry. Seven miles from its destination, the People's Democracy (PD) march was ambushed and attacked by a Loyalist mob at Burntollet Bridge. The ambush had been planned in advance and around 200 Loyalists, including off-duty members of the 'B-Specials', used sticks, iron bars, bottles and stones to attack the marchers, 13 of whom received hospital treatment. The marchers believed that the 80 Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers, who accompanied the march, did little to protect them from the Loyalist crowd. As the march entered Derry it was again attached at Irish Street, a mainly Protestant area of the city. Finally the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) broke up the rally that was held in the centre of the city as the march arrived. This action, and the subsequent entry of the RUC into the Bogside area of the city, led to serious rioting.

    Sunday 5 January 1969
    Terence O'Neill, then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, issued a statement on the events since 1 January 1969.

    Monday 3 February 1969
    Terence O'Neill, then Northern Ireland Prime Minister, announced the dissolution of the Stormont parliament and the holding of an election on 24 February 1969.

    Monday 24 February 1969
    Stormont Election
    An election to the Stormont parliament was held. The main feature of this election was the fragmentation of the Unionist party into 'Official Unionist' and 'Unofficial Unionist'. Of the 39 unionist candidates returned in the election 27 were in support of the policies of Terence O'Neill, then Northern Ireland Prime Minister, while 12 were against or undecided.

    Friday 28 February 1969
    Terence O'Neill was re-elected as leader of the Unionist Parliamentary Party and thus was confirmed as Northern Ireland Prime Minister.

    Tuesday 11 March 1969
    The Parliamentary Commissioner Bill was introduced which would allow for the appointment of an Ombudsman to investigate complaints against Stormont government departments.

    Thursday 17 (18?) April 1969
    In a by-election to the Westminster parliament Bernadette Devlin, standing as a Unity candidate in Mid-Ulster, was elected and, at 21 years of age, became the youngest woman ever to be elected as Member of Parliament (MP).

    Saturday 19 April 1969
    There was serious rioting in the Bogside area of Derry following clashes between Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) marchers, and Loyalists and members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). A number of RUC officers entered the house of Samuel Devenny, who had not been involved in the disturbances, and severely beat him with batons causing internal injuries and a heart attack. He died on 16 July 1969 as a result of these injuries.

    Tuesday 22 April 1969
    Bernadette Devlin, Member of Parliament (MP), made a controversial maiden speech in the House of Commons.

    Wednesday 23 April 1969
    The Unionist Parliamentary Party voted by 28 to 22 to introduce universal adult suffrage in local government elections in Northern Ireland. The demand for 'one man, one vote' had been one of the most powerful slogans of the civil rights movement. James Chichester-Clarke, then Minister of Agriculture, resigned in protest at the reform.

    Monday 28 April 1969
    As he was unable to regain the confidence of the Unionist party Terence O'Neill, then Northern Ireland Prime Minister, resigned to be replaced later by James Chichester-Clark.

    Thursday 1 May 1969
    James Chichester-Clark was elected as leader of the Unionist party and succeeded Terence O'Neill as the Northern Ireland Prime Minister. Brian Faulkner was appointed as Minister of Development. Chichester-Clark announced that he would continue the reforms began by Terence O'Neill.

    Tuesday 6 May 1969
    Chichester-Clark, then Northern Ireland Prime Minister, announced an amnesty for all offences associated with demonstrations since 5 October 1968 and this resulted in the release of, among others, Ian Paisley and Ronald Bunting.

    Tuesday 24 June 1969
    The Parliamentary Commissioner Act (Northern Ireland) became law. The act provided for a Commissioner to investigate complaints of maladministration against government departments.

    Tuesday 15 July 1969
    Chichester-Clark, then Northern Ireland Prime Minister, mobilised the 'B-Specials'.

    Friday 8 August 1969
    James Chichester-Clark, then Northern Ireland Prime Minister, held a meeting with James Callaghan, then British Home Secretary, in London. Callaghan agreed to an increase in the number of security force personnel. It was also decided to allow the annual Apprentice Boys parade to go ahead in Derry.

    Tuesday 12 August 1969
    Battle of the Bogside Began
    As the Apprentice Boys parade passed close to the Bogside area serious rioting erupted. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), using armoured cars and water cannons, entered the Bogside, in an attempt to end the rioting. The RUC were closely followed by a Loyalist crowd. The residents of the Bogside forced the police and the Loyalists back out of the area. The RUC used CS gas to again enter the Bogside area. [What was to become known as the 'Battle of the Bogside' lasted for two days.]

    Wednesday 13 August 1969
    Serious rioting spread across Northern Ireland from Derry to other Catholic areas stretching the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). The rioting deteriorated into sectarian conflict between Catholics and Protestants and many people, the majority being Catholics, were forced from their homes.
    Jack Lynch, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), made a television address in which he announced that 'field hospitals' would be set up in border areas. He went on to say that: "... the present situation is the inevitable outcome of the policies pursued for decades by successive Stormont governments. It is clear also that the Irish government can no longer stand by and see innocent people injured and perhaps worse.'

    Friday 29 August 1969
    Following the visit to Northern Ireland by James Callaghan, then British Home Secretary, a communiqué on behalf of the Stormont and British governments was released. This communiqué set out a number of further reforms mainly in the area of government administration.

    Friday 12 September 1969
    The Cameron Report (Cmd 532) into disturbances in Northern Ireland was published. The Cameron inquiry had been set up on 15 January 1969.

    Thursday 9 October 1969
    James Callaghan, then British Home Secretary, made a second visit to Northern Ireland between 9 and 10 October 1969. Following meetings between Callaghan and the Stormont government, plans for further reforms were agreed in a communiqué. The matters covered included: the establishment of a central housing authority; reforms to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, in light of the Hunt Report; reforms to the legal system; and the issue of fair employment.

    Friday 10 October 1969
    The Hunt Report was published. The Report recommends that: the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) should become an unarmed force; the Ulster Special Constabulary (the 'B Specials') should be disbanded; a new RUC Reserve should be set up; and a new locally recruited part-time force should be established under the control of the British Army [this force was to become the Ulster Defence Regiment, UDR]. Arthur Young was appointed as Chief Constable of the RUC at the request of Harold Wilson, the then British Prime Minister. Young was appointed to oversee the reforms recommended in the Hunt Report. The publication of the report sparked serious rioting by Loyalists in Belfast.

    Tuesday 11 November 1969
    The act establishing a Ministry for Community Relations was passed.

    Tuesday 25 November 1969
    The Commissioner for Complaints Act (Northern Ireland) became law. The act allowed for the establishment of a Commissioner to deal with complaints against local councils and public bodies.
    The Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) became law. The main provision of the act was to make the franchise in local government elections in Northern Ireland the same as that in Britain.

    Thursday 27 November 1969
    A Commissioner for Complaints, John Benn, was appointed to deal with matters related to local government and public bodies.

    1970

    Thursday 26 March 1970
    The Police (Northern Ireland) Act became law. The act provided for the disarmament of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the establishment of an RUC reserve force. The Act established the Police Authority of Northern Ireland (PANI) which was meant to contain representatives from across the community. [To the current day none of the main Nationalist parties have ever taken part in the PANI.]

    Tuesday 21 April 1970
    The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI) was founded. The founders of the party were attempting to appeal to Catholics and Protestant to unite in support of moderate policies. [Oliver Napier became leader of the party in 1972.]

    Thursday 30 April 1970
    The 'B-Specials' (the Ulster Special Constabulary) were officially disbanded. The USC had been replaced by the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) on 1 April 1970.

    Friday 29 May 1970
    The Macrory Report Review Body on Local Government in Northern Ireland (Cmd 546) dealing with local government structures was published. The main recommendation is the abolition of the old structure of local government and its replacement with 26 new district councils. The new system would also involve the creation of area boards to manage the health, education, and library services in Northern Ireland. It was envisaged that the control of the new system would rest with the Northern Ireland government. [Following the introduction of direct rule on 30 March 1972 much of the control of the main services passed effectively to Westminster. Elected councillors only had responsibility for a number of matters including refuse collection, public conveniences, crematoria and cemeteries ('bins, bogs and burials' as it was termed in Northern Ireland). The term 'the Macrory Gap was coined to highlight the lack of local accountability on the part of those controlling the centralised services.]

    Thursday 23 July 1970
    A ban on parades and public processions until January 1971 was announced by the Stormont government.

    Monday 10 August 1970
    Reginald Maulding, then British Home Secretary, threatened to impose direct rule on Northern Ireland if the agreed reform measures were not carried out.

    Friday 21 August 1970
    The Social and Democratic Labour Party (SDLP) was established. The first leader of the party was Gerry Fitt and the deputy leader John Hume. Other prominent members included, Paddy Devlin, Austin Currie, Ivan Cooper, Paddy O'Hanlon and Paddy Wilson. [The party effectively took over from most of the various Nationalist and Labour party groupings and became the main political voice of Nationalists in Northern Ireland until Sinn Fein began to contest elections in the early 1980s.]

    Thursday 8 October 1970
    The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) proposed that a system of Proportional Representation (PR) should be used in elections in Northern Ireland. [PR was introduced on 30 May 1973 for local government elections.]

    Sunday 11 October 1970
    A claim of maladministration in housing allocation against Dungannon Rural District Council was upheld by the Commissioner for Complaints.

    Thursday 29 October 1970
    The Electoral Reform Society called for the introduction of Proportional Representation (PR) in elections in Northern Ireland.

    Friday 30 October 1970
    There were serious riots in the Catholic Ardoyne area of Belfast which lasted for three nights.
    Chichester-Clark, then Northern Ireland Prime Minister, met with Reginald Maudling, then British Home Secretary, on matters related to reforms and security.

    Thursday 12 November 1970
    The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) was formed. [The NIHE gradually took over control of the building and allocation of public sector housing in Northern Ireland. The responsibility for public sector housing had previously rested with local government and the Northern Ireland Housing Trust (NIHT). There had been many allegations of discrimination in the provision and allocation of housing by the various local government councils in Northern Ireland and this was the main reason for setting up the Housing Executive.]

    Thursday 19 November 1970
    Figures were released by the Commissioner for Complaints showing that there had been 970 complaints in the first ten months of his office, with 74 of them alleging discrimination.

    1971

    Wednesday 20 January 1971
    It was announced that an independent commissioner would decide on the boundaries of the new district council areas.

    Thursday 25 February 1971
    The Housing Executive (Northern Ireland) Act became law. The Act provided for the establishment for a central authority for public sector housing in Northern Ireland and to also oversee the provision of grants for improvement to the private sector. James Chichester-Clark, then Northern Ireland Prime Minister, held a meeting with William Conway, then Catholic Cardinal of Ireland; the first such meeting since 1921.

    Thursday 4 March 1971
    The first meeting of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive was held at Stormont. [The headquarters and regional offices of the NIHE were to be the target of paramilitary attacks on many occasions during 'the Troubles'.]

    Tuesday 23 March 1971
    Brian Faulkner succeeds James Chichester-Clark as Northern Ireland Prime Minister after defeating William Craig in a Unionist Party leadership election. [Faulkner's tenure of office was to prove very short.] The Local Government Boundaries (Northern Ireland) Act became law. The Act provided for the appointment of a Boundaries Commissioner to recommend the boundaries and names of district council and ward areas.

    Thursday 13 May 1971
    The decision to appoint a Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland was announced.

    Friday 18 June 1971
    Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and Nationalist Members of Parliament (MPs) refuse to attend the state opening of Stormont.

    Wednesday 22 June 1971
    A system of committees to oversee control of key government departments was proposed by Brian Faulkner, then Northern Ireland Prime Minister. This system was seen as a way of providing a role for opposition parties at Stormont. [The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) initially welcomed the proposal but events were to result in the withdrawal of the SDLP from Stormont.]

    Friday 16 July 1971
    The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) withdrew from Stormont because no inquiry had been announced into the shooting dead of Seamus Cusack and Desmond Beattie in Derry on 8 July 1971.

    Monday 9 August 1971
    Internment
    In a series of raids across Northern Ireland, 342 people were arrested and taken to makeshift camps. There was an immediate upsurge of violence and 17 people were killed during the next 48 hours. Of these 10 were Catholic civilians who were shot dead by the British Army. Hugh Mullan (38) was the first Catholic priest to be killed in the conflict when he was shot dead by the British Army as he was giving the last rites to a wounded man. Winston Donnell (22) became the first Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) solider to die in 'the Troubles' when he was shot by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) near Clady, County Tyrone. [There were more arrests in the following days and months. Internment was to continue until 5 December 1975. During that time 1,981 people were detained; 1,874 were Catholic / Republican, while 107 were Protestant / Loyalist. Internment had been proposed by Unionist politicians as the solution to the security situation in Northern Ireland but was to lead to a very high level of violence over the next few years and to increased support for the IRA. Even members of the security forces remarked on the drawbacks of internment.]

    Tuesday 10 August 1971
    During the 9 August 1971 and the early hours of the 10 August Northern Ireland experienced the worst violence since August 1969. [Over the following days thousands of people (estimated at 7,000), the majority of them Catholics, were forced to flee their homes. Many Catholic 'refugees' moved to the Republic of Ireland, and have never returned to Northern Ireland.]

    Sunday 15 August 1971
    The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) announced that it was starting a campaign of civil disobedience in response to the introduction of Internment. The SDLP also withdrew their representatives from a number of public bodies.

    Sunday 22 August 1971
    Approximately 130 non-Unionist councillors announced their withdrawal from participation on district councils across Northern Ireland in protest against Internment.

    Sunday 26 September 1971
    David Bleakley resigned as Minister of Community Relations in protest over the introduction of Internment and the lack of any new political initiatives by the Northern Ireland government.

    Monday 27 September 1971
    There was a series of tripartite talks, over two days, involving the prime ministers of Northern Ireland, Britain, and the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) of the Republic of Ireland, which took place at Chequers, England.

    Thursday 30 September 1971
    Ian Paisley and Desmond Boal launched the [Ulster] Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

    Tuesday 5 October 1971
    A new sitting of the Northern Ireland parliament at Stormont began with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) absent. The SDLP met in an alternative assembly at Strabane town hall.

    Sunday 17 October 1971
    It was estimated that approximately 16,000 households were withholding rent and rates for council houses as part of the campaign of civil disobedience organised by the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). The campaign was in protest against Internment and had begun on 15 August 1971.

    Tuesday 19 October 1971
    A group of five Northern Ireland Members of Parliament (MPs) began a 48 hour hunger strike against Internment. The protest took place near to 10 Downing Street in London. Among those taking part were John Hume, Austin Currie, and Bernadette Devlin.

    Friday 12 November 1971
    It was announced that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) was to be given automatic weapons to protect police stations.

    Tuesday 16 November 1971
    The report of the Compton inquiry was published. Report of the enquiry into allegations against the security forces of physical brutality in Northern Ireland arising out of events on the 9th August, 1971. (November 1971; Cmnd. 4832). The report acknowledged that there had been ill-treatment of internees (what was termed 'in-depth interrogation') but rejected claims of systematic brutality or torture.

    Friday 31 December 1971
    Edmund Compton, then Northern Ireland Ombudsman, was replaced by John Benn.

    1972

    Sunday 2 January 1972
    There was an anti-internment rally in Belfast.

    Tuesday 18 January 1972
    Brian Faulkner, then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, banned all parades and marches in Northern Ireland until the end of the year.

    Saturday 22 January 1972
    An anti-internment march was held at Magilligan strand, County Derry, with several thousand people taking part. As the march neared the internment camp it was stopped by members of the Green Jackets and the Parachute Regiment of the British Army, who used barbed wire to close off the beach. When it appeared that the marchers were going to go around the wire, the army then fired rubber bullets and CS gas at close range into the crowd. A number of witnesses claimed that the paratroopers (who had been bused from Belfast to police the march) severely beat protesters and had to be physically restrained by their own officers. John Hume accused the soldiers of "beating, brutalising and terrorising the demonstrators".
    There was also an anti-internment parade in Armagh, County Armagh.

    Monday 24 January 1972
    Frank Lagan, then Chief Superintendent of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) notified Andrew MacLellan, then Commander 8 Infantry Brigade, of his contact with the Civil Rights Association, and informed him of their intention to hold a non-violent demonstration protesting against Internment on 30 January 1972. He also asked that the march be allowed to take place without military intervention. MacLellan agreed to recommend this approach to General Ford, then Commander of Land Forces in Northern Ireland. However Ford had placed Derek Wilford, Commander of 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment, in charge of the proposed arrest operation. [The broad decision to carry out arrests was probably discussed by the Northern Ireland Committee of the British Cabinet. Edward Heath, then British Prime Minister, confirmed on 19 April 1972 that the plan was known to British government Ministers.]

    Tuesday 25 January 1972
    General Ford, then Commander of Land Forces in Northern Ireland, put Andrew MacLellan, Commander 8 Infantry Brigade, in overall command of the operation to contain the civil rights march planned for 30 January 1972.

    Friday 28 January 1972
    The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), in an effort to avoid a repeat of the violence at Milligan Strand on 22 January 1972, placed "special emphasis on the necessity for a peaceful incident-free day" at the next NICRA march on 30 January 1972 (Irish News, 28 January 1972). [According to a Channel 4 documentary Secret History: Bloody Sunday, broadcast on 22 January 1992, Ivan Cooper, then a Member of Parliament at Stormont, who was involved in the organisation of the march, had obtained assurances from the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that its members would withdraw from the area during the march.]

    Sunday 30 January 1972
    'Bloody Sunday'
    The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march against internment was meant to start at 2.00pm from the Creggan. The march left, late (2.50pm approximately) , from Central Drive in the Creggan Estate and took an indirect route towards the Bogside area of the city. People joined the march along its entire route. At approximately 3.25pm The march passed the 'Bogside Inn' and turned up Westland Street before going down William Street. Estimates of the number of marchers at this point vary. Some observers put the number as high as 20,000 whereas the Widgery Report estimated the number at between 3,000 and 5,000. Around 3.45pm most of the marchers followed the organisers instructions and turned right into Rossville Street to hold a meeting at 'Free Derry Corner'. However a section of the crowd continued along William Street to the British Army barricade. A riot developed. (Confrontations between the Catholic youth of Derry and the British Army had become a common feature of life in the city and many observers reported that the rioting was not particularly intense.)
    At approximately 3.55pm, away from the riot and also out of sight of the meeting, soldiers in a derelict building opened fire (shooting 5 rounds) and injured Damien Donaghy (15) and John Johnston (59). Both were treated for injuries and were taken to hospital. John Johnston died on 16 June 1972. Also around this time (about 3.55pm) as the riot in William Street was breaking up, Paratroopers requested permission to begin an arrest operation. By about 4.05pm most people had moved to 'Free Derry Corner' to attend the meeting.
    4.07pm (approximately) An order was given for a 'sub unit' (Support Company) of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment to move into William Street to begin an arrest operation directed at any remaining rioters. The order authorising the arrest operation specifically stated that the soldiers were "not to conduct running battle down Rossville Street" (Official Brigade Log). The soldiers of Support Company were under the command of Ted Loden, then a Major in the Parachute Regiment (and were the only soldiers to fire at the crowd from street level).
    At approximately 4.10pm soldiers of the Support Company of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment began to open fire on the marchers in the Rossville Street area. By about 4.40pm the shooting ended with 13 people dead and a further 13 injured from gunshots.
    [Most of the basic facts are agreed, however what remains in dispute is whether or not the soldiers came under fire first. The soldiers claimed to have come under sustained attack by gunfire and nailbomb. None of the eyewitness accounts of those shot saw any gun or bomb being used. No soldiers were injured in the operation, no guns or bombs were recovered at the scene of the shooting.]

    Monday 31 January 1972
    Reginald Maudling, then British Home Secretary, made a statement to the House of Commons on the events of 'Bloody Sunday': "The Army returned the fire directed at them with aimed shots and inflicted a number of casualties on those who were attacking them with firearms and with bombs". Maudling then went on to announce an inquiry into the circumstances of the march.

    Tuesday 1 February 1972
    Edward Heath, then British Prime Minister, announced the appointment of Lord Widgery, then Lord Chief Justice, to undertake an inquiry into the 13 deaths on 'Bloody Sunday'. The response of the people of Derry to this choice of candidate, was for the most part one of scepticism and a lack of confidence in his ability to be objective. Indeed a number of groups in Derry initially called for non-participation in the tribunal but many were persuaded later to given evidence to the inquiry.
    There was an Opposition adjournment debate in the House of Commons on the subject of 'Bloody Sunday'. During the debate the then Minister of State for Defence gave an official version of events and went on to say: "We must also recognise that the IRA is waging a war, not only of bullets and bombs but of words.... If the IRA is allowed to win this war I shudder to think what will be the future of the people living in Northern Ireland."
    The Ministry of Defence also issued a detailed account of the British Army's version of events during 'Bloody Sunday' which stated that: "Throughout the fighting that ensued, the Army fired only at identified targets - at attacking gunmen and bombers. At all times the soldiers obeyed their standing instructions to fire only in self-defence or in defence of others threatened."
    Harold Wilson, then leader of the Labour Party, said that a United Ireland was the only solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland. William Craig, then Home Affairs Minister, suggested that the west bank area of Derry should be ceded to the Republic of Ireland.

    Wednesday 2 February 1972
    The funerals of 11 of the dead of 'Bloody Sunday' took place in the Creggan area of Derry. Tens of thousands attended the funeral including clergy, politicians from North and South, and thousands of friends and neighbours. Throughout the rest of Ireland prayer services were held to coincide with the time of the funerals. In Dublin over 90 per cent of workers stopped work in respect of those who had died, and approximately 30,000 - 100,000 people turned out to march to the British Embassy. They carried 13 coffins and black flags. Later a crowd attacked the Embassy with stones and bottles, then petrol bombs, and the building was burnt to the ground.

    Wednesday 22 March 1972
    Brian Faulkner, then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, went to London to be informed of the introduction of 'Direct Rule'.

    Friday 24 March 1972
    Edward Heath, then British Prime Minister, announced that the Stormont Parliament was to be prorogued, and 'Direct Rule' from Westminster imposed on Northern Ireland on 30 March 1972. The announcement was greeted with outrage from Brian Faulkner and Unionist politicians. Edward Heath, then British Prime Minister, made that announcement. The main reason for the suspension of Stormont was the refusal of Unionist government to accept the loss of law and order powers to Westminster.
    [The legislation responsible for direct rule was the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act. Under the legislation a new Northern Ireland Office (NIO) was established at Stormont which was supervised by a new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, William Whitelaw.]
    [Whitelaw eases internment, gives political status to prisoners because of Billy McKee's hunger strike.]

    Sunday 26 March 1972
    William Whitelaw, was appointed as the first Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

    Thursday 30 March 1972
    The legislation which introduced direct rule, the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act, was passed at Westminster.


  • CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
    CAIN is based within the University of Ulster.


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