CAIN Web Service
A Chronology of the Conflict - 1983
Text and Research: Martin Melaugh
Material is added to this site on a regular basis - information on this page may change
The following is a draft chronology of the conflict for the year 1983
1983 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Wednesday 5 January 1983
The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) was declared illegal in the Republic of Ireland.
Thursday 6 January 1983
Two undercover Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers were shot dead by members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Rostrevor, County Down.
Sunday 16 January 1983
William Doyle, a County Court judge, was shot dead by members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) as he left mass at a Catholic church in south Belfast.
Tuesday 18 January 1983 (??)
Peter Barry, then Irish Foreign Minister, began a fact-finding visit to Belfast.
Friday 28 January 1983
The government in the Republic of Ireland announced that it would introduce legislation to give full voting rights to approximately 20,000 British citizens.
30 January 1983
At the annual conference of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) the delegates reaffirmed the party's boycott of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
[ PRONI Records – January 1983.]
Tuesday 1 February 1983
Peter Barry, then Irish Foreign Minister, held a meeting with James Prior, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in London. Barry expressed his view that the Northern Ireland Assembly would not prove successful.
Thursday 17 February 1983
The British Labour Party took the decision to oppose the Prevention of Terrorism Act in existing form. [As the Act needed to be renewed on an annual basis this decision was to lead to continuing friction between Labour and the Conservative government.]
Wednesday 23 February 1983
The Political Committee of the European Parliament took the decision to commission a report on Northern Ireland to see if the (then) European Economic Community (EEC) could help find a solution to the conflict. The Rapporteur was Mr N.J. Haagerup. [The report was drawn up and passed by the European Parliament on 29 March 1984.] The British government opposed what it saw as external interference in its internal affairs.
Saturday 26 February 1983
Ken Livingstone, then leader of the Greater London Council (GLC), travelled to Belfast to begin a two day visit at the invitation of Sinn Féin (SF). The visit drew strong criticism from Unionists.
Sunday 27 February 1983
Charles Haughey, then leader of Fianna Fáil (FF), addressed his party's conference in Dublin and called on the British and Irish governments to organise a constitutional conference to consider options for the future of Northern Ireland.
[ PRONI Records – February 1983.]
Wednesday 2 March 1983
The Northern Ireland Assembly passed a motion urging the British government to do all in its power to stop the proposed inquiry into the Northern Ireland conflict by the Political Committee of the European Parliament. The Rapporteur was Mr N.J. Haagerup. [The report was drawn up and passed by the European Parliament on 29 March 1984.] The Assembly also established a Security and Home Affairs Committee.
Monday 7 March 1983
James Prior, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced a new anti-terrorism Bill which would have a five year life and be subject to annual review.
Friday 11 March 1983
The Irish government announced that it was establishing a forum which became known as the New Ireland Forum. The Forum was proposed by the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). [Many commentators considered the Forum to be a response to the perceived threat that was presented by Sinn Féin (SF) to the electoral position of the SDLP as the main Nationalist party in Northern Ireland. All the constitutional Nationalist parties in Ireland, with the exception of SF, were invited to attend the Forum. The first meeting of the Forum took place on 30 May 1983 and the final report was published on 2 May 1984.]
James Prior, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said that the British government would not co-operate with the inquiry on the conflict that had been set up by the Political Committee of the European Parliament. The Rapporteur was Mr N.J. Haagerup. [The report was drawn up and passed by the European Parliament on 29 March 1984.]
Thursday 17 March 1983
Ronald Reagan, then President of the United States of America (USA), said that those who supported terrorism were no friends of Ireland. Edward Kennedy, then a United States (US) Senator, proposed a senate motion calling for a united Ireland.
Monday 21 March 1983
Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister, held a brief meeting with Garret FitzGerald, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), at an European Economic Community (EEC) summit meeting. This was Thatcher’s first meeting with a Taoiseach in over 15 months.
Tuesday 22 March 1983
In a district council by-election in Omagh, County Tyrone, a Sinn Féin (SF) candidate won the seat. [This was the first local government election contested by SF during the current conflict.]
Thursday 24 March 1983
The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI), all refused invitations to take part in the New Ireland Forum.
[ PRONI Records – March 1983.]
(??) April 1983
RUC Chief Constable recommends none of the officers in the alleged shoot-to-kill investigation should face presecution.
Friday 8 April 1983
James Prior, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced the setting up of an inquiry into the working of the Emergency Provisions Act.
Monday 11 April 1983
Sentences in First 'Supergrass' Trial
In a ‘supergrass’ trial in Belfast 14 Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) members were jailed for a total of 200 years. The whole trial was based on the evidence of Joseph Bennett. Bennett was granted immunity from prosecution for the crimes he committed, including involvement in killings, in return for his evidence. [Following other ‘supergrass’ trials it was revealed that those providing evidence were offered substantial sums of money.]
The Belfast shipyard, Harland and Wolff, announced that there would be a further 700 job losses.
Wednesday 20 April 1983
There was a Northern Ireland Assembly by-election in Armagh. The by-election occurred because Seamus Mallon, then Deputy Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), was removed from his seat because he had been a member of the Irish senate at the time of the election. The SDLP had called on voters to boycott the election and the turnout was 34.1 per cent. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) candidate, Jim Speers, won the by-election beating the only challenger, Tom French, the Workers' Party (WP) candidate.
Wednesday 27 April 1983
Fianna Fáil (FF), then in opposition in the Dáil, managed to have an anti-abortion amendment to the Irish constitution carried by 87 votes to 13. [The amendment was the subject of a referendum on 8 September 1983.]
[ PRONI Records – April 1983.]
Thursday 5 May 1983
James Prior, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, travelled to Dublin for talks with the Irish government.
Saturday 7 May 1983
An alleged INLA informer was shot dead in County Armagh.
Tuesday 10 May 1983
The Northern Ireland Assembly began what was to become an all-night sitting to discuss devolution of powers from Westminster to the Assembly. Despite lengthy talks the parties were unable to agree a common approach.
Monday 16 May 1983
The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) announced that they had kidnapped the wife of ‘supergrass’ Harry Kirkpatrick. [Other members of the Kirkpatrick family were also kidnapped on 3 August 1983.]
Tuesday 24 May 1983
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) planted a bomb, estimated at 1,000 lbs, outside the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) station in Andersonstown in west Belfast. The bomb caused an estimated £1 million in damage.
Thursday 26 May 1983
Two people were killed in separate incidents.
Monday 30 May 1983
First Meeting of New Ireland Forum
The first meeting of the New Ireland Forum took place in Dublin Castle, Republic of Ireland. Sinn Féin (SF) was excluded because the renunciation of violence was made an essential prerequisite to joining the Forum. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI) all refused to attend. The Forum consisted of eight members of Fine Gael (FG), nine members of Fianna Fáil (FF), five members of Irish Labour, and five members of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).
[ PRONI Records – May 1983.]
Monday 6 June 1983
The State Department in the United States of America (USA) refused an application for a visitors visa by Bernadette McAliskey (formerly Bernadette Devlin).
Thursday 9 June 1983
General Election in UK
In the United Kingdom (UK) General Election the Conservative Party was returned to power with an increased majority. In Northern Ireland the election was contested across the new 17 constituencies. [When the counting was completed the major news story was the election of Gerry Adams, then Vice-President of Sinn Féin (SF), in the West Belfast constituency where he beat the sitting Member of Parliament (MP) Gerry Fitt and Joe Hendron of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) won 11 seats (with 34% of the vote), the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) 3 seats (20.6%), Ulster Popular Unionist Party (UPUP) 1 seat, Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) 1 seat (17.9%), and SF 1 seat (13.4%). Unionist candidates therefore took 15 of the 17 seats. Many commentators again speculated on the possibility of SF replacing the SDLP as the main voice of Nationalism in Northern Ireland.]
Friday 10 June 1983
Following the election of Gerry Adams, then Vice-President of Sinn Féin (SF), as Member of Parliament (MP) for West Belfast, William Whitelaw, then British Home Secretary, lifted the ban on him entering Britain.
Saturday 11 June 1983
In the new British cabinet announced by Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister, James Prior, was reappointed as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Monday 13 June 1983
At the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) Lord Gowrie, and John Patten are replaced by the Earl of Mansfield and Chris Patten.
Tuesday 28 June 1983
John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), addressed the House of Commons in Westminster in his 'maiden speech'. He spoke of Britain's 'psychological withdrawal' from Northern Ireland.
[ PRONI Records – June 1983.]
Sunday 3 July 1983
The home of Gerry Fitt, formerly the Member of Parliament (MP) for West Belfast, in Belfast was set on fire by Nationalist youths. The house was not occupied at the time.
Monday 4 July 1983
Catholic Bishops in Northern Ireland warned against the dangers of the reintroduction of the death penalty. They also called for a ban on the use of plastic bullets by members of the security forces.
Friday 8 July 1983
The Northern Ireland Assembly voted by 35 to 11 for the introduction of the death penalty for terrorist murders.
Sunday 10 July 1983
James Prior, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said that the reintroduction of the death penalty in Northern Ireland would lead to an increase in 'violent disorders' in the region.
Wednesday 13 July 1983
Four UDR Soldiers Killed
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded a land mine in Tyrone killing four members of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR). [This was the highest casualty rate suffered by the UDR in a single incident.]
The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) shot dead two Catholic civilians in County Armagh.
The House of Commons rejected a motion calling for the reintroduction of capital punishment in Northern Ireland.
Sunday 17 July 1983
Merlyn Rees, a former Secretary of Sate for Northern Ireland, reported that a Cabinet subcommittee had considered the possibility of withdrawal from Northern Ireland between 1974 and 1976.
Thursday 21 July 1983
Gerry Fitt, formerly the Member of Parliament (MP) for West Belfast, was made a life peer. James Molyneaux, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), was appointed as a Privy Councillor.
Monday 25 July 1983
The Goodyear tyre company announced that it was closing a plant in Craigavon, County Armagh with the loss of 800 jobs.
Tuesday 26 July 1983
Peter Barry, then Irish Foreign Minister, travelled to London and told a group of Members of Parliament (MPs) that democracy in Northern Ireland was being undermined by the increase vote for Sinn Féin (SF). Gerry Adams, then Vice-President of Sinn Féin (SF), was in London as a guest of Ken Livingstone, then leader of the Greater London Council (GLC). Adams said that Britain had erected a 'wall of misinformation' around Northern Ireland.
[ PRONI Records – July 1983.]
Friday 5 August 1983
The ‘supergrass’ trial of 38 alleged members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) ended in Belfast. The trial had lasted 120 days with most of the evidence being offered by IRA supergrass Christopher Black. The judge jailed 22 of the accused to sentences totalling more that 4,000 years. Four people were acquitted and others received suspended sentences. [In 1986, 18 of the 22 who received prison sentences had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal.]
Tuesday 9 August 1983
In the run-up to the anniversary of the introduction of Internment in 1971 there was rioting in Nationalist areas of Belfast. A young Catholic man was shot dead by a British soldier following an altercation between local people and a British Army (BA) foot patrol on the Whiterock Road, Ballymurphy, Belfast.
Saturday 13 August 1983
Two members of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) were shot dead by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in Dungannon, County Tyrone.
Sunday 14 August 1983
Security forces in France uncovered a haul of weapons believed to be on route to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on a ferry from Le Harve to Rosslare in the Republic of Ireland.
Thursday 25 August 1983
Elizabeth Kirkpatrick, who was the wife of a police informer, was released having been held captive by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) for two months.
Sunday 28 August 1983
Ken Livingstone, then leader of the Greater London Council (GLC), said that Britain's treatment of the Irish over the past 800 years had been worse than Hitler's treatment of the Jews.
[ PRONI Records – August 1983.]
Wednesday 7 September 1983
A referendum was held in the Republic of Ireland on whether or not to include an amendment to the Irish Constitution banning abortion. When the counting was completed 66.9 per cent had voted in favour of the ‘pro-life’ amendment. A number of Unionists in Northern Ireland criticised the outcome as demonstrating the sectarian nature of life in the Republic.
Tuesday 13 September 1983
James Prior, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, defended the use of evidence supplied by 'supergrasses'.
Friday 23 September 1983
The Fair Employment Agency (FEA) said that it would monitor recruitment policy at Short Brothers aircraft factory in Belfast following allegations of an anti-Catholic bias in the organisation.
Sunday 25 September 1983
Mass Escape From Maze
38 members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) escaped from the maximum security Maze prison near Lisburn. During the escape a Prison Officer was stabbed; he later died from a heart problem. The escape represented the largest breakout in British prison history and a major political embarrassment for the British government. [Within a few days 19 of the original escapees were recaptured however others remained at large for years or were never returned to prison in Northern Ireland. An inquiry into the escape was established on 26 September 1983. The report of the inquiry was published on 26 January 1984.]
Monday 26 September 1983
Patrick Gilmour, the father of 'supergrass' informer Raymond Gilmour, was released by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) having been held for 10 months. A group of representatives from the New Ireland Forum paid a visit to Derry during which there were attacked by Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) demonstrators. James Prior, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, established an inquiry into the Maze escape (on 25 September 1983) under the direction of James Hennessy. [The report of the inquiry was published on 26 January 1984. See also: 11 October 1983.]
(??) September 1983
The Director of Public Prosecutions ordered four Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers to stand trial for murder in the 'shoot-to-kill' investigation.
[ PRONI Records – September 1983.]
Thursday 6 October 1983
Two members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) reserve were shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Downpatrick, County Down.
Tuesday 11 October 1983
James Prior, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said that he would resign his post if the inquiry into the Maze prison escape on 25 September 1983 found that his policies had been responsible. [The report of the inquiry was published on 26 January 1984.]
Friday 28 October 1983
George Terry, a former Sussex Chief Constable, published a report on the scandal at the Kincora boys' home in Belfast. Terry said that he had found no evidence that civil servants, members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), or military intelligence, were involved in homosexual activities at the boys' home nor had anyone tried to suppress information about the events. [In spite of a number of investigations into the events surrounding Kincora many people in Northern Ireland remained convinced that some of the allegations were true.]
[ PRONI Records – October 1983.]
Friday 4 November 1983
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) planted a bomb in a lecture room of the (then) Ulster Polytechnic at Jordanstown, County Antrim. The bomb was targeted at a lecture to members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and killed two officers and injured a further 33. [Another officer died from his injuries on 13 August 1984.]
Monday 7 November 1983
Garret FitzGerald, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), travelled to England for a meeting at Chequers with Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister. The meeting was seen as an opportunity for the two leaders to get to know each other and to discuss Northern Ireland.
Tuesday 8 November 1983
Adrian Carroll (24), a Catholic civilian and brother of an Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) member who had been killed by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in December 1982, was himself shot dead by the 'Protestant Action Force' (PAF). [The PAF was a cover name used by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). On 2 July 1986 four members of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) were convicted and sentenced for the killing. Three of the 'UDR Four' were released on 29 July 1992 when their convictions were quashed.]
Sunday 13 November 1982
Gerry Adams, then Member of Parliament (MP) for West Belfast, was elected President of Sinn Féin (SF) and the party's annual Ard Fheis. [Adams replaced Ruairí Ó Brádaigh as President in a development that demonstrated the movement in political power from Republicans based in the south of Ireland to those in Northern Ireland.]
Monday 14 November 1983
Charles Armstrong (54), a part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) and also Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) chairman of Armagh District Council, was killed by a booby trap bomb under his car.
Sunday 20 November 1983
Three members of the Mountain Lodge Pentecostal Church, Darkley near Keady, County Armagh, were shot dead in an attack that was claimed by the 'Catholic Reaction Force' (CRF). Seven other people were injured in the attack. [The CRF was believed to be a covername used by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).]
Thursday 24 November 1983
Don Tidey, an American supermarket executive, was kidnapped by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The kidnap took place in Rathfarnham, County Dublin, Republic of Ireland. [Tidey was rescued on 16 December 1983.]
Sunday 27 November 1983
Dominic McGlinchey, believed to be chief of staff of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), admitted that his organisation had been involved in the Darkley killings on 20 November 1983.
[ PRONI Records – November 1983.]
Sunday 4 December 1983
Undercover soldiers of the Special Air Service (SAS) shot dead two members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) near Coalisland, County Tyrone.
Wednesday 7 December 1983
Edgar Graham, then a Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Assembly member, was shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) at the Queen's University of Belfast. Graham was also a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the university.
Thursday 8 December 1983
The Fair Employment Agency (FEA) found that Catholics were under-represented in the higher levels of the Northern Ireland Civil Service.
Monday 12 December 1983
The Political Committee of the European Parliament held the first of a series of meetings to consider its draft report on Northern Ireland. The Rapporteur was Mr N.J. Haagerup and the report called for power-sharing and the preparation of a plan by the (then) European Economic Community (EEC) to aid the economic development of Northern Ireland. [The Committee had been asked to prepare the report on 23 February 1983. The report was passed by the European Parliament on 29 March 1984.]
Friday 16 December 1983
Security forces in the Republic of Ireland rescued Don Tidey, who had been kidnapped by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). During the rescue at Ballinamore, County Leitrim, there was a gun battle and an Irish soldier and a Garda Síochána (the Irish police) cadet were killed.
Saturday 17 December 1983
Three members of the British police and three civilians were killed as a result of an Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb attack on Harrod's store, Brompton Road, London. Approximately 90 people were also injured as a result of the blast. [The IRA later issued a statement claiming that the attack had not been authorised by the Army Council and that it regretted the deaths.]
A member of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) was shot dead by the IRA in County Derry.
Saturday 24 December 1983
Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister, paid a six-hour visit to Northern Ireland. During the brief tour Thatcher met Christmas shoppers in Newtownards, County Down, and visited members of the security forces in County Armagh and County Tyrone.
[ PRONI Records – December 1983.]
This chronology has been compiled from a number of sources:
Bew, P. and Gillespie, G. (1999) Northern Ireland A chronology of the Troubles 1968-1999. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan Ltd.
Elliott, S. and Flackes, W.D. (1999) Northern Ireland A Political Directory 1968-1999. Belfast: The Blackstaff Press.
Fortnight Magazine's monthly chronology of 'the Troubles'.
Sutton, M. (1994) An Index of Deaths from the Conflict
in Ireland 1969-1993. Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications. The Sutton Index of Deaths 1969-2001 - see in particular the list of deaths for 1983.
For a full list of, and links to, on-line sources see the Guide to the Internet.
Notes Major security incidents
Each entry contains information, where relevant, on the following topic areas:
Other relevant items
Information contained within square brackets [ ] may contain commentary or information that only became publicly available at a later date. Any piece of information which is followed by a question mark in parenthesis (?) is a best estimate while awaiting an update.