CAIN Web Service
Internment - A Chronology of the Main Events
Text and Research: Martin Melaugh
Material is added to this site on a regular basis - information on this page may change
This is a draft (v1) of the chronology for internment between the years 1971 and 1975.
Friday 12 March 1971
Thousands of Belfast shipyard
workers took part in a march demanding the introduction of Internment
for members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
Monday 9 August 1971
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
Wednesday 11 August 1971
Four people were shot dead
in separate incidents in Belfast, three of them by the British
Army, as violence continued following the introduction of Internment.
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
Monday 16 August 1971
Over 8,000 workers went on
strike in Derry in protest at Internment. Joe Cahill, then Chief
of Staff of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), held
a press conference during which he claimed that only 30 IRA men
had been interned.
Sunday 22 August 1971
Approximately 130 non-Unionist councillors announced
their withdrawal from participation on district councils across
Northern Ireland in protest against Internment.
Tuesday 31 August 1971
An inquiry into allegations
of brutality by the security forces against those interned without
trial was announced. [The report of the inquiry, the Compton
Report was published on 16 November 1971.]
Sunday 12 September 1971
A statement on Internment,
violence and the ill-treatment of detainees was released by the
William Conway, then Catholic Cardinal of Ireland, and six Bishops.
In a statement Cardinal Conway asked, 'Who wanted to bomb one
million Protestants into a United Ireland?'
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.
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.
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.
Tuesday 30 November 1971
The government of the Republic
of Ireland stated that it would take the allegations of brutality
against the security forces in Northern Ireland to the European
Court of Human Rights.
Sunday 2 January 1972
There was an anti-internment
rally in Belfast.
Monday 17 January 1972
Seven men who were being
held as internees escaped from the prison ship HMS Maidstone in
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
Sunday 30 January 1972
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
[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.]
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 9 February 1972
A report (Cmnd. 4901) was published by a committee headed
by Lord Parker on the methods used by the security forces in to
interogate those interned. The methods included: 'in-depth interrogation',
hooding, food deprivation, use of 'white noise' to cause disorientation
and sleep deprivation, and being forced to stand for long periods
leaning against a wall with their finger-tips. Two members of
the committee, including Lord Parker, held that the techniques
were justified. Lord Gardiner disagreed.
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.]
Monday 31 July 1972
4,000 extra troops were brought into Northern Ireland to take
part in the dismantling of barricades on the boundaries of 'no-go'
areas. It turned out to be the biggest British military operation
since the Suez crisis. 12,000 British troops supported by tanks
and bulldozers smashed through the barricades. Two people, a
Catholic teenager and a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA),
were shot by the British Army during the operation in Derry.
[The number of house searches and the number of Catholics interned
were to increase over the coming months.]
Wednesday 9 August 1972
There was widespread and
severe rioting in Nationalist areas on the anniversary of the
introduction of Internment.
Monday 25 - Thursday 28 September 1972
A conference was held at Darlington, England on the issue of devolution
with power-sharing. The Darlington meeting consisted of the Ulster
Unionist Party (UUP), the Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP),
the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI), and William Whitelaw,
then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The Social Democratic
and Labour Party (SDLP) refused to attend because of the continuing
operation of Internment. Some hard-line Unionists also refused
to attend. [There was no agreement on the shape of any future
Northern Ireland government.]
Jack Lynch, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), met Edward
Heath, then British Prime Minister.
Wednesday 20 December 1972
The report of the Diplock Committee was published. The
Committee had been looking at possible changes to the legal procedures
used in cases arising out the conflict. The report recommended
that such cases should be heard by a Judge of the High Court,
or a County Court Judge, sitting alone with no jury. [These recommendations
were included in the 1973 Emergency Powers Act.]
Saturday 3 February 1973
A member of the Irish Republican
Army (IRA) and 3 Catholic civilians were shot dead by members
of the British Army in Belfast. Two Loyalists were detained,
and then subsequently interned (5 February 1973), because of their
alleged involvement in the killing of an innocent Catholic man.
Following their arrest a crowd of approximately 2,000 marched
in protest to the Castlereagh Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)
station to demand the release of the two men.
Monday 5 February 1973
Following a decision to intern
two Loyalists, suspected of the murder of a Catholic man, there
was a call for a general strike under the auspices of the United
Loyalist Council (ULC) . [Although Internment had been introduced
on Monday 9 August 1971 and hundreds of Catholics / Nationalists
had been arrested and interned, this was the first time that Protestants
had been held under the Detention of Terrorists Order. This decision
was to lead to a strike by Loyalists and an upsurge in Loyalist
Tuesday 6 February 1973
Although a number of 'moderate'
Unionist politicians called on people not to heed the call by
the United Loyalist Council (ULC) for a region wide strike, by
the evening cuts in the electricity supply began to affect Belfast.
[The ULC strike officially began on 7 February 1973.]
Thursday 4 April 1974
Merlyn Rees, then Secretary
of Sate for Northern Ireland, announces that he will de-proscribe
(remove the illegal status from) the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
and Sinn Féin (SF), and also phase out Internment.
Thursday 2 May 1974
The Irish government brought a case of torture against the British
government to the European Commission on Human Rights. The case
related to the treatment of Internees held in Northern Ireland.
Wednesday 3 July 1974
Máire Drumm, then
Vice-President of Sinn Féin (SF), said that SF was ready
to talk with representatives of the Ulster Workers' Council (UWC).
This statement followed an offer by Andy Tyrie, then leader of
the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), to be involved in negotiations
with the Irish Republican Army (IRA). [At this time there were
a number of areas of common interest between Loyalist and Republican
paramilitary groups including the issues of Internment and prisoners.]
Tuesday 9 July 1974
Merlyn Rees, then Secretary
of Sate for Northern Ireland, announced at Westminster that Internment
would be gradually phased out.
Thursday 24 July 1975
Merlyn Rees, then Secretary
of Sate for Northern Ireland, announced that all those interned
without trial would be released by Christmas.
Friday 5 December 1975
End of Internment
The last 46 people who had
been interned without trial were released. The end of Internment
was announced by Merlyn Rees, then Secretary of Sate for Northern
Ireland, who said that those found guilty of crimes would be brought
before the courts. [During the period of Internment, 9 August
1971 to 5 December 1975, 1,981 people were detained; 1,874 were
Catholic / Republican, while 107 were Protestant / Loyalist.]
This chronology has been compiled from a number of sources. Anyone seeking additional information should consult
the following (see the CAIN Bibliography for full citations):
Bew, P., and Gillespie, G. (1993), Northern Ireland A chronology
of the Troubles 1968-1993
Flackes, W.D., and Elliott, S. (1980), Northern Ireland A
Political Directory 1968-1993
Sutton, M. (1994), An Index of Deaths from the Conflict
in Ireland 1969-1993
Fortnight Magazine's monthly chronology of 'the Troubles'
Each entry contains information, where relevant,
on the following topic areas:
Major security incidents
Other relevant items
Any piece of
information which is followed by a question mark in parenthesis
(?) is a best estimate while awaiting an update. Any piece of
information which is followed by a double question mark in parenthesis
(??) is doubtful and is awaiting an update.