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The Deployment of British Troops
- Background Information

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Page Compiled: Martin Melaugh
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There were a number of events, and political developments, from the beginning of 'the Troubles' in October 1968 through to the summer of 1969 which explain the reasons for the deployment of troops on the streets of Northern Ireland and the reactions to that deployment.

The following paragraphs are intended to briefly highlight some of the events and developments surrounding the actual deployment of British troops. The reader should consult other sections of the CAIN web service for further information and also the CAIN Bibliography for references to detailed information on particular sections.


The emergence of the Civil Rights Campaign
The Civil Rights Campaign that started in the mid-1960s began in the 'pressure group' activities of mainly middle-class Catholics who published leaflets, issued statements and sent letters in the hope of addressing perceived discrimination, in many walks of life, against the Catholic community. The membership and tactics of the Civil Rights Movement was to change over the course of several years. It was to become a more broadly based organisation and was to adopt public protest on the street as the main means of achieving the movement's aims.

Unionists, however, viewed the developments with deep suspicion and in many instances their reaction was openly hostile. Many Unionists believed that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was behind the agitation and accused those involved of being more interested in undermining the Northern Ireland state than in reform.


The civil unrest - 1968 and 1969
The civil unrest, the rioting that often accompanied street protests, the confrontation between the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and sections of the Catholic community, and the destruction of property, were all viewed by the Protestant community as direct attacks on the fabric of the Northern Ireland state.

The reforms introduced to answer Catholic grievances - 1968 and afterwards
The first reforms and policy initiatives were announced towards the end of 1968 and the following years saw a number of provisions introduced to address allegations of discrimination and malpractice on the part of public agencies and government departments in Northern Ireland. Some of the reforms involved merely a change in legislation and quickly achieved the desired effect, such as those reforms related to universal adult suffrage in local government elections. Other reforms have proved more problematic and appear to have had less of an impact, for example, despite several pieces of legislation aimed at achieving fair employment, the level of Catholic male unemployment has remained much higher than the Protestant level.

The series of reforms were opposed by a large section of unionist opinion, indeed the issue of reform was to see the fragmentation of the Unionist Party which had ruled Northern Ireland for 50 years. There was also violent opposition in working-class Protestant areas to some of the measures. On 11 October serious riots followed protests by Loyalists against the disbandment of the 'B Specials'. Later Loyalists open fire on officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) (who were blocking their route to a Catholic area of Belfast) killing the first RUC officer to die in the present 'Troubles'.


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

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