The conflict between Catholics and Protestants turned violent, espeially following the Peotestant (unionist) attack on Catholic Civil Rights marchers at Burntollet bridge (January 1969). Catholics set up barricaes in Belfast and Derry. The violent incidents generated support for the IRA. The first major incident was the Battle of the Bogside (August 1969). Attacks escalated both by the IRA and Protesant groups in some cases aided by the Ulster Constabulary. Catholics flocked to join the IRA which was began to be seen as a self-defence force. Led by the IRA the Catholic cause turned to violence. The result was three decades of killings and reprisals. The initial British effort was aimed at addressing the grevances of the Catholic minority. The increasing role of the ultra-nationalist and violent Provisional IRA tended to shift the terms of discussion. The Provisionals were not after moderate reforms, they wanted a change in the constitution and unification with the Republic. Violence ecalated rapidly (1970-72). The worst year was 1972 when nearly 500 people were killed. . The British repondng to increasing violence in Northern Ireland by suspending the Ulster Parliament and beginning direct rule from London (1972).
Catholics set up barricades in Belfast and Derry after Civil Rights marches were attacked at Burntollet bridge (Januasry 4, 1969). The first major inciden of the Troubles was the Battle of the Bogside (August 12-14). This was essentially a Catholic nationalist communal uprising in Derry. The uprising was set off when the Apprentice Boys of Derry (a Protestant fraternal group) protected by the RUC approached the Catholic Bogside. The annual parade had for years followed a rfoute that passed through some Catholic areas. The Catholics had set up barricades. The confrontation between
Catholic residents of the Bogside, police, and the Apprentice boys set off riots. The riots escalated when someone threw a grenade at a police station. The RUC deployed three Shorland armoured cars mounted with Browning heavy machine guns. The rioting only got worse when the machine gunners killed a 9-year-old boy. He was hit by a tracer round as he lay slleping in his family's apartment in Divis Tower in Belfast. Unionist mobs attacked Catholic neigborhoods, burning down much of Bombay Street, Madrid Street and other Catholic streets. The Bogside rioting set off vicious sectarian rioting in Belfast, Newry, Strabane and other locations to support the Bogside residents. Finally British army troops had to be sent in to stop the rioting. There were many deaths and burned-out homes. There were 8 deaths and about 750 people injured. About 1,800 people were forced from their homes, the vast majority Catholics. Catholics charged that the RUC had aided, or at least not attempted to restrain Protestant rioters.
The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement was in some ways similar to the American Civil Rights Movement which by the late 1960s had succeeded in dismatling the segregation system establish after the Civil War. The fault line in Ireland was religion rather than race. Another basic difference was the Irish Republican Army which had never been totally dismanteled. The Protestant violence legitimized the use of force which the IRA had long advocated. The Catholic Church had been a mainstay of Irish nationalism since the Elizabethan era. And unlike the black churches in the American south, did not speak out strongly to maintain the non-violence campaign of the Civil Rights movement. The IRA did not launch the Battle of the Bogside, it was a spontaneous explosion. After years of rekastive calm, the IRA was not prepared for serious action. In fact, the IRA was widely criticised by Catholics for not defending Catholic neighborhoods. Some Bogside residents began calling the IRA, "I Ran Away". The IRA began, however, to organize and rescruit new members as well as to arm itself. The Provisionals who came to be called the Provos began as a splinter group from the old-line official IRA. [Bishop and Mallie, pp. 52–54.] The older IRA had evolved from the violence prone IRA od the 1920s. They had embraced non-violent civil agitation along the lines of the American Civil Rights movement. The newly formed Provisional IRA broke with the official IRA because they were determined to pursue 'armed struggle' and violence like the original IRA to end British rule in the Protestant North. The Provisional IRA took up the role of defenders of the Catholic communty while the old line IRA sought working-class unity among Catholcs and Protestants. [English, p. 136.] And they proved very effective in doing so, especilly among children and youth.
The Northern Ireland Government requested that the British Government deploy the British Army in Northern Ireland to restore order and to prevent sectarian attacks on Catholics. The British Army did attempt to prevent the sectarian violence. The Catholics who did not trust the RUC initially welcomed the Army interventiion. Photographs show the Castholic residents offering the soldiers tea and sandwiches. Soon the relationship betweeen the Catholics and the British soldiers deteriorated. Catholics began viwing the Army as favoring the Protestants. This was probably inevitable as the Protestants were unionists and the Catholics largely nationalists. Some sources report Army heavy-handedness.
The Battle of the Bogside led to 3 years of escalating violence. The violence peaked with nearly 500n people killed (1972). There were attacks on British soldiers and British operations agaimnst the IRA, but more than half of those killed were civilains. This was the worst year of the violence. There were several reasons for the escalating violence. Many Catholics were outraged on the violence unleased against their communities and they wee disappointed in the IRA for its inability or unwillingness to defend them. This is probably at the hear of the escalating violence. Authors have various interpretations. Unionists thend to believe that the formation of the Provisional Irish Republican Army was at the heart of the problem. Nationalists tend to believe that the escalation of violence was a result of the frustration when the hopes of the civil rights movement were not only frustrated, but their communities attacked in the Battle of the Bogside. Subsequent security measures were not well received in part because they seemned more doirected at Catholics and Protestants. The Government imposed a curfew on the highly nationalist Lower Falls area of Belfast (July 1970). They deployed 3,000 trops to enforce the Falls Curfew. The troops reportedly fired 1,500 rounds in the urban residential community in running gun battles with the IRA. Four people were killed. Another action deeply resented by Catholics. The Government to stop the violence introduction internment of suspected terrorists without trial (1971). More than 350 detainees were initially detained. What alienated Catholics was not only the measure, but no Protestants were detained. [Walker, p. 27.] As with many of these issues, they can get very complicated, but the number of detaineees and their religious orientatioin is a matter of fact. Preventitive tetention is a highly controversial subjects which is hotly debated. Some argue that faulty intelligence led to the arrest of many people not involved in violence. [Bonner, p. 89.] Some argue that the experience led many to become Republicans activists. This may be the case, but is difficult to prove. Overall, the Government detained 1,981 people (1,874 were Catholics, 107 were Protestants). Nationalists charged that the detainees were abused and even tortured. A particularly inflamatoty incident was Bloody Sunday in which British Army troops shot 14 people (January 1972). Nationsalist charge that they were peaceful, unarmed civil rights demonstrators in Derry.
The initial British effort was aimed at addressing the grevances of the Catholic minority. The increasing role of the ultra-nationalist and violent Provisional IRA tended to shift the terms of discussion. The Provisionals were not after moderate reforms, they wanted a change in the constitution and unification with the Republic. The British repondng to increasing violence in Northern Ireland by suspending the Ulster Parliament and beginning direct rule from London (1972).
Bishop, Patrick and Eamonn Mallie. The Provisional IRA (Corgi Books, 1987). . pp. 52–54.
Bonner, David Executive Measures, Terrorism and National Security: Have the Rules of the Game Changed? (Ashgate, 2007).
English, Richard Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA (Pan Books, 2003).
Walker, R. K. The Hunger Strikes (Lagan Books, 2006).
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