The Troubles in Derry
The Troubles refers to the period of 1969 to 1998 when there was intense violence across Northern Ireland between Catholic Republicans and Protestant Unionists. Northern Ireland had seen quite a bit of violence right from it’s creation such as the 1920-1922 riots in Derry but wasn’t continuous and widespread as it was following 1969.
One of the main areas of conflict during the troubles in Derry happened here at the border between the Unionist Fountain area and the Republican Bishop street/Bogside area. The wall here is known as a peace wall and was constructed to help ease this and protect houses from objects being thrown.
The Troubles are generally considered to have started with the Battle of the Bogside, Derry was the largest mainly republican area of Northern Ireland but despite that the local council was under unionist control. The electoral rules of Northern Ireland at the time were set up so that there was next to impossible for the council to be republican control. As a result of this civil rights protests started to become a regular event in the Bogside area, which was also amplified by lack of investment in the west side of Northern Ireland by the Northern Ireland Government which saw conditions only getting worse.
The demonstrations and marches were not well received by the unionist controlled council and government who banned many of the demonstrations but they went ahead anyway. This led to confrontations between protestors and the police(the RUC, Royal Ulster Constabulary). Following a march from Belfast to Derry that was attacked by loyalists, violence and riots were directed at the RUC in Derry as the they didn’t show the same level of protection for the march as it did to the regular unionist parades. That night the RUC broke into many catholic homes in the Bogside and assaulted several residents, an inquiry showed that "a number of policemen were guilty of misconduct, which involved assault and battery, malicious damage to property...and the use of provocative sectarian and political slogans". Following this barricades were set up to keep the RUC out and the Free Derry movement began.
The annual Apprentice Boys Parade on 12 August 1969, was expected to result in violent confrontation but the parades route was unaltered and when it passed the Bogside stones were thrown from both sides and loyalist attempted to storm the Bogside. This escalated into a battle between the Bogside residents and the police/loyalists, the rioting spread across Northern Ireland resulting in 6 deaths. After nearly 2 days of continuous rioting, the Northern Ireland Prime minister requested from the British Prime minister for troops to be deployed in Derry. The solders were soon deployed with orders to separate the police and Bogside residents, no deaths were resulted in the battle but over 100 people were injured many seriously, at this point the solders were welcomed by most of the republican community as a neutral force.
The riots and battles continued on a semi regular basis and in 1971 they grew rapidly. A British Army soldier was killed after his vehicle was petrol bombed in the Bogside, rioters were shot by soldiers and the Provisional Irish Republican Army which had little profile at this point started a campaign of violence. In August 1971, the government introduced interment without trial and despite violence coming from both side the people interned were almost entirely republicans, this led to a large increase in rioting and violence, resulting in dozens of soldiers and RUC being killed and the army killing several civilians.
On 30 January 1972, 26 civil rights protestors were shot by members of the 1st Battalion of the British Parachute Regiment, 14 of them died. The attack and the claim that all those shot were armed and a threat despite many eye witnesses claiming otherwise, resulted in a massive increase in violence across Northern Ireland and the Provisional IRA started to grow in size exponentially. The inquiry into the event was regarded as a whitewash and it was eventually declared that all those killed were innocent following the Saville inquiry.
Following the 3 years of violence, many areas across Northern Ireland became Unionist only or Republican only and blockades were placed in many of them to keep security forces and mobs from the other side out. The largest of them was the one in the Bogside which 29 barricades 16 were impassable to one ton armoured vehicles.
On the 31st of July 10 days after the provisional IRA detonated 22 bombs in Belfast in the space of 75 minutes, 27,300 soldiers including 2 armoured battalions were mobilised in Operation Motorman to clear these no go areas which were being used by Provisional IRA members to prepare their attacks. The operation was met with little resistance as the majority of the IRA members that defended the barricades abandoned them as they were not equipped to deal with an attack of that scale. 2 people were killed an unarmed provisional IRA member and a 15 year old civilian, the soldier that killed the civilian was eventually charged with murder 47 years later.
Ultimately the operation that involved 4% of the total armed forces of the UK had little effect within a few hours a bomb was set off in Claudy causing 9 deaths. Street riots continued in Derry and throughout Northern Ireland throughout the 70s and 80s and paramilitary groups from both sides grew and continued violence against civilians and security forces.
The main events of the Troubles in Derry happened between 1969 and 1972 but continued to be a key place for recruitment by republican paramilitaries, a lot of bombs where set off including at notable locations such as the Guildhall and the riots continued to happen intermittently, 227 total were killed in Derry City. As a result of the troubles at least 10,000 bombs were detonated in Britain and Ireland and 3,532 people were killed:
British security forces killed 186 civilians, 146 republican paramilitaries 18 Loyalist paramilitaries and 13 fellow members of British security forces.
Republican paramilitaries killed 1080 members or former members of the British security forces, 721 civilians, 188 republican paramilitaries, 57 loyalist paramilitaries and 11 members of the Irish security forces.
Loyalist paramilitaries killed 878 civilians, 94 Loyalist Paramilitaries, 41 republican paramilitaries and 14 members of the British security forces.