Tag Archives: Bernadette Devlin

21st October – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

 21st October


Tuesday 21 October 1969

Thomas McDowell (45), a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), died from injuries he received when a bomb he was planting exploded prematurely at a power station near Ballyshannon, County Donegal, on 19 October 1969.

Wednesday 21 October 1970

Bernadette Devlin was released from prison having served four months of her six month sentence for riotous behaviour.

Monday 21 October 1974

Two Catholic civilians, Michael Loughran (18) and Edward Morgan (27), were shot dead by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) at the junction of Falls Road and Northumberland Street in Belfast.

Billy Hutchinson

See below for more details on Billy Hutchinson

[Billy Hutchinson was later convicted for his part in these killings. Hutchinson was to become a leading spokesman for the Progressive Unionist Party and helped negotiate the ‘Good Friday’ Peace Agreement on 10 April 1998.]

A member of the Territorial Army (TA) was shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Belfast. John Hume, then deputy leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), said that his party had lost confidence in Merlyn Rees, then Secretary of Sate for Northern Ireland.

Tuesday 21 October 1975

Gardaí surrounded a house in Monasterevin, County Kildare, where Tiede Herrema, then a Dutch industrialist, was being held hostage. A siege began which was to last until 6 November 1975.

Monday 21 October 1991

A programme in the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) series Panorama laid the blame for the failure of the recent political talks (later known as the Brooke / Mayhew talks) at the feet of Unionists.

Wednesday 21 October 1992

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded a bomb, estimated at 200 pounds, in the main street of Bangor, County Down. The bomb caused extensive damage to property in the area.

Thursday 21 October 1993

John Gibson (51), a Protestant civilian, was shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Glengormley near Belfast. Gibson was believed to have been targeted because he was doing building work for the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

  1. Patrick Mayhew, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, informed the House of Commons that bilateral talks were taking place with the political parties.

Friday 21 October 1994

John Major, then British Prime Minister, speaking in Belfast said that he was making a “working assumption” that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) intended its ceasefire to be permanent. He also announced that exclusion orders on Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF) and Martin McGuinness, then Vice-President of SF, would be lifted, all border roads would be reopened, and that exploratory talks between the British Government and SF would begin before Christmas. Major also promised to review the role of the British Army in Northern Ireland. [Major was on a two-day visit to Northern Ireland.]

Saturday 21 October 1995

The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) met for its annual conference. David Trimble, then leader of the UUP, outlined a plan to end the right of the Orange Order to directly appoint delegates to the Ulster Unionist Council (UUC). Statistics produced by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) showed that since the ceasefires Catholics comprised 16.5 per cent of new appointments to the police.

Wednesday 21 October 1998

Adam Ingram, then Security Minister at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), stated in the House of Commons that there had been 54 people killed as a result of the conflict in the period 1 January 1998 to 16 October 1998. 38 of the deaths were the responsibility of Republican paramilitaries and 16 by Loyalist paramilitaries.

Thursday 21 October 1999

Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), made a statement on recent political talks at a lunch time meeting in New York, USA. Adams told the audience that he thought the review would probably end in failure.

Sunday 21 October 2001

There were sectarian clashes in a number of interface areas of north Belfast. During disturbances in the Limestone Road and Halliday’s Road area a Protestant man (20s) was shot and injured by Republicans.

[The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) said it was not clear which organisation was responsible for the shooting.]

Later in the day two young Catholic girls were injured when Loyalists threw a blast-bomb into the Limestone Road, of north Belfast. One of the girls, aged 8, received shrapnel wounds and the other girl aged 11 suffered from extensive shock and both were taken to hospital. The bomb had been thrown over the rooftops of a row of terraced houses at approximately 8.30pm (2030BST). John Reid, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, described those responsible for the attack as: “quite simply, scum”.

Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), confirmed on Radio Telefis Éireann (RTE) that he had been in contact with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on the issue of arms decommissioning. He said: “If the IRA is persuaded to make some move on this issue, it will because it wants to rescue the process. The decision has to be theirs”.

[On Monday 22 October 2001 Adams publically called on the IRA to make: “a ground-breaking move on the arms issue”, which it did on 23 October 2001.]

Martin McGuinness, then Vice-President of Sinn Féin (SF), travelled to Washington, USA, for meetings with senior members of the American government and also members of the Irish-American community.

[There was continuing media speculation over the weekend that the IRA was considering a significant act of weapons decommissioning; the speculation proved to be correct.]


Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles

Today is the anniversary of the death of the following  people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
Thomas Campbell

To the innocent on the list – Your memory will live  forever

– To  the Paramilitaries  –

There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.

  7  People lost their lives on the 21st October  between 1969 – 1993


21 October 1969
Thomas McDowell,   (45)

Status: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Died two days after being injured in premature bomb explosion at hydroelectric power station near Ballyshannon, County Donegal.


21 October 1972

Gordon Harron,   (32)

Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
Died four days after being shot after stopping car on Shore Road, by Mount Vernon, Belfast.


21 October 1974

Michael Loughran,   (18)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Shot from passing car, at the junction of Falls Road and Northumberland Street, Belfast.


21 October 1974

Edward Morgan,  (27)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Shot from passing car, at the junction of Falls Road and Northumberland Street, Belfast


21 October 1974

Malcolm Gibson,  (28)

Status: British Army Territorial Army (TA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Off duty. Found shot in derelict house, shortly after being abducted while driving laundry van, Velsheda Park, Ardoyne, Belfast.


21 October 1981

Julian Connolly,   (49)

Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Off duty. Shot outside his home at the Zoological Gardens, Antrim Road, Bellevue, Belfast.


21 October 1993

John Gibson,  (51)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot outside his home, Carnvue Park, Glengormley, near Belfast, County Antrim. Contractor to British Army (BA) / Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).



Billy Hutchinson

Billy “Hutchie” Hutchinson (born 1955) is the leader of the Progressive Unionist Party in Northern Ireland. He was elected to Belfast City Council in the 1997 elections and to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998. He lost his assembly seat in 2003 and his council seat in 2005. Before this he had been a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and was a founder of their youth wing, the Young Citizen Volunteers (YCV).

UVF activity

A native of the Shankill Road, Belfast, Hutchinson took part in a series of riots in the area, during which Shankill dwellers clashed with residents of the neighbouring nationalist Unity Flats area. Members of the UVF fired shots at Unity Flats and it was around this time Hutchinson became a member of the organisation, describing his part in the rioting as “my initiation” into the UVF.[1] A strong supporter of Linfield F.C., Hutchinson would often lead his fellow Shankill-based supporters in throwing stones and singing loyalist songs at the Unity Flats as they returned from the club’s Windsor Park home off the Lisburn Road. These young loyalists formed the basis of the reformed YCV, which Hutchinson played a leading role in re-establishing in the early 1970s.[2] Hutchinson was in charge of recruitment for this group in its early years, aided by Billy Spence.[3]

In October 1974 Hutchinson and a fellow YCV member, Thomas Winstone, drove up Northumberland Street (which links the Shankill to the neighbouring Falls Road, Belfast, a republican area) at 7:30 in the morning. They came upon two Catholic men, Michael Loughran and Edward Morgan, walking to work and shot and killed them both. Both men were arrested soon afterwards and were both charged with murder to which they pleaded guilty, receiving life sentences. Hutchinson had been the driver of the car whilst Winstone was the shooter. Both men were aged nineteen at the time of their attack.[4]

In prison

Sent to prison in Long Kesh in 1975, Hutchinson, like many other young UVF inmates, came under the influence of Gusty Spence, a founder of the modern UVF who had begun a conversion to political methods. Hutchinson had already known Spence as the two had spoken on a few occasions during 1972 when Spence, aided by his nephew Frankie Curry, had escaped from prison for a few months.[5] Hutchinson had served as Spence’s bodyguard briefly and had been in his company the day Spence was recaptured.[6] In the prison Hutchinson, along with the likes of David Ervine, Eddie Kinner, Billy Mitchell and William “Plum” Smith, was convinced by Spence that loyalism needed to develop a more political side to its agenda and Spence encouraged these younger members to become involved in this development.[7] In 1977 when Spence advocated a policy of dialogue with republicans, Hutchinson and Mitchell co-authored a letter to UVF members on the outside endorsing Spence’s call.[8] Whilst in prison Hutchinson took a degree in social sciences and a diploma in town planning.[4]

Spence resigned from the UVF in 1978 and, after a period of collective leadership by the “officers commanding” of each prison compound, Hutchinson succeeded him as leader of the UVF in Long Kesh. This arrangement did not last long, as the UVF prisoners had grown tired of the strict disciplinary regime initiated by Spence which Hutchinson attempted to continue.[9] However, before long the extreme lack of discipline that then ensued became too much for a number of senior figures to stand and as a consequence in 1984 Hutchinson took control again, holding the post until his release from prison in 1990.[10]

Hutchinson was also nominated by the UVF as their point of contact with John de Chastelain and the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning and he helped to ensure the eventual decommissioning of some UVF weapons in 2009.[11] This was despite the fact that Hutchinson had been a noted sceptic on the issue and had criticised David Trimble because of it, arguing that his insistence on republican decommissioning was in fact damaging the peace process.[12]

Progressive Unionist Party

Soon after his release from prison Hutchinson became active in the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) and began working towards the establishment of the Northern Ireland peace process. During the early 1990s Hutchinson and David Ervine became more familiar faces in the media, presenting loyalist political demands. Both men were influenced by the example of Sinn Féin, who had demonstrated that an articulate media presence could ensure that paramilitary groups’ demands might be heard.[13] Hutchinson and Ervine in particular became close personal friends as well as colleagues and also enjoyed a friendly rivalry with Hutchinson being a Linfield-supporting west Belfast man and Ervine from the east of the city and a Glentoran F.C. fan.[14] Along with Spence and Ervine, Hutchinson was a strong advocate of moves towards peace and he played a leading role in helping to convince UVF commanders to endorse the Combined Loyalist Military Command ceasefire in 1994.[15] Following the announcement of the ceasefire Hutchinson was part of a six-man delegation representing the PUP and the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) that toured the United States.[16]

Hutchinson became known as a strong supporter of the peace process, not least during an incident in Northwest Belfast in the summer of 1996. Protestants in the loyalist enclave of Torrens – a small area between the mainly nationalist Oldpark and Cliftonville roads – had been involved in a stand-off with Catholics in neighbouring Ardoyne and this had escalated when a number of Provisional IRA members entered Ardoyne to protect residents.[according to whom?] Members of the UVF then entered Torrens, having retrieved weapons (including an AK-47) from an arms dump, and a clash between the two groups looked imminent. When Hutchinson learned of this he entered Torrens and convinced the UVF members to put down their weapons, even standing in front of the AK-47 wielder to prevent him approaching Ardoyne. The weapon was removed and the UVF left the area with the incident defusing as a result.[17] He also spoke at an event in the nationalist Bogside area of Derry, during which he expressed support for the possibility of non-executive cross-border bodies before posing for pictures with local Sinn Féin activist Robin Perceval.[18]


Hutchinson was a candidate for the PUP in North Belfast in the 1996 election to the Northern Ireland Forum.[19] He was not elected although the PUP managed to win two seats in the interim body. He returned as North Belfast candidate for the 1998 election to the new Northern Ireland Assembly and was elected to this body. Hutchinson lost his seat in the 2003 election after the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin took an extra seat each.[20]

Hutchinson ran for the PUP in the 1997 local government election and was elected to Belfast City Council as a representative of the Oldpark District Electoral Area, topping the poll among unionist candidates in this area.[21] He retained the seat in 2001 but lost it in 2005 to Fred Cobain of the Ulster Unionist Party.[22]

2000 feud

In 2000 Hutchinson was caught up in a loyalist feud that broke out between the UVF and the West Belfast Brigade of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). The roots of Hutchinson’s involvement lay three years earlier in the immediate aftermath of the killing of Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) leader Billy Wright by the Irish National Liberation Army. Wright had been close to the West Belfast UDA and as a result their leading hitman Stephen McKeag shot up a Catholic bar in the Cliftonville Road in retaliation. The UDA encouraged the LVF to claim the attack but when the claim was made Hutchinson refuted it and placed the blame on the UDA. He received a strong rebuke for this from the UDP’s John White, who accused Hutchinson of working with Sinn Féin and the Social Democratic and Labour Party against the UDA.[23] The war of words had ignited despite the fact that Hutchinson and White had enjoyed a close friendship in prison.[24]

After violent clashes between members of both groups on the Shankill Road the UVF shot and killed two men close to the UDA’s West Belfast leadership, Jackie Coulter and Bobby Mahood. The UDA Brigadier Johnny Adair was enraged by this development and, seeing Hutchinson being interviewed about the feud on television, phoned one of his deputies Jim Spence, who lived near Hutchinson, and allegedly told him to “go and shoot him right now”. Spence told Adair he would but delayed as he wanted to end the feud with as little bloodshed as possible whilst his phone had been tapped by RUC Special Branch who were able to warn Hutchinson. As a result, the attack did not occur.[25] 31 October of that same year Bertie Rice, a friend of Hutchinson and a voluntary worker at his constituency office, was shot and killed by members of the UDA’s North Belfast Brigade who were close to Adair.[26]

Subsequent activity

In October 2007 Hutchinson was arrested in connection with the August 2005 murder of Catholic teenager Thomas Devlin. A protest followed outside the police station in which he was being held although ultimately Hutchinson was released without charge. Hutchinson was at the time a community worker in the Mount Vernon estate on Belfast’s Shore Road, the area in which it was thought the killers were based.[27]

In July 2010 he attended a protest at an Asda store on the Shore Road, Belfast regarding the sacking of an employee. The employee was dismissed due to a complaint about him making a remark construed as promoting the loyalist song, The Sash. After an appeal the employee was reinstated.[28][29]

In March 2014, in an interview with the Belfast Newsletter, Hutchinson was quoted as saying that he had “no regrets” about his past in relation to the random murders of his two Catholic victims in 1974, claiming that he had helped to prevent a united Ireland by his actions.[30]

PUP leader

In October 2011 Billy Hutchinson was elected leader of the Progressive Unionist Party at the party’s annual conference in succession to Brian Ervine.[31] In this role Hutchinson took a leading role in the December 2012 campaign of protests and road blockades by loyalists following Belfast City Council passing a resolution to end the practice of flying the Union flag from Belfast City Hall all year round and instead to limit its use to certain designated days. Hutchinson suggested that the process by which the vote was held may not have been legal and on 15 December stated that he would make an announcement about a legal challenge in the “next few days”.[32]

In 2013 Hutchinson announced his intention to run in both forthcoming council and parliamentary elections. He claimed that he would focus his attentions on South Antrim.[33]


Hutchinson has often stressed the importance of the working class nature of loyalism and has argued in favour of socialism, although other socialists have criticised the exclusionary nature of his ideas, arguing that it does not constitute true socialism as it only applies to one community.[34] His declared support for socialism also came in for strong criticism from then UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade commander Billy Wright whose virulent opposition to left-wing politics helped to push him away from the mainstream UVF.[35] John “Grugg” Gregg, Brigadier of the UDA South East Antrim Brigade and, like Wright, a man with close links to far right groups in England, was also a strong critic of Hutchinson and accused him of thinking “like a republican”.[36] Hutchinson has conceded that some of his ideas were influenced by contact with Official IRA members with whom he studied in prison.[37]

Although brought up in the Protestant religion, Hutchinson is an atheist[38] and has never been a member of the Orange Order.[39]

2014 election

In the local election of May 2014 he was elected to Belfast City Council as a councilor for Court (District Electoral Area).


Battle of the Bogside – Northern Ireland History

Battle of the Bogside –  Northern Ireland History

12–14 August 1969


Start Of The Battle Of The Bogside, 12th August 1969


Apprentice Boys March, Derry, 12th August 1969



The Battle of the Bogside was a very large communal riot that took place during 12–14 August 1969 in Derry, Northern Ireland. The fighting was between residents of the Bogside area (organised under the Derry Citizens’ Defence Association), and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) along wih local unionists.

 – Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these pages/documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.

The rioting erupted at the end of an Apprentice Boys parade which was passing along the city walls, past the Catholic Bogside. Fierce rioting broke out between local unionists and the police on one side and Catholics on the other. Rioting between police and Bogside residents continued for three days. The police were unable to enter the area and eventually the British Army was deployed to restore order.

The riot, which sparked widespread violence elsewhere in Northern Ireland, is commonly seen as one of the first major confrontations in the conflict known as the Troubles.


Tensions had been building in Derry for over a year before the Battle of the Bogside. In part, this was due to long-standing grievances held by much of the city’s population. The city had a majority Catholic and nationalist population. In 1961, for example, the population was 53,744, of which 36,049 was Catholic and 17,695 Protestant.

However, because of gerrymandering after the partition of Ireland, it had been ruled by the Ulster Unionist Party since 1925.

Nationalist grievances

Unionists maintained political control of Derry by two means. Firstly, electoral wards were designed so as to give unionists a majority of elected representatives in the city. The Londonderry County Borough, which covered the city, had been won by nationalists in 1921. It was recovered by unionists, however, following re-drawing of electoral boundaries by the unionist government in the Northern Ireland Parliament.


Battle of the Bogside;Full Documentary.


Secondly, only owners or tenants of a dwelling and their spouses were allowed to vote in local elections. Nationalists argued that these practices were retained by unionists after their abolition in Great Britain in 1945 in order to reduce the anti-unionist vote. Figures show that, in Derry city, nationalists comprised 61.6% of parliamentary electors, but only 54.7% of local government electors.

There was also widespread discrimination in employment.

As a result, although Catholics made up 60% of Derry’s population in 1961,  due to the division of electoral wards, unionists had a majority of 12 seats to 8 on the city council. When there arose the possibility of nationalists gaining one of the wards, the boundaries were redrawn to maintain unionist control.

Control of the city council gave unionists control over the allocation of public housing, which they allocated in such a way as to keep the Catholic population in a limited number of wards. This policy had the additional effect of creating a housing shortage for Catholics.

Another grievance, highlighted by the Cameron Commission into the riots of 1969, was the issue of perceived regional bias; where Northern Ireland government decisions favoured the mainly Ulster Protestant east of Northern Ireland rather than the mainly Catholic west.

Examples of such controversial decisions affecting Derry were the decision to close the anti-submarine training school in 1965, adding 600 to an unemployment figure already approaching 20%; the decision to site Northern Ireland’s new town at Craigavon and the siting of Northern Ireland’s second university in the mainly unionist town of Coleraine rather than Derry, which had four times the population and was Northern Ireland’s second biggest city.


In March 1968, a small number of activists in the city founded the Derry Housing Action Committee, with the intention of forcing the government of Northern Ireland to change its housing policies. The group’s founders were mostly local members of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, such as Eamonn McCann, and members of the James Connolly Republican Club (the Northern manifestation of Sinn Féin, which was banned in Northern Ireland). The Housing Action Committee took direct action such as blocking roads and attending local council meetings uninvited in order to force them to house Catholic families who had been on council housing waiting list for a long time.

By the summer of 1968, this group had linked up with the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and were agitating for a broader programme of reform within Northern Ireland.

On 5 October 1968, these activists organised a march through the centre of Derry. However, the demonstration was banned. When the marchers, including Members of Parliament Eddie McAteer and Ivan Cooper, defied this ban they were batoned by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The actions of the police were televised and caused widespread anger across Ireland, particularly among northern nationalists. The following day, 4,000 people demonstrated in solidarity with the marchers in Guildhall Square in the centre of Derry.

This march passed off peacefully, as did another demonstration attended by up to 15,000 people on 16 November. However, these incidents proved to be the start of an escalating pattern of civil unrest, that culminated in the events of August 1969.

Free Derry Corner in the Bogside; the slogan “You are now entering Free Derry” was first painted in January 1969 by John Casey

January to July, 1969

In January 1969, a march by the radical nationalist group People’s Democracy from Belfast to Derry was attacked by off-duty Ulster Special Constabulary members and other Ulster loyalists during the Burntollet bridge incident, five miles outside Derry.[13][14][15] The regular police refused to protect the marchers. When the marchers (many of whom were injured) arrived in Derry on 5 January, fighting broke out between their supporters and the police. That night, police officers broke into homes in the Catholic Bogside area and assaulted several residents.

An inquiry led by Lord Cameron concluded 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”.

After this point, barricades were set up in the Bogside and vigilante patrols organised to keep the police out. It was at this point that the famous mural with the slogan “You are now entering Free Derry” was painted on the corner of Columbs Street by a local activist named John Casey.

On 19 April there were clashes between NICRA marchers, loyalists and the police in the Bogside area. Police officers entered the house of Samuel Devenny (42), a local Catholic who was not involved in the riot, and severely beat him with batons. His teenage daughters were also beaten in the attack. Devenny died of his injuries on 17 July[17] and he is sometimes referred to as the first victim of the Troubles.

Others consider John Patrick Scullion, who was killed 11 June 1966 by the Ulster Volunteer Force, to have been the first victim of the conflict.

On 12 July (“The Twelfth“) there was further rioting in Derry, nearby Dungiven, and Belfast. The violence arose out of the yearly Orange Order marches. During the clashes in Dungiven, Catholic civilian Francis McCloskey (67) was beaten with batons by police officers and died of his injuries the following day.

Image result for battle of the bogside

Following these riots, Irish republicans in Derry set up the Derry Citizens Defence Association, with the intention of preparing for future disturbances. The members of the DCDA were initially Republican Club (and possibly IRA) activists, but they were joined by many other left-wing activists and local people. This group stated their aim as firstly to keep the peace, but if this failed, to organise the defence of the Bogside. To this end, they stockpiled materials for barricades and missiles, ahead of the Apprentice Boys of Derry march on 12 August.

The Apprentice Boys march

The Bogside in 2004, looking down from the city walls. The area has been greatly redeveloped since 1969, with the demolition of much of the old slum housing and the Rossville Street flats.

The annual Apprentice Boys parade on 12 August commemorated the Protestant victory in the Siege of Derry in 1689 and was considered highly provocative by many Catholics. Derry activist Eamonn McCann wrote that the march:

“was regarded as a calculated insult to the Derry Catholics”.

Although the march did not pass through the Bogside, it passed close to it at the junction of Waterloo Place and William Street. It was here that trouble broke out. Initially, some loyalists had thrown pennies from the top of the walls at Catholics in the Bogside below, in return marbles where fired by catapult. As the parade passed the perimeter of the Bogside, Catholics hurled stones and nails resulting in an intense confrontation.

The police, who had suffered a barrage of missiles, then moved in. Whilst the police fought with the rioters at William Street, officers at the Rossville Street barricade encouraged civilian Protestants catapulting stones across the barricade at the Catholics. The police then tried to alleviate the pressure they were under by dismantling the barricade.

The result of this was the creation of a gap allowing Protestants through, convincing the Catholic residents that their homes were going to be attacked.

Image result for battle of the bogside

The police were unable to get into the Bogside. Nationalists lobbed petrol bombs from the top of the Rossville Flats, halting the police advance, with 43 of the 59 officers who made the initial incursion injured.

As this happened the people of Derry, numbering in their hundreds, continued to fight each other, with petrol bombs and stones thrown between loyalists and nationalists.

The Battle

The actions of the Bogside residents were co-ordinated to some extent. The Derry Citizens Defence Association set up a headquarters in the house of Paddy Doherty in Westland Street and tried to supervise the making of petrol bombs and the positioning of barricades. They also set up “Radio Free Derry.” Many local people, however, joined in the rioting on their own initiative and impromptu leaders also emerged, such as Bernadette Devlin, Eamonn McCann and others.

Local youths climbed onto the roof of the High Flats on Rossville Street, from where they bombarded the police below with missiles. When the advantage that this position possessed was realised, the youths were kept supplied with stones and petrol bombs.

The police were in many respects badly prepared for the riot. Their riot shields were too small and did not protect their whole bodies. In addition, their uniforms were not flame resistant and a number were badly burned by petrol bombs. They possessed armoured cars and guns, but were not permitted to use them. Moreover, there was no system in place to relieve officers, with the result that the same policemen had to serve in the rioting for three days without rest.

The police responded to this situation by flooding the area with CS gas, which caused a range of respiratory injuries among the local people. A total of 1,091 canisters containing 12.5g of CS; and 14 canisters containing 50g of CS, were released in the densely populated residential area.

After two days of almost continuous rioting, during which police were drafted in from all over Northern Ireland, the police were exhausted, and were snatching sleep in doorways whenever the opportunity allowed.

On 13 August, Jack Lynch, Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland made a televised speech about the events in Derry, in which he said that he “could not stand by and watch innocent people injured and perhaps worse.” He promised to send the Irish Army to the border and to set up field hospitals for those injured in the fighting. Lynch’s words were widely interpreted in the Bogside as promising that Irish troops were about to be sent to their aid. Unionists were appalled at this prospect, which they saw as a threatened invasion of Northern Ireland. In fact, although the Irish Army was indeed sent to the border, they restricted their activities to providing medical care for the injured.

By 14 August, the rioting in the Bogside had reached a critical point. Almost the entire community there had been mobilised by this point, many galvanised by false rumours that St Eugene’s Cathedral had been attacked by the police. The police were also beginning to use firearms. Two rioters were shot and injured in Great James’ Street. The B-Specials, a reserve quasi-military, mostly Protestant police force with no training in crowd control, much feared by Catholics for their alleged role in killings in the 1920s, were called up and sent to Derry, provoking fears of a massacre on the part of the Bogsiders.

James Chichester-Clark 1970.jpg

On the afternoon of the 14th, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, James Chichester-Clark, took the unprecedented step of requesting the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson for troops to be sent to Derry. Soon afterwards a company of the 1st Battalion, Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire (who had been on standby at HMS Sea Eagle) relieved the police, with orders to separate the police and the Bogsiders, but not to attempt to breach the barricades and enter the Bogside itself.

This marked the first direct intervention of the London government in Ireland since partition. The British troops were at first welcomed by the Bogside residents as a neutral force compared to the police and especially the B-Specials.

Only a handful of radicals in Bogside, notably Bernadette Devlin, opposed the deployment of British troops. This good relationship did not last long however, as the Troubles escalated.

Over 1000 people had been injured in the rioting in Derry, but no one was killed. A total of 691 police men were deployed in Derry during the riot, of whom only 255 were still in action at 12.30 on the 15th. Manpower then fluctuated for the rest of the afternoon: the numbers recorded are 318, 304, 374, 333, 285 and finally 327 at 5.30 pm. While some of the fluctuation in numbers can be put down to exhaustion rather than injury, these figures indicate that the police suffered at least 350 serious injuries.

How many Bogsiders were injured is unclear, as many injuries were never reported.

Rioting elsewhere

Image result for Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association

A call by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association for people to stretch police resources to aid the Bogsiders led to rioting in Belfast and elsewhere, which left five Catholics and two Protestants dead.

That same night (the 14th) a loyalist mob burned all of the Catholic homes on Bombay Street. Over 1,500 Catholics were expelled from their homes in Belfast. Taken together with events in Derry, this period of rioting is widely seen  as the point in which The Troubles escalated from a situation of civil unrest to one of a three-way armed conflict between nationalists, state forces and unionists.

See: 13th August – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

 – Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these pages/documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.