Friday 7th July 1972. London. Gerry Adams had been released from detention in order to attend the meeting, along with Martin McGuiness, Séamus Twomey, Seán MacStiofáin, Dáithí Ó Conaill, Ivor Bell, all of whom were flown to London. The meeting took place at the Chelsea home of Mr Paul Channon, then Minister of State for the North. The talks inevitably failed: their demand for a United Ireland and complete withdrawal of British Forces from Northern Ireland being impossible from a British perspective. And the simultaneous ceasefire ended on the 9th July.
On Monday 10th July, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Willie Whitelaw, admitted to having met the IRA.
The Sunday Times, on the 3rd July 1966, coinciding with a royal visit to Northern Ireland, published the article ‘John Bull’s Political Slum’, criticising Britain’s failure to intervene in the gerrymandering of the political architecture of Northern Ireland, and the high levels of unemployment in Catholic communities.
This was against the backdrop of three recent killings carried out by the Ulster Volunteer Force, which was led by Gusty Spence (and accomplice) who was later arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment for his role.
Internment – Operation Demetrius – was reintroduced on Monday 9th August 1971, whereby British Forces arrested 342 individuals in mass arrests – the majority of whom were Catholic Nationalists – in a variety of raids, and held them for questioning in temporary camps.
17 people died over the following two days, 10 of whom were Catholics. Internment would last until 5th December 1975 but despite being introduced by Unionist politicians to address the chronic security issues, it led to increases in rioting and acted as a ‘recruiting sergeant’ for the IRA.
In retrospect, many military officials regret the introduction of this measure, admitting that very little intelligence gains were made.
Paddy Coyle was only thirteen years old when he was photographed by Pulitzer-prize winner, Clive Limpkin in Derry, holding a petrol bomb and wearing an adult’s Second World War gas mask during the ‘Battle of the Bogside’ in 1969. Coyle would be immortalised as ‘the boy in the mask’, one of the most recognisable images of the Troubles; it remains as a building mural in Derry’s Bogside.
Limpkin would state that the badge worn by Coyle, showing an image of the whole of Ireland, encapsulated the entirety of the conflict.