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.
On 15th April, 1969, in a by-election to the Westminster parliament Bernadette Devlin, standing as a Unity candidate in Mid-Ulster, won the contest. At 21 years of age she became the youngest woman ever to be elected as a Member of Parliament (MP). “I will take your seat and fight for your rights” which alluded to her rejection of the abstentionism practised then and still continued to this day by Sinn Fein, who reject the legitimacy of the Westminster Parliament.
After participating in the Battle of the Bogside, she served a short jail term before travelling to the United States to join the Civil Rights movements that had inspired and continued to parallel events in Northern Ireland. However, it was Bloody Sunday and its aftermath that would lead Devlin to infamy. She was infuriated that she was later consistently denied the floor in the House of Commons by the Speaker Selwyn Lloyd, despite the fact that parliamentary convention decreed that any MP witnessing an incident under discussion would be granted an opportunity to speak about it therein.
The day following Bloody Sunday, Devlin slapped Conservative Home Secretary Reginald Maudling across the face when he incorrectly asserted in the House of Commons that the paratroopers had fired in self-defence on Bloody Sunday. Thirteen years later, Edward Heath recalled the event: “I remember very well when an hon. Lady rushed from the Opposition Benches and hit Mr. Maudling. I remember that vividly because I thought that she was going to hit me. She could not stretch as far as that, so she had to make do with him.” Devlin served in Parliament from 1969 until 1974 participating in various Independent, mainly Socialist roles, and in 1981 she was wounded by shots fired at her by members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters.
Presently she works with a number of civic and community development and support organisations.
After the announcement on Friday 29th August, 1997 by Marjorie (Mo) Molam, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceasefire had been sufficiently well observed for Sinn Féin (SF) to enter the multi-party talks, Sinn Féin (SF) signed up to the Mitchell Principles and entered the multi-party-talks at Stromont on 9th September. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) joined the multi-party talks at Stromont on 17th September; the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) boycotted the talks because of the presence of SF Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), and Martin McGuinness, then Vice-President of SF, met Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, for the first time.
Wednesday 7 January 1998 and Mowlam announced that she would go into the Maze Prison to meet Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) prisoners in an attempt to change their decision to end their support for the peace process. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) described the decision by Mowlam as “madness”.
The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), led by David Trimble, welcomed the decision. (Trimble would later receive the Nobel Peace Prize along with John Hume, leader of the SDLP.)
This strategy worked and the prisoners subsequently restated their support for the peace process. However, Sinn Fein and the Ulster Democratic Party were expelled and suspended from the Talks relating to continued paramilitary activities that were in breach of the participation arrangements. George Mitchell, then independent chairman of the multi-party talks, set a deadline of 9 April for the finding of an agreement between the parties.