“Any man`s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind” (No Man is an Island, John Donne, 1572-1631).
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.
Both Limpkin and Coyle died in 2020.
I am presenting at the Ministry of Defence’s DSTL Connections UK event on Wednesday, whereupon I shall discuss the educational benefits of narrative in conjunction with serious games.
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.
21st July 1972, Belfast. The IRA planted and exploded 22 bombs in 75 minutes, killing 9 people and injuring 130 others. This event was particularly chaotic die to the number of hoax calls that were made in order to confuse the security services.
This event was a direct response to the events of Bloody Sunday; the British Government replied with ‘Operation Motorman’ on 31st July 1972 aimed at entering and taking back the ‘no-go’areas of Derry/Londonderry and Belfast.
There were also disturbances and blocked roads across Northern Ireland as protests were organised by loyalists in
support of the Orange Order.
On the 9th July 1995, there was a standoff between the RUC and the Orange Order who wished to undertake a marching route along the Garvaghy Road, a mainly Nationalist area.
Enshrined in Republican lore, this event saw the Provisional IRA, for five hours, defend its Nationalist community from the grounds of St Matthew’s Catholic Church as Loyalist rioters made incursions into Catholic Short Strand area of East Belfast. Of the six people killed that day, five were Protestants killed by the IRA.
The Nationalist community claimed that the British Army and the RUC had been deployed but did not intervene; the IRA secured a propaganda victory, successfully repelling the Loyalists, demonstrating what they promised to do when they split from the Official IRA.
9 1966 UVF Formed and Declare War
The Ulster Volunteer Force was a loyalist paramilitary organisation formed in 1966 by Gusty Spence, a former soldier. With
the direct aim of maintaining Northern Ireland’s role as part of the United Kingdom, it saw itself as justified in eliminating the IRA’s Republican intention of bringing about a United Ireland through armed struggle; despite this, two thirds of its 500 victims were innocent Catholic civilians. The UVF was declared illegal in 1966 but continued its bloody campaign until declaring a ceasefire in 1994, and eventual cessation of its campaign in 2007.
12 1966 UVF Declared Illegal
Two days after the Malvern Street attack in Belfast, which resulted in the third fatality between May and June 1966, the Northern Ireland Government declared the UVF illegal. These activities would see the UVF’s leader, Gusty Spence, sentenced to life imprisonment.
14 1966 Gusty Spence Sentenced
Born in June 1933, Spence was a prominent member of the Ulster Volunteer Force for over ten years. He was one of the first to be convicted of murder after a spate of fatal incidents between May 1966 and July of that year: the death of Matilda Gould after her house was set alight as a result of a petrol-bomb attack on an adjacent Catholic pub; the fatal shooting of John Scullion; and the shooting of Peter Ward outside a pub in Malvern Street. Spence was sentenced to life, but on release from the Maze prison he embarked on a political path and played an important part in the Loyalist Ceasefire on 13th October 1994. Spence died in 2011.
73 UDA Formed
Eventually becoming the largest loyalist paramilitary organisation in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Defence Association brought together a number of loyalist bands in September
1971. It was a legal organisation until 1992, despite allegations that it was a cover name for the Ulster Freedom Fighters (outlawed in 1973).
98 UDA – 60,000
An umbrella group for a variety of Loyalist organisations, it is claimed that by the end of 1972 the Ulster Defence Association had 60,000 members
62 Red Hand Commando Formed
The Red Hand Commando were a secret Loyalist paramilitary force linked to the Ulster Volunteer Force, and whose aim was the eradication of the Irish Republican Army in defence of Northern Ireland’s union with Great Britain. Formed in the Shankhill area of West Belfast, they were a notably highly trained organisation, tasked with targeted assassinations on behalf of other Loyalist paramilitaries. It is claimed at their
peak of operations they numbered 1,000 members.