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.
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.
163 Ulster Political Research Group ‘Beyond the Religious Divide’ .
This advisory group was set up in conjunction with the Ulster Defence Association and this report was an attempt to define a political path to be taken by them. The document’s main conclusion is for an Independent Northern Ireland to be realised through political means.
The Democratic Unionist Party was created by Desmond Boal and Ian Paisley, evolving from the Protestant Unionist Party. It was directly opposed to the Stormont Unionists, who were open to Power Sharing with Republican and Nationalists, and equally objected to the Republic of Ireland having any involvement in Northern Ireland’s affairs. It campaigned against the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement, the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, and the subsequent peace deal that was the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. It had been linked to a variety of paramilitary organisations.
Sinn Féin was given a concrete presence in the community when the IRA declared a ceasefire in 1975. ‘Incident centres’ were set up to communicate potential confrontations to the British authorities. They were manned by Sinn Féin, which had been legalised the year before by Secretary of State, Merlyn Rees.
The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) was officially created on Friday 21st August 1971 by Gerry Fitt, who would lead the party until John Hume – then Deputy Leader – assumed full control as only their second leader in 1979 until 2001.
The SDLP was a Nationalist political party, committed to non-violence and was a conglomeration of the various smaller parties of the time that were focused on the creation of an Irish sovereignty.
It would become the main political voice for Nationalists until Sinn Fein made gains in the 1980s, when the latter began to contest elections.