The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was formed in 1967, and were fully informed about the awful condition of the status quo. These well educated, Catholics (mainly) in Northern Ireland, didn’t actually want to overthrow the Northern Ireland state, but instead wanted to expose the discrimination they endured for decades, and chiefly they wanted to play an active role within the state, and within it be able take up professional positions e. g. in Government etc, with no prejudice.
The organisation declared they were launching a peaceful campaign, and even went to the extent of comparing themselves to the successful Civil rights movement in the USA, headed by Martin Luther King. The Nationalist MP and Civil rights campaigner Austin Currie organised and staged a ‘sit in’ protest in a house in County Tyrone, Currie was trying to highlight the issue that the council were discriminative in the allocation of housing, because this particular house belonged to a single Protestant and not a Catholic family with children.
Marches followed this protest to emphasize their support, the first of which proved to be peaceful, however the following march led to violence. The Londonderry march was banned by N. Ireland’s Home Affairs Minister William, using the Special Powers Act. However, this didn’t deter the marchers, it infact did the opposite and made the demonstrators more determined to enter the cities main square. Quiet visibly the marcher’s route became blocked by RUC officers, and it was now only a matter of time before violent scenes broke out, that night TV stations across the state showed the RUC officers using water cannon to keep the marchers away.
However, the Republic’s broadcasting company gave a much bigger insight into the ‘trouble’, as they had footage that bared witness to the RUC Officers beating retreating civilians with batons and innocent onlookers being flattened by water canon. The RUC were highly regarded by Nationalists as being mainly Loyalist and this could potentially back this claim up. The violent recording proved to be crucial as it illustrated how oppressive the state really was. Many Unionists saw the NICRA organisation as a Republican organisation, and therefore, this maybe the reason why Loyalists clashed and attacked Civil rights marchers on several occasions.
Also once again, the RUC were seen as prejudice, due to them appearing to allow the violence to occur. The Battle of the Bogside occurred on the 12th August, the day in which the Londonderry Apprentice Boy’s marched upon and around the city. It was a date in which the Catholics dreaded, as it had a long history of causing violence in the aftermath of the march between rival loyalist and Republican gangs. The Catholics went to the extent of barricading the Bogside area up to prepare for the worse.
Many argue that the following violence could have possibly being avoided if the march had been banned; however the decision lay with N. Ireland’s Home Affair Minister Robert Porter, who unfortunately was a Unionist. Soon after the march ended, as predicted; Catholic and Protestant mobs began throwing missiles at one another, and before long there was a full scale riot. There are two different explanations for what happened next; the RUC claimed they attempted to dismantle a barricade, so that they could separate the two mobs more effectively.
However, the Catholics claim that the events had been a direct attack on their homes by RUC officers, aided by Loyalist ‘thugs’. The rioting on the Bogside was felt for two days. The police were unable to enter the area at first, in what became N. Ireland’s first ‘no-go’ areas. This ‘Battle’ ignited numerous violent incidents all over N. Ireland. The only attempt to combat these spurts of serious violent was to bring in British soldiers, who were actually welcomed by the Catholic citizens.
The IRA had been hugely criticized by its ‘supporters’ as they failed to defend the Catholic community during the Belfast troubles of August 1969, some people even went to the extent of naming them “I Ran Away”. In December, after the British troops had arrived, the IRA movement split, and the Provisional IRA was born, which calimed to be the new defenders of nationalist areas. Soon, in the summer of 1970, after four Proteststants were killed in a gun battle, 3000 were drafted into the Falls Road area to look for wapons and IRA suspects.
This occurred with brute force, as homes were wrecked in the process, they were all put under a curfew for 35 hours, and even tear gas was used. This event was Golddust to the Provisional IRA, as it was a propaganda gift to gain the support from all Nationalist areas against the British troops. The ‘Provos’ used there time effectively in the winter of 1970, training and recruiting new recruits, also they received money, along with weaponry from sympathisers in the USA.
It seemed that the Falls Road events had gave the Provisionals the justification to go on the attack against both Unionists, and the army. In 1971, the attack began, in which Protestant shops and businesses were chief targets, by May 1971, 136 bombs had been set off! They even attacked Catholics if they believed them to be disloyal, one example of this was if a Catholics girl went out with British soldier. British soldiers killed in 1970, had risen to 46, this was mainly caused by attacks from the Provisionals.
A vicious circles was soon created, because more attacks and killings, resulted in more searchings, which increased support for the Provisionals. In 1971, people from all walks of life had come to an agreement that the Provisionals were not just fighting to protect the Nationalist communities, but were infact, possibly attempting to achieve their long-term aim of completely removing British presence in Ireland. In the final year before the ceasefire, 1972, the Provisionals set off more than 1300 bombs, killed 100 soldiers, and wounded 500 more.
Looking at the attacks from year to year, it is highly noticed that the attacks and bombings are steadily increasing, which would certainly be a time for the N. Ireland and British Govt’s to be greatly. concerned. In conclusion, I believe that the violence broke out in 1969, mainly because of the Civil rights marches, as they enraged Unionists, because Unionists looked upon these ‘marches’ as a Republican organisation. I believe NICRA became the final trigger among many other issues, which caused the eventual violence.