Presented byPeter TaylorBroadcaster
In 1969 Northern Ireland’s Catholics began to demand civil rights, a concept being made universal at the time by Martin Luther King in the US. Protestants resisted and attacked some Catholic areas of the province.
When the 'old' IRA that had fought to obtain independence in Ireland’s War of Independence failed to defend these Catholic enclaves - the handful of IRA men who rushed to their defence forged a split in the movement and founded the Provisional IRA.
Sunday 30 January 1972
Soldiers from the Parachute Regiment, shot dead 13 unarmed Catholic civilians taking part in a civil rights march in Londonderry.
An operation that went terribly and fatally wrong - the shootings took barely 30 minutes but their impact was seismic on the fortunes of the PIRA. As a result of Bloody Sunday hundreds of young people joined the IRA, eager to seek revenge for the murders they believed the British army had committed and the cover-up they were convinced had been perpetrated by Lord Widgery. Bloody Sunday gave the PIRA the biggest boost in its history.More information about Bloody Sunday
7 July 1972
Cheyne Walk talks
1972 was the bloodiest year of the Troubles - many wanted the violence to end. By June 1972 the IRA wanted to talk peace with the British government.
A secret meeting was arranged - the first between the British government and the IRA since 1921 - and took place in a house in Cheyne Walk in Chelsea. However it turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. The IRA read out a list of unrealistic demands effectively calling for British military and political withdrawal from Northern Ireland by 1975. The IRA delegation learned an important lesson. The “Brits” were not going to reach a bilateral agreement with the IRA.
21 July 1972
On this day, the IRA detonated 19 bombs in and around Belfast city centre killing 9 people and injuring 130.
The IRA insisted that ample warnings had been given and the intention was not to kill civilians - however the warnings were inadequate and imprecise. The bombing was to give the British government a warning it was still in business. Ten days after Bloody Friday, in the biggest British military operation since Suez, 12,000 soldiers with bulldozers and tanks entered what were considered the no-go areas of the province.Bloody Friday in Belfast
21 November 1974
Birmingham pub bombings
While the shooting and bombing continued relentlessly at home the IRA had already started to extend its campaign to England.
It targeted pubs frequented by off-duty soldiers. Bombs in Guilford and Woolwich killed 6 people and injured many more. This new campaign was to have a horrific climax when bombs went off without warning in two Birmingham pubs – 19 people were killed and 182 were injured. Britain was shocked at the carnage and the way in which the ‘war’ in Northern Ireland was being brought home with such savage ferocity.
22 December 1974
IRA ceasefire and truce
The IRA issued a statement ordering ‘a suspension of operations’ from midnight on Thursday 22 December 1974 until midnight, 2 January 1975.
The ceasefire was the result of ongoing secret discussions between IRA leaders and the British. Despite the ceasefire ending, the British still wanted to talk to the IRA about a bilateral truce. With the truce ‘tacked down’ the IRA issued a statement on 8 February 1975 announcing a new ceasefire. However a month into the truce the IRA was not satisfied with progress and told their representatives to give the British the ominous warning that ‘we achieve more in wartime than in peacetime’.
27 August 1979
The Warrenpoint bombing
Towards the end of 1978 Brigadier James Glover produced one of the MOD’s most prescient papers warning about IRA ‘spectaculars’.
The following summer his prophesy came true when the IRA dealt the British a double blow. They ambushed an army convoy travelling between Newry and Warrenpoint, detonating two huge remote controlled bombs. They left 18 soldiers dead, 16 of them members of the Parachute Regiment. Just a few hours before, they had exploded another bomb killing Lord Mountbatten and three others at Mullaghmore in County Sligo in the Republic of Ireland.Remembering Narrow Water
1 March 1981
Hunger strike and Bobby Sands’ election
In 1980, after a hunger strike with an unsatisfactory conclusion - a second was scheduled for 1 March 1981. Bobby Sands was the first to refuse food.
Five days after Sands started the hunger strike, the MP for Fermanagh-South Tyrone died and the republican movement decided to run Bobby Sands as a candidate in the by-election. Held on the 40th day of Sands’ hunger strike, the turn-out was an astonishing 86.9% and he beat his nearest rival by 1500 votes. An IRA prisoner and hunger striker had been elected to Westminster.Republican hunger strikes in the Maze prison
But will anyone here object if, with a ballot paper in one hand and the armalite in the other, we take power in Ireland?
16 October 1984
The IRA struck one of the most devastating blows in its history when it almost wiped out Mrs Thatcher and her cabinet.
Mrs Thatcher and her cabinet had gathered at the Grand Hotel in Brighton for the Conservative Party’s annual conference. At 2.45 am on 16 October 1984, a 20 lb bomb on a three month timer, strategically placed behind a bath panel in Room 629, exploded killing 5 members of the Conservative Party and injuring more than thirty people, many of them seriously. Mrs Thatcher insisted it was business as usual and addressed the conference as planned, receiving an eight minute standing ovation.IRA Brighton bomb slowed British-Irish peace talks
Today we were unlucky, but remember, we only have to be lucky once; you will have to be lucky always. Give Ireland peace and there will be no war.
15 November 1985
Sinn Fein’s dramatic political rise was causing alarm bells not just among their political opponents but within the British government.
In response the British Government came up with a new strategy of trying to marginalise Sinn Fein whilst boosting the SDLP – the representatives of constitutional nationalism – and by enlisting the help of the Dublin government. The Agreement signed by Mrs Thatcher and the Irish Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald at Hillsborough Castle redirected the political axis from London-Belfast to London-Dublin and for the first time gave Dublin a say in the affairs of Northern Ireland.
8 May 1987
The Loughgall ambush
The IRA’s biggest loss in modern times - eight of the IRA’s Tyrone brigade were killed in an SAS ambush at the police station in Loughgall.
By the mid-80s the IRA had entered a new phase in their war against the British, on the military as well as the political front. The heavy weaponry they believed was necessary to deal the British a ‘decisive blow’ had arrived in a huge arsenal - a present from Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi. The bombing of Loughgall’s police station was to be a carbon copy of the attack on The Birches station. But this time British Intelligence knew about the plan and the SAS were lying in wait.
A tombstone for British policy in Ireland and bloody milestone in the struggle for freedom, justice and peace.
8 November 1987
As people gathered at the Enniskillen war memorial to commemorate Remembrance Sunday a bomb exploded killing 11 people and injuring 63.
The IRA’s intention had been to detonate the bomb and kill members of the security forces as they carried out a security sweep before the service but it exploded before the sweep killing civilians. The IRA issued a statement of ‘deep regret’ with Gerry Adams declaring that the Republican movement could not withstand another Enniskillen.
6-19 March 1988
Three members of the IRA were shot dead ‘on active service’ by the SAS in Gibraltar and their killings triggered an astonishing series of events.
At the burial of the three IRA members a man attacked the crowd, killing three mourners. Three days later at one of the victim’s funerals, a car suddenly drove towards the cortege. Fearing a repetition of the previous attack, the crowd surrounded the car and one of the British army corporals inside fired a warning shot. The corporals were taken away and shot. People were horrified and called for the killing to stop – these 14 days were one of the catalysts for the subsequent ‘peace process’.Three IRA members shot dead in GibraltarMichael Stone kills three at IRA funeralsArmy corporals killed at IRA funeral
20 March 1993
Warrington bomb attacks
The IRA exploded two bombs concealed in litter bins in Warrington, when the town was packed with Saturday shoppers.
Inadequate warnings were given and two young boys were killed in the blasts and 51 people were injured. Public revulsion was on a scale similar to Enniskillen but remarkably an unauthorised secret meeting between the IRA and British intelligence officers went ahead. The Warrington bomb seemed to make the meeting even more urgent if the violence was ever to stop.
31 August 1994
The IRA intensified its London bombing campaign, the loyalist paramilitaries responded by stepping up its campaign.
In 1994 the IRA carried on killing policemen, whilst the UVF and UFF carried on slaughtering Catholics in even greater numbers. People could not believe that amidst the horror, peace was still being talked about. But its beginning finally came about when the IRA announced its long-awaited ceasefire with ‘a complete cessation of military operations’. There were celebrations in Republican heartlands with Sinn Fein claiming the IRA was ‘undefeated’ but the word ‘victory’ was notably absent.'It's over': Reporting the IRA ceasefire