45 years ago the Nationalist people in the Bogside area of Derry began a legendary fight with the British authorities that is widely regarded as one of the first events of the Troubles in the North of Ireland. The violence, rioting and battle began on August 12th, 1969 and was ignited by an ill-conceived decision to allow the Apprentice Boys to parade near the Nationalist and Catholic areas of Derry.
The authorities saw no reason to stop the oppressive parade that had been happening annually for years. What made this year different than others though was the political climate, which they were not in the habit of paying attention to. The Civil Rights movement was gaining traction all over the North and had led to many skirmishes in Derry already that year. The level of dissatisfaction in the Catholic and Nationalist areas including the Bogside, was already palpable and growing stronger every day. In 1969, Catholics made up more of the population than any others but the Protestant Minority still held all the key positions in government and power so they had no recourse for injustices they faced. Many flooded into the civil rights movement in order to have a voice – and those voices were getting stronger and stronger, despite being ignored by the leadership of the city.
It was under this kind of tension that the parade was not only allowed to happen, but it was going to happen right in their faces. It was the spark that sent the Bogside over the edge. In the days leading up to the parade, many attempts were made within the area to keep residents calm and a request was sent to the Apprentice Boys and the government to either cancel or to reroute the march. The plea was refused and the attempts for calm became plans for defensive maneuvers. Continue reading →
It sounds like a mysterious and enticing thing, Operation Demetrius, so grand…like a top secret cocktail party or a James Bond tryst. It wasn’t – it was just a pretty name for a terrible thing that caused all kinds of problems. It’s better known as Internment and the British introduced it to Northern Ireland on this day in 1971.
The arrests began around 4AM. Witnesses report brutality, abuse, and unnecessary destruction by the police while they searched for their suspects. Other than damage to their homes, the police brought damage to their bodies as well, strapping some to armored vehicles as human shields and wielding batons and other weapons even when they were not resisting. Those arrested were subjected to sleep deprivation, starvation, forced nudity, burns and other forms of torture, all of which were sanctioned by the British government. Continue reading →
Irish society, up through the Iron Age, was based on the family unit. The family traditionally consisted of living parents and their children. The next larger unit came to be known as the Sept, which consisted of a closely related group of families such as the families of children of one set of parents and normally bore the same surname. The Clan (from clann meaning children) was the next larger unit and counted lineage from one ancestor. The Tuath (tribe) was generally considered the smallest political unit. It’s components were formed of several septs, houses or clans which likewise claimed descent from a common ancestor. The adoption of non-blood related individuals or groups into the Clan was a general practice. However, it required the formal approval or consent from the Clan members (Fine). Such a process resulted in a generous mixture of outside blood and the thus in many Clans…
As someone who has been a long term student of Irish history, I have been looking forward to the centennial celebration for years and years. At first, I thought I’d have to watch it from afar – and I still may yet have to do that, but the goal is to spend about a month wandering through the whole of the Emerald Isle before culminating in Dublin for the 100 year commemoration of the Easter Rising. I have been devouring any information I can find on the planned celebrations for years and have found it all woefully lacking. I still can’t even get an answer about whether it is going to be planned for Easter, which is incredibly early in 2016, or if it will wait until April 24th.
I started paying attention to what the people in charge were and were not saying. Modern politicians seem to be more concerned with whether or not the British royalty will show up than they are about planning something awesome for their own people. Given that they owe their positions to the rebellious men and women of 1916 (also before and since) you would think that they’d be getting ready to honor them. Continue reading →
Today marks a dubious anniversary. On August 5th, 1969, The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) accomplished its first bombing in the Republic of Ireland. The attack was centered on the RTÉ Television Center in Donnybrook, Dublin. Luckily, no one was injured in the blast and only the facade and a few windows were destroyed. The main transmitting tower was spared in the explosion and security increased immediately to prevent any further attacks on the station. Continue reading →
The Hunger Strike is an ancient custom that has been used for solving serious personal and social conflicts for centuries. The concept was originally an option for fighting injustice and it remains so to this day. August 3rd, 2014, is the day Hunger Strike Commemorations in Ireland wind up for the year, which is a perfect time to learn about the tradition and some of the people who have carried it on.
The Hunger Strike was codified in the early Brehon Laws of Ireland and known as a Troscad. It was often employed against a chieftain or tribal leader by someone of lower standing and was carried out publicly on the abuser’s doorstep. Advance notice was given before commencing this type of strike and the defendant was supposed to fast along with the person who had the complaint. If the originator of the strike died of starvation their opponent had to pay relatives a fee and would be subjected to societal penalties and supernatural consequences. Few people allowed themselves to be shamed in such a situation for long and most conflicts were resolved quickly and without death. It turns out that forcing the other party to go hungry right along with you made a difference, as did the peering eyes of the public. Continue reading →
Ireland is famous for many things. Rolling green hills and natural beauty, monolithic tombs, castles, faeries and lore, wool, turf, and whiskey are just the first that come to mind. But it has many more dubious claims to fame as well – and one of those is the notorious rubber bullet.
The rubber bullet
This little guy was designed by the British government specifically for use in Northern Ireland as a crowd control tool against rioters. Those pesky people who wanted civil rights were causing problems and just wouldn’t stop. Because the British soldiers had fired on them numerous times and caused a significant number of deaths in the region, the government decided to give them a different option. They unveiled these totally better, non-lethal rounds (eye roll) so that they could hurt people but not kill them. The rounds were created to cause scars and pain, but in theory, they would not cause death. They were used for the first time on August 2nd, 1970.