While I’m on the subject of documentaries and links, here’s another one for those who live outside of Ireland or cannot access current news specials from outside the region. “The Massacre at Ballymurphy,” is a shortened version of “The Ballymurphy Precendent,” a new documentary by Callum Macrea. It has been causing quite a stir online since its debut on Channel Four last weekend and has sent massive waves throughout the North of Ireland and beyond.
Forty-five years ago today the Parachute Regimen of the British Army was sent to Belfast to take part in Operation Demetrius, the fancy codename the government used for internment. They were to detain and arrest anyone who they thought was either involved in or supporting the Provisional IRA, but sending the Paras in to do this was rather like setting off a grenade to stop a fist fight. Over the next few days in the Ballymurphy area alone, eleven civilians were killed. Many who were killed were just trying to get away from the trouble and some were shot while helping others.
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.