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 →
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.
Throughout history there are not many instances that one can absolutely prove that a horrible crime was just a part of a scheme that would have led to something much, much worse. The Miami Showband killings in Ireland is one of those times and it is an appalling lesson of just how brutal and insane the Troubles could get. It is also a clear cut example of how involved the authorities were in some of the most heinous crimes of the era.
Showbands were quite a popular phenomenon in Ireland. The uniqueness of the showband was documented in the film “The Commitments” which was popular throughout the world. These bands usually had five to ten members and were loved for playing showtunes, pop music, jazz and down home rock n roll greats. Many played the favorite traditional tunes of the area as well and they were extremely popular from the 50s right up until the mid-seventies. It’s amazing how quickly attendance and participation waned when one was targeted so ruthlessly by the paramilitaries of the UVF. Continue reading →