On 28th April 1969 Terence O’Neill resigned as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. A few days later on 1st May 1969 he was replaced as Prime Minister by James Chichester Clark (his cousin). Chichester Clark promised to continue with the reform programme that had been started by O’Neill, but, despite his promises, tensions continued to increase by July 1969. However, it would be the events in Derry/Londonderry in August 1969 when clashes between the RUC and nationalists over a loyalist march led to violence and one more step towards the violence that was the troubles.
The Battle of the Bogside forced the British Government to intervene directly for the first time in N. Ireland. As the RUC were unable to deal with the mounting violence, British troops were sent to restore law and order on the streets of Belfast and Derry/Londonderry. The Dublin Government had sent troops and even field hospitals to the border, promising to help protect nationalists from attack by loyalists. These short-term responses by the two governments in Dublin and London would have important consequences for the divided communities in N. Ireland by March 1972 in particular.
- The re-emergence of the IRA in 1969
- The IRA split and the emergence of the Provisional IRA by Easter 1970
- The re-emergence of the UVF by 1969
- The emergence of the UDA by September 1971
After August 1969, the political situation in N. Ireland steadily deteriorated and by July 1970 the Stormont Government appeared to have lost control of many areas that they claimed to govern. When the British Army imposed the Falls Road curfew in July 1970 this angered local nationalists, indeed this boosted support for the Provisional IRA in particular who started a violent campaign against the Army from 1970 onwards.
As the political crisis worsened loyalist paramilitaries launched their own campaign of violence. They were angry over what they saw as Stormont’s appeasement of the demands of NICRA, and they also promised to defend loyalists from the increased levels of republican violence. In December 1971, the UVF carried out the bombing of Mc Gurk’s Bar in Belfast. Although Stormont had banned both the Provisional IRA and the UVF, they did not ban the newly formed UDA which had over 30,000 members by 1972.
Stormont was unable to effectively deal with the deepening crisis and Chichester Clark was forced to resign as Prime Minister on 20th March 1971. He was quickly replaced by Brian Faulkner who became the new and last Prime Minister of N. Ireland. Despite having a new leader, the Stormont government could not stop republican and loyalist violence. Faulkner decided to use a policy that had worked well in previous periods of crisis which was internment. Without any warning on 9th August 1971 internment was introduced, 452 men were arrested and interned without trial, no loyalists were interned until 1973.
Opposition to internment from nationalists had important political effects by March 1972.
- Violence escalated steadily after August 1971
- Support for republican violence increased
- Loyalist violence increased
- Civil Rights marches against internment led to clashes and violence
- Unionist and Nationalist responses to Bloody Sunday
2. Background activities
i. Young people who are studying this period should be separated into class groups, with each group looking at some of these different topic areas. They can create a power point presentation or something similar on the reasons for the emergence of the troubles and their political effects by March 1972. Such an exercise will encourage students to display cross-curricular skills (namely UICT) and thinking skills (WO).
Suggested group activities include:
- Why were sectarian tensions worsening by July 1969?
- How did London and Dublin respond to events in Derry /Londonderry in August 1969 and why?
- What did republican paramilitaries want to achieve by violent methods and who supported them by 1972?
- What did loyalist paramilitaries want to achieve by violent methods and who supported them by 1972?
- Why was internment introduced by Faulkner and what were the political effects of internment by March 1972?
- Who organised the Bloody Sunday march and what were the aims of the leaders of this march?
- Explain how Nationalists responded to the events of Bloody Sunday?
- Explain the reasons for the fall of Stormont in March 1972 and how Unionists and Nationalists reacted to this event.
Concentrating on their chosen topic areas (or policy area), students must assess;
- The political situation in July 1969
- How the political situation had deteriorated by March 1972
- The role of Stormont and its political impact
- The role of British and Irish governments from August 1969 to March 1972
- The reasons for the emergence of paramilitary groups and the effects of violence by March 1972
- The role of the RUC and the army, the differing responses to their security measures by March 1972
- The role of NICRA and its leaders by March 1972
ii. These group exercises can be followed by a class based discussion, in which groups can debate one or all of the propositions given below. (COMM, WO)
- “The outbreak of the troubles in August 1969 in N. Ireland was inevitable”
- “The events of Bloody Sunday led to the end of NICRA as an effective political group”
- “Faulkner’s poor leadership was solely to blame for the end of Stormont in March 1972”
iii. Individual students should then draw up the following lists (SM).
- Which of NICRA’s main demands had been achieved by March 1972?
- Reasons for the outbreak of the troubles in August 1969 (long term and short term)
- Political effects of Bloody Sunday by March 1972
- Reasons why the British government suspended Stormont in March 1972
iv. Finally, in this section students will update their personal profiles (fact files) of the four key political figures from May 1969 up to March 1972. They will then undertake their own independent research and use some pictorial sources, in order create a fact file on these two key political figures (PS and UICT).
- Key figure 5: Brian Faulkner
- Key figure 6: Bernadette Devlin
3. Museum related activities
For this section, students should watch the two short films below.
After these two films have been shown to the students, the teacher should start a discussion, to ascertain what students have learnt from each film. Suggestions for themes to explore include:
- The role of the media (television, radio and newspapers)
- The impact of protests in Europe and the USA
- The role of the British government in the search for a political solution by March 1972
- The intervention of the Irish government and its effects by March 1972
Students should then be split into groups and asked to work more closely on the following questions:
- What were the missed opportunities to prevent the outbreak of the troubles in August 1969?
- To what extent did growing divisions within the Civil Rights movement lead to increased tensions between the two communities by the summer of 1969?
- To what extent was the Stormont government to blame for the outbreak of the troubles in August 1969?
- What were the political failures of NICRA by March 1972?
- What were the political successes of NICRA by March 1972?
- According to Austin Currie what had Unionist leaders failed to achieve by the summer of 1969?
- Why does Ivan Cooper describe as this “as the most exhilarating period ever?”
- To what extent was the British government to blame for the deepening political crisis in N. Ireland between August 1969 and March 1972?
These key points should be used for class-based discussions, in order to prepare students for their visit to the Ulster Museum.
During their educational visit to the Museum students should proceed to the Troubles Gallery (1970s) where they can look for the following items and display panels. They can use the objects and displays outlined below to answer the following questions (PS). Students should keep written and visual records during the visit (WO, UICT).
Item A: Photograph of events in Belfast, August 1969
- What is happening when this photograph was taken?
- Who was carrying out these attacks and why?
- What is the man carrying and why is this significant?
- How useful is this photograph as historical evidence about the events of 1969?
Item B: Ulster (the facts), a leaflet from September 1969
- Who is the woman in the left-hand picture and why was she an important figure by the summer of 1969?
- Why was this leaflet produced in the summer of 1969?
- Does the authorship of this leaflet make it less useful as historical evidence about the events of 1969?
Item C: Anti-internment booklet (published 1971) by the North Derry CRA
- Why was this booklet produced in late 1971?
- Who supported this rent and rates strike in late 1971 and why?
- Does the authorship of this booklet make it less useful as historical evidence about the events after August 1971?
Item D: Massacre in Derry booklet (published 1972) by NICRA after Bloody Sunday
- Why was this booklet produced in 1972?
- What were the reactions of Nationalists at that time to the events of Bloody Sunday?
- What were the reactions of Unionists at that time to the events of Bloody Sunday?
- Explain why Bloody Sunday is still a controversial issue even today?
Item E: RUC riot helmet (damaged by a petrol bomb), RUC riot shield, CS gas cartridges and a rubber bullet cartridge case (these objects are all from the early 1970s)
- Which paramilitary groups were attacking the police and the army by 1972 and why?
- How did the police and the army deal with attacks by republican paramilitaries by 1972?
- How did the police and the army deal with attacks by loyalist paramilitaries by 1972?
- Why has 1972 been called the “blackest year” of the troubles in N. Ireland?