Northern Ireland Troubles

Published: 1972
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President Ronald Reagan meets with NATO Secretary General Lord Carrington on September 11, 1984 at the White House. (UPI Photo/Mal Langsdon/Files)

Announcer: Britain had a test of another sort underway. In Ulster the sectarian violence grew worse, and although marches were banned, Catholics marched anyway on January 30th in Derry. The Army used teargas to disperse them, and then Bloody Sunday got its name.

Unknown Speaker: "Everybody ran when the Army opened fire, and this young boy -- the one thing that I remember, this young boy was running beside me and he fell; he was shot dead."

Announcer: A Catholic priest in Londonderry. The Army claims snipers shot first. An inquiry by Britain's Lord Chief Justice agreed. Defense Minister Lord Carrington on Chief Justice Widgery's report.

Lord Peter Carrington: "He says that he's entirely satisfied that it was not the Army who fired first. Secondly, he says, there was not indiscriminate shooting; and thirdly, that of the thirteen people who were regrettably killed in this incident, forensic tests show that eight of them were either associated with or could have been handling either rifles or nail bombs, or being close to people who had been."

Announcer: Catholics branded the report a whitewash. By the time the inquiry had been closed, Ulster had a new ruler. The London Government stepped in, and Prime Minister Heath appointed one of his own to supersede the Protestant-dominated Stormont, the Ulster Parliament.

Minister Heath: "We have made possible a completely fresh start, a fresh start which is needed if we are to break out of a vicious circle of violence and yet more violence."

Announcer: Heath's choice was William Whitelaw, named Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Whitelaw moved for conciliation, lifting the ban on marches and releasing some internees; but the violence continued. Bombings became a constant threat; dead squads sprang up on both sides. Whitelaw was forced to order the Army to break down barricades erected by both Protestant and Catholic communities to bar the spread of no-go areas. But Peter Martin reports the situation little changed now.

Peter Martin: "It's been a year which has seen the continuing campaign by the IRA to get the British out of Northern Ireland. The British Army has responded by digging in and sitting on top of the IRA strongholds. It's been a year which has seen Protestant extremists attack British troops and a year of extreme and intensified sectarian hatred, too. Throughout the violence, there's been a continuing effort by the British Government to set the stage for a political settlement; but most Northern Irish view their plight with pessimism, and a new year to most means more of the same. Peter Martin in Belfast."

Announcer: Late in the year, the Irish Republic moved to crack down on IRA leaders who'd fled there.