Ancient history

1972, the most violent year of the Northern Ireland conflict. Bloody Sunday, The Abercorn and Donegall Street

In 1972, in the midst of the conflict between Republicans and Unionists , the number of victims far exceeded that of the previous year. Fourteen took place on January 30 in Londonderry, which is regarded as one of the events - the Bloody Sunday – key in the conflict, since it pushed even more men and young people to join paramilitary groups.

Shortly before, during the last weeks of January 1972, theIRA would see a lot of activity in Derry, with hundreds of shootings against security forces and a few nail bombs being dropped. They also fully controlled parts of Nationalist Derry and this increased the organization's power over the city and a threat to the Unionists. On January 27, two members of the security forces would be killed in their car by an IRA attack. They were a Catholic young man and a Protestant young man.

The events of Bloody Sunday

Soldiers of the Parachute Regiment and units of the First Battalion opened fire on a Catholic civil and human rights demonstration that had been declared illegal (all demonstrations and parades had been banned in the north since August 1971). Seeking to prevent confrontations between them, the security forces would build barricades in the streets of Derry to prevent the march from reaching the commercial area and Protestant neighborhoods of the city, as well as to avoid possible IRA attacks against the army. Previously, in October and November 1971, there had already been several IRA attacks against the security forces. Ian Curtis was the victim of a sniper, while Angus Stephens and David Tilbury were killed on their lookouts when bombs were thrown at them by Nationalists. Seeing the parapets, most of the demonstrators stopped or chose to change course. Those who stood still in front of the barricades began to throw stones and various objects to try to intimidate the army. He responded by launching tear gas and using water cannons in addition to, after four in the afternoon, beginning to arrest protesters. With this move the army would enter the Catholic Bogside area of ​​Derry, with disastrous consequences. There were thirteen deaths and thirteen injuries, one of them seriously and which ended up being the fourteenth fatality. All of them were Catholic.

The IRA, both the Provisional and the Official, They denied being the architects of the attack on the security forces. The army stated that they opened fire after several attacks at the hands of armed men and nail bombs, although neighbors and participants reported that there had been no previous confrontation. The army also did not seize any weapons that day and subsequent investigations stated that there were no deaths or injuries in the army during the event by armed men or nail bombs. Martin McGuinness, a 21-year-old high-ranking IRA officer from Derry, said they had agreed that day not to face the army. "Everyone knew that there was no shooting at the British Army and no bomb of any kind was dropped." Even so, some testimonies said they heard a shot, which came from the area of ​​the protesters, before 4 in the afternoon. Catholic priest Edward Daly was present at the rally; On this day in Londonderry, the image of Priest Daly was seen on television and in later photographs waving a white handkerchief as he tried to save the life of a seventeen-year-old boy who could not escape the army's bullets. He later stated:

In 1998, Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a judicial investigation of the massacre. Not only did it claim fourteen lives, it caused an upsurge in violence, there was an increase in recruitment by paramilitary organizations and it broke the relationship between Ireland and England.

In response to the attack, nationalists also called for days of fierce protests in the south, which ended with the British embassy in Dublin burning down . There were also moments of tension in parliament and the entire clover island was in a state of shock for a few days . As Sir John Peck wrote in his memoirs:

The escalation of violence

The violence continued weeks later when the Official IRA staged a revenge attack on the Parachute Regiment headquarters in Aldershot. His attempt to assassinate the soldiers was inaccurate, taking the lives of a Catholic chaplain, a gardener, and five women, all of whom were barracks service members. Nationalist outrage at this act was also heightened by the publication of the Bloody Sunday events. . Lord Widgery , the highest court of justice concluded that the action of the paratroopers bordered on recklessness. He commented that “if only the army had stood their ground quietly and not launched an operation to arrest hooligans the day would have passed without any serious incident.” The critics and allegations stated that this was a cover-up by the authorities and not an honest and serious attempt as to why fourteen people were killed by the military.

The IRA would not rest in its acts of revenge and in early March a new bomb exploded in a popular pub of Belfast, the Abercorn , a Sunday afternoon when it was packed with people. Two girls were killed and seventy people were injured. There were at least five people who suffered mutilations and three who lost an eye. The Royal Victoria Hospital had to use the disaster response plan for the first time. A veteran doctor stated that they were treating wounds they had never seen before; the victims were covered in black powder and dirt from the explosion and dozens of them suffered burns.

Two weeks later, another attack, even more heinous than the previous one, took place:seven people died in the explosion of a car bomb with 200 lb of explosives that the IRA left in Donegall Street , near the center of Belfast, after several conflicting telephone calls. The blast injured 150 people, including many fleeing the threat of another bomb on a parallel street. The Belfast Telegraph he wrote that "Donegall Street looked like a battlefield filled with dust and smoke." When it was withdrawn, the horror and destruction that the explosion had caused could be seen. The center of Belfast was reeling. And with it, all of Northern Ireland.


  • English, R. (2003). Armed struggle. The History of the IRA . Bread. 148-152.
  • McKittrick, D., &McVea, D. (2002). Making sense of the troubles:The story of the conflict in Northern Ireland . New Amsterdam Books. 88-96.

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