specific to Northern Ireland, yet the IRA continued its campaign undeterred - on 'Bloody Friday' (July 1973) the movement detonated 20 bombs in Belfast, killing 11 people. The security forces responded with 'Operation Motorman', part of which involved troops occupying previous no-go areas. From the discussions came the Sunningdale Agreement (1973), the basis of the 1974 plan for Ulster to remain under self-government, while British troops remained in a peacekeeping role, and the Dublin administration be incorporated into a 'Council for Ireland'. Therefore direct rule ended in theory during December 1974. This was more hopeful than grounded in reality of the times however - the new body lasted a little over a year, plagued as it was with the sense of betrayal amongst Unionists at the British government's attempts to co-operate with the Irish Republic.
1974 was a year of little progress towards peace in Northern Ireland and the governmental movements mattered little. British politicians' support for the shared- government idea sparked further unrest and suspicion in Ulster. The IRA continued to bring its terrorist campaigns to the British mainland, with the 'Birmingham Pub Bombings' in the same year. The government responded with the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The attempt to renew discussions with the 'Irish Convention' became soured after the government recognised the IRA and then moved into an uneasy period of 'truce'. The 'truce' undermined the notably less militant SDLP and heightened Unionist fears that the British government was not to be trusted (i.e. for commitment to upholding the Union). In event little progress was made with the Convention, which finally collapsed in 1976, adding to the woes of the Labour government during the later 1970s.
Though the government thought it prudent to leave things alone despite the uneasy situation in Northern Ireland, in 1979 the Callaghan government committed itself to Ulster representation at Westminster. The government was defeated by one vote, that of Gerry Fitt, who felt he was unable to commit himself to vote in consideration of the consequences of a government deal with Ulster. The subsequent general election saw the emergence of Margaret Thatcher at Number 10.
Thatcher inherited a legacy of IRA success during the 1970s and a failure of the British intention to bring the Irish Question to the conference table and provide a workable 'solution'. At the end of the 1960s the IRA had emerged with renewed vigour after a period of weakness in internal schism. The development of the 'Provos' ensured that the ideal of a unified Ireland lived on and the IRA continued as a modern terrorist organisation. In 1972 and 1975 the British government had moved to recognise the IRA in an attempt to bring the terrorists to negotiation. The 'truces' ultimately failed, recognising the IRA as an entity while the movement's terrorist campaigns in Northern Ireland and on the British mainland brought further international publicity to the violent nature of the Irish struggle for freedom.
The creation of a 'special category' of prisoners in 1972 gave imprisoned IRA members notoriety. Merlyn Rees's rejection of this 'special' status ushered in IRA campaigns within the prisons - "going to the blanket" (i.e. a refusal to wear prison uniform) and the "dirty campaign" (i.e. in which cell walls were smeared with excrement). Additionally the mainland campaigns against civilian targets were now supplemented with the addition of political assassination. This included Mrs Thatcher's political adviser Airey Neave (assassinated March 1979) and Lord Mountbatten (assassinated August 1979).
Thatcher responded with a "dual approach" - that is the pursuit of a strong line against the IRA and concurrently the search for a political solution to the Irish Question. In pursuing the latter Thatcher adopted much of the same tactics as her predecessors. The IRA won further international attention with the Hunger Strike at the Maze Prison in 1981 in which Bobby Sands and 10 other IRA members wasted away to martyrdom. Thatcher was resolute and held meetings with the Irish Prime Minister, Garret FitzGerald, at the Anglo-Irish Inter-Governmental Council (IGC) in 1981. James Prior was given the task of realising plans for a new Northern Ireland Assembly by 1982.
Elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly were disappointing for the British government as a third of Catholics voted Sinn Fein, and the unofficial Unionist Party of Reverend Ian Paisley outpolled the official Unionist Party as Northern Ireland began to slide into political extremes once again. Furthermore the
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