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Northern Ireland : The troubles: Battle of the Bogside

This guide explores Northern Ireland history particularly related to the time known as The Troubles.

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The city of Derry had a large Catholic and nationalist population, but local government was dominated by unionists. Frustrated by the situation, in 1968 the Derry Housing Action Committee joined with the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association to press for improved conditions for the Catholics in the city.

Many unionists saw NICRA as a front for radical republican groups. These tensions spilled over into violence in late 1968 and early 1969 as NICRA staged marches and protests in Derry that were attacked by unionists while the police refused to intervene. NICRA and other protest marches were subsequently banned, but the tensions remained and reached a climax on 12 August, when around 15,000 members of the Protestant Apprentice Boys of Derry were given permission for their ‘customary’ march to take place in the city even though the police advised against it.

The march celebrated an historic Protestant victory and was described as a ‘calculated insult to the Derry Catholics’ as it ran very close to the Catholic area of the city known as the Bogside. Some of the marchers threw pennies at the Catholic residents, who responded with marbles fired from slingshots. The violence soon intensified with both sides hurling stones and, later, petrol bombs at each other. Members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary arrived to find barricades erected by the Catholics, prompting direct battles between the two.

The rioting continued for three days, with the police flooding the area with tear gas before the army was eventually brought in to restore order on 14 August. By the time the violence subsided over 1,000 people had been injured.

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