News in 1973 (III)

[… “News in 1973” continued from part II]

The IRA Bombing Campaign

Flashback to January 1972: In Derry, Northern Ireland, a civil rights march turned into bloodshed after members of the British Army opened fire and killed 14 protesters, severely injuring 29 others.

Seven of the 14 were teenagers. Many witnesses later testified that all of those shot were unarmed and some were even shot in the back.

This incident, first called “the Bogside Massacre” but now culturally referred to as “Bloody Sunday“, only served to fuel the nasty conflict between the UK authorities and the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA).

A conflict with roots in “the troubles” that started back in the late 60’s, the principal issue of which was the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the subsequent … erm… ‘strained’ relationship between the mainly-Protestant Unionist and mainly-Catholic Nationalist communities.

In the aftermath of Bloody Sunday investigations and tribunals were held which seemed to clear the British Army of all wrongdoing. This was considered a “whitewash” verdict which, along with the killings themselves, significantly boosted recruitment into the IRA, their numbers swelled by the addition of new terrorist cells intent to exact revenge.

On 8th March 1973, the IRA conducted its first major bombing campaign on the UK mainland, planting 4 car bombs in London. Two of the four successfully exploded, one outside the Old Bailey and the other at the Army Recruiting Office near Trafalgar Square. One person was killed and almost 200 more were injured.

It didn’t end there.

On 8th September a bomb went off at Victoria Station in London.

On 10th September, more bombs explode at a pair of Underground stations and two days later further blasts rip apart both Sloan Square and Oxford Street in the capital.

The IRA claimed responsibility for all of the bombs. Their plan was to create a climate of fear over a sustained period and I think its fair to say they succeeded, even if their actions gave them no sympathy votes from the general public living on the mainland.

I think its equally fair to say that most people did not really have a clue what the ‘troubles’ were really all about and, even if they did, found it hard to accept that religious differences were the apparent basis for most of what was going on. Personally, I never understood the issues on either side either – which is probably why I never felt it necessary to comment on the bombings in my 1973 diary (and London was ‘far enough away not to cause that much worry I suppose?) – until quite recently. Without trying to stir up more controversy I can only conclude that – like most wars – this was simply (someone’s) God playing with his damned joystick again.

A certain intolerance – on both sides of the religious/political fence – resulted in 36 bombs in London in 1973 and the death or maiming of hundreds of innocent people.

1974 (and beyond) had – sadly – far more horrors waiting.

[“News in 1973” continues in Part IV…]

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