In ‘Operation Demetrius’ (the British Army name for the internment arrest operation) in the early hours of 9 August, soldiers and police men smashed into homes and arrested 342 men across the north. Their intelligence proved faulty. The operation didn’t significantly damage the IRA. Sixteen men were arrested in Derry, not all of them republicans.
IRA leaders hold a press conference in the Bogside after internment. L-R, Martin McGuinness, Daithí Ó’Conaill, Seán MacStiofáin, Seamus Twomey.
Rioting erupted across Free Derry, and barricades again surrounded the area. A British soldier was shot dead by the IRA while on sentry duty at the British Army base in Bligh’s Lane, and Hugh Herron (31) was shot dead by a soldier in Henrietta Street.
News of the torture of internees soon leaked out, increasing resentment and resistance in areas like Free Derry.
Anger increased with news that a number of those arrested – “The Hooded Men” – had been tortured.
On 18 August came the British Army response to reborn Free Derry. Over 1,300 troops, with helicopters and armoured cars, began dismantling barricades. PIRA Volunteer Eamonn Lafferty (19) was killed in a gun battle during this operation. Barricades were replaced as quickly as they were dismantled.
John Hume and two other SDLP leaders were arrested during a protest against the British incursions. Annette McGavigan (14) was shot dead by the British Army on 6 September, the day the SDLP three appeared in court.
In early September, the British Army embarked on large scale incursions into Free Derry. Gary Gormley (3) was crushed to death in his pram by an armoured car on 9 September. His death is officially recorded as a traffic accident. On 14 September, William McGreanery (41) was shot dead by British soldiers stationed in the army observation post in Bligh’s Lane. On 6 November, mother-of-six Kathleen Thompson (47) was shot dead by a British soldier as she stood in her own back garden in Rathlin Drive, Creggan.
By the end of 1971 seven British soldiers had been killed in Free Derry. One IRA volunteer had been killed in action. British soldiers had killed eight civilians.
Derry Women’s Action Committee protest against internment, Waterloo Place, Derry.