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HISTORY – OPERATION MOTORMAN

The introduction of internment in August 1971 lead to an upsurge in support for both wings of the IRA in Derry and within days Free Derry was again established in the city, encompassing the areas of the Bogside, Brandywell and Creggan.

Within this area both wings of the IRA, the Provisonals and the Officials, operated openly with widespread popular support, patrolling the area in armed patrols and establishing offices throughout thearea. Free Derry also served as a secure base for operations throughout the rest of the city and its existence proved a consistent embarrassment both to the Unionist government at Stormont and the British Army.

The events of Bloody Sunday, and the subsequent Widgery whitewash, reinforced the local communities alienation from the forces of the state and the IRA was further strengthened.
The events that preceded Motorman, however, did much to lessen support for the IRA within Free Derry, as did political developments elsewhere. The suspension of Stormont and the introduction of Direct Rule by Westminster in March 1972 was viewed by many as a triumph for Free Derry and a reason for bringing it to and end.

Then on the 21st May 1972 the Official IRA shot dead Ranger Best in William Street. This killing was greeted with horror by many people within derry since whilst ranger Best was a British soldier he was also a local who was in Derry on leave visiting his family. The public opposition expressed in Derry to this killing provided the opportunity for the Dublin based leadership of the Official IRA to call a ceasefire that it had already been contemplating. This was announced on the 29th May 1972.

At 4 am on the 31st July 1972 Free Derry came to an end. Thousands of British troops, supported by tanks and armoured cars, swept into the area and began dismantling the barricades with bulldozers. The IRA offered no resistance in the face of this overwhelming force, having been warned by the build up of military equipment and personnel that a major operation was being planned.

2 people, 15 year old Daniel Hegarty and IRA Volunteer Seamus Bradley were shot dead by British troops during the operation. Daniel Hegarty was shot yards from his home as he attempted to get a sight of the tanks involved in the operation, by soldiers manning a machine gun. Seamus Bradley was wounded in the leg and bled to death whilst in the custody of British soldiers.

26 companies had surrounded Free Derry, supported by specialist tanks and approximately 100 APCs.

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