HISTORY – OPERATION
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
had surrounded Free Derry, supported by specialist tanks and
approximately 100 APCs.