Northern Ireland timeline: 1970s

This Northern Ireland timeline lists significant dates and events during the Troubles, as well as significant background events and incidents post-1998. This timeline focuses on political developments and includes significant acts of paramilitary violence or terrorism.

1970
March 31st
: An Orange Order parade triggers three days of rioting and violence in Belfast. Dozens of police and civilians are injured.
June 24th
: Nationalist MP Bernadette Devlin is arrested after losing an appeal against a conviction stemming from the Bogside riots in 1969.
June 25th: Devlin’s arrest sparks three days of unrest and rioting in Derry and Belfast. Loyalist and Republican paramilitaries exchange gunfire, leading to the deaths of seven people.
July 3rd: Following the deaths of four Protestants in a gun battle in Belfast, 3000 British soldiers lock down the Falls Road area of Belfast for three days, while they conduct a door to door search for weapons. The Official IRA responds by ordering attacks on British soldiers. The end result is the death of five civilians.
August: The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), a significant Nationalist political party, is formed by seven breakaway MPs from other parties.
August 2nd: Security forces in Northern Ireland use rubber bullets for the first time when suppressing rioters in Belfast.

1971
February 6th: Robert Curtis becomes the first on-duty British soldier to be killed in Northern Ireland. Most believe he was a victim of Billy Reid, a Provisional IRA volunteer.
March 9th: Three Scottish soldiers are are kidnapped and killed outside Belfast by the Provisional IRA, the first multiple fatality attack on British soldiers.
March 10th: Several thousand Loyalist workers march in Belfast, demanding the internment of Republican terrorists.
March 23rd: Brian Faulkner becomes the prime minister of Northern Ireland, replacing James Chichester-Clark.
July 8th: SDLP members withdraw from Stormont following the death of two Catholic civilians in Derry.
August 9th: The British commence Operation Demetrius. Army raids lead to the arrest and internment of 342 people, most of them Catholics, because of suspected links to paramilitary groups. During the three day operation 24 people were killed: 14 Catholic civilians, six Protestant civilians, two British soldiers and two Provisional IRA volunteers.
September: The Ulster Defence Association (UDA) is formed by Northern Ireland Loyalists.
December 4th: In Belfast, McGurk’s Bar is bombed by the UVF, killing 15 people and wounding 18 others. The bar is owned by Catholics and located in a Catholic area.

1972
January 30th
: British paratroopers open fire during a civil rights protest in Derry, killing 14 civilians. The British Army claims that the shootings were justified, however Nationalists dub this event ‘Bloody Sunday’ and begin a long struggle to have it recognised as a massacre rather than a defensive action.
February 2nd: Funerals are held for 11 people killed on Bloody Sunday. It triggers political protests and demonstrations across Ireland. In Dublin more than 30,000 people march on the British embassy carrying coffins, before hurling petrol bombs and burning the embassy building to the ground.
February 22nd: The Official IRA bombs Aldershot Barracks on the British mainland, in retaliation for Bloody Sunday. Seven are killed, including a Catholic priest.
March 20th: The Provisional IRA detonates its first car bomb, killing seven people and injuring 148 in Belfast.
March 30th: The British government introduces Direct Rule, dissolving both the Northern Ireland executive and parliament.
April 14th: The Provisional IRA detonate 24 bombs in various locations around Northern Ireland.
April 22nd: An 11-year-old boy, Francis Rowntree, becomes the first of 17 people to die from rubber bullets during the Troubles.
May 13th: Seven people are killed during two days of gunfights in Springmartin, Belfast.
May 29th: The Official IRA declares a ceasefire, however the Provisional IRA promises an escalation in its military actions against British and Loyalist targets.
June 15th: William Whitelaw, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, grants Special Category Status to Irish paramilitary prisoners in British prisons.
July: Violence continues between British Army personnel and Provisional IRA volunteers. Multiple civilians and members of paramilitaries and the army die in gun battles across Northern Ireland, mainly in Belfast.
July 7th: During a brief ceasefire, IRA representatives meet for secret talks with William Whitelaw in London but no agreement is reached.
July 21st: ‘Bloody Friday’: the Provisional IRA detonates 22 explosive devices around Belfast, killing nine people.
July 31st: The British Army launches Operation Motorman, invading barricaded areas under Provisional IRA control in multiple cities across Northern Ireland. More than 12,000 British soldiers participate in Motorman, which results in the deaths of four people in Derry, including a 15-year-old boy who had gone to watch the British tanks.
July 31st: In Claudy, nine people are killed by three car bombs. It is unclear which group was responsible for this bombing.
September 25th: The British government convenes a conference in Darlington on political solutions for Northern Ireland. The outcome is a discussion paper and a proposed power-sharing government.

1973
January 1st: Both Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland join the European Union, a move that later leads to relaxed border controls between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
January 5th: Two men are arrested on suspicion of murder and become the first Loyalist internees of the Troubles.
February 7th
: A Loyalist umbrella group, the United Loyalist Council, organises a one-day general strike and shutdown of business in Northern Ireland cities. Four people are killed in the resulting violence.
March 1st: A general election in the Republic of Ireland leads to a change of government, which Liam Cosgrave replacing Jack Lynch as Taoiseach.
March 8th
: The Provisional IRA plants four car bombs in London, marking the start of its bombing campaign on the British mainland. Two of the bombs explode, killing one person and injuring 200 others.
March 28th: The Republic of Ireland’s navy intercepts a ship, Claudia, near Waterford. It is found to contain five tonnes of Libyan-supplied weapons and munitions, destined for the Provisional IRA.
May 3rd: The British parliament passes the Northern Ireland Assembly Act, an attempt to restore the government at Stormont and bring an end to Direct Rule.
May 14th: Martin McGuinness is released from prison in the Republic of Ireland, after serving six months for transporting arms and explosives for the Provisional IRA.
May 17th: A Provisional IRA booby trap in Omagh kills five British soldiers.
May 30th: Council elections are held in Northern Ireland, using proportional representation for the first time in almost 45 years.
June 28th: Elections are held for a new Northern Ireland assembly. The elections are supported by a majority of Unionists and the nationalist SDLP but are boycotted by Republicans.
December 9th: The Sunningdale Agreement, an attempt to create a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, is signed in Berkshire, England.

1974
January 4th: Unionists reject the Sunningdale Agreement and Brian Faulkner resigns as UUP leader three days later.
February 4th
: A coach carrying British army personnel and families is bombed by the Provisional IRA as it travels on the M62 near Yorkshire. Twelve people are killed.
February 28th: British elections return a minority Labour Party government under Harold Wilson. Unionists opposed to the Sunningdale Agreement win 11 of the 12 Northern Ireland seats in the Westminster parliament.
May 14th: The Ulster Workers’ Council (UWC) calls for an indefinite general strike in protest against the Sunningdale power-sharing government.
May 28th: Loyalist strikes and paramilitary operations cause the collapse of the Sunningdale Agreement. Brian Faulkner resigns as Northern Ireland prime minister and London reintroduces Direct Rule.
October 5th: The Provisional IRA bombs two pubs in Guildford, England, killing five, including four soldiers. Five innocent people are later convicted and imprisoned for carrying out this bombing.
November 21st: Two pubs in Birmingham, England are bombed, causing 21 deaths. A small splinter group claims responsibility but most consider the Birmingham pub bombings to be the work of the Provisional IRA. Six innocent people are convicted and imprisoned for these bombings.
November 29th: Britain introduces the Prevention of Terrorism Act, allowing suspects to be detained for a week without charge.
December 8th: The Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) is formed following a split in Sinn Fein. A paramilitary wing, the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), is founded in the Republic of Ireland the following year.
December 20th: The Provisional IRA declares a ceasefire over the Christmas and New Year period. This ceasefire eventually extends into the middle of 1975.

1975
February 10th: Infighting erupts between the Official IRA and the INLA. Unionists face the same internecine violence in March when the UVF and UDA begin fighting.
July 17th: Members of the Provisional IRA in Armagh break the ceasefire and detonate a bomb near Forkhill, killing four British soldiers.
July 31st: In County Down the UVF ambushes and murders three members of the Miami Showband, a musical group from the Republic of Ireland.
September 1st: IRA gunmen attack an Orange Hall in Newtownhamilton, County Armagh, killing four people.
October: Four young Irish people, including Gerard Conlon and Paul Hill, are tried and convicted for the Guildford pub bombings in October the previous year.
November 4th: The Northern Ireland secretary, Merlyn Rees, announces that Special Category Status will not be granted to Irish paramilitary prisoners from March 1976.
November 25th: The Shankill Butchers, a Loyalist death squad, carries out their first killing in Belfast. The gang randomly targets Catholics, abducting, beating, torturing and murdering at least two dozen people.

1976
January 4th: UVF gunmen attack two Catholic homes in County Armagh, killing six people from the Reavey and O’Dowd families.
January 5th
: The South Armagh Republican Action Force, a splinter group of the Provisional IRA, guns down 11 Protestant workers in Kingsmill, killing all but one.
March
: Special Category Status no longer applies to Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries in British prisons. They are treated as criminals rather than political prisoners.
March: The Maguire Seven are tried and convicted for their alleged involvement in the October 1974 Guildford pub bombings. All serve sentences of between four and 14 years but are cleared in 1991.
July 21st: Britain’s ambassador to Ireland, Christopher Ewart Biggs, and his secretary, Judith Cook, are assassinated by a Provisional IRA land mine planted outside Biggs’ Dublin residence.
August 10th: British troops shoot and kill a Provisional IRA volunteer, Danny Lennon, as he drives in Belfast. The car careens out of control and kills three children walking with their mother. The children’s aunt, Mairead Corrigan, and another local woman, Betty Williams, gather a 6000-signature peace petition. They later form two groups, Women for Peace and Community for Peace People.
September 2nd: The European Commission of Human Rights declares that interrogation methods used against internees are in breach of human rights conventions.
September 15th: The Blanket Protest begins in HM Prison Maze, when Provisional IRA volunteer Kieran Nugent is denied Special Category Status and refuses to wear a prison uniform, donning a blanket instead.
November 27th: In London more than 30,000 people attend a Northern Ireland peace rally.

1977
May 3rd: A Loyalist union group led by Ian Paisley demands a return to self government in Northern Ireland. It organises a general strike that is abandoned ten days later.
October 10th
: Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams, founders of the Peace People, are declared the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.

1978
February 17th: A Provisional IRA fire bomb explodes at the La Mon House Hotel in County Down, killing 12 people and injuring 24.
April 19th: Northern Ireland’s representation in the Westminster parliament is increased from 16 to 18 seats.
November 14-19th
: PIRA launch a bombing attack across Northern Ireland, detonating over fifty bombs and injuring thirty-seven.

1979
February 20th: Eleven members of the notorious Shankill Butchers, a pro-Loyalist death squad, are convicted of 19 murders.
March 22nd: Richard Sykes, the British ambassador to the Netherlands is assassinated in The Hague by the Provisional IRA.
March 30th: Airey Neave, a British Conservative MP and an advisor to Margaret Thatcher, is assassinated by an INLA car bomb.
May 3th: A general election in Britain returns a Conservative Party government with Margaret Thatcher as prime minister.
August 27th: Lord Louis Mountbatten, a cousin of the Queen and former viceroy of India, is killed by a Provisional IRA bomb planted on his pleasure boat in County Sligo, Republic of Ireland. Three others are also killed including Mountbatten’s 14-year-old grandson.
August 27th: Two Provisional IRA bombs kill 18 British soldiers in Warrenpoint, County Down, the deadliest attack on British forces during the Troubles.
September 30th: While visiting Dublin, Pope John Paul II calls for an end to paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland. The Provisional IRA later rejects this plea.


© Alpha History 2016. Content on this page may not be republished or distributed without permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use.
This page was written by Rebekah Poole and Jennifer Llewellyn. To reference this page, use the following citation:
R. Poole and J. Llewellyn, “Northern Ireland timeline: 1970s”, Alpha History, accessed [today’s date], http://alphahistory.com/northernireland/northern-ireland-timeline-1970s/.