Quotations: British intervention

These pages contain quotations from or about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. These quotations have been researched, selected and compiled by Alpha History authors. They contain statements and remarks about Northern Ireland and the Troubles by notable political figures, military and paramilitary commanders, contemporaries and historians. New quotations are constantly being added to these pages and suggestions are most welcome. If you would like to suggest a quotation, please contact Alpha History.

“Immediately after the fighting, relations between the [British] Army and most of the people of the area were very good. At Butcher Gate, William Street and other army positions at the edge of Bogside, [Catholic] women squabbled about whose turn it was to take the soldiers their tea.”
Eamonn McCann on the deployment of British soldiers in 1969

“The army moved in and battered its way up the Shankill Road with a bloodthirsty enthusiasm. In the shooting two Protestants were killed and a dozen wounded. Many others were beaten of kicked unconscious. Who in the Bogside can doubt that at last law and order were being administered impartially?”
Eamonn McCann on the 1969 Shankill Road riots

“What kind of Ulster do you want? A happy, respected province or a place torn apart by riots and demonstrations?”
Terence O’Neill, 1969

“Free Derry Corner represents to me a significant symbol from the late 1960s when the ordinary people of Derry were no longer prepared to tolerate the oppression and discrimination inflicted upon them by the establishment of the time.”
Dr Raymond McClean, Irish Nationalist politician

“Sons of Ulster, stalwart B-men
Closed now is your stirring page
Ended is your valiant story
To placate an unjust rage.
Half a lifetime’s blameless record
Cast aside by scheming men
And the work of years extinguished
By the politician’s pen.”
Song for the B Specials, circa 1970

“I remember running down and seeing the soldiers had sealed off William Street. I remember being fascinated by all these soldiers with their helmets and rifles and backpacks. I was totally amazed at them and excited by them. I said ‘I am going to be a soldier someday’. [But] I didn’t join that particular army, no. I ended up joining the opposition.”
Hugh McMonagle, IRA volunteer

“If the bigger guerrilla war can be said to have its moment of violent birth at any one specific place, it was on a street corner on the Ballymurphy housing estate [in April 1970].”
Simon Winchester, British journalist

“There was no way at that time that the IRA could have shot Brits or policemen. They couldn’t have sold it. The reaction of people would have been ‘God almighty, did we produce people who are capable of doing that’?”
Danny Morrison, Sinn Fein leader, on the events of 1970

“The place was saturated with tear gas, children were coughing… I think the major effect of the Falls curfew was that it gave the community… the opportunity to see the IRA as their saviours and the British army as the enemy.”
A British private on the Falls Road curfew, 1970

“For God’s sake bring me a large Scotch… what a bloody awful country”.
British politician Reginald Maudling, after visiting Northern Ireland in 1970

“What they did not include was a single Loyalist. Although the UVF had begun the killing and bombing, this organisation was left untouched, as were other violent Loyalist satellite organisations such as Tara, the Shankill Defence Association and the Ulster Protestant Volunteers… Faulkner was urged by the British to include a few Protestants in the trawl but he refused.”
Tim Pat Coogan, Irish journalist, on the 1971 internments

“It was the general policy to deprive men of sleep during the early days of the operation.”
The Compton Report on police brutality in Northern Ireland, 1971

“By mid-December 1971, 1576 people had been arrested by the army under the Special Powers Act, virtually all of them Catholic.”
Sunday Times, 1972

“Why the hell should we talk to him [Brian Faulkner]? We told him internment would result in the alienation of the entire minority community. Why should we change our policy when we have been proved correct and he has been proved wrong?”
Nationalist MP Austin Currie, January 1972

“Our route was blocked by a cordon of police about 300 yards from the starting point… There were no exits so we were trapped.”
Eamonn McCann on ‘Bloody Sunday’ 1972

“I was one of more than a thousand people lying flat on their faces as the shooting continued. Pinned to the ground, it was impossible to tell who fired the first shots.”
Daily Telegraph reporter on ‘Bloody Sunday’, 1972

“They were shooting at a fleeing crowd going in direction of Free Derry Corner. I noticed then there was a young boy bleeding in the car park in the rear of Rossville St. Flats. He didn’t appear to have anything in his hands.”
Patrick Harkin, witness

“It was a massacre. I saw no one shooting at troops. If anybody had been, I would have seen it. I saw only the Army shooting. The British Army should hang its head in shame after today’s disgusting violence. They shot indiscriminately and everywhere around them without any provocation. I was administering the last rites to a boy about 15 who had been shot by soldiers in Rossville Street.”
Father Denis Bradley, a Catholic priest, on ‘Bloody Sunday’

“Well it was Sunday Bloody Sunday, when they shot the people there
The cries of thirteen martyrs filled the Free Derry air
Is there anyone amongst you? Dare to blame it on the kids?
Not a soldier boy was bleeding when they nailed the coffin lids.”
John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Sunday Bloody Sunday, 1972

“There was no general breakdown in army discipline… soldiers who identified armed gunmen fired on them in accordance with the standing orders. At one end of the scale, some soldiers showed a high degree of responsibility, at the other … firing bordered on the reckless.
The Widgery Report on ‘Bloody Sunday’, 1972

“The time scale within which Lord Widgery produced his report meant that he was not able to consider all the evidence which might have been available. For example, he did not receive any evidence from the wounded who were still in hospital; and he did not consider individually substantial numbers of eye-witness accounts provided to his Inquiry in the early part of March 1972. Since his report was published, much new material has come to light about the events of that day. This material includes new eye-witness accounts, new ballistic material and new medical evidence.”
Tony Blair, British prime minister, 1998

“What happened on Bloody Sunday strengthened the Provisional IRA and increased nationalist resentment and hostility towards the army.”
The 2010 Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday

“Probably the greater influence on me, just in regard to the development of my own politics, were obviously the pogroms. I was living in Belfast when Loyalists bombed McGuirk’s Bar and 15 Catholics were killed. On reflection I know that had a substantial impact on me because some of the people were friends and neighbours. And of course the massacre in Derry, Bloody Sunday, had a massive influence on me.”
Bobby Storey, IRA leader