Quotations: civil rights and unrest

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.

“The Unionist Party should make it clear that Loyalists have the first choice of jobs.”
Robert Babington, Unionist Party member, 1961

“I regret to report that if you want a house in the town of Dungannon, County Tyrone, your chances will depend to a great extent on what church you belong to.”
Ken Graham, journalist

“Our ignorance about Northern Ireland is astonishing. Some of us have been there and experienced this atmosphere of distrust, discrimination, plotting and hate. The silence in England about conditions in ‘Ulster’ almost amounts to criminal negligence.”
Martin Ennals, British human rights campaigner, 1964

“I grew up in a situation of such degradation and unemployment that the life our people lived was no life at all… I want something better for my children than this.”
Sean Cronin, IRA volunteer

“I joined the civil rights marches because it was obvious that some people were being treated better than others. We used to accept bad housing and bad jobs. Most of my friends just went to England and didn’t bother looking for work here. I had never voted and neither had my parents, brothers or sisters. There was no point, you couldn’t really change anything. The marches awoke a sense of injustice in me and a determination to be treated equally.”
An unnamed Catholic resident of Derry

“If ever a community had a right to demonstrate against a denial of civil rights, Derry is the finest example. A Roman Catholic and Nationalist city, it has for three or four decades been administered – and none too fairly administered – by a Protestant and Unionist majority, secured by a manipulation of the ward boundaries for the sole purpose of retaining Unionist control.”
Edmund Warnock, Unionist MP, describes gerrymandering in Derry, 1968

“I was a marked man before the march started. These were stormtrooper tactics at their worst. They hit me once, but that wasn’t enough, they had to have another go, and this was the cause of the wound which had to be stitched.”
Nationalist MP Gerry Fitt on the NICRA march, October 1968

“It was all ‘the Catholics this and the Catholics that’ [with Loyalists] living in poverty and us lording it over them. People looked around and said, ‘What, are they talking about, us? With the damp running down the walls and our houses not fit to live in.’
A Protestant housewife in 1969

“It is frightfully hard to explain to Protestants that if you give Roman Catholics a good job and a good house they will live like Protestants because they will see neighbours with cars and television sets; they [Catholics] will refuse to have 18 children. But if a Roman Catholic is jobless and lives in the most ghastly hovel he will rear 18 children on National Assistance. If you treat Roman Catholics with due consideration and kindness they will live like Protestants in spite of the authoritative nature of their Church.”
Terence O’Neill, 1969

“We refused to accept the politicians’ logic that the problems could be seen in terms of Catholic versus Protestant… The civil rights march was interested in people’s needs.”
Bernadette Devlin, 1969

“The civil rights people don’t believe in civil rights at all, they’re just a bunch of republican rebels, that’s what they are. Let’s be very clear about this, they have no time for law and order, they have no time for this country and they mean to destroy this country, and we mean to see that this country will not be destroyed.”
Ian Paisley, January 1969

“Showers of rocks crashed round us. I was in the middle of the fourth row and bent double in an attempt to avoid the hail of missiles, when a middle-aged man in a tweed coat, brandishing what seemed to be a chair leg dashed from the left-hand side of the road, hit me on the back, then pulled down the hood of my anorak and struck me on the head. I then tried to crawl away, but, teeth bared, he hit me again on the spot on my skull… I fell, and a fellow marcher picked me up and dragged me up the road. I passed out, and came round in the ambulance on the way to Alnagelvin Hospital.”
Judith McGuffin on the Burntollet Bridge ambush, 1969

“Our investigations have led us to the unhesitating conclusion that on the night of January 4th-5th, a number of policemen were guilty of misconduct which involved assault and battery, malicious damage to property in the streets in the mainly Catholic Bogside area.”
Cameron Report, 1969

“I didn’t think about the question of a united Ireland. I was only concerned about what I saw before my very eyes, about what was happening to Catholics in the ghettos. There was injustice everywhere. The whole system seemed to be rotten, and the only solution seemed to be an armed uprising against the enemy.”
Peace campaigner Betty Williams on why she joined the IRA in 1972

“I grew up in that state [Northern Ireland]. So did many generations of Nationalists before me. We experienced, in a very stark way, the denial of human rights. We experienced first hand institutionalised discrimination. Our cultural rights were systematically trampled upon. We were denied democratic participation. Many, many Nationalists… have borne the brunt of various British government attempts to suppress their sense of Irishness and the expression of their Irish identity.”
Martin McGuinness, 2013