In the 1960s, the Catholic population in the country of Northern Ireland initiated a civil rights movement which demanded solutions to political issues such as gerrymandering by the majority Protestant government, discrimination by law enforcement, discrimination in the allocation of housing, and other problems that had created social divides between Catholics and Protestants for decades. By October 1968 a new civil rights organization calling itself the People’s Democracy had been formed. This new organization acted boldly in its demonstrations by conducting events in neighborhoods deemed “Protestant” territory, physically challenging police blockades, and in some instances actively seeking to provoke a hostile response from police and counter-demonstrators as a means to expose government violence and ineptitude. Drawing from historical evidence such as live footage of events, interviews, news reports, memoirs and writings from the people involved in Northern Ireland’s civil rights movement, as well as the works of other scholars regarding Northern Ireland, this research argues that the People’s Democracy and the events it participated in played an instrumental role in escalating tension and violence during the civil rights movement. By demonstrating the existence of a cycle of action and counter-action between the People’s Democracy and its counter-demonstrators, this research offers new insight into an overlooked chapter in the recent history of Northern Ireland: the transformation of the civil rights movement into the insurgent conflict, known as “the Troubles,” that would last for three decades.
Dr. Matthew J. Crawford
In the late 1960s in Northern Ireland, a civil rights group calling itself the People's Democracy had emerged. The group was formed out of the larger civil rights movement occurring at the time in which the minority Catholic population conducted demonstrations and addressed grievances toward the majority-Protestant-run government. The People's Democracy acted boldly in attempting to affect change through tactics such as physically confronting police blockades and eliciting hostile responses from counter-demonstrators. The cycle of action and counter-action that existed between the People's Democracy and its counter-demonstrators helped facilitate the transition from a civil rights movement in Northern Ireland to the insurgent conflict known simply as "the Troubles” that lasted for three ensuing decades.