Shull Blinds Isaac Woodard

Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Remembering Isaac Woodard

March 18, 1919 – September 23, 1992

Honorable Discharge

Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Isaac Woodard grew up in North Carolina and on October 14, 1942 he enlisted in the U.S. Army becoming one of the one million African-Americans who served in the U.S. military during World War II. 

He served in the Pacific Theater in a labor battalion as a longshoreman and was promoted to sergeant.  He earned a battle star for his by unloading ships under enemy fire in New Guinea.

On February 12, 1946 he received an honorable discharge.

Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Rest Stop

That same day the 26-year-old Woodard Jr, still in uniform, was on a Greyhound Lines bus traveling from Camp Gordon in Augusta, Georgia. He was en route to Winnsboro, South Carolina to pick up his wife and then go to New York City with her to visit his parents.

A a stop in North Carolina he asked the bus driver if there was time to use the restroom. The driver cursed and said “No.”  Woodard cursed back. The driver said to go and hurry.

Woodard did.

Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Beating

Later, the driver stopped the bus in Batesburg (now Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina), near Aiken. He contacted the police and told them that a passenger was drunk and causing a disturbance on the bus.

The police arrived and the driver told Woodard to leave the bus. He did. The driver told the police that Woodard was the one who’d been drunk and disorderly. Woodard  tried to explain that he was neither, but the police struck Woodard with a billy club.

A struggle ensued, but other police stepped in, threatened to shoot Woodard, and he gave up. 

The police took Woodard to the town jail, knocking him out on the way, and arrested him for disorderly conduct, accusing him of drinking beer in the back of the bus with other soldiers. The repeated beatings had blinded Woodard.

Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Jailed, guilty, fined, hospitalized

The following morning, the police sent Woodard before the local judge, who found him guilty and fined him fifty dollars. The soldier requested medical assistance, but it took two more days for a doctor to be sent to him. Not knowing where he was and suffering from amnesia, Woodard ended up in a hospital in Aiken, South Carolina, receiving substandard medical care.

Three weeks after he was reported missing by his relatives, Woodard was discovered in the hospital. He was immediately rushed to a US Army hospital in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Though his memory had begun to recover by that time, doctors found both eyes were damaged beyond repair.

Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

NAACP

Shull blinds Isaac Woodard
Woodard and his mother

July 25, 1946: the NY Times reported that after a July 24 meeting at the New York headquarters of the NAACP,  “Charles Bolte, national chairman of the American Veterans Committee, Charles Klair, director of the veterans’ bureau of the CIO, Aurhtur Pearl of the Duncan Parish Post, Marican Legion, Barnard Harker of the American Jewish Congress, and representatives of the United Negro and Allied Veterans and the Hawaiian Association for Civic Unity, members of several veterans’ organizations and civic groups voted yesterday to form a committee to seek compensation for Woodard.

Waler White, the NAACP executive secretary, urged support of petitions to President Truman and the Veterans Administration to have Woodard’s case adjudicated as having happened in the line of duty as Woodard had been discharged less than 24 hours when the blinding occurred.

Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Cause célèbre

Orson Wells, the well-known actor, director, and radio personality  took up Woodard’s story.

On July 28, 1946, on his popular ABC radio show, Wells’s read of the deposition and followed with his own comments.   Well’s next four broadcasts continued to include comments regarding Woodard’s story.

The citizens of Aiken became incensed over Welles’s broadcasts and requested an apology.

In later broadcasts, Wells would refer to Aiken’s request, but issued no apology.

On August 6, 1946, the Aiken’s Lions Club issued a statement that read in part, “We as citizens and business men of Aiken have implicit confidence in these officials and, having been advised of the circumstances of this case, are convinced that this incident did not occur in Aiken, SC.”  (NYT abstract)

Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Blinded Veterans Association

Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard
Joe Louis and Neil Scott help Isaac Woodard up a set a stairs soon after a beating left him blind. Ossie Leviness New York Daily News

August 8, 1946: more than 400 members of the Blinded Veterans Association welcomed Woodard as a member at the Association headquarters in NYC.  

A NYT article about the event reported that the NAACP had filed an application to American Red Cross on Woodard’s behalf for the injuries he received.

Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Aiken exonerated

August 13, 1946: media had reported that the Woodard beating and blinding had occurred in the town of Aiken, South Carolina, On this date,  Leo M Cadison, Deputy Director of the Division of Public Information in Washington, DC sent Aiken telegram that exonerated the city from blame.  (NYT abstract)

Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Benefit Concert

August 18, 1946:  The Amsterdam News Welfare Fund and the Isaac Woodard Benefit Committee held a concert for Woodward in Lewisohn Stadium in New York City.  The benefit included such entertainers as Orson Welles, Woody Guthrie, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday and Milton Berle. 20,000 attended. 

NYC Mayor o”Dwyer spoke saying, “first and foremost there must be equal protection by those entrusted with law enforcement, and here there can be no equivocation and no discrimination in treatment. Commissioner Wallander of the Police Department has recently issued a statement of policy to the police fore, again emphasizing to them this well understood policy of my administration. That directive must be observed as long as I am Mayor of New York, not only in the police, but all other departments.” (NYT abstract)

Woody Guthrie later wrote the song “The Blinding of Isaac Woodard”  “so’s you wouldn’t be forgetting what happened to this famous Negro soldier less than three hours after he got his Honorable Discharge down in Atlanta….”  (lyrics from the fortune city site)

Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

President Truman intervenes

Shull blinds Isaac Woodard
Truman’s letter to AG Tom Clark

 September 19, 1946, NAACP Executive Secretary Walter Francis White met with President Harry S. Truman in the Oval Office to discuss the Woodard case. Gardner later wrote that when Truman “heard this story in the context of the state authorities of South Carolina doing nothing for seven months, he exploded.”

September 20, 1946: Truman wrote a letter to Attorney General Tom C. Clark demanding that action be taken to address South Carolina’s reluctance to try the case. 

Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard
Clark announcement

September 26, 1946: the US Department of Justice filed a criminal information in the Federal Court in Columbia, South Carolina alleging that Lynwood Shull had beaten and tortured Woodard in violation of the civil rights statute.

September 28, 1946: Shull posted a $2,000 bond  for his appearance in the United States District Court on Nov. 4.

October 2, 1946: Chief of Police Lynwood Shull and several of his officers were indicted in U.S. District Court in Columbia, South Carolina. It was within federal jurisdiction because the beating had occurred at a bus stop on federal property and at the time Woodard was in uniform of the armed services. The case was presided over by Judge Julius Waties Waring.

Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Travesty of a Trial

Chief Linwood Shull blinds Isaac Woodard
Judge Julius Waties Waring.

November 5, 1946: the trial ended. By all accounts, the trial was a travesty. The local U.S. Attorney charged with handling the case failed to interview anyone except the bus driver, a decision that Judge Waring, a civil rights proponent, believed was a gross dereliction of duty.

Waring later wrote of being disgusted at the way the case was handled at the local level, commenting, “I was shocked by the hypocrisy of my government…in submitting that disgraceful case….”

The defense did not perform better. When the defense attorney began to shout racial epithets at Woodard, Waring stopped him immediately. During the trial, the defense attorney stated to the all-white jury that “if you rule against Shull, then let this South Carolina secede again.” After Woodard gave his account of the events, Shull firmly denied it. He claimed that Woodard had threatened him with a gun, and that Shull had used his nightclub to defend himself. During this testimony, Shull admitted that he repeatedly struck Woodard in the eyes.

After thirty minutes of deliberation, the jury found Shull not guilty on all charges, despite his admission that he had blinded Woodard. The courtroom broke into applause upon hearing the verdict.

November 13, 1947:  Woodward had sued the Atlantic Greyhound Corporation for $50,000. On this date, a jury decided against Woodard. (NYT abstract)

Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Aftermath

Such miscarriages of justice by state governments influenced a move towards civil rights initiatives at the federal level. Truman subsequently established a national interracial commission, made a historic speech to the NAACP and the nation in June 1947 in which he described civil rights as a moral priority, submitted a civil rights bill to Congress in February 1948, and issued Executive Orders 9980 and 9981 on June 26, 1948, desegregating the armed forces and the federal government.

Isaac Woodard faded into obscurity while his story and the tragic stories of many other African-Americans continued be fuel for both those seeking equality and those seeking to continue the status quo.

Woodard lived in the New York City area for the rest of his life. He died at age 73 in the Veterans Administration Hospital in the Bronx on September 23, 1992.

He was buried with military honors at the Calverton National Cemetery (Section 15, Site 2180) in Calverton, New York.

Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Lynwood Shull died on 27 Dec 1997. He was 92.


Ridge Crest Memorial Park, Batesburg, Lexington County, South Carolina
Shull blinds Isaac Woodard

Clarence Earl Gideon

Clarence Earl Gideon

Difficult start

Clarence Earl Gideon was born in Hannibal, Missouri on August 30, 1910. His father died when Clarence was three. His mother remarried, but Clarence and his step father did not get along.

When he was 14, Clarence ran away for a year.

Back in Missouri, but not with his mother, he stole clothes, got caught, and his mother asked to have him put into a reformatory.

He was released after a year and had the scars to prove the mistreatment he received there.

Clarence Earl Gideon

Continued hard times

Gideon married and got a job in a shoe factory.  He lost his job and after committing a number of crimes in Missouri was sentenced to ten years for robbery.

He was paroled but continued to run afoul the law.  According to an article in the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, “In 1934, he was convicted of theft of U.S. government property and conspiracy and sentenced to three years in Fort Leavenworth, where he was assigned to the shoe factory. In 1939, he was arrested on an unknown charge and again escaped from jail before trial. In 1940, he was convicted of burglary and larceny and sentenced as a repeat offender. In 1943, he escaped from prison and went to work on the Southern Pacific Railroad as a brakeman, using an assumed name and forged Selective Service card. The following year he was arrested on a tip, convicted of escape, and imprisoned until January 1950. In 1951, he was convicted of an unspecified crime in Texas and served 13 months.”

Clarence Earl Gideon

Bay Harbor Pool Room

Gideon moved to Florida. On June 3, 1961, $5 in change and a few bottles of beer and soda were stolen from Bay Harbor Pool Room (Panama, FL), a pool hall that belonged to Ira Strickland, Jr.

Henry Cook, a 22-year-old resident who lived nearby, told the police that he had seen Clarence Earl Gideon walk out of the hall with a bottle of wine and his pockets filled with coins and then get into a cab and leave. Gideon was arrested in a tavern.

August 4, 1961:  being too poor to pay for counsel,  Gideon requested that the court appoint one.  Because of his extensive criminal record, he was familiar with that practice.

Robert McCrary, Jr, the trial judge, denied the request stating that in Florida a defendant was entitled to a court-appointed defense only in capital offense trials.

Though Gideon was mistaken is his assumption that he was entitled to a court-appointed lawyer, McCrary was also mistaken in that he could have, had he decided, appointed a lawyer.

Defending himself,  Gideon was tried and convicted of breaking and entering with intent to commit petty larceny.

Clarence Earl Gideon

Sentenced to 5 years

August 25, 1961: five days before his 51st birthday, McCrary sentenced Gideon to the maximum sentence: five years in prison.

Gideon appealed his conviction to the Florida Supreme Court. That court denied his appeal.

Clarence Earl Gideon

Supreme Court petition

Clarence Earl Gideon
This is the first page of Gideon’s handwritten petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gideon mailed a five-page hand-printed petition to the US Supreme Court asking the nine justices to consider his complaint.

It is often discussed whether, despite his familiarity with the justice system, Gideon could have written the petition himself.  Some have suggested that Gideon’s cellmate, Joseph A. Peel Jr, a lawyer and judge serving time for murder, had assisted Gideon.

January 5, 1962:  Whatever the circumstances, the Supreme Court, in reply, agreed to hear his appeal. Originally, the case was called Gideon v. Cochran.

January 15,  1963:  the Gideon v. Cochran case was argued at the US Supreme Court. Abe Fortas was assigned to represent Gideon. Bruce Jacob, the Assistant Florida Attorney General, was assigned to argue against Gideon.

Fortas argued (a recording of Fortas’s argument can be heard via the Oyez site)  that a common man with no training in law could not go up against a trained lawyer and win, and that “you cannot have a fair trial without counsel.”

Jacob argued that the issue at hand was a state issue, not federal; the practice of only appointing counsel under “special circumstances” in non-capital cases sufficed; that thousands of convictions would have to be thrown out if it were changed; and that Florida had followed for 21 years “in good faith” the 1942 Supreme Court ruling in Betts v. Brady.

The case’s original title, Gideon v. Cochran, was changed to Gideon v. Wainwright after Louie L. Wainwright replaced H. G. Cochran as the director of the Florida Division of Corrections. (NYT abstract)

Clarence Earl Gideon

Supreme court  decision

March 18, 1963: the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that, The Sixth Amendment right to counsel is a fundamental right applied to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause, and requires that indigent criminal defendants be provided counsel at trial. Supreme Court of Florida reversed.

In other words, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that those accused of a crime have a constitutional right to a lawyer whether or not they can afford one.

About 2,000 convicted people in Florida alone were freed as a result of the Gideon decision; Gideon himself was not freed. He instead got another trial. (NYT article)

Clarence Earl Gideon

Gideon’s retrial

August 5, 1963: Gideon had chosen W. Fred Turner to be his lawyer for his second trial. Turner picked apart the testimony of eyewitness Henry Cook. Turner also got a statement from the cab driver who took Gideon from Bay Harbor, Florida to a bar in Panama City, Florida, stating that Gideon was carrying neither wine, beer nor Coke when he picked him up, even though Cook had testified that he watched Gideon walk from the pool hall to the phone, then wait for a cab.

Furthermore, although in the first trial Gideon had not cross-examined the cab driver about his statement that Gideon had told him to keep the taxi ride a secret, Turner’s cross-examination revealed that Gideon had said that to the cab driver previously because “he had trouble with his wife.”

The jury acquitted Gideon after one hour of deliberation.

Clarence Earl Gideon

Attorney General Robert Kennedy

November 1, 1963: in a speech before The New England Conference on the Defense of Indigent Persons Accused of Crime, Attorney General Robert Kennedy stated: “If an obscure Florida convict named Clarence Earl Gideon had not sat down in prison with a pencil and paper to write a letter to the Supreme Court, and if the Supreme Court had not taken the trouble to look for merit in that one crude petition among all the bundles of mail it must receive every day, the vast machinery of American law would have gone on functioning undisturbed.”

Clarence Earl Gideon

Gideon’s Trumpet

Clarence Earl Gideon

January 28, 1964,: the publication of Gideon’s Trumpet by Anthony Lewis. The book provided history of Gideon’s landmark case.

Clarence Earl Gideon

Aftermath

January 18, 1972: after his acquittal, Gideon resumed his previous way of life and married again. He died of cancer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at age 61. Gideon’s family in Missouri accepted his body and buried him in an unmarked grave.

 

April 30, 1980: made for TV movie and a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation, Gideon’s Trumpet, aired on CBS. The moved starred Henry Fonda as Clarence Earl Gideon, José Ferrer as Abe Fortas and John Houseman as Earl Warren (though Warren’s name was never mentioned in the film; he was billed simply as “The Chief Justice”). Houseman also provided the off screen closing narration at the end of the film. Lewis himself appeared in a small role as “The Reporter”.

November 1984 The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union added a granite headstone, inscribed with a quote from a letter Gideon wrote to his attorney, Abe Fortas: “I believe that each era finds an improvement in law for the benefit of mankind.”

Clarence Earl Gideon

Law v reality

March 16, 2013: approaching the 50th anniversary of  Gideon v. Wainwright, a NYT article stated, the Legal Services Corporation, the Congressionally financed organization that provides lawyers to the poor in civil matters, says there are more than 60 million Americans — 35 percent more than in 2005 — who qualify for its services. But it calculates that 80 percent of the legal needs of the poor go unmet. In state after state, according to a survey of trial judges, more people are now representing themselves in court and they are failing to present necessary evidence, committing procedural errors and poorly examining witnesses, all while new lawyers remain unemployed… According to the World Justice Project, a nonprofit group promoting the rule of law that got its start through the American Bar Association, the United States ranks 66th out of 98 countries in access to and affordability of civil legal services.

Clarence Earl Gideon

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

Colonized v Colonizers

Americans’ most important date is July 4, the date that commemorates their Declaration of Independence.

There were many “Americans” who preferred British colonization to an unknown independence, but human history is filled with examples of the opposite. That is, the colonized attempting to overthrow the colonizers.

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

 Pope Adrian IV

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

In 1156, more than 750 years after the English-born Roman citizen Patrick  arrived in Ireland in the 5th century to convert the Irish to Christianity, Pope Adrian issued a papal Bull known as the  “Laudabiliter.” 

Think of an American president’s Executive Order,  only more powerful.

The Bull gave Henry II, king of England  the Pope’s permission to invade Ireland “for the correction of morals and the introduction of virtues, for the advancement of the Christian religion.”

The Bull also stated “And may the people of that land receive thee with honor, and venerate thee as their master.

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

And so it began…

Over the next 800 years there were regular attempts by the colonized Irish to overthrow the British. These attempts sometimes partially succeeded, but were more often repulsed.

By the mid-1920s, the Island of Ireland was in two political parts: the Republic in the south and Northern Ireland, a province of the United Kingdom.

Despite the success of independence in the south, there were still many in Northern Ireland who continued to support a united Ireland.

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

1964

There is no exact or official date for the start of Na Trioblóidí, but by 1964 civil rights activists had been protesting against the discrimination against Catholics and Irish nationalists by the Ulster Protestant and unionist government of Northern Ireland.

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

Bogside Massacre

This piece will begin on January 30, 1972: in Derry (Londonderry) Northern Ireland, British paratroopers responded to a civil rights march by Catholics, in defiance of a ban against marches, and shot dead thirteen unarmed marchers. The day became known as “Bloody Sunday” or the “Bogside Massacre.

February 2, 1972:  Prime Minister Edward Heath commissions the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery to undertake a tribunal into the Jan 30 shootings in Derry.

July 21, 1972,  Bloody Friday: 22 bombs planted by the Provisional IRA explode in Belfast, Northern Ireland; nine people are killed and 130 seriously injured.

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

late 1970s

January 4, 1976: the Ulster Volunteer Force kills six Irish Catholic civilians in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. The next day 10 Protestant civilians are murdered in retaliation.

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

August 27, 1979: Lord Mountbatten of Burma and 3 others were assassinated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Mountbatten was a British admiral, statesman and an uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

On the same day, the Warrenpoint ambush occurs: Provisional Irish Republican Army members attack a British convoy at Narrow Water, County Down, killing 18 British soldiers.

November 23, 1979: in Dublin, Ireland, Provisional Irish Republican Army member Thomas McMahon was sentenced to life in prison for the assassination of Lord Mountbatten of Burma.

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

Hunger Strikes

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

March 1, 1981: Bobby Sands, a Provisional Irish Republican Army member, began a hunger strike for political status in Long Kesh prison.

March 3, 1981: Humphrey Atkins, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, made a statement in the House of Commons in which he said that there would be no political status for prisoners regardless of the hunger strike.

March 15, 1981: Francis Hughes, an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner in the Maze Prison, joined Bobby Sands on hunger strike. 

March 22, 1981: Raymond McCreesh, an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner in the Maze Prison, and Patsy O’Hara, then leader of Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) prisoners in the Maze, joined the hunger strike.

April 10, 1981:imprisoned IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands won election to the British Parliament.

April 28, 1981: the private secretary of Pope John Paul II paid a visit to Bobby Sands in the Maze Prison but was unable to persuade him to end his hunger strike. Humphrey Atkins, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, stated that: “If Mr Sands persisted in his wish to commit suicide, that was his choice. The government would not force medical treatment upon him.” President Ronald Reagan said that America would not intervene in the situation in Northern Ireland but he was “deeply concerned” at events there. 

May 5, 1981: Bobby Sands, died aged 27. On May 7, 1981 an estimated 100,000 people attended his funeral in Belfast. (see 2021 Irish Times article about Sands’s impact)

May 6, 1981: the day after Bobby Sands’ death, the British government sent 600 extra British troops into Northern Ireland.

May 8, 1981: Joe McDonnell, then an Irish Republican Army prisoner in the Maze Prison, joined the hunger strike to take the place of Bobby Sands.

May 12, 1981: after 59 days on hunger strike Francis Hughes (25), an Irish Republican Army  prisoner in the Maze Prison, died. [Hughes’ death led to a further surge in rioting in Nationalist areas of Northern Ireland, particularly in Belfast and Derry. In Dublin a group of 2,000 people tried to break into the British Embassy. 

May 14, 1981: Brendan McLaughlin, an Irish Republican Army prisoner in the Maze Prison, joined the hunger strike to replace Francis Hughes [McLaughlin was taken off the strike on 26 May when he suffered a perforated ulcer and internal bleeding.] 

May 21 1981:  Raymond McCreesh (24), a Irish Republican Army prisoner, and Patsy O’Hara (23), an Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) prisoner, both died having spent 61 days on hunger strike.

May 22, 1981: Kieran Doherty, an Irish Republican Army prisoner in the Maze Prison, joined the hunger strike. 

May 29, 1981: the names of four prisoners on hunger strikes together with five other Republican prisoners, were put forward as candidates in the forthcoming general election in the Republic of Ireland.

June 8, 1981: Tom McElwee, then an Irish Republican Army prisoner, joined the hunger strike.

June 15, 1981: Sinn Féin issued a statement to say that a Republican prisoner would join the hunger strike every week. [This was seen as a stepping-up of the hunger strike. Paddy Quinn, then an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner joined the strike.]

July 8, 1981: Irish Republican Joe McDonnell died at the Long Kesh Internment Camp after a 61-day hunger strike.

July 10. 1981: funeral for Joe McDonnell. The British Army moved to arrest an IRA firing party at the funeral and seized a number of weapons and made several arrests. Rioting broke out following this incident.

July 13, 1981: Martin Hurson (29) died after 46 days on hunger strike.

August 1, 1981: The seventh hunger striker died. Kevin Lynch (25) died after 71 days on hunger strike. Lynch was a member of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).August 2, 1981: the eighth hunger striker died. Kieran Doherty (25) died after 73 days on hunger strike.

August 8, 1981:  ninth hunger striker dies. Thomas McElwee (23) died after 62 days on hunger strike. This weekend marked the tenth Anniversary of the introduction of Internment and there were widespread riots in Republican areas. Three people were killed during disturbances over the weekend.

August 9, 1981: Liam Canning (19), a Catholic civilian, was shot dead by the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), a cover name used by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), as he walked along Alliance Avenue, Ardoyne, Belfast. Peter Maguinness (41), a Catholic civilian, was shot dead by a plastic bullet fired by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) while he was outside his home on the Shore Road, Greencastle, Belfast. There were continuing riots in Nationalist areas of Northern Ireland.

August 20, 1981: tenth hunger striker dies. Michael Devine (27) died after 60 days on hunger strike.

October 3, 1981: those Republican prisoners who had still been refusing food decided to end their hunger strike. At this stage in the protest six prisoners were on hunger strike. The prisoners took their decision when it became clear that each of their families would ask for medical intervention to save their lives. 

October 6, 1981:  Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Prior, announced a number of changes in prison policy, one of which would allowed prisoners to wear their civilian clothes at all times. This was one of the five key demands that had been made at the start of the hunger strike. Prior also announced other changes: free association would be allowed in neighboring wings of each H-Block, in the exercise areas and in recreation rooms; an increase in the number of visits each prisoner would be entitled to.

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

Continued bombings

July 20, 1982: the Provisional IRA detonated 2 bombs in central London, killing 8 soldiers, wounding 47 people.

September 25, 1983: Maze Prison escape: 38 Irish republican prisoners, armed with six handguns, hijack a prison meals lorry and smash their way out of HMP Maze, in the largest prison escape since World War II and in British history.

December 17, 1983:  a Provisional IRA car bomb killed 6 Christmas shoppers and injured 90 outside Harrods in London.

October 12, 1984:  The Provisional Irish Republican Army attempts to assassinate Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the British Cabinet in the Brighton hotel bombing.

February 28, 1985: the Provisional Irish Republican Army carried out a mortar attack on the Royal Ulster Constabulary police station at Newry, killing 9 officers in the highest loss of life for the RUC on a single day.

November 15, 1985:  Britain and Ireland signed an accord giving Dublin an official consultative role in governing Northern Ireland.

November 8, 1987: a bomb planted by the Irish Republican Army exploded as crowds gathered in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, for a ceremony honoring Britain’s war dead, killing 11 people.

March 16, 1988: Milltown Cemetery attack: during a funeral for three Provisional IRA volunteers, Ulster Defence Association (UDA) volunteer Michael Stone attacked the crowd with grenades and pistols, killing three and wounding over sixty.

March 19, 1988: two British Army Corporals were killed after driving straight into a funeral for the victims of the Milltown Cemetery attack three days earlier, after they were mistakenly thought to be carrying out a similar attack to the one by Ulster Defence Association (UDA) member Michael Stone, in which he killed three Catholics attending the funeral.

September 22, 1989: Deal barracks bombing: An IRA bomb explodes at the Royal Marine School of Music in Deal, Kent, United Kingdom, leaving 11 dead and 22 injured.

April 10, 1992: a Provisional Irish Republican Army bomb exploded in the Baltic Exchange in the City of London; 3 are killed, 91 injured.

December 15, 1993: the Downing Street Declaration, issued jointly by UK and the Republic of Ireland, affirms the UK would transfer Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland only if a majority of Northern Ireland’s people approved.

“Zombie” is a protest song by  written about the 1993 IRA bombing in Warrington, and in memory of two young victims, Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry.

August 31, 1994: the Provisional Irish Republican Army announced a “complete cessation of military operations.” (from February 1996 until July 1997, the Provisional IRA called off its 1994 ceasefire because of its dissatisfaction with the state of negotiations.)

February 18, 1996: an IRA briefcase bomb in a bus kills the bomber and injures 9 in the West End of London.

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

Another ceasfire

July 19, 1997: the Provisional IRA re-instated the ceasefire.

September 9, 1997: Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army’s political ally, formally renounced violence as it took its place in talks on Northern Ireland’s future.

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

In November 1997, IRA dissidents held a meeting in a farmhouse in Oldcastle, County Meath, and a new organisation, styling itself Óglaigh na hÉireann, was formed. It eventually became known as the Real IRA.

December 11, 1997: Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams became the first political ally of the IRA to meet a British leader in 76 years. He conferred with Prime Minister Tony Blair in London.

In January 1998: after 15 years and many media reports suggesting the original tribunal’s inquiry was flawed, a second commission of inquiry, chaired by Lord Saville, was established  to re-examine ‘Bloody Sunday’.

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

Belfast Agreement

Irish Troubles Na TrioblóidíApril 10, 1998: the Belfast Agreement signed between the Irish and British governments and most Northern Ireland political parties.

May 22, 1998:voters in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland cast ballots giving resounding approval to a Northern Ireland peace accord.

October 16, 1998: David Trimble and John Hume were named recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering the Northern Ireland peace accord.

November 29, 1999: Protestant and Catholic adversaries formed a Northern Ireland government.

December 2, 1999:a power-sharing cabinet of Protestants and Catholics sat down together for the first time in Northern Ireland.

July 28, 2005: the Provisional IRA issued a statement formally ordering an end to the armed campaign it has pursued since 1969 and ordering all its units to dump their arms.

September 25, 2005: two months after announcing its intention to disarm, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) gave up its weapons in front of independent weapons inspectors. The decommissioning of the group s substantial arsenal took place in secret locations in the Republic of Ireland. One Protestant and one Catholic priest as well as officials from Finland and the United States served as witnesses to the historic event. Automatic weapons, ammunition, missiles and explosives were among the arms found in the cache, which the head weapons inspector described as “enormous.”

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

21st Century Simmering

June 15, 2010:  the report on the second inquiry into Sunday Bloody Sunday (1972) is published. It stated, “The firing by soldiers of 1 PARA on Bloody Sunday caused the deaths of 13 people and injury to a similar number, none of whom was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury,” and also said, “The immediate responsibility for the deaths and injuries on Bloody Sunday lies with those members of Support Company whose unjustifiable firing was the cause of those deaths and injuries.”  The head of the committee, Lord Saville of Newdigate, stated that British paratroopers “lost control.”

A series of riots between 20 June 2011 and 16 July 2011, starting originally in Belfast, before spreading to other parts of Northern Ireland. They were initiated by the Ulster Volunteer Force.

1 November 2012  prison Officer, David Black, was shot dead on the M1 motorway near Craigavon while driving to work. The shots were fired from another car, which drove alongside. The Real IRA claimed responsibility.

March 4, 2016,  prison officer Adrian Ismay died from a heart attack in a hospital. He had been seriously wounded by a booby-trap bomb which detonated under his van on Hillsborough Drive, East Belfast 11 days earlier. These wounds were directly responsible for the heart attack that killed him. The “New IRA” claimed responsibility and said it was a response to the alleged mistreatment of republican prisoners at Maghaberry Prison. It added that the officer was targeted because he trained prison officers at Maghaberry.

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí
2019 charge

March 14, 2019: the North’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced in Derry that one former British soldier—simply identified as Soldier Fs—would be charged over the Bloody Sunday killings.

Soldier F would be prosecuted for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney and for the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell.

No other former British soldier faced prosecution.

The PPS said that “in respect of the other 18 suspects, including 16 former soldiers and two alleged Official IRA members, it has been concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction”.

The decisions related only to allegations of criminal conduct on Bloody Sunday itself, the PPS said in its statement.

Consideration will now be given to allegations of perjury in respect of those suspects reported by police,” added the PPS.

The DPP, Stephen Herron, said: “I wish to clearly state that where a decision has been reached not to prosecute, this is no way diminishes any finding by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that those killed or injured were not posing a threat to any of the soldiers.

New IRA

April 23, 2019: the New IRA admitted responsibility for the death of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry.

McKee (29) died as a result of injuries sustained when she was shot on the Creggan estate on April 18th.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said it had arrested a 57-year-old woman over the killing. Three people were also arrested in connection with McKee’s death. Two individuals who had been detained were released without charge.

In a statement given to The Irish News using a recognized code word, the group offered “full and sincere apologies” to her family and friends.

The New IRA is an amalgam of armed groups opposed to the peace process and it recently claimed responsibility for parcel bombs sent to London and Glasgow in March.

It rejects being called the New IRA and simply refers to itself as the IRA, insisting that it is anything but new. The organisation stressed the continuity of the republican armed campaign, drawing its lineage like other republican groups back to 1916 and 1798.

From March 2018 until February 2019, it tried to carry out 15 bombings and 37 shootings, and killed two prison officers.

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí

Gerry Adams’s prison escape convictions overturned

May 13, 2020: the Irish Times reported that former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams welcomed a British Supreme Court ruling that that his convictions for attempting to escape from the Maze Prison in the 1970s were unlawful.

Adams had claimed his two 1975 convictions for escaping from internment were unsafe because his detention was not “personally considered” by a senior government minister.

As lawyers consider the import of the Supreme Court decision Adams said, “There is an onus on the British government to identify and inform other internees whose Internment may also have been unlawful.”

In 2009, the Pat Finucane Centre in Derry had uncovered information that gave Adams strong grounds to take his successful case.

The Centre found communications from July 1974 where the then British Director of Public Prosecutions had provided a memorandum to the British Attorney General saying that Adams “and other detainees” were held under orders which were not signed by the secretary of state and that they have been “unlawfully detained”.

Irish Troubles Na Trioblóidí