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Call To Arms:

The Ulster Rebellion, 1966-72


By Chris Oakley

Part 3



based on the series "It (Almost)Happened Here" by the same author




December 1964-July 1965



December 15th, 1964

In his first visit abroad as prime minister of Ireland, John Lynch travels to Washington to meet with US President Lyndon Johnson and reaffirm the United States’ commitment to supporting the ten-year-old Irish Reunification Pact.

December 18th, 1964

Catholic extremists in Derry assault the headquarters of the FUA’s Derry regional branch office, leaving much of the building in ruins and injuring nearly two dozen people.

December 21st, 1964

The Irish Unity Party of Ulster holds its first major public indoor rally, gathering over 6000 supporters in Belfast to call for the UN to maintain its peacekeeping mission in northern Ireland until the Irish regular army and national police are large enough to shoulder that burden by themselves.

December 25th, 1964

At his annual Christmas Day mass, the Catholic Archbishop of Belfast gives a homily on the theme of community. Though he never makes any specific allusions to the 1954 Reunification Pact, his homily will be frequently quoted by Pact supporters in the years to come.

January 4th, 1965

Foreshadowing the political activism that will one day be a hallmark of his solo career, Beatles founder John Lennon records "Give Peace A Chance", a poignant plea for unity among the people of Ireland. Reverend Ian Paisley accuses Lennon of spreading anti-Protestant propaganda; FUA general secretary Liam Delaney dismisses the song as "naïve foppery".

January 7th, 1965

In his first visit to Great Britain as Irish prime minister, John Lynch meets with the British defense minister to open negotiations aimed at securing a guarantee of British assistance to the Irish government if anti-Pact factions attempt to topple it by force.

January 14th, 1965

Gerry Adams, a young Belfast attorney previously best known for his activism on housing issues in northern Ireland, is appointed Belfast local director for the Irish Unity Party of Ulster.

January 20th, 1965

In his inaugural address, President Lyndon Johnson declares his "unswerving dedication to aiding our friends in Ireland in their fight to preserve their country’s hard-won unity". However, the pressures of implementing his Great Society domestic program and prosecuting the Vietnam War will make it increasingly difficult for him to fulfill that pledge as his tenure in office wears on.

January 23rd, 1965

FUA deputy general secretary Seamus Murphy publishes an editorial in the People’s Defender blasting President Johnson as "a would-be puppetmaster"; this is the first time the Free Ulster Alliance has directly criticized a US official.

January 27th, 1965

Belfast college student activist Bernadette Devlin joins the Irish Unity Party of Ulster.

February 2nd, 1965

The last peacekeepers from UNOBMISUL leave northern Ireland.

February 5th, 1965

Supporters of the IUPU and the FUA clash during a Unity Party of Ulster rally in Enniskillen; 78 people are injured in the melee and 26 are arrested by police on charges ranging from assault and battery to disturbing the peace.

February 8th, 1965

FUA supporters march outside the British embassy in Dublin to denounce a new Anglo-Irish agreement under which Britain and Ireland will share intelligence information on suspected terror groups in Ulster; FUA general secretary Liam Delaney mocks the agreement as "a license for political espionage".

February 12th, 1965

RTE broadcasts a radio adaptation of Voices Stilled; the FUA issues a statement the next day accusing RTE of trying to smear the party’s reputation.

February 18th, 1965

The Dáil Éireann begins debate on a bill intended to guarantee the civil rights of Irish Protestants in the reunified Ireland. The bill, inspired by the US Civil Rights Act of 1964, will be a source of controversy for years to come among Irishmen of all religious and ethnic persuasions.

February 21st, 1965

Reverend Ian Paisley gives a speech in Belfast denouncing the Protestant civil rights bill being debated in the Dáil Éireann as "a pathetic attempt to bribe the Protestant people of Ulster into accommodating an illegitimate agreement", referring to the 1954 Reunification Pact.

February 27th, 1965

Two FUA organizers are arrested in Dublin after undercover police spot the pair meeting with a known arms dealer to arrange a gun buy. Under questioning the two claim the guns were intended for self-defense by FUA members against the more violent segments of the party’s opponents; however, Dublin police suspect they were actually meant for use in a terror campaign aimed at forcing the Irish government to grant the FUA’s demand for an independent and socialist Ulster Republic.

And in fact the party’s attitudes and policy do seem to be taking on a more militant tone; at least one local FUA branch office in the Belfast area has taken to organizing what it calls a "self-defense brigade", a paramilitary group eerily reminiscent of the IRA cells which existed in southern Ireland during the 1918-1921 Irish War of Independence.

March 2nd, 1965

In a BBC-TV interview, Irish prime minister John Lynch pledges that if the Protestant civil rights bill passes the Dáil Éireann he will sign it into law. This statement provokes a torrent of protest letters and angry phone calls from critics of the bill.

March 6th, 1965

The CIA station chief in London reports to his superiors back at Langley that his agents in southern Ireland have found evidence the FUA is beginning to stockpile weapons and ammunition. Though there is as yet little additional evidence to corroborate charges the party is becoming a terrorist faction, the station chief’s report gives the Johnson Administration cause for concern that a new civil war may be on the horizon in the Irish Republic.

March 10th, 1965

FUA deputy general secretary Seamus Murphy angrily denies charges that his party is becoming a terrorist organization, insisting that any guns acquired by the party are intended strictly for its members’ self-defense against the FUA’s enemies.

March 16th, 1965

In an editorial timed to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day, the Dublin Examiner calls for a revival of the proposed summit of Irish, British, and U.S. leaders that was cancelled in 1963 as a result of the Profumo scandal and the JFK assassination. This summit, the editorial declares, may represent Ireland’s last best hope for avoiding the outbreak of a new civil war.

March 18th, 1965

The controversial Protestant civil rights bill passes the Dáil Éireann; making good on the pledge he took sixteen days earlier, Prime Minister Lynch quickly signs it into law.

March 21st, 1965

In one of his first major public appearances after the passage of the new Protestant civil rights law, Reverend Ian Paisley mocks the law as "Potemkin window dressing" and reiterates his demand for a return to British rule in Ulster.

April 13th, 1965

Two Derry teens belonging to the FUA’s youth organization are arrested for assault and battery after police catch them beating an elderly neighbor who’d criticized their constant loud playing of FUA party songs and marches. The teens’ trial will further polarize the already sharply divided pro-Pact and anti-Pact sides in Ulster and lead to some of the bloodiest riots in Ireland’s history.

April 16th, 1965

The defendants in the Derry April 13th assault trial, collectively nicknamed "the Derry Two" by the Irish press, are indicted on charges of assault and battery and disturbing the peace. Outside the courtroom, FUA youth wing supporters clash with Derry police; over thirty arrests are made in relation to the melee.

April 20th, 1965

An Irish navy petty seaman is court-martialed for insubordination after openly defying his captain’s direct order not to distribute pro-FUA literature among his shipmates. The FUA hails the seaman as "a defender of free expression" and offers him full membership in the group upon his release from the brig.

April 27th, 1965

Two Dublin police officers are shot and killed while attempting to execute a search warrant at the apartment of an FUA supporter alleged to be storing weapons for the group. Though who fired the fatal shots is not known at the time and will remain unclear for several months afterwards, both killings are quickly suspected to be the work of someone belonging to one of the FUA’s more violent factions; this incident further tarnishes the group’s already much-battered public image and sparks a movement among the more conservative wing of the Dáil Éireann to have the FUA outlawed.

May 1st, 1965

The Communist Party of Ireland and the Irish Unity Party of Ulster hold a joint march in Belfast as part of a May Day rally staged in support of the 1954 Reunification Pact.

May 2nd, 1965

The defendants in the "Derry Two" trial testify in their own behalf. Outside the courtroom, FUA demonstrators clash with the police; twenty-six people are arrested in connection with the melee.

May 4th, 1965

The case of the "Derry Two" goes to the jury.

May 6th, 1965

Vandals deface an Allied war memorial in Dungarvan in protest of the Lynch government’s refusal to grant Ulster independence.

May 7th, 1965

The jury in the "Derry Two" trial finds the defendants guilty of assault and battery and sentences them to consecutive one-year prison terms for their crime; within minutes after the verdict is announced, FUA supporters take to the streets in angry protests and burn Prime Minister John Lynch in effigy. The boys’ defense attorneys promise to appeal the verdict immediately.

May 11th, 1965

Two players for Belfast’s top amateur rugby team are kicked off the roster after making pro-FUA statements to the press following the team’s loss in a match against a rival club from Derry. In a brief written statement the team’s manager says the two players’ comments were, in his words, "detrimental to team discipline and morale". Hours later, the manager is found dead of a fractured skull and one of the two players dismissed from the Belfast squad is under arrest on murder charges.

May 22nd, 1965

Opening arguments are heard in the so-called "Belfast rugby trial". FUA members rally in support of the defendant, triggering a fresh round of accusations that the group is encouraging or at least condoning acts of violence in order to achieve its goal of an independent Ulster.

June 3rd, 1965

Irish federal police raid a paramilitary training camp south of Enniskillen. Although they cannot specifically prove it belongs to the FUA, it is suspected FUA "self-defense brigades" have been using this camp to drill themselves in the kind of guerrilla warfare tactics that might be employed in a future armed revolt against the Lynch government in Dublin.

June 8th, 1965

An Aer Lingus jet out of Dublin explodes somewhere over the coast of Scotland while en route to Glasgow; there are no survivors. An anonymous statement phoned to the Dublin Examiner claims that an FUA offshoot called the Ulster Liberation Front is responsible for the explosion and says it will make other attacks in the near future until Ulster gains its independence. Liam Delaney accuses Irish intelligence agents of masterminding the Aer Lingus plane’s destruction in order to give Dublin an excuse for suppressing the FUA.

June 17th, 1965

The "Belfast rugby trial" ends in a hung jury, touching off a wave of anti-FUA demonstrations across Ireland. One Cork tabloid newspaper headlines its front page the next day with the angry declaration "A MURDERER ALLOWED TO GET AWAY WITH HIS CRIME!"

June 22nd, 1965

The Irish Communist Party stages its largest anti-FUA rally yet, with more than seventy thousand demonstrators marching in Dublin to denounce the separatist group and speak out in support of the 1954 Reunification Pact.

July 3rd, 1965

An assistant to Reverend Ian Paisley is murdered in Derry. At the assistant’s funeral three days later, Paisley furiously accuses the FUA of orchestrating the murder in an attempt to intimidate him into halting his efforts to restore British rule to Ulster; he ends his peroration with the blunt warning "I will not be silenced!"


To Be Continued


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