Bombay Street 30 Years On
In August 1969, the Six Counties erupted in civil unrest and loyalist pogrom as the Protestant state for a Protestant people came apart at the seams. Fueled by the demand for civil rights, nationalists were no longer prepared to endure discrimination and second-class citizenship, and the only answer the statelet had for the demands of its oppressed minority was violence and repression.
Two geographical landmarks stand out when recalling those few brief and turbulent days, which had tremendous consequences for the Orange State, for British rule in the Six Counties, and for republican resistance to both. Free Derry Corner and Bombay Street became synonymous with that period. Free Derry Corner was the spot where nationalists, armed with petrol bombs, stones, and any other missiles that came to hand, took on and defended Free Derry from the RUC, the B Specials and Protestant gangs.
In Belfast, days later, Protestant mobs took advantage of the IRA's disorganisation and lack of weaponry to invade Catholic areas, driving people from their homes, burning, and looting. The pogrom taught a valuable lesson to republicans. A repeat of such an attack would never again be allowed. Of all the areas worst affected in the west and north of the city, however, one, Bombay Street, stood out in people's memories and became the symbol of Belfast's last pogrom.
The following series of interviews by An Phoblacht's Laura Friel tells some of the story of that critical period in Belfast's troubled history, a moment which brought British soldiers onto the streets and set the scene for the long war ahead, 30 years ago.