Operation Motorman mural in Derry

© RicardMN Photography

© RicardMN Photography

Mural painted by ‘the Bogside Artists’. The mural was completed in July 2001 and is situated on Rossville Street in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom. The mural depicts some of the events that occured during ‘Operation Motorman’ on 31 July 1972.

The Bogside Artists are a trio of mural painters from Derry, Northern Ireland, consisting of Tom Kelly, his brother William Kelly, and Kevin Hasson (b. 8 January 1958). Their most famous work, a series of outdoor murals called the People’s Gallery, is located in the Bogside neighbourhood of Derry and depicts the events surrounding sectarian violence and civil rights protests in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

Operation Motorman was a large operation carried out by the British Army (HQ Northern Ireland) in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. The operation took place in the early hours of 31 July 1972 with the aim of retaking the “no-go areas” (areas controlled by residents, usually Irish republican paramilitaries) that had been established in Belfast, Derry and other large towns. During the operation, the British Army shot four people in Derry, killing a civilian and an unarmed IRA member.

The Bogside is a neighbourhood outside the city walls of Derry, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The large gable-wall murals by the Bogside Artists, Free Derry Corner and the Gasyard Féile (an annual music and arts festival held in a former gasyard) are popular tourist attractions. The Bogside is a majority Catholic/Irish republican area, and shares a border with the Protestant/Ulster loyalist enclave of the Fountain.

The area has been a focus point for many of the events of the Troubles; in 1969, a fierce three-day battle against the RUC and local Protestants, known as the Battle of the Bogside, became a starting point of the Troubles.

Between 1969 and 1972, the area along with the Creggan and other Catholic areas became a no-go area for the British Army and police. Both the Official and Provisional IRA openly patrolled the area and local residents often paid subscriptions to both.

On the 30 January 1972, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association organised a march against internment that was put into effect the year before turned into a blood bath known as Bloody Sunday. The British Parachute Regiment shot dead 14 unarmed protesters and injured 14 more; this resulted in a large surge of recruitment for both wings of the IRA in the city.

After Operation Motorman and the end of Free Derry and other no-go areas in Northern Ireland, the Bogside along with the majority of the city experienced frequent street riots and sectarian conflict lasting all the way to the early 1990s.

In 1974, the Official IRA declared an end to their armed campaign, and with volunteers on the ground already mad about the ceasefire in mid 1972, that crossed the line to hardliners. In result, Seamus Costello and other socialist militants formed the Irish Republican Socialist Movement. This new movement included the Irish National Liberation Army the paramilitary wing of the IRSM.

Derry and particularly the Bogside became one of many strongholds for the INLA; in fact all three volunteers who died in the 1981 Irish hunger strike were from Derry or County Londonderry. The Irish People’s Liberation Organisation, a breakaway group of the INLA, made a small but effective presence in Derry engaged in a feud with the INLA in the city along with other areas in Ireland from 1987 to 1992. The feud ended with the Provisionals stepping in and killing the main Belfast leadership while letting the rest of the organisation dissolve in the rest of Ireland. Throughout the rest of the 1990s, the Bogside became relatively peaceful compared to other localities of Northern Ireland at that time such as Belfast, even though street riots were still frequent. (Description from Wikipedia)

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