1971 and the Transformation of the Ulster Troubles

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This one-day conference on the 1971 crisis in Northern Ireland will be delivered online via MS Teams. It is a free event, open to the public

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1971 was a year of escalating crisis in Northern Ireland, marked by political instability and growing violence. Unionists hoped to celebrate the half century of the state through 'Ulster '71', but the news agenda was dominated by the introduction of Internment and a series of atrocities including the Ballymurphy massacre, the killings of the three Scottish soldiers, and fatal bombings on the Shankill and of McGurk's Bar.

This one-day public conference hosted by the QUB INstitute of Irish Studies explores some of the themes raised by the history and legacies of this catastrophic year, fifty years on.

Prof. Niall Ó Dochartaigh (Galway) will give a keynote lecture placing 1971 in the wider contect of the Troubles, and we will have talks by Tom Hennessey (Canterbury) on British government and Stormont, Sarah Campbell (Newcastle) on nationalism and the SDLP, Aaron Edwards (Leicester) on the British army, Gordon Gillespie (QUB) on loyalism, Martin McCleery (QUB) on the introduction and impact of internment, Melissa Baird (QUB) on the impact on the US, Liam Stone on the Ballymurphy massacre and its legecy, Graham Dawson (Brighton) on the oral history of 1971, and Richard Gallagher (QUB) on the representation of 1971 in film.

Registration is free: please sign up by Eventbite by 24 June and we will send you a link to participate.


1) The Crisis of 1971 (10.00-11.20) Chair – Melissa Baird

- Tom Hennessy (Christ Church Canterbury): Stormont, Westminster and the Politics of 1971

- Gordon Gillespie (QUB): ‘Ulster ’71, Come and Join in the Fun’: Unionism, Loyalism and 1971

- Aaron Edwards (Sandhurst): ‘Undertaking Offensive Operations on a Hit or Miss Basis’: The British Army and the IRA in 1971

2) Internment, Ballymurphy and the aftermath (11.30-12.50) Chair -- Peter Gray

- Martin McCleery (QUB): Internment: Failure or Success?

- Melissa Baird (QUB): ‘Ulster is Becoming Britain's Vietnam’: Irish America and Internment

- Liam Stone: Internment, the Ballymurphy Massacre and the Impact on the Nationalist Community

3) Legacies and Memories of 1971 (14.00-15.20) Chair -- Martin McCleery

- Sarah Campbell (Newcastle): ‘Impaled on a Hook’: The SDLP and Internment, 1971-75

- Richard Gallagher (QUB): 1971 on Film

- Graham Dawson (Brighton), Memories of 1971 in Life Stories from the Dúchas Oral History Archive

4) Plenary: (15.20-16.20) Chair -- Peter Gray

- Niall Ó Dochartaigh (NUIG) Crossing the Precipice: Northern Ireland 1971


Thomas Hennessey is Professor of Modern British and Irish History at Canterbury Christ Church University. His many books include The Evolution of the Troubles 1970-72 (Irish Academic Press 2007) and The Democratic Unionist Party. From Protest to Power co-authored with Jonathan Tonge, Marie Braniff, James W McAuley and Sophie A Whiting (OUP 2014).

Dr Gordon Gillespie is a writer and academic who is a research associate of the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s University. He has published widely in the Troubles, including Years of Darkness: The Troubles Remembered (2008) A Short History of the Troubles (2009).

Dr Aaron Edwards is Senior Lecturer in Defence and International Affairs at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and an honorary fellow of the University of Leicester. His books include UVF: Behind the Mask (Merrion Press, 2017) and most recently, Agents of Influence: Britain’s Secret Intelligence War Against the IRA (Merrion Press, 2021).

Dr Martin McCleery holds his PhD in Politics from QUB and has been a lecturer in intelligence studies at Cardiff University. He is the author of Operation Demetrius and its Aftermath: A New History of the Use of Internment without Trial in Northern Ireland 1971-75 (Manchester UP, 2015)

Melissa Baird is a PhD Student in History at QUB, researching the relationship between Irish America and the Northern Irish civil rights movement from 1967 to 1972.

Liam Stone is a community activist from Ballymurphy.

Dr Sarah Campbell is a senior lecturer in Irish/British History at Newcastle University. Her book Gerry Fitt and the SDLP: 'In a minority of one' was published by Manchester UP in 2015.

Richard Gallagher is a PhD student in Film Studies at QUB who is researching the cinematic representation of Northern Irish unionists.

Graham Dawson is professor in Historical Cultural Studies at the University of Brighton. His many publications on the memory and legacies of violence include Making Peace with the Past? Memory, Trauma and the Irish Troubles, published by Manchester UP in 2007.

Niall Ó Dochartaigh is Personal Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the National University of Ireland Galway. He has published extensively on the Northern Ireland conflict and on mediation, peace negotiations, and territorial conflict. His publications include Civil Rights to Armalites: Derry and the birth of the Irish Troubles (Cork University Press 1997 – with a second edition by Palgrave Macmillan in 2005), and most recently Deniable Contact: Back-Channel Negotiation in Northern Ireland (OUP, 2021).

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Organiser Prof. Peter Gray

Organiser of 1971 and the Transformation of the Ulster Troubles

Director, Institute of Irish Studies, QUB

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