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A Chronology of the Conflict - 1973



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Text and Research: Martin Melaugh
Material is added to this site on a regular basis - information on this page may change

A Chronology of the Conflict - 1968 to the Present 1968 1969
1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
2000 2001 2002 2003            

The following is a draft chronology of the conflict for the year 1973

1973 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Sources Notes

1973

January 1973

Monday 1 January 1973
item mark Two men were found shot dead near Burnfoot, County Donegal, they had been killed by an unidentified Loyalist paramilitary group.
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item mark The United Kingdom (UK), including Northern Ireland, joined the European Union (then the EEC). The Republic of Ireland also joined the EEC on the same date. [Membership of the EU was to have different consequences for the two parts of Ireland and also have more general implications for the whole of the island. The Republic of Ireland has over the years received more funding than Northern Ireland from the EU for agriculture and to improve the infrastructure of the country. Later, with the removal of internal border controls, one physical manifestation of the economic border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, namely the Customs Posts on every 'approved' road, disappeared allowing for freer movement of people and goods between the two parts of the island. See article by Jeson Ingraham.]

Tuesday 2 January 1973
[ proni on cain Political Developments. ]

Monday 8 January 1973
[ proni on cain Political Developments. ]

Tuesday 9 January 1973
[ proni on cain Political Developments. ]

Sunday 14 January 1973
item mark Two Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers were killed in Derry by a booby-trap bomb attached to their car by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). item mark A third RUC officer was killed in a land mine attack near Cappagh, County Tyrone.
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Tuesday 16 January 1973
[ proni on cain Political Developments. ]

Saturday 20 January 1973
item mark A car bomb exploded in Sackville Place, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, and killed one person and injured 17 others. The person killed was Thomas Douglas (25). The car used in the bombing had been hijacked at Agnes Street, Belfast. [No organisation claimed responsibility but the bomb was believed to have been planted by one of the Loyalist paramilitary organisations.]
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Sunday 28 January 1973
item mark In the run up to the first anniversary of 'Bloody Sunday' there was serious rioting in Derry.

Tuesday 30 January 1973
item mark Francis Smith (28), a member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), was found shot dead in the Falls area of Belfast. He had been killed by the IRA.
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Wednesday 31 January 1973
item mark A Catholic boy, Philip Rafferty (14), was abducted and killed by Loyalists in Belfast.
item mark A young Catholic man, Gabriel Savage (17), was shot dead by Loyalists in Belfast.
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February 1973

Thursday 1 February 1973
item mark Patrick Heenan (50), a Catholic man, was killed in a grenade attack carried out by the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF). [It was later established that the UFF was a cover name which members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) used to claim the responsibility for the killing of Catholics.]
item mark A British soldier was shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Strabane.
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item mark Frank King, a Lieutenant-General, succeeded Harry Tuzo as General Officer Commanding (GOC) the British Army in Northern Ireland.

Friday 2 February 1973
item mark A Protestant civilian, James Greer (21), was shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) at his workplace in Belfast.
item mark A Catholic civilian, Patrick Brady (28), was found dead having been shot by Loyalists in Belfast.
item mark A member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) was shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Belfast.
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item mark There was serious rioting in Protestant areas of east Belfast.

Saturday 3 February 1973
item mark A Catholic civilian was shot dead by Loyalists at his cafe in York Street, Belfast.
item mark A member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was shot dead by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) in the New Lodge area of Belfast.
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item mark Two Loyalists were detained, and then subsequently interned (5 February 1973), because of their alleged involvement in the killing of an innocent Catholic man. Following their arrest a crowd of approximately 2,000 marched in protest to the Castlereagh Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) station to demand the release of the two men.

Sunday 4 February 1973
item mark A member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and 3 Catholic civilians were shot dead by members of the British Army in the New Lodge area of Belfast.
item mark Three other people died in separate incidents in Belfast.
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Monday 5 February 1973
item mark Following a decision to intern two Loyalists, suspected of the murder of a Catholic man, there was a call for a general strike under the auspices of the United Loyalist Council (ULC) . [Although Internment had been introduced on Monday 9 August 1971 and hundreds of Catholics / Nationalists had been arrested and interned, this was the first time that Protestants had been held under the Detention of Terrorists Order. This decision was to lead to a strike by Loyalists and an upsurge in Loyalist violence.]

Tuesday 6 February 1973
item mark Although a number of 'moderate' Unionist politicians called on people not to heed the call by the United Loyalist Council (ULC) for a region wide strike, by the evening cuts in the electricity supply began to affect Belfast. [The ULC strike officially began on 7 February 1973.]

Wednesday 7 February 1973
United Loyalist Council Strike
item mark The United Loyalist Council (ULC), led by William Craig, the then leader of Ulster Vanguard, organised a one-day general strike. The ULC was an umbrella group which co-ordinated the activities of the Loyalist Association of Workers (LAW), the Ulster Defence Association (UDA; the largest of the Loyalist paramilitary groups), and a number of other Loyalist paramilitary groups. The aim of the strike was to "re-establish some kind of Protestant or loyalist control over the affairs in the province, especially over security policy" (Anderson, 1994, p4). Many areas of Northern Ireland were affected by power cuts and public transport was also badly affected. These in turn had the affect of closing many businesses, shops and schools. Loyalists paramilitary groups used 'persuasion' or intimidation to force many people from going to work and also to close any premises which had opened. A number of Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) stations were attacked by crowds of Loyalists. There were also many violent incidents throughout the day with the worst of them centred around Belfast. item mark Four people were killed in separate shooting incidents in Belfast. Three of these were members of Loyalist paramilitary groups of whom two were killed by members of the British Army. There had been eight explosions and 35 cases of arson. The strike was not very well supported by the Protestant population of Northern Ireland. Many Unionists were upset by the level of violence that accompanied the strike.

Friday 9 February 1973
item mark [Public Records 1972 - Released 1 January 2003: Weekly Intelligence Report from M.S.Bayley, then a Brigadier in the British Army, to Edward Heath, then British Prime Minister.]

Saturday 10 February 1973
item mark Two members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) were killed in a premature explosion near Strangford, County Down.
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Thursday 15 February 1973
item mark Albert Browne, then a member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), was found guilty of killing a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in October 1972. [Initially Browne was sentenced to death but this was later commuted to life imprisonment. The death penalty was later abolished as part of the Emergency Provisions Act.]
[ proni on cain Political Developments. ]

Saturday 17 February 1973
item mark William Craig, then leader of Vanguard, address a rally in the Ulster Hall, Belfast. In his speech Craig said: "Much though we wish to maintain the Union we should all be seriously thinking of an independent dominion of Ulster".

Sunday 18 February 1973
item mark Two Catholic civilians were shot dead by Loyalists in a gun attack on the Ravenhill Road, Belfast.
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Tuesday 20 February 1973
item mark Two members of the British Army were shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in an attack in Cupar Street, Belfast.
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Sunday 25 February 1973
item mark A Catholic boy, Gordon Gallagher (9), was killed by a booby-trap bomb that had been planted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Leenan Gardens, Derry.
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Tuesday 27 February 1973
item mark Two Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers were shot by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) near Moira, County Antrim. [One officer died at the scene and the other died from his wounds on 25 March 1973.]
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March 1973

Thursday 1 March 1973
item mark There was a general election in the Republic of Ireland. As a result of the election there was a change of government. Fine Gael / Labour coalition government took over from Fianna Fáil which had been in power for 16 years. Liam Cosgrave succeeded Jack Lynch as Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister).

Monday 5 March 1973
[ proni on cain Political Developments. ]

Thursday 8 March 1973
The Border Poll
item mark A referendum was held on whether or not the people of Northern Ireland wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom (UK). This referendum became known as the 'Border Poll'. However, Nationalists boycotted the referendum and only 57 per cent of the electorate took part in the poll. It was not surprising therefore that, of those who took part, 98 per cent were in favour of maintaining the Union with Britain.
item mark A British soldier guarding a polling station in the lower Falls area of Belfast was shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
item mark A Catholic civilian was found shot dead in an abandoned car in the Oldpark area of Belfast. He had been killed by Loyalist paramilitaries.
item mark The IRA exploded two car bombs in London and injured over 200 people. (One person in the vicinity died a sudden death due to a heart problem; listed in appendix to Sutton.) One of the bombs had been planted at the 'Old Bailey' court in London. Two other car bombs were diffused. [Nine people were found guilty of the bombings on 14 November 1973. Among those found guilty was Gerry Kelly. Kelly was later to become a leading member of Sinn Féin and played a role in the negotiations that led to the Goody Friday Agreement on 10 April 1998.]
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item mark There were bombs in Belfast and Derry.
item mark Loyalist paramilitaries carried out a raid on an Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) guard at a polling station in east Belfast and stole 8 British Army issue self-loading rifles (SLRs) and ammunition. The members of the guard claimed that they were 'overpowered' by the Loyalists.

Tuesday 20 March 1973
item mark A government White Paper entitled 'Northern Ireland Constitutional Proposals' was published which proposed a devolved power-sharing 78 member assembly in Northern Ireland and a Council of Ireland. The election would take place under Proportional Representation (PR) and Westminster would retain the powers relating to law and order matters. These proposals followed on from a discussion paper that had been issued on 30 October 1972 entitled 'The Future of Northern Ireland'. [There was an element in Unionist political opinion which was opposed to the idea of power-sharing and still favoured majority rule as the only basis for government. However, the idea of close links with the Republic of Ireland through the proposed Council of Ireland was one which would prove problematic to many Unionists.]

Friday 23 March 1973
item mark Three members of the British Army were shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in a house in the Antrim Road, Belfast. The soldiers had been lured to the house.
item mark A Catholic civilian was shot dead by Loyalists in Belfast.
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Tuesday 27 March 1973
item mark The governing body of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) the Ulster Unionist Council held a meeting to decide its position with regard to the White Paper published by the government on 20 March 1973. The council voted by 381 to 231 votes to accept the White Paper. Nevertheless, there remain strong opposition to the proposals even among those who decided to support Brian Faulkner. [Following the vote a number of members of the UUP left to form a new political grouping on 30 March 1973.]

Wednesday 28 March 1973
item mark A ship (the 'Claudia') was intercepted off the Waterford coast in the Republic of Ireland. It was found to contain 5 tonnes of weapons which were on route to the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Friday 30 March 1973
item mark William Craig, and some other former members of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), formed a new political party the Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party (VUPP). The VUPP was formed with the support of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). [In addition to having close links with Loyalist paramilitary groups the VUPP also was prepared to accept an independent Northern Ireland because of the inevitable Unionist domination of any new government. Indeed the VUPP had one Loyalist paramilitary grouping, the Vanguard Service Corps (VSC) directly linked with the party.]

April 1973

Monday 2 April 1973
item mark [Public Records 1972 - Released 1 January 2003: Telegram from Edward Heath, then British Prime Minister, to Liam Cosgrave, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), seeking further cooperation between security forces in Northern Ireland and those in the Republic of Ireland.]

Wednesday 4 April 1973
item mark [Public Records 1972 - Released 1 January 2003: Letter from A.W.Stephens, then Head of Defence Secretariat 10 at the Ministry of Defence, to W.K.K.White, then an official at the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, about border security in Belleek, County Fermanagh.]

Thursday 5 April 1973
item mark [Public Records 1972 - Released 1 January 2003: Report by Frank Steele of a visit to the Bogside and Creggan, Derry, on 4 to 5 April 1973.]
[ proni on cain Discrimination. ]

Saturday 7 April 1973
item mark The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a land-mine attack on a mobile patrol of the British Army and killed two soldiers near Newtownhamilton, County Armagh.
item mark A member of the Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA) was shot dead near his home in Armagh city.
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Tuesday 10 April 1973
item mark The British government introduced the 'Northern Ireland Assembly Bill' in parliament in Westminster. This bill was to pave the way for an assembly at Stormont based on proposals outlined in the White Paper, 'Northern Ireland Constitutional Proposals', which had been published on 20 March 1973. [The bill became law on 3 May 1973.]

Sunday 22 April 1973
item mark One of the leaders of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Dáithí Ó Conaill, addressed a public demonstration to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. Following the speech he managed to avoid arrest.

May 1973

Tuesday 1 May 1973
[ proni on cain Bloody Sunday. ]

Wednesday 2 May 1973
[ proni on cain Bloody Sunday. ]

Thursday 3 May 1973
item mark The Northern Ireland Assembly Act received its Royal Assent and became law. The Act provided for a 78 member Assembly elected using Proportional Representation (PR).

Friday 4 May 1973
[ proni on cain Bloody Sunday. ]

Saturday 5 May 1973
item mark Three members of the British Army were killed by a booby-trap bomb near Crossmaglen, County Armagh. The attack was carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
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Thursday 10 May 1973
[ proni on cain Bloody Sunday. ]

Sunday 13 May 1973
item mark Two members of the British Army were killed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in a bomb attack on the Donegall Road, Belfast.
item mark A member of the IRA was killed as drove through an Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) Vehicle Check Point (VCP) in County Tyrone.
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Monday 14 May 1973
item mark Martin McGuinness was released from prison in the Republic of Ireland having served a six months sentence.

Tuesday 15 May 1973
item mark The British government introduced the 'Northern Ireland Constitution Bill' in parliament in Westminster. [The bill received its Royal Assent on 18 July 1973.]

Thursday 17 May 1973
item mark The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a booby-trap bomb attack on five members of the British Army who were off duty at the time. The attack occurred in Omagh, County Tyrone. [Four soldiers were killed on the day and the fifth soldier died on 3 June 1973.]
item mark Loyalists killed two Catholic civilians in Belfast.
item mark The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) shot dead a man in County Fermanagh.
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Thursday 24 May 1973
item mark The Irish Republican Army (IRA) killed two members of the British Army who were searching a house in Cullaville, County Armagh.
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Wednesday 30 May 1973
District Council Elections
item mark Local government elections were held in Northern Ireland based on the new 26 District Councils. The elections were contested on a 'proportional representation' (PR) basis, using the single transferable vote (STV) system, for the first time in Northern Ireland since 1920. The turnout for the election was 68.1 per cent of the electorate. There were a number of parties which were contesting elections in Northern Ireland for the first time, including: Alliance Party, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Republican Clubs, Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and Vanguard. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) took 41.4 per cent of the vote, while the SDLP won almost all of the Nationalist / Catholic vote. [See the page on election results for full details of the local government results.]

Thursday 31 May 1973
item mark Loyalist paramilitaries carried out three bomb and gun attacks on Catholic owned public houses in Belfast, killing 2 men and injuring over 20 people. In the first attack at 8.30pm a Loyalist gunman believed to be a member of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), a covername for the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), opened fire on customers in Muldoon's Bar with a Sterling sub-machine gun (SMG). A bomb was also thrown into the bar. Thomas Curry (50), a civilain sea captain from Preston in England, was killed in the attack. [It was latter revealed that the gun used in the attack had been stolen from a Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) base on 23 October 1972 (Irish News; 3 May 2006).] Later there was a bomb attack on McGlade's Bar in Donegall Street in which Gerard Barnes (31), a Catholic civilian, was killed as he walked pass the bar. Members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) were believed to be responsible.
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June 1973

Saturday 2 June 1973
item mark Two Protestant civilians were shot dead by members of a Loyalist paramilitary group during an attack in Druse Street, Belfast.

Tuesday 5 June 1973
item mark At the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) Lord Windlesham was replaced by Lord Belstead as the government spokesman on Northern Ireland. David Howell became Minister of State at Stormont.

Thursday 7 June 1973
[ proni on cain Political Developments; Sunningdale; Ulster Workers’ Council Strike. ]

Tuesday 12 June 1973
item mark Six Protestant civilians, aged between 60 and 76, were killed when a car-bomb exploded in Railway Road, Coleraine. The attack was carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) who had given an inadequate warning of the bomb.
item mark A Catholic civilian was shot dead by the British Army in Belfast.
death button

Thursday 14 June 1973
item mark James Callaghan, then shadow Foreign Secretary, speaking in the House of Commons, said that Britain might reconsider its position with regard to Northern Ireland if the Assembly was 'sabotaged'.

Saturday 23 June 1973
item mark Harold Wilson, then leader of the Labour Party, said that if the principals in the White Paper were rejected it might be necessary to reconsider the relationship between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Monday 25 June 1973
item mark Three members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) were killed when a bomb they were transporting exploded prematurely on the Gortin Road, near Omagh, County Tyrone.
item mark A Protestant civilian was shot dead by Loyalists in Belfast.
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Tuesday 26 June 1973
item mark Paddy Wilson (39), then a Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) Stormont Senator, and Irene Andrews (29), then his secretary, were found stabbed to death in a quarry on the Hightown Road, Belfast. They had been killed by members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) a covername for the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). [John White was later convicted for his part in these killings. White was later to become a leading spokesman for the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) and was involved in the negotiations that led to the 'Good Friday' Peace Agreement on 10 April 1998.]
item mark A civilian employed by the British Army was shot dead by the IRA as he left an Army base in Derry.
item mark A Catholic civilian died four days after been shot by the British Army in Derry.
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Thursday 28 June 1973
Northern Ireland Assembly Election
item mark Elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly were contested in Northern Ireland. There was some violence during the day, some of which was directed against a number of polling stations. However, the turnout was high at 72.3 per cent. The election gave those parties supporting the White Paper 52 seats whereas those parties against the paper obtained 26 seats. However, a number of the candidates who were elected with the 'pro-White Paper' parties were themselves against the proposals so reducing the margin in the new Assembly. [See the page on election results for full details of the Assembly results.]
[ proni on cain Political Developments. ]

July 1973

Sunday 1 July 1973
item mark William Whitelaw, then Secretary of State, travelled to Chequers for a meeting with at 8.00pm with Edward Heath, then British Prime Minster.
item mark [Public Records 1972 - Released 1 January 2003: Note of meeting between William Whitelaw, then Secretary of State, and Edward Heath, then British Prime Minster. ]

(?) July 1973
item mark Liam Cosgrave, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), flew to London for a meeting with Edward Heath, then British Prime Minister.

Tuesday 17 July 1973
item mark Two members of the British Army were killed by a booby-trap bomb that had been planted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Divis Flats, Belfast.
item mark A Catholic civilian was killing in a Loyalist bomb attack in Crumlin, County Antrim.
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Wednesday 18 July 1973
item mark The 'Northern Ireland Constitution Act' received its Royal Assent. The Act officially abolished the Stormont Parliament.

Saturday 21 July 1973
item mark Two members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) died when a bomb they were transporting exploded prematurely.
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Tuesday 31 July 1973
First Assembly Meeting
item mark The new Northern Ireland Assembly met for the first time amid noisy scenes of protest.

August 1973

Sunday 5 August 1973
item mark A Catholic husband and wife, Francis Mullan (59) and Bernadette Mullan (39), were found shot dead at their farmhouse near Moy, County Tyrone. They had been killed by an unidentified Loyalist paramilitary group.
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Monday 6 August 1973
item mark Kenneth Littlejohn, one of two brothers arrested during a bank robbery in the Republic of Ireland, claimed during his trial in Dublin that he had been working for British Intelligence (MI6) in an attempt to infiltrate the Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA). [Littlejohn was later to receive a sentence of 20 years imprisonment. At no time did the British government comment on the allegations.]

Saturday 11 August 1973
item mark Two members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) were killed when the bomb they were transporting exploded prematurely near Castlederg, County Tryone.
item mark A Protestant civilian was shot dead by Loyalists in Belfast.
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Sunday 12 August 1973
item mark The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) tried out a new plastic baton round during a riot. [The plastic baton round was eventually to replace the rubber baton round that had been in use since 2 August 1970.]

Thursday 16 August 1973
item mark Two members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) died when a mortar bomb exploded prematurely during an attack on the join British Army / Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) base in Pomeroy, County Tyrone.
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Saturday 25 August 1973
item mark Loyalists shot and killed 3 Catholic civilians during an attack on their place of work on the Cliftonville Road, Belfast.
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Wednesday 29 August 1973
item mark The Irish Republican Army (IRA) planted two bombs in Solihull, England and also planted an incendiary device in Harrod's store in London.

Friday 31 August 1973
item mark Two members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) were shot by British Army soldiers in Ballymurphy, Belfast. [One IRA member died on the day and the other died on 22 September 1973.]
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September 1973

Monday 10 September 1973
item mark There were two bomb attacks at train stations in London; the attacks were carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). At 1.00pm a small bomb exploded at King's Cross Railway Station, London. At 1.05pm the Press Association received a phone call warning of a bomb at Euston Railway Station. At 1.15pm another small bomb (estimated at 2-5 pounds of explosives) exploded outside the Rail Bar at Euston Station, London. There were no deaths but 12 people were injured in the blast.

Sunday 16 September 1973
item mark Tommy Herron, then vice-chairman of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), was found shot dead at Drumbo, near Lisburn. [Various claims were later made about who was responsible for his killing. Some people suggested that he may have been killed by elements within the UDA because of his alleged involvement in racketeering. Others suggested that a branch of British Army intelligence may have been involved.]
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Monday 17 September 1973
item mark Liam Cosgrave, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), and Edward Heath, then British Prime Minister, met at Baldonnell, Co Dublin.

Tuesday 18 September 1973
item mark Edward Heath, then British Prime Minister, gave a media interview where he said that if the Northern Ireland Assembly failed to establish a power-sharing Executive by March 1974 then the best option would be to integrate Northern Ireland fully into the United Kingdom (UK).

Friday 21 September 1973
[ proni on cain Political Developments; Discrimination. ]

Sunday 23 September 1973
item mark A British soldier was killed when trying to defuse a bomb which had been planted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Birmingham.
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Monday 24 September 1973
item mark Garret FitzGerald, then Irish Foreign Minister, said that the British and Irish governments had agreed on the formation of an Executive for Northern Ireland, and on the reform of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the reform of the civil service, and on the creation of a Council of Ireland.

Friday 28 September 1973
[ proni on cain Political Developments; Discrimination. ]

September 1973
[ proni on cain Political Developments; Discrimination. ]

October 1973

Friday 5 October 1973
item mark William Whitelaw, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, chaired a series of talks at Stormont Castle, Belfast, on the question of forming an Executive to govern Northern Ireland. The talks involved representatives of, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI), and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). The parties disagreed on issues related to internment, policing, and a Council of Ireland, but did manage to make progress on other less controversial areas in the social and economic spheres. [See also: 9 October 1973; 16 October 1973]
[ proni on cain Political Developments. ]

Monday 8 October 1973
item mark A group of Ulster Unionists who were opposed to sharing power with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) called for the resignation of Brian Faulkner, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP).

Tuesday 9 October 1973
item mark Representatives of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI), and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), met again at Stormont Castle, Belfast for further talks. The parties announced that they had reached agreement on an economic and social programme.

Tuesday 16 October 1973
item mark Representatives of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI), and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), met again at Stormont Castle, Belfast, for additional talks on the possibility of devolved government for Northern Ireland. The position of the parties on matters related to law and order were beginning to move closer to each other although there remained serious differences of opinion on specific issues.

Tuesday 23 October 1973
item mark The Standing Committee of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) voted by 132 to 105 to support a policy which would allow UUP members to take part in any future power-sharing executive. [While Brian Faulkner, then leader of the UUP expressed his public pleasure at the result, the narrowness of the victory was an indication of deep divisions within the UUP.]

Wednesday 31 October 1973
item mark The Irish Republican Army (IRA) use a hijacked helicopter to free three of their members from the exercise yard of Mountjoy Prison, Dublin. On of those who escaped was Séamus Twomey, then Chief of Staff of the IRA. [Twomey was recaptured in December 1977.]

November 1973

(?) November 1973
item mark The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) began what was to be a 43 day ceasefire.

Thursday 1 November 1973
item mark Jamie Flanagan replaced Graham Shillington as the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). Flanagan was the first Catholic to hold this post.

Wednesday 14 November 1973
item mark In London nine people were found guilty of planting bombs in the city on 8 March 1973. Eight of those found guilty received life sentences. Of these six admitted to membership of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Friday 16 November 1973
item mark [Public Records 1972 - Released 1 January 2003: Letter, and annexes, about 'Operation Folklore' from Mr A.W.Stephens, then Head of Defence Secretariat 10, to Mr V.H.S.Benham, an official at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) in London. The letter discussed the possibility of British soldiers being able to open fire in Northern Ireland without fear of legal penality.]

Tuesday 20 November 1973
item mark The Ulster Unionist Council, then the policy making branch of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), voted by 379 to 369 in favour of power-sharing.
[ proni on cain Political Developments. ]

Wednesday 21 November 1973
Executive Agreed
item mark Agreement was reached between various political parties about the establishment of a power-sharing Executive to govern Northern Ireland. William Whitelaw, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, appeared on the steps of Stormont (with tears in his eyes) following the final negotiations. The Executive was to consist of 11 members. [The actual composition was to be 6 Faulknerite Unionists, 4 Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and 1 Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI). There were also to be 4 non-executive office holders who would not have a vote: 2 SDLP, 1 Unionist, and 1 APNI.]
[ proni on cain Political Developments. ]

Thursday 22 November 1973
item mark Edward Heath, then British Prime Minister, appointed the new Executive. Brian Faulkner was to become the Chief Executive and Gerry Fitt was to be his Deputy. [News of the Executive was welcomed by politicians in Britain and in the Republic of Ireland, but Loyalists rejected the proposals. The matter of the Council of Ireland was left outstanding and wasn't resolved until agreement was reached at Sunningdale 6 - 9 December 1973.]
[ proni on cain Political Developments. ]

Friday 23 November 1973
item mark William Whitelaw, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, gave details of the agreement on the Executive to the House of Commons at Westminster.

Sunday 25 November 1973
item mark Two British soldiers were shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Derry.
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Wednesday 28 November 1973
item mark Assembly proceedings were halted due to verbal assaults on those who had been named as members of the proposed Executive. The disruption was caused by Loyalists and those opposed to the new Executive. Eventually the meeting of the Assembly had to be adjourned.

December 1973

Monday 3 December 1973
item mark Francis Pym succeeded William Whitelaw as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. [Many people were critical of this particular change given that the talks on the crucial issue of the Council of Ireland were scheduled to begin on 6 December 1973. Pym it was believed had comparatively little knowledge of Northern Ireland.]
item mark Harry West and other 'unpledged' Unionists announced the setting up of a new group called the Ulster Unionist Assembly Party (UUAP). The UUAP later held a joint meeting with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Vanguard in the Ulster Hall, Belfast.

Tuesday 4 December 1973
item mark Francis Pym, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, held a meeting with Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Paisley stormed out of the meeting having been told that Loyalists would not be invited to participate in the Sunningdale conference but could come to put their point of view.
[ proni on cain Sunningdale. ]

Wednesday 5 December 1973
item mark During a meeting of the Assembly pro-Executive Unionist members were physically attacked by Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Vanguard members. Police were called to the Assembly.

Thursday 6 December 1973
item mark William Craig, then leader of Vanguard, Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and Harry West, then leader of the grouping called the Ulster Unionist Assembly Party, held a joint rally in the Ulster Hall and formed the United Ulster Unionist Council (UUUC) to try to oppose power-sharing and to bring down the power-sharing Executive. The rally was attended by approximately 600 delegates from the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) constituency associations.

Thursday 6 - Sunday 9 December 1973
Sunningdale Agreement
item mark The Civil Service Staff College at Sunningdale in England played host to a conference to try to resolve the remaining difficulties surrounding the setting up of the power-sharing Executive for Northern Ireland. Sunningdale was the first occasion since 1925 that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK), the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), and the Northern Ireland government - in the form of the Northern Ireland Executive (designate) - had attended the same talks on the future of Northern Ireland. Edward Heath, then British Prime Minister, and Liam Cosgrave, then Taoiseach, and senior ministers attended in addition to representatives of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI). The participants discussed a number of matters but the main item of concern centred on the unresolved issue of the 'Irish Dimension' of any future government of Northern Ireland. Proposals surrounding this 'Irish Dimension' were finally to be agreed in the form of a proposed Council of Ireland. The elements of the proposed Council were that it would consist of a Council of Ministers and a Consultative Assembly. The Council of Ministers was to be comprised of seven members from the Northern Ireland Executive and seven members of the Irish government. This Council would have executive and harmonising functions and a consultative role. The Consultative Assembly was to be made up of 30 members from the Northern Ireland Assembly and the same number from the Dáil. This Assembly was to have advisory and review functions. [A communiqué was issued on 9 December 1973.]
[ proni on cain Sunningdale; Ulster Workers’ Council Strike. ]

Sunday 9 December 1973
item mark A communiqué was issued which announced that agreement had been reached at the talks at Sunningdale; this communiqué was to become known as the Sunningdale Agreement.

Monday 10 December 1973
item mark Loyalists announced the establishment of the Ulster Army Council (UAC) to resist the proposed Council of Ireland. The UAC was an umbrella group for the main Loyalist paramilitary groups and included the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

Wednesday 18 December 1973
[ proni on cain Sunningdale. ]

Wednesday 19 December 1973
[ proni on cain Sunningdale. ]

Monday 24 December 1973
item mark Two members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and a Protestant civilian were killed in a bomb attack on a public house in Monaghan Street, Newry, County Down. The bomb was being planted by the IRA and exploded prematurely.
death button

Monday 31 December 1973
item mark [Public Records 1974 - Released 1 January 2005: Statement by the Northern Ireland Executive following its first meeting at Stormont Castle, Belfast, on Monday 31 December 1973. The statement set out the Executive's hopes for the future and called on people in Northern Ireland to allow 1974 to be "The Year of Reconciliation".]
[ proni on cain Sunningdale; Ulster Workers’ Council Strike. ]

 


Sources
This chronology has been compiled from a number of sources:
  • Bew, P. and Gillespie, G. (1999) Northern Ireland A chronology of the Troubles 1968-1999. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan Ltd.
  • Elliott, S. and Flackes, W.D. (1999) Northern Ireland A Political Directory 1968-1999. Belfast: The Blackstaff Press.
  • Fortnight Magazine's monthly chronology of 'the Troubles'.
  • Sutton, M. (1994) An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland 1969-1993. Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications. The Sutton Index of Deaths 1969-2001 - see in particular the list of deaths for 1973.
  • Various newspapers
  • For a full list of, and links to, on-line sources see the Guide to the Internet.

    Notes
    Each entry contains information, where relevant, on the following topic areas:

  • Major security incidents
  • Political developments
  • Policy initiatives
  • Economic matters
  • Other relevant items
    Information contained within square brackets [   ] may contain commentary or information that only became publicly available at a later date. Any piece of information which is followed by a question mark in parenthesis (?) is a best estimate while awaiting an update.

    A Chronology of the Conflict - 1968 to the Present 1968 1969
    1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
    1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
    1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
    2000 2001 2002 2003            

  • CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
    CAIN is based within the University of Ulster.


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