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A Chronology of the Conflict - 1978



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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 1978

1978 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Sources Notes

1978

January 1978

Sunday 8 January 1978
item mark Jack Lynch, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), called for a British declaration of intent to withdraw from Northern Ireland. The statement was supported by many in the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland.

Wednesday 11 January 1978
item mark The Fair Employment Agency (FEA) issued a report which indicated that the Catholic community experienced a higher level of unemployment than the Protestant community. In particular it pointed to the fact that Catholic men were two and a half times more likely to be unemployed than Protestant men.

Friday 13 January 1978
item mark The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a bomb attack on the Guildhall in Derry causing serious damage. [The building had reopened seven months earlier following damage in a fire bomb attack in July 1972.]

Monday 16 January 1978
item mark Tomás Ó Fiaich, then Catholic Primate of Ireland, was quoted in the Irish Press as saying: "I believe the British should withdraw from Ireland. I think that it is the only thing that will get things moving." The comments drew a lot of criticism including from Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who called Ó Fiaich "the IRA's bishop from Crossmaglen".

Wednesday 18 January 1978
European Court Decision on Treatment of Internees
item mark The European Court of Human Rights made its ruling on the case of alleged ill-treatment of internees during 1971. The case had been initially referred to the European Commission by the Irish government on 10 March 1976. On 2 September 1976 the European Commission on Human Rights decided that Britain had to answer a case of ill-treatment of internees and referred the matter to the European Court of Human Rights. The Commission found that the interrogation techniques did involve a breach of the Convention on Human Rights because they not only involved inhuman and degrading treatment but also torture. The European Court of Human Rights however decided that the Commission was wrong to use the word 'torture' but did agree that the internees had been subjected to 'inhuman and degrading treatment'.

February 1978

Tuesday 7 February 1978
item mark The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) was reported in the Irish Times as stating that it is "the British dimension which is the obstacle keeping us away from a lasting solution".

Wednesday 8 February 1978
item mark William Gordon (39), then a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), and Lesley Gordon (10), his daughter, were killed by a booby-trap bomb attached to a car outside their home in Maghera, County Derry, by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
death button

Wednesday 15 February 1978
item mark John Hume, then deputy leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), said that the British government should consider a third option in its search for a political solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland. [The first option, of maintaining the status quo or further integration with Britain, was one which Nationalists believed the government had been following, and the second option was withdrawal from Northern Ireland which was being advocated by many Nationalists.] The third option was an "agreed Ireland" where the British government would declare that its objective was to bring the two main traditions in Ireland together in reconciliation and agreement.

Friday 17 February 1978
La Mon Restaurant Bombing
item mark Twelve people, all Protestant civilians, were killed and 23 badly injured when an incendiary bomb exploded at the restaurant of the La Mon House Hotel, Gransha, near Belfast. The bomb had been planted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Canisters of petrol had been attached to a bomb which was left on a window-sill of the restaurant. An inadequate warning had been given and the hotel was being cleared when the bomb exploded. Many of those killed were burnt to death. Seven of the dead were women. There were three married couples among the dead. All those who died were attending the annual dinner-dance of the Irish Collie Club.
item mark A British soldier was killed in a helicopter crash in County Armagh. [The IRA claimed to have shot down the helicopter. For many years the British Army denied the claim before finally acknowledging that the IRA had indeed caused the crash.]
death button

Saturday 18 February 1978
item mark The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) carried out a series of arrests in connection with the La Mon bombing.

Saturday 25 February 1978
item mark The Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party (VUPP) was dissolved as a political party and most of the party's members joined the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). According to the Standing Committee of Irish Catholic Bishops conference the vast majority of Irish people wanted the conflict in Northern Ireland to end.
item mark Gerry Adams, then Vice-President of Sinn Féin (SF), was charged with membership of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). [On 6 September 1978 Adams was freed when the Judge hearing the case ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove that he was a member of the IRA.]

March 1978

Friday 3 March 1978
item mark A British soldier and a Protestant civilian searcher were both killed in an Irish Republican Army (IRA) gun attack on a British Army pedestrian checkpoint in Donegall Street, Belfast.
death button

Monday 6 March 1978
item mark The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) refused to consider talks with Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and Ernest Baird, then leader of the United Ulster Unionist Movement (UUUM).

Tuesday 7 March 1978
[ proni on cain Ill-treatment of detainees by police; Law Order. ]

Wednesday 8 March 1978
item mark Thomas Trainor (29), a member of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), and Denis Kelly (31), a Catholic civilian, were shot dead by the Red Hand Commando (RHC) in Portadown, County Armagh. [The RHC was a Loyalist paramilitary group with links to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).]
death button

Friday 17 March 1978
item mark David Jones (23), a British soldier, was shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during a gun battle in a field near Maghera, County Derry. Jones had been undercover at the time. Francis Hughes, then a member of the IRA, was arrested following the incident.
death button

Sunday 26 March 1978
item mark At the Irish Republican Army (IRA) annual Easter Rising commemorations a number of speakers state that the campaign in Northern Ireland would be intensified.

April 1978

Wednesday 5 April 1978
[ proni on cain Ill-treatment of detainees by police; Law Order. ]

Friday 7 April 1978
item mark Airey Neave, then Conservative party spokesperson on Northern Ireland, said that power-sharing no longer represented practical politics. James Callaghan, then British Prime Minister, held a meeting with Jack Lynch, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), at the European Community summit at Copenhagen. [The talks helped to ease relationships between the British and Irish governments.]

Monday 17 April 1978
[ proni on cain Ill-treatment of detainees by police; Law Order. ]

Tuesday 18 April 1978
[ proni on cain Ill-treatment of detainees by police; Law Order. ]

Wednesday 19 April 1978
item mark James Callaghan, then British Prime Minister, announced that legislation would be brought forward to increase the number of Members of Parliament (MPs) who represented Northern Ireland at Westminster from 12 to between 16 and 18. [A Bill was passed at parliament on 28 November 1978 which increased the representation to 17 seats.]

May 1978

Friday 5 May 1978
[ proni on cain Political Developments. ]

Sunday 7 May 1978
item mark John Collins (18), a Catholic civilian, was shot dead by the British Army while he was travelling in a stolen car outside Andersonstown Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) base, Belfast. [Over the years a number of, mainly Catholic, teenagers were shot dead while 'joy-riding' in stolen cars in West Belfast.]
death button

Thursday 25 May 1978
item mark Brian McKinney and John McClory, both Catholic civilians, were abducted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and 'dissapeared'. [Their bodies were recovered on 29 June 1999.]
death button

June 1978

Thursday 1 June 1978
item mark David Cook, then a member of the Alliance Party (APNI), became the first non-Unionist Lord Mayor of Belfast. Cook secured this post because of a dispute between Unionist councillors. [It was not until 1997 that a Catholic became Lord Mayor of Belfast.]
item mark Roy Mason, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, held talks with Irish ministers in Dublin.

Monday 5 June 1978
item mark Roy Mason, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, asked Amnesty International to delay publication of a report it had written into alleged ill-treatment of detainees at Castlereagh detention centre. [The report was published on 13 June 1978.]

Tuesday 13 June 1978
Amnesty International Report
item mark In a report Amnesty International claimed that people held at Castlereagh Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) detention centre on the outskirts of Belfast had been ill-treated. Kenneth Newman, then Chief Constable of the RUC, rejected the claims. [Later on Roy Mason, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, promised an inquiry into the allegations.]

Friday 16 June 1978
item mark Kevin Dyer (26), a Catholic civilian, was found beaten to death on a rubbish tip at Glencairn Road, Belfast. He had been killed by Loyalists.

Saturday 17 June 1978
item mark The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a gun attack on an Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) patrol car near Crossmaglen, County Armagh. One officer, Hugh McConnell (32), was killed at the scene and a second officer, William Turbitt (42), was kidnapped. [A Catholic priest was kidnapped the following day in retaliation but was later released. On 10 July 1978 the body of Officer Turbitt was discovered. In December 1978 three RUC officers were charged with kidnapping the Catholic priest. The same officers were also charged, along with two additional officers, of killing a Catholic shopkeeper in Ahoghill on 19 April 1977.]
item mark A Catholic civilian was found beaten to death on a rubbish tip in Belfast. He had been killed by Loyalists.
death button

Sunday 18 June 1978
item mark Hugh Murphy, then a Catholic priest was kidnapped in retaliation for the abduction of a Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer the day before, 17 June 1978. The kidnappers issued a statement saying that they would return the priest in the same condition as the RUC officer is returned. A number of Protestant ministers appealed for the priest to be released and he was subsequently returned unharmed. [On 10 July 1978 the body of Officer Turbitt was discovered. In December 1978 three RUC officers were charged with kidnapping the Catholic priest. The same officers were also charged, along with two additional officers, of killing a Catholic shopkeeper in Ahoghill on 19 April 1977.]

Monday 19 June 1978
item mark Margaret Thatcher, then leader of the Conservative Party, paid a visit to Northern Ireland.

Wednesday 21 June 1978
item mark Three members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and a passing Protestant civilian were shot dead by undercover members of the British Army during an attempted bomb attack on a Post Office depot, Ballysillan Road, Belfast.
death button
[ proni on cain De Lorean; Employment. ]

July 1978

Tuesday 11 July 1978
item mark John Boyle (16), a Catholic teenager, was shot dead by undercover members of the British Army near an Irish Republican Army (IRA) arms dump in Dunloy, County Antrim. Boyle had earlier found the dump and his family had reported the matter to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). [The RUC, together with the British Army, took the decision to monitor the dump in the hope that members of the IRA would return to it. Boyle's curiosity must have taken him back unsuspectingly to the dump.]
death button

Thursday 13 July 1978
[ proni on cain De Lorean; Employment. ]

Monday 17 July 1978
[ proni on cain De Lorean; Employment. ]

Wednesday 19 July 1978
[ proni on cain De Lorean; Employment. ]

Sunday 30 July 1978
item mark Tomás Ó Fiaich, Catholic Primate of Ireland, paid a visit to Republican prisoners in the Maze Prison. The prisoners were taking part in the 'blanket protest'. [Over 300 Republican prisoners were refusing to wear prison clothes or follow normal prison regulations in an attempt to secure a return of special category status.]

Monday 31 July 1978
[ proni on cain De Lorean; Employment. ]

August 1978

Tuesday 1 August 1978
item mark Tomás Ó Fiaich, Catholic Primate of Ireland, who had paid a visit to Republican prisoners in the Maze Prison on 30 July 1978, issued a statement saying that the prisoners engaged in the 'blanket protest' where living in 'inhuman' conditions. [At this stage of the 'blanket protest' over 300 Republican prisoners were refusing to wear prison clothes or follow normal prison regulations. This protest was an attempt to secure a return of special category status for people convicted of politically motivated crimes.]
[ proni on cain Hunger Strike. ]

2 August 1978
item mark Roy Mason, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced that a sports car factory would be built in West Belfast and would mean 2,000 new jobs. The new factory was seen as a breakthrough in securing American investment in Northern Ireland. [However the DeLorean factory required a British investment of £56 million out of a total of £65 million. At the time a number of commentators expressed reservations about the potential success of the venture and indeed the business did fail with the loss of substantial public funds.]

Wednesday 9 August 1978
[ proni on cain Victims. ]

Monday 14 August 1978
item mark The Daily Mirror, a British national newspaper, announced its support for a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland.
[ proni on cain Law Order. ]

Sunday 27 August 1978
Civil Rights March
item mark Approximately 10,000 people took part in a march from Coalisland to Dungannon, County Tyrone, to commemorate the first civil rights march 10 years earlier.

September 1978

Wednesday 6 September 1978
Adams Cleared of IRA Membership
item mark Gerry Adams, then Vice-President of Sinn Féin (SF), was cleared of a charge of membership of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) when the Judge hearing the case ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove that he was a member of the organisation.

Friday 8 September 1978
[ proni on cain Victims. ]

Thursday 21 September 1978
item mark The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a bomb attack on Eglinton airfield, County Derry. The terminal building, two aircraft hangers, and four planes were destroyed in the attack.

Friday 22 September 1978
item mark Roy Mason, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Airey Neave, then Conservative Party spokesperson on Northern Ireland, issued statements rebuffing call in Britain for a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland.
[ proni on cain Hunger Strike. ]

Sunday 24 September 1978
item mark Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), held a religious service in Dublin, at the Mansion House, for the first time.

Thursday 28 September 1978
item mark Joshua Eilberg, then a Democrat Congressman, and Hamilton Fish, then a Republican Congressman, paid a five day visit to Northern Ireland. The two men later argued that the United States of America (USA) should play a part in finding a political settlement in the region.

October 1978

Thursday 5 October 1978
item mark The three leaders of the Peace People, Betty Williams, Mairead Corrigan, and Ciaran McKeown, announced that they intended to step down from the organisation.

Sunday 8 October 1978
item mark A number of groups in Derry, including Sinn Féin (SF), held a march to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 5 October 1968 civil rights march. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) staged a counter demonstration attended by Loyalists and led by Ian Paisley. Trouble developed and 67 Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers were injured in clashes with Loyalists. Two RUC officers were also injured in confrontations with Republicans.

Monday 9 October 1978
[ proni on cain Ill-treatment of detainees by police; Law Order; Hunger Strike. ]

Thursday 12 October 1978
item mark The Irish Republican Army (IRA) planted a bomb on the Belfast to Dublin train and one woman was killed and two others injured when it exploded without adequate warning.
death button

Saturday 14 October 1978
item mark The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) organised another march in Derry to protest against the march in the city on the previous Sunday, 8 October 1978. There were clashes between Loyalists and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers which resulted in 32 policemen being injured and there was also damage to property in the city.

Thursday 19 October 1978
[ proni on cain Hunger Strike. ]

Friday 20 October 1978
[ proni on cain Hunger Strike. ]

Monday 23 October 1978
[ proni on cain Hunger Strike. ]

November 1978

Thursday 2 November 1978
item mark [A British Army intelligence document, 'Northern Ireland: Future Terrorist Trends', was uncovered. The document contained an assessment of the capacity of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). It noted that the calibre of members was high and that the new 'cell structure' that the Active Service Units (ASUs) had adopted made them less vulnerable to informers.]

Saturday 4 November 1978
item mark The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) annual conference voted that British withdrawal was 'desirable and inevitable'. The party also called for fresh talks between the British and Irish governments and representatives of the two communities in Northern Ireland.

Monday 6 November 1978
[ proni on cain Political Developments; Segregation. ]

Tuesday 14 November 1978
item mark The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a number of bomb attacks in towns across Northern Ireland. Serious damage was caused in attacks in Armagh, Belfast, Castlederg, Cookstown, Derry and Enniskillen. Thirty-seven people were injured in the attacks. [This series of bomb attacks represented a renewed bombing campaign and over 50 bombs were exploded in the following week.]

Sunday 26 November 1978
item mark Albert Miles, then Deputy Governor of Crumlin Road Prison, was shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) outside his home in Evelyn Gardens, Belfast. [This was one of a series of attacks on prison officers.]

Tuesday 28 November 1978
Increase in Number of MPs
item mark A Bill was passed in the House of Commons to increase the number of Northern Ireland Members of Parliament (MPs) at Westminster. The number was increase from 12 to 17 seats.

Thursday 30 November 1978
item mark The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a number of bomb and fire-bomb attacks in 14 towns and villages across Northern Ireland. The IRA issued a statement admitting the attacks and warning that it was preparing for a 'long war'.

December 1978

Friday 1 December 1978
item mark The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out 11 bomb attacks in towns across Northern Ireland.

Tuesday 5 December 1978
[ proni on cain Political Developments; Segregation. ]

Tuesday 12 December 1978
item mark Four people were injured by parcel bombs in Belfast and Lisburn. Three of those injured were the wives of prison officers and the fourth was a postman.

Sunday 17 December 1978
item mark The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a series of bomb attacks on cities in England. Bombs exploded in Bristol, Coventry, Liverpool, Manchester, and Southampton.

Thursday 21 December 1978
item mark Three British soldiers were shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in a gun attack on their foot patrol in Crossmaglen, County Armagh.
death button

? December 1978
[ proni on cain Hunger 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 1978.
  • 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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