Presented here are RTÉ radio and television recordings of some of the major events of 1969 in Northern Ireland.
August 1969 was the month that Northern Ireland erupted into violence. Sectarian tensions manifested on the streets in a bloody conflict that would become known as “the Troubles” and claim more than 3,500 lives over four decades.
In January 1969, Prime Minister Terence O'Neill called a general election in response to opposition from within his own party to his policies. Across the political divide, a new generation of politicians began to emerge in this campaign. Although O'Neill and his supporters within Stormont would win the election, he could not shake off those who were opposed to him within the Unionist Party. By April, O'Neill was forced to resign and James Chichester-Clark became the next Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.
Ivan Cooper, John Hume, and John Taylor were just some of the new political names to emerge in this period. However, it was the election of a 22-year-old woman, Bernadette Devlin, to Westminster that would attract world attention. Throughout the year, the sectarian tension increased until it eventually exploded in the violence of August.
It is interesting to hear both views of the divide as expressed by residents of Belfast's Falls Road and Shankill Road to RTÉ's Kevin O'Kelly in Northern Ireland A Film Special, broadcast in January 1969. The Shankill Road was a predominantly Protestant loyalist, working-class area, while the neighbouring Falls Road was a mainly Catholic republican area.
In August, intense rioting following the Apprentice Boys parade in Derry sparked conflict across Northern Ireland. For three days, the riots continued in what became known as the Battle of the Bogside. In Belfast there was further violence as Catholics and Protestants clashed with each other and the police.
On 13 August, Taoiseach Jack Lynch intervened in a broadcast to the nation. Lynch was highly critical of the Stormont government, stating that the RUC was no longer an impartial police force. He called for the UN to intervene and announced that the Irish army would establish field hospitals near the border. Unionists were angered by Lynch's speech; Chichester-Clark commented that it was inflammatory. As the rioting continued, Prime Minister Chichester-Clark requested the support of the British army. On 14 August, British soldiers were deployed in Derry and were on the streets of Belfast the following day.
By the end of 1969, 16 were dead as a result of the violence and the IRA had split into Official and Provisional wings. Members of the Provisional IRA saw themselves as republican traditionalists and were prepared to use military force.
The accompanying photograph shows a slogan painted on the gable end of a house in Derry, "You are now entering Free Derry".
© RTÉ Stills Library 0119/042
The resignation of Brian Faulkner, Minister for Commerce, from the Northern Ireland government put pressure on Terence O'Neill and highlighted the division within the Unionist Party.
Minister for Health William Morgan also quit in the wake of Faulkner's resignation, putting further pressure on Captain O'Neill.
Sean Duignan reports on the difficulties of getting Unionist Parliamentary Party members to agree on 'one man, one vote' and the pressure this puts on Captain Terence O'Neill's leadership.
Prime Minister Terence O'Neill gives a speech following the resignation of two government ministers.
William Craig talks about the motivations of 12 members of the Unionist Party in writing an open letter to Terence O'Neill calling for a change of leadership to end disunity within the party.
The election for Mid Ulster's Westminster seat saw the first straight contest between two women in Northern Ireland politics and was labelled "the petticoat election" by the media.
Seán Duignan introduces a report from Don McManus in Moneymore, Derry, where a meeting in support of Bernadette Devlin is disrupted by supporters of Ian Paisley.
Bernadette Devlin addresses supporters at Draperstown, Co. Derry, where she identifies the enemy as the Ulster Unionist Party and not the ordinary working man who differs in religion.
Brian Faulkner sees no reason for a general election as the differences within the Unionist Party are about leadership not policies.
British Labour MPs visit the Bogside and hear the views of local residents about the recent violence and the high rate of unemployment.
An Easter 1916 commemoration parade defies a police order not to display the tricolour over the last 400 yards of the route in Derry city centre.
Ian Paisley says, "My campaign policy is progressive Protestantism, civil and religious liberty, justice for all. Hard-working MPs who will do the job and will do it well."
When asked for his opinion on Bunting and Paisley, Fitt replies, "I have always regarded these two particular men as two eejits" and doesn't think they should be taken seriously at all.
News headlines from the 'This Week' radio programme give an indication of increased tension in Northern Ireland
John Hume and Ivan Cooper, discuss what they think started the violence and the need to politically address the grievances of those demonstrating.
Captain O'Neill explains why he called Ian Paisley a dinosaur and rejects Paisley's accusation that he was afraid to hand in his nomination papers.
Barry Linnane reports on the launch of the Unionist Party manifesto and on press conferences held by Terence O'Neill, Sam Napier of the Northern Ireland Labour Party and Ian Paisley.
Seán Duignan reports on a bomb left at a church in Saintfield, Belfast. The parish priest defused it by cutting a wire connected to the device.
Eddie Barrett reports from Dungiven, Co. Derry, where elderly farmer Francis McCloskey was struck by RUC batons in a mêlée near the Orange Hall. He died 24 hours later in hospital.
Brian Faulkner hopes to benefit from Catholic votes and says that they would be welcome in the Unionist Party.
In Cullybackey, Captain Terence O'Neill and his wife go door to door looking for votes.
Former Prime Minister of Northern Ireland Basil Brooke is critical of Captain O'Neill for his meetings with Taoiseach Jack Lynch and his predecessor Seán Lemass.
Chief Whip Roddy O'Connor outlines the Nationalist Party position at the launch of their election manifesto.
Gerry Fitt, Republican Labour Party MP, is critical of the Nationalist Party attitude to partition.
Austin Currie MP seeks to unite those opposed to Unionism.
Ian Paisley accuses Captain O'Neill and the Unionist Party of looking for Catholic votes.
John Taylor, an anti-O'Neill official Unionist candidate in South Tyrone, is critical of the civil rights campaign for having "many out-and-out republicans and anti-partitionists" within the movement.
At a press conference, Captain Terence O'Neill is asked if he now regrets having met with an Taoiseach Seán Lemass in 1965.
The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Captain Terence O'Neill, hopes the range of election candidates will revitalise democracy.
Bernadette Devlin campaigns in Tobermore, Co. Derry, where opponents throw coins and jeer while on a Belfast street, pro and anti-O'Neill campaigners meet.
RTÉ News follows a number of candidates on the eve of the General Election.
Captain O'Neill is asked for a comment on southern Minister for Agriculture Mr Blaney's claim that the "Irish people of the six counties" should withhold their votes from candidates who stood for union with Britain.
On his re-election in Larne, Co. Antrim, former Minister for Home Affairs William Craig tells reporter John Ross that Captain Terence O'Neill must now be replaced as party leader and prime minister.
Following a meeting at a Portadown hotel, 12 Unionist MPs call on Captain O'Neill to resign. William Craig explains why.
Captain Terence O'Neill is greeted with jeers while canvassing in Derry.
Reverend Ian Paisley says why he thinks that former minister William Morgan is a good candidate to be Prime Minister.
Kevin O'Kelly sets the scene in Northern Ireland prior to the general election in February 1969.
Kevin O'Kelly speaks to Alex Scott, his family and friends, all of whom live on the Shankill Road. They give their views on the Pope, Catholics, civil rights, the Northern Ireland government and keeping their own religion.
Over on the Falls Road, Catholics Peter Fusco, Martin Blake and their families speak to Kevin O'Kelly.
More than half the houses in Belfast are without water as a result of an explosion at a water supply area.
Plans for future civil rights demonstrations are being planned throughout Northern Ireland this afternoon.
On the weekend of the 12 July commemorations, hundreds of youths in Derry clash with the police.
Twelve people, including one policeman, were injured in last night’s disturbances. Donal Kelly reports on sectarian taunting by Catholic youths in the Bogside.
A RTÉ News report on a clash between police and youths in Derry
Catholics fleeing from violence arrive south of the border in Dundalk, Co. Louth. The report shows people at the train station where women and nuns provide them with assistance in the form of food and clothing.
This report shows scenes of rioting taking place night and day in Derry. The report shows both injured civilians and injured police.
Samuel Devenney had been beaten by police officers at his home in William Street, Derry on 19 April 1969. He died from his injuries on 17 July and his funeral was covered by journalists from around the world.
Explosions at the Silent Valley reservoir and at another pipe link crossing the Clady river, threaten the water supply to Belfast.
In a landmark statement broadcast on radio and television, the Taoiseach Jack Lynch asks the British government to request a peace-keeping force from the United Nations.
The British Army set up barricades in the streets after being deployed in Derry.
Reactions from the streets of Derry to the arrival of British troops.
Representatives from the Bogside approach a barricade set up by British soldiers and ask to speak to an officer.
On a night when six people died across Northern Ireland, one of the victims was a young boy. In the Falls Road area of Belfast, there were vicious clashes between Protestants and Catholics.
Barry Linnane speaks with residents of Bombay Street, where homes have been burnt by Loyalist mobs.
The Northern Ireland Prime Minister, James Chichester-Clark is highly critical of the Irish government's response to the outbreak of violence.
Bernadette Devlin urges the people of the Bogside to continue to man the barricades.
RTÉ News reports on the damage done to property around Brookfield Street in Belfast.
British troops take up positions while many buildings continue to burn.
Bernadette Devlin talks to Tom McCaughren on the streets of Derry about the RUC, the British army and the Prime Minister Chichester-Clark.
The funerals of two victims of the violence take place in Belfast.
Eamonn McCann talks to Tom McCaughren about Radio Free Derry broadcasting again.
Aidan Corrigan of the Dungannon Civil Rights Committee justifies a call for British troops to be responsible for law and order in the area.
Following Lt. General Freeland's announcement that the 'B' Specials were to be withdrawn from riot duty, Minister of Development, Brian Faulkner, holds a press conference to explain his government's position on the Ulster Special Constabulary.
Donal Kelly reports on the scenes of destruction in Derry after the rioting of the previous night.
Reporters Tom McCaughren and Pat Sweeney on the arrival of British troops in Derry.
On the streets of Derry, there is confusion as British soldiers take up position. Mike Burns gets the reactions of Eamonn McCann and Eddie McAteer.
RTÉ News reports on the scenes at the end of the day that saw the arrival of British soldiers in Derry city.
It is hoped that the presence of the British Army will help to contain a volatile situation in Northern Ireland.
Kevin Healy reports on a night of violence that saw gunfire on Hooker Street where Protestants joined with the RUC in a fierce attack.
Following days of increasing violence across Northern Ireland, General Officer Commanding Lieutenant Ian Freeland gives a press conference. He warns that the honeymoon period for the army's arrival is coming to an end.
Andy O'Mahony speaks to John Hume about all that has happened in Northern Ireland since the civil rights demonstration of 5 October 1968.
Watch more scenes of destruction from Derry: fires, petrol bombers, burned vehicles and buildings reduced to rubble.
James Callaghan, the British Home Secretary, comes to Northern Ireland on a three-day fact-finding mission. Callaghan was greeted by dignitaries, Mr. Chichester-Clarke, Lord Gray, Mr. Oliver Wright, and Lt. Gen. Sir Ian Freeland.
Tom McCaughren reports on the arrival of 300 soldiers of the First Battalion, Queen's Regiment, in Derry.
Following the local government franchise vote, Captain O'Neill's position as leader of his party and Prime Minister is looking increasingly weak.
John Hume does not see that the replacing of Captain Terence O'Neill will offer any hope to the civil rights movement.
Sean Duignan reports from Stormont minutes after the Unionist Parliamentary Party has voted.
The proposal for universal local government franchise is adopted narrowly by the Unionist Parliamentary Party.
Brian Faulkner and Major Chichester-Clark are both running for leader of the Unionist Party following the resignation of Captain Terence O'Neill.
On the day of the election, Don McManus reports from Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, for the lunchtime news.
On polling day, candidate Bernadette Devlin talks to Don McManus having cast her vote for the first time in an election.
Sean Duignan and Andy O'Mahony report on the election of 21-year-old Bernadette Devlin as MP for Mid-Ulster. A tired Devlin declares that, "People of Mid Ulster, we have finally started to overcome."
An exhausted Bernadette Devlin tries to articulate her plans following victory in the Mid-Ulster by-election.
Bernadette Devlin answers questions about her appeal to Protestant voters and fields accusations of being a communist or just an ambitious young girl.
Bernadette Devlin is welcomed at a victory rally in Carrickmore, Co. Tyrone.
Newly-elected MP Bernadette Devlin describes what she saw in the Bogside and expresses her fears of a civil war in Northern Ireland.
John Bowman reviews the events of the past year in Northern Ireland and reflects on the election of Bernadette Devlin, who he describes as "the most extraordinary politician of the year."
Robert Porter, Minister for Home Affairs, answers some of the accusations made against the police and defends the original decision to ban the march.
Brian Faulkner talks about how he would lessen tension in Northern Ireland if elected prime minister and his intention to carry on the reform measures commenced under Captain Terence O'Neill.
Chief Whip of the Unionist Party and Chairman of the selection meeting, Roy Bradford, announces the leadership result, which sees Major Chichester-Clark defeat Brian Faulkner by a single vote.
Following his election victory, Major Chichester-Clark answers questions from a large media gathering.
Following the leadership election, Captain Terence O'Neill leaves Stormont but says he will be staying in politics.
William Craig says he will give his full support to the new leader and does not rule out a place in the cabinet, should it be offered.
Barry Linnane seeks the views of Catholics and Protestants on the election of their new Prime Minister.
At a rival press conference, Brian Faulkner is critical of the Northern Ireland government for introducing the local government franchise now.
Major Chichester-Clark, Minister for Agriculture, announces his resignation, claiming he is unable to accept the timing of the government's decision to introduce one man, one vote.
John Hume welcomes the decision to grant one man, one vote, but questions who is in control of the Unionist Party.
Despite the passing of ‘One Man, One Vote’, the new franchise may not apply until 1971 after the government performs a reshape of local councils.
The Unionist Parliamentary Party decision was taken at the expense of a further rift in the party and the resignation of the minister for agriculture, Major Chichester-Clarke.
In parliament this afternoon, the premier, Captain Terence O'Neill, appealed to all sections of the community to stay off the streets in the anticipation
Roy Bradford announces the results of the Unionist Parliamentary Party vote reaffirming Captain O'Neill's leadership as Prime Minister.
Bernadette Devlin stood as a candidate for the People's Democracy in South Derry, a Unionist constituency.
Eddie McAteer, leader of the Nationalist Party, speaks after losing his seat to John Hume.
Ministers leaving the cabinet meeting were evasive about the future leadership of the Unionist Party.
Captain O'Neill answers questions about the People's Democracy, Ian Paisley, Eddie McAteer, the Catholic vote and north-south relations.
Ivan Cooper talks about his victory in Mid-Derry, where he stood as an independent candidate and defeated Nationalist Party candidate Patrick Gormley.
Police and protesters are still on the streets in the Bogside area after a night of rioting in Derry.
Bernadette Devlin, Ivan Cooper and residents of the Bogside complain to RTÉ about the behaviour of the RUC the previous night.
On the Monday following a weekend of riots, appeals to keep off the streets are not being heeded.
This report features the annual Apprentice Boys parade in Derry, including the wreath-laying at the war memorial and the outbreak of riots that would spread across Northern Ireland.