World Press Photo of the Year (1969): A young Catholic wears a gasmask during clashes with British troops. People had been fleeing from teargas after a night of street fighting.
During August 1969, N. Ireland was rocked by intense political and sectarian rioting. There had been sporadic violence throughout the year arising from the civil rights campaign, which was demanding an end to government discrimination against Irish Catholics and nationalists. Civil rights marches were repeatedly attacked by Protestant loyalists and by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), an overwhelmingly Protestant police force, who were viewed by nationalists as biased against the campaign. The disorder led to the Battle of the Bogside in Derry – this was a three-day riot in the Bogside district between the RUC and the nationalist/Catholic residents. In support of the Bogsiders, nationalists and Catholics launched protests elsewhere in Northern Ireland. Some of these turned violent and provoked attacks by loyalists. The most bloody rioting was in Belfast, where 7 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. Scores of houses and businesses were burned-out, most of them owned by Catholics. In addition, thousands of families were driven from their homes. The RUC was accused of helping the loyalists and of failing to protect Catholic areas. Events in Belfast have been viewed by some as a pogrom against the minority Catholic and nationalist community. The British Army was deployed to restore order and peace lines began to be built to separate the two sides. The events are widely seen as the beginning of the thirty-year conflict known as the Troubles. #