Year of Chaos

In the 11 months between August 1971 and July 1972, Northern Ireland experienced its worst year of violence. The 'year of chaos' came between of two major military operations, namely the introduction of internment of IRA suspects, without trial, and Operation Motorman, the invasion of barricaded no-go areas in Belfast and Derry.

The internment raids created huge disaffection in the Catholic communities and provoked an escalation of violence. This led to the British government taking full control of Northern Ireland and negotiating directly with the IRA leadership. Operation Motorman, on a similar scale, then dampened down the violence a year later. No future year of the Troubles experienced such death and destruction.

During this whole period, Malachi O'Doherty was a cub reporter in Belfast, working in the city, covering the violence, returning home at night to a no-go area behind the barricades where the streets were patrolled by armed IRA men.

O'Doherty takes readers on a journey, at this time of crucial change, through the events of that terrible year, which he argues should be a reminder that political and military miscalculation can lead to civil war and that there is no more urgent need for creative political thinking than now, in the new instability created by demographic change, one hundred years after the partition of Ireland.