UTV Insight marks end of Motorman

Published Thursday, 06 December 2012
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A UTV Insight special is to mark the 40th anniversary of the ending of Operation Motorman - when troops, tanks and bulldozers poured into Northern Ireland in an attempt to stop the conflict.

UTV Insight marks end of Motorman
British Army vehicles in the Creggan area of Derry during Operation Motorman. (© UTV)

Amid the bloodiest year of the Troubles, 1972 saw spiralling violence on the streets claim the lives of almost 500 people and prompted the British Government to take action to restore law and order.

Operation Motorman also aimed to reclaim parts of Belfast, Londonderry and other 'no go' areas.

Thursday night's Insight takes viewers back to that time and into the heart of Operation Motorman and the barricaded areas it targeted.

For the first time on television, the story of Motorman is recounted - from its planning and execution, through to its impact in shaping the outcome of the conflict.

The one-hour programme includes interviews with key players like Martin McGuinness, Baroness May Blood, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield and Billy Hutchinson, as well as a number of soldiers who were charged with carrying out the Operation.

The deaths of two young men and the subsequent bombing of Claudy are also discussed in the programme, which lifts the lid on a dark time in our history and examines a surreal and significant chapter in the story of Northern Ireland.

Baroness May Blood recalls: "Why could the army not do something about these 'no go' areas, as they became known? Why did they not move in, why did they not take over?

"And that was a real sense of frustration in the Protestant areas, because they couldn't see why these people could be allowed to build up their own 'no go' areas ..."

Motorman was the largest British military operation since the Suez crisis of 1956 and created scenes reminiscent of a war zone on the streets of Belfast and Derry.

More than 20,000 troops equipped with tanks, Saracens and even HMS Fearless were deployed to end the barricaded 'no go' areas that had developed in nationalist and loyalist areas.

Overnight, the conflict was transformed and the paramilitaries were initially forced onto the back foot and then firmly underground, in a move which was to set the scene for the 'Long War' and a further 22 years of violence.

Martin McGuinness said: "I was in [Derry] and remained in the city for many weeks after Operation Motorman and there were actually several occasions in the weeks after ... where I was physically stopped and searched by the British army who hadn't got the foggiest notion that I was Martin McGuinness.

"So I presume that if I had been arrested at that time, in all probability I would have been either shot or interned."

Sir General Robert Ford, Commander, Land Forces NI considered that Operation Motorman had gone "very well".

He said: "The position now in Northern Ireland is that anyone can go anywhere at any time - and that's what I wanted to achieve."

Motorman is an Open Reel Production for UTV Insight.

Watch UTV's Insight special: 'Operation Motorman' on Thursday 6 December at 9pm.

© UTV News
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