Bogside ‘held in fear by IRA for years, it was dictatorship’

An IRA gunman with an M60 machine gun on the streets of the Bogside at a Bloody Sunday commemoration in January 1978
An IRA gunman with an M60 machine gun on the streets of the Bogside at a Bloody Sunday commemoration in January 1978
Share this article

A Catholic woman from Londonderry has spoken out about her childhood experiences of the republican movement, following a documentary last week about the abduction of a young girl’s mother.

The woman, who would only be named as ‘Mary’, spoke to the News Letter after seeing an account of the trauma suffered by 31-year-old Belfast woman Shauna Moreland, whose mother was murdered by the IRA in July 1994.

We were held to ransom by the IRA who could turn the entire community, or what felt like the entire community, against you for not doing what they asked of you

‘Mary’

Ms Moreland, whose mother had been accused of being an informer, spoke to BBC Spotlight.

Speaking to the News Letter to offer her support in the wake of the show, Mary said: “This girl was robbed of her mother when she was only 10-years-old which is child cruelty.

“She deserves answers about what happened to her mother, but they don’t know the truth.”

The Londonderry woman said she married at 18 in a bid to get away from the “dictatorship and madness in the Bogside”.

She said her community was “held in fear by the IRA for years”.

Now in her 50s, Mary said as a youngster of 12 she was taken into a woman’s home and “dressed in an IRA uniform and told to get on a bus to Bodenstown the following weekend”.

“I wasn’t in the IRA and had no interest,” she said.

“I was a youngster. But they were only trying to fill seats on the bus, I now realise.

“This happened before Bloody Sunday (January 1972) when they had no real support.

“When I look back on it, it wasn’t funny – it was dysfunctional. They did that to a lot of children.”

She said after Bloody Sunday “a lot of pressure” was put on her to join the IRA.

“This started seriously when I was around 15,” she said.

“But I had no interest even though I was tormented to join.

“Because I wouldn’t join up I was outcast in the community and eventually I moved out of the area for a while.

“Then I met my husband and after living in the Bogside for a while we moved out of the area.”

The woman added: “If something went wrong in a family or in the area people did not go to the police or the social services because they were more scared of the IRA than they were of the perpetrators.

“We were held to ransom by the IRA who could turn the entire community, or what felt like the entire community, against you for not doing what they asked of you.

“One girl I knew fell in love with one of the soldiers and they (republicans) got her tarred and feathered.

“Five women did it and a head IRA man told them when to start and when to stop. It was so cruel.”