One of the most prominent figures to emerge from the early days of the ‘Troubles’ in Derry has passed away.
Patrick Doherty, known as Paddy ‘Bogside’ died peacfully at his home in Westland Street in the early hours of this morning after a period of illness. He was in his 90th year.
Born in 1926, Mr Doherty came to prominence as vice-chairman of the Derry Citizens Defence Association (DCDA) and played a major role in the events of August 1969 that culminated in the Battle of the Bogside and became a major figure thereafter in Free Derry.
From the outset of 1969 tensions in Derry between nationalists and the RUC had been very high. The tone for what was to follow that summer was set when in January and again in April when the RUC entered the Bogside and carried out attacks on people and property. A seminal event in this era was the attack on Sammy Devenney by the RUC in his home that April. Mr Devenney later from the injuries he sustained in the incident.
As the annual Apprentice Boys of Derry march approached in August tensions were at boiling point in the city. In July the DCDA was established and on August 10 its leadership met with the Apprentice Boys to request they cancel or re-route the march. When the request was refused the die was effectively cast for violence.
The loyal order parade which passed through Derry City centre and the edge of the Bogside was considered highly provocative by the nationalist population. Plans were put in place by the DCDA to prevent clashes between nationalists, the RUC and marchers. However, if this failed, there were other plans in place.
Also on August 10, a public meeting called by the DCDA was held at Celtic Park and was addressed by republican, nationalist and labour leaders in the city. The position was made plain and that it was if the RUC or loyalists attempted to enter the Bogside there would be resistance. Women, children and elderly people were then evacuated from the district and barricades were erected on the edge of the area.
On August 12, as the Apprentice Boys parade passed through the city centre on the outskirts of the Bogside, lines of RUC men faced nationalist youths. Leaders of the DCDA such as Paddy Doherty, John Hume and Eddie McAteer attempted to control the crowd but their effort were not successful and the first stones were hurled at the RUC. After a stand-off lasting several hours, serious rioting broke out along the Strand Road and the order was given to the RUC to baton charge. Their efforts were quickly repelled at William Street and another stand-off emerged.
The second stand-off was broken at 7pm when the RUC supported by loyalists breached the barricade at Rossville Street and began to break house windows as they went. At first nationalists retreated but quickly turned around and drive the RUC back up the street.
On August 13 a DCDA press conference saw Paddy Doherty and Dr Donal McDermott issue an appeal for ‘able bodied men’ to come to Derry and assist in the fighting. By this stage the headquarters of the DCDA was Paddy Doherty’s house in Westland Street.
For the following three days the Bogside was catapulted onto TV screens across the world as the RUC repeatedly attempted to get into the Bogside but were beaten back at every attempt. The Battle of the Bogside as it became known ended on August 14, when on request from the Stormont administration, British troops entered Derry to relieve a battered and beleaguered police force.
The formation of a united front against the unionist system of misrule made the front page of the paper a month before on Tuesday, July 15, 1969.
Under the headline ‘Move to bring peace to the streets of Derry’, the report said: “As Derry looked yesterday like getting back to normal after a weekend of violence in which 89 people were injured and heavy damage was caused to property, moves were being made to seek a solution to the city’s troubles and to create some sort of organisation which could play a part in bringing peace to the streets.
“Last night a meeting was held of the Citizens Action Committee, the leaders of the various Tenant’s Associations and the leaders of the various political parties.”
In his book ‘War and an Irish Town’, activist and journalist Eamonn McCann describes how after the formation of the Citizens Action Committee as it was initially called, Paddy ‘Bogside’ stepped forward to address a crowd in the city centre.
“About five thousand people came on a wet day and sat down in the square to hear speeches. The emotional and political keynote was set by Paddy Doherty, a tough-minded and rigorously honest right-winger, when he asked the crowd, rather in the manner of a retreat priest inviting the congregation to renounce the devil:
‘Are you, the people of this city, irresponsible?’
‘No’ thundered the fervent reply.
‘Are you, the people of this city, communists?’
‘Are you, the people of this city, under the influence of any political organization?’
‘Will there be bloodshed in this city tonight?’
Testimony laying out the increasing tension in Derry was recorded by the ‘Derry Journal’.
Exactly one month later and in the wake of the Battle of Bogside the ‘Journal’ of Friday, August 15, 1969 again captured the events of the previous three days on its front page and aptly summed up what had taken place in the heart of the West Bank of the Foyle. The headline read: “British troops on the streets of Derry.’
The news report began by saying: “Batoned, tear-gassed and shot at for three days, Derry’s Catholic population remained resolute and determined to defend their homes and property to the end, though yesterday afternoon all the portents looked grim.
“But just before 6 o’clock British troops appeared on the streets and within two hours police had been removed from key positions in William Street and the city gates to be replaced by military personnel.
“It became evident early that the troops were being received in a friendly fashion by the Catholic population and with the disappearance of the RUC and B-Specials from key points, tension eased considerably.”
Mr Doherty also became involved in the Credit Union movement in his native city.
The first recorded credit union in the UK was formed in Derry, Northern Ireland, in 1960. Inspired by the formation of the first credit unions in the Republic of Ireland, six individuals pooled their savings and formally established the Derry Credit Union.
As Derry became embroiled in the growing conflict the city centre basically became a bombed out mass of derelict sites. In the early 1970s the vision of Paddy Doherty helped establish a group known as the North West Centre for Learning and Development. Its main aim was to try to tackle at base level the perennial long-term unemployment rate within the city.
The first project undertaken by the group was the refurbishment of properties at 3-5 London Street. The North West Centre for Learning and Development soon became the Inner City Trust and attracted support from across the community.
From these beginnings and making use of government funding the Inner City Trust was soon involved in the redevelopment of a range of bombed out sites in the city centre.
Following the initial presence in London Street the Trust moved to work on sites in Shipquay street, Bishop Street and Society Street and began on refurbishment projects there too. It is estimated that at one point over 300 people were working for the Trust on construction projects.
The scope of the project however soon moved beyond the reconstruction of buildings in the city centre and the Inner City Trust also soon became involved in wider education projects. Derry Youth and Community Workshop. Established in 1978 which aimed to bring people back into the workforce by providing training in new skills as the traditional industries in the city began to disappear.
However the construction projects were not left to the side either and in its most ambitious project up to that point the Inner City Trust built the O’Doherty Fort which is now of course the home of the Tower Museum.
Next came the Craft Village which remains one of most well recognised and attractive places within the city’s walls. Other projects included the revamp of the Foyle Arts Centre on Lawerence Hill and even a project on Rathlin Island. All the while the Trust did not employ the training school method simply building something and then knocking it down again. The young people who mastered their trades their were able to take their skills directly onto construction sites.
If you stand at almost any given vantage point in the city centre today it is a fair bet you will be looking at something constructed by the Inner City Trust-the brainchild of Paddy ‘Bogside’ Doherty.