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1971: British troops shoot Londonderry rioters

VIDEO : More clashes as protesters grieve the dead men

Two men have been killed by the British army in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Some of the worst violence in the town for three years flared up this afternoon when a crowd of 200 gathered in Lecky Street at the news of an army shooting earlier in the day.

Welder and former boxer Seamus Cusack, 28, died in Letterkenny District Hospital of a gunshot wound.

Troops opened fire, initially with rubber bullets and CS gas, but they failed to disperse the crowd.

The rioters retaliated by throwing three nail bombs.

The army returned fire. One man was shot in the stomach and five soldiers are reported to have been injured by the missiles.

The man was dead on arrival at hospital. He was identified as 19-year-old George Desmond Beattie of Donegal Street, Bogside.

There was a lull in the violence after Mr Beattie had been shot and a group of factory girls marched in silence through the area carrying black bags.

Over the past four days troops have been targeted by sporadic rioting in the Republican Bogside area of Londonderry.

Military response

Army marksmen claim one of the men they shot was armed with a rifle and another was about to throw a petrol or nail bomb.

It is unclear which incident Mr Cusack was involved in, but an inquest has heard he could have been saved if he had gone to a local hospital instead of one 20 miles south of the border in County Donegal.

It appears his rescuers feared he would be arrested by police if he was taken to the local hospital.

This evening the Ministry of Defence has announced that an extra 500 men - from the First King's Own Scottish Borderers - are to be sent to Northern Ireland tomorrow.

This brings to 1,400 the total number of men drafted to Northern Ireland in the past 10 days in preparation for the traditional 12 July celebrations.

In Context
Large crowds attended the burials of the two men days later after further violent clashes between republican residents and troops.

The British Government refused to hold a public inquiry into the deaths in Londonderry, despite a public outcry as republicans claimed the victims were unarmed.

The six members of the Social Democratic and Labour Party withdrew from the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont in protest at the refusal to hold an official inquiry into the deaths of George Beattie and Seamus Cusack.

On 21 and 22 July 1971 Labour peer Lord Gifford chaired an unofficial inquiry in which the MoD refused to participate. It concluded that neither man was armed.

On 9 August 1971 the policy of internment was introduced, leading to a massive upsurge in violence in Northern Ireland.


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