Gender Culture of Northern Ireland

On Bloody Sunday, no women died from bullet wounds. It appeared as though the British Parachute Regiment tried to only aim at men. As the Ministry of Defence report on Bloody Sunday showed, the British believed the Irish Republican Army (IRA) had been very active two weeks prior to the march, and this document claims that the Ministry of Defence received an intelligence report one week before Bloody Sunday that confirmed the IRA would use crowd tactics to attack soldiers on January 30, 1972. This document does not specify which IRA group they refer to.[1] Therefore, the Stormont government tried to make it seem like the IRA, a male group, held responsibility over what happened on Bloody Sunday. Although women had been hit by gunfire on Bloody Sunday, the Ministry of Defence report serves as proof that the soldiers had been aiming for men who belonged to the IRA.

Máiread Corrigan and Betty Williams

Although men dominated the Troubles, women did participate as well. In 1976, Máiread Corrigan and Betty Williams became tired of the constant violence in Northern Ireland, and they organized the Peace People, a group that motivated some of the largest peace demonstrations in Northern Ireland.[2] This movement toward peace played into the view of women being the quiet peacemakers, but earlier in the Troubles, a woman showed the opposite reaction. Known as “Castro in a miniskirt” by her critics, Bernadette Devlin did not refrain from voicing her opinions.[3]

Bernadette Devlin

Pertaining to Bloody Sunday, Devlin emerged as a voice for the protestors. As a Member of Parliament, Devlin appeared in Parliament the next day. However, due to Parliamentary rules, she could not speak about Bloody Sunday although she had attended the march.[4] As a result, Devlin hit the British Home Secretary, Reginald Maudling. The press used her emotions to insinuate that her action of hitting Maudling occurred due to her gender.[5] Rather than focusing on why she physically attacked Maudling, Devlin’s critics emphasized her gender in order to explain why she reacted in that way. However, Devlin began receiving attention from the press as soon as she became a Member of Parliament in 1969 at twenty-one years old.[6] The name Devlin’s critics gave her also show the gender culture of the Troubles. By adding “in a miniskirt” highlighted her gender when a man would not receive this discrimination. 

Martin McGuinness

Men who supported the nationalist cause did not receive this treatment. Martin McGuinness, a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (Provos) in 1972, also had a complicated past with Bloody Sunday. McGuinness claimed the British military wanted to distract from their actions on Bloody Sunday by blaming him for firing the first shot. At the Saville Inquiry, McGuinness maintained that the Provos would not want to shoot the British Army in a crowd of marchers.[7] His emotions never became a subject of questioning.

[1] Ministry of Defence, “Events in Londonderry on 30 January 1972,” 31 January 1972, Belfast: Deputy Keeper of the Records, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI),, 1.

[2] Sarah Buscher and Bettina Ling, Máiread Corrigan and Betty Williams: Making Peace in Northern Ireland (New York: The Feminist Press at The City University of New York City College, 1999), 16.

[3] Feargal Cochrane, Northern Ireland: The Reluctant Peace (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 42.

[4] Cochrane, Northern Ireland: The Reluctant Peace, 42.

[5] “Bernadette Devlin attacks British Home Secretary,” last modified January 27, 2012, accessed November 20, 2017,

[6] Bernadette Devlin, The Price of My Soul (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969), 183.

[7] Douglas Murray, Bloody Sunday: Truths, Lies and the Saville Inquiry (London: Biteback Publishing, 2011), 169; 241.

Gender Culture of Northern Ireland