Anti-intemment march 1973.
Officially titled Operation Demetrius , internment was a British Army operation iwhich commenced in Belfast on 9–10 August 1971. It involved the mass arrest and internment without trial of 342 people suspected of being involved with the Provisional and Official IRA . It was proposed by the Northern Ireland Government and approved by the British Government. The operation sparked an immediate upsurge of violence. The British Army came under sustained attack from Irish nationalist/republican rioters and gunmen, especially in Belfast Armed soldiers launched dawn raids throughout Northern Ireland, sparking four days of violence in which 20 civilians, two Provisional IRA members and two British soldiers were killed. Due mainly to faulty intelligence, many of those arrested were Catholics or Irish nationalists who had no links with republican paramilitaries.
The introduction of internment, the way the arrests were carried out, and the abuse of those arrested, led to mass protests and a sharp increase in violence. Amid the violence, about 7,000 people fled or were forced out of their homes. The policy of internment was to last until December 1975 and during that time 1,981 people were interned; 1,874 were Catholic/Irish republican, while 107 were Protestant/loyalist. The first Protestant/loyalist internees were detained in February 1973. The backlash against internment contributed to the decision of the British Government under Prime Minister Edward Heath to suspend the Northern Ireland Government and replace it with direct rule from Westminister, under the authority of a British Secretary of State. This took place in 1972.