5 December 1975: Internment in the North was finally abandoned on this day. Internment without trial was imposed by the British on 9 August 1971. It was brought in to stop the IRA in its tracks but backfired from the start as it drove a substantial block of the Nationalist Community into pretty well open revolt. By 1975 the fact that hundreds of men were held behind barbed wire without trial in western Europe in what was seen internationally as part of the United Kingdom was an embarrassment to the British Government under the UK Prime Minister Jim Callaghan.
The CO of the British Army in Ulster, Lieutenant General Sir Frank King, was of the opinion that the special category status was objectionable from the point of view of security. He believed it was 'an aid to the recruitment of terrorists.' The British had announced earlier in the year that 'Special Category Status' would be ended by Christmas 1975 and in that they kept their word. However its replacement, the concept of treating captured members of the IRA etc. as ‘common criminals’ proved an even more disastrous policy and led eventually to the Hunger Strikes in the H Blocks in 1980 and 1981.
Almost 2,000 nationalists had been detained during the time Internment was in operation. The total number from the unionist community detained was just 107. Most were held at Long Kesh Camp [above] where conditions were very poor. Internment alienated even more people from the British Government and its policies than had existed prior to its introduction. It has been seen ever since as a Disaster for their ability to rule the North at that time.