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Abstract of Important Events - The United Loyalist Council Strike, 7 February 1973

[Key_Events] Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]

Text and Research: Martin Melaugh
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This is one of a number of files which provide a very brief abstract of important events during the Northern Ireland conflict. Some of the events are dealt with in greater detail elsewhere (check, for example, Key Events and the corresponding entry in the chronology.

The United Loyalist Council Strike, 7 February 1973

Two loyalists were arrested on 2 February 1973 in connection with the murder of a Catholic man. Three days later, on 5 February 1973 it was announced that the two men were to be 'detained' making them the first Protestants to be interned. In response to the internment of the two men the United Loyalist Council (ULC), led by William Craig, the then leader of Ulster Vanguard, called for a one-day general strike for 7 February 1973. The ULC was an umbrella group which co-ordinated the activities of the Loyalist Association of Workers (LAW), the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), and a number of other Loyalist paramilitary groups. The aim of the strike was to "re-establish some kind of Protestant or loyalist control over the affairs in the province, especially over security policy" (Anderson, 1994, p4).

The first cut in the supply of electricity occurred on 6 February 1973 and power cuts were to affect Northern Ireland until the end of the strike. Many factories, commercial establishments, and schools were affected by the action. The ULC strike demonstrated, what many already knew, that loyalist workers had sufficient control over the Northern Ireland economy to bring it to a standstill if there was sufficient motivation and support amongst the Protestant population. The ULC strike was marked by high levels of violence with five people, including a fireman, being killed, seven people wounded, several explosions and numerous malicious fires. The violence and chaos had the effect of reducing support for the action among the Protestant community, particularly middle-class Protestants.

Most commentators view the 1973 ULC strike as a failure in that it did not achieve its aim and because it divided Protestant opinion. However, it did demonstrate the potential of a general stoppage and similar tactics were to be used during the Ulster Workers' Council strike of May 1974.

CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.

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