CAIN Web Service
A Chronology of the Conflict - 1985
Text and Research: Martin Melaugh
Material is added to this site on a regular basis - information on this page may change
The following is a draft chronology of the conflict for the year 1985
1985 Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Tuesday 15 January 1985
Paul Kelly (17), a Catholic civilian, was shot dead by the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), as he ran away from a stationary stolen car at a UDR check-point at Kennedy Way, Belfast.
Sunday 20 January 1985
Douglas Hurd, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, was interviewed on Radio Telefis Éireann (RTE) during which he said that political arrangements could be created to improve Anglo-Irish relationships.
Wednesday 30 January 1985
Douglas Hurd, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, dismissed demands for the disbandment of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR).
[ PRONI Records – January 1985]
[ NAI Records – January 1985. ]
Friday 1 February 1985
John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), announced that he was accepting an invitation to a meeting with the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Hume said he would urge the IRA leadership to end the campaign of violence. However he was heavily criticised by Unionists and others. [The meeting took place on 23 February 1985 but ended after only a few minutes when Hume refused to allow part of the meeting to be recorded.]
Sunday 3 February 1985
Garret FitzGerald, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), said that the proposed meeting between John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) would be used by Republicans for propaganda purposes. Charles Haughey, then leader of Fianna Fáil (FF), supported Hume.
Saturday 16 February 1985
Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), was refused a visa to enter the United States of America (USA). Adams was supposed to address a meeting of members of Congress but the US State Department turned down the visa application.
Tuesday 19 February 1985
The government in the Republic of Ireland introduced legislation that allowed it to freeze the bank accounts of people believed to be holding funds on behalf of paramilitary organisations.
Wednesday 20 February 1985
Margaret Thatcher, the then British Prime Minister, travelled to the United States of America (USA) and addressed the US Congress. In her speech she called on Americans not to give money to organisations, such as NORAID (Irish Northern Aid Committee), that were believed to support Republican paramilitaries in Northern Ireland.
Saturday 23 February 1985
Three members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) were shot dead by undercover British soldiers in the outskirts of Strabane, County Tyrone. The IRA men were believed to be returning weapons to an arms dump when they were killed.
A man alleged to be an informer was shot dead by the IRA in Derry.
John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), walked out of a meeting with representatives of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) when it was suggested by the IRA that part of the proceedings be recorded on video. It is believed that the actual meeting only lasted a few minutes. Hume stated that he had spent 28 hours "in the virtual custody of" the IRA from Friday evening until 8.00 pm on Saturday 23 February 1985 - the time at which the meeting was to start (Irish Times, 25 February 1985, page 1).
Monday 25 February 1985
In the Republic of Ireland Des O'Malley, then a Teachta Dáil (TD) and member of Fianna Fáil (FF), was expelled from the party for refusing to vote against a bill to liberalise contraceptive legislation. [O'Malley later formed a new political party, the Progressive Democrats.]
Wednesday 27 February 1985
The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) planted a bomb close to Windsor Park in Belfast during a World Cup soccer match between England and Northern Ireland. The bomb was defused (??). The INLA also issued a general death threat against any visiting British sports teams.
Thursday 28 February 1985
Nine RUC Officers Killed
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a home-made mortar attack on the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) station in Newry, County Down, and killed nine RUC officers and injured 30 others. [This incident represented the greatest loss of life for the RUC in a single incident. The number of deaths was high because most of those killed were inside temporary dwellings within the RUC base.]
A member of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) was killed by the IRA in County Tyrone.
[ PRONI Records – February 1985]
[ NAI Records – February 1985. ]
Thursday 7 March 1985
In London two men were sentenced to 35 years' imprisonment for planning the 1981 bombings in the city.
Friday 22 March 1985
It was announced that Roberty Pascoe would replace Robert Richardson as Commanding Officer of the British Army in Northern Ireland as from June 1985.
Saturday 23 March 1985
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) held its annual conference in Castlereagh, East Belfast. During his speech, Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), accused the Irish government, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and the Catholic hierarchy of having a vested interest in Irish Republican Army (IRA) atrocities.
[ PRONI Records – March 1985]
[ NAI Records – March 1985. ]
Wednesday 3 April 1985
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded a car bomb outside the Courthouse in Newry, County Down. The blast killed an Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer and a civilian worker employed at the Courthouse.
Friday 5 April 1985
The British government said that it would not provide the funding to save the 'town gas' industry in Northern Ireland.
Thursday 11 April 1985
Douglas Hurd, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced new procedures for dealing with complaints made against the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).
Saturday 20 April 1985
Four senior Irish Republican Army (IRA) members were believed to have been expelled from the organisation.
[ PRONI Records – April 1985]
[ NAI Records – April 1985. ]
Wednesday 15 May 1985
District Council Elections
District Council elections were held across Northern Ireland. [When the votes were counted and seats allocated Sinn Féin (SF) had secured 11.8 per cent of the vote and 59 seats in its first local government election in Northern Ireland.]
Monday 20 May 1985
Four Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers in a mobile patrol were killed when the Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded a bomb in a parked trailer at Killeen, County Down.
Sunday 26 May 1985
The Lear Fan aircraft company announced the closure of its Northern Ireland plant. Most of the 350 people that had been employed by the company had lost their jobs following the first announcement about the firm's future on 31 May 1985.
[ PRONI Records – May 1985]
[ NAI Records – May 1985. ]
Tuesday 4 June 1985
In Fermanagh District Council a Sinn Féin (SF) member is elected as chairman with a member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) being elected as vice-chairman. In Magherafelt a SF member was elected as vice-chairman.
Friday 14 June 1985
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded a large bomb, estimated at 1,000 pounds, in the centre of Belfast.
Sunday 23 June 1985
The security service in England said that it had uncovered a plan by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to launch a bombing campaign mainly against English seaside resort towns.
Tuesday 25 June 1985
The United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK) sign a bilateral treaty that would prevent people facing extradition from claiming that their crimes had a political motive.
Thursday 27 June 1985
The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) shot dead a member of the Garda Síochána (the Irish police) during an armed robbery at a post office in Ardee, County Louth, Republic of Ireland. Douglas Hurd, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced that certain community groups in Northern Ireland would receive no further government funding because of their alleged "close links with paramilitary organisations".
Saturday 29 June 1985
Patrick Magee was charged in a London court with the murder of those killed in the Brighton bombing on 12 October 1984. [Magee was found guilty of conspiring to cause explosions in Britain on 11 June 1986 and received eight life sentences.]
[ PRONI Records – June 1985]
[ NAI Records – June 1985. ]
Wednesday 3 July 1985
The Orange Order organised a large Loyalist protest demonstration in Portadown, County Armagh, against the re-routing of a Loyalist parade away from a Catholic area of the town. [There was trouble in the town on 7 July 1985 and on 12 July 1985. The annual Orange parade to Drumcree, Portadown, was to return to the headlines in 1995.]
Sunday 7 July 1985
The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) took the decision to allow an Orange Order parade to Drumcree Church to pass through Obins Street, a mainly Catholic area of Portadown. The decision led to clashes between Nationalist protestors and the RUC.
Friday 12 July 1985
There was further rioting in Portadown, County Armagh, following the decision by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) to re-route Orange Order and Royal Black Institution parades away from Obins Street, a mainly Catholic area of Portadown. During serious rioting between Loyalists and the RUC extensive damage was inflicted on property in the town and 52 RUC officers were injured.
Monday 15 July 1985
Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister, delivered a speech to the American Bar Association in London. During her speech Thatcher referred to the role of the media during the conflict in Northern Ireland and said that it would be necessary to starve paramilitary organisations of "the oxygen of publicity".
Sunday 21 July 1985
The United Ulster Loyalist Front (UULF) was formed in Portadown, County Armagh, to oppose the re-routing of Loyalist parades away from Catholic areas. Tomás Ó Fiaich, then Catholic Primate of Ireland, was reported in an interview in the Universe, a Catholic religious newspaper, as having said that he believed that 90 per cent of religious bigotry in Northern Ireland was found among Protestants.
Monday 29 July 1985
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) exploded a large van bomb in the centre of Belfast and caused damage to the Magistrates' Court.
Tuesday 30 July 1985
Ban on Documentary
Following pressure from the British government the governors of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) prevented the transmission of a television documentary, 'Real Lives: At The Edge Of The Union', that featured an interview with Martin McGuinness, then a Sinn Féin (SF) Assembly member. [This decision led to protests by BBC and Independent Television News (ITN) journalists, on 7 August 1985, and a threat to resign by James Hawthorne, then Northern Ireland Controller of the BBC. The programme was later broadcast with some amendments.]
[ PRONI Records – July 1985]
[ NAI Records – July 1985. ]
Wednesday 7 August 1985
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Independent Television News (ITN) journalists went on strike over the decision by the British government and the BBC in Northern Ireland to ban the documentary 'Real Lives: At The Edge Of The Union'. The strike led to the BBC World Service going off the air for the first time.
Friday 16 August 1985
There were more disturbances in Portadown, County Armagh, following a Loyalist band parade. Some shops were looted and set on fire.
Tuesday 20 August 1985
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) shot and killed Seamus McAvoy (46) at his home in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. McAvoy had sold portable buildings to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and was the first person to be killed for providing goods or services to the security forces in Northern Ireland. [This killing marked the beginning of a campaign against what the IRA termed 'legitimate targets'.]
Friday 30 August 1985
James Molyneaux, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), and Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), attended a meeting at Downing Street, London, with Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister. The two Unionist leaders had asked for the meeting to protest at the continuing Anglo-Irish talks between the two governments.
[ PRONI Records – August 1985]
[ NAI Records – August 1985. ]
Monday 2 September 1985
Tom King replaced Douglas Hurd as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Wednesday 4 September 1985
A Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) base in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, was seriously damaged in an Irish Republican Army (IRA) mortar attack. The base was used to train new recruits.
Sunday 8 September 1985
A married couple Gerard and Catherine Mahon, both Catholic civilians, were found shot dead in Turf Lodge in west Belfast. The couple had been shot by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) who alleged that they were informers working on behalf of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).
[ PRONI Records – September 1985]
[ NAI Records – September 1985. ]
Saturday 5 October 1985
Charles Haughey, then leader of Fianna Fáil (FF), said that FF would not support any move away from the principle of a United Ireland.
Tuesday 8 October 1985
The Northern Ireland Court of Appeal overturned a conviction for murder against Dominic McGlinchey, formerly leader of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). [McGlinchey was later extradited back to the Republic of Ireland.]
Monday 14 October 1985
The Irish Information Partnership published some results from its database of deaths from the conflict. The information showed that more than 50 per cent of the 2,400 dead had been killed by Republican paramilitaries. In addition the data also showed that over 25 per cent of those killed by Republicans were Catholic civilians. [See also the information on other databases]
Wednesday 30 October 1985
James Molyneaux, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), and Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), attended a meeting at Downing Street, London, with Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister. The two Unionists again protested at the continuing Anglo-Irish talks between the two governments. They warned that a consultative role in Northern Ireland affairs for the government in the Republic of Ireland would lead to a Loyalist backlash.
[ PRONI Records – October 1985]
[ NAI Records – October 1985. ]
Saturday 2 November 1985
Loyalists began a campaign to establish 'Ulster Clubs' in each District Council area in Northern Ireland. To begin the campaign there was a march through Belfast by an estimated 5,000 members of the United Ulster Loyalist Front (UULF). The main aim of the organisation was to oppose any forthcoming Anglo-Irish agreement.
Sinn Féin began a two day Ard Fheis (annual conference) during which a debate was held on a motion that the party’s "... policy on abstentionism be viewed as a tactic and not as a principle". [In essence this proposed that SF should in the future consider taking up, if successful, any seats won by the party in the Dail, the parliament of the Republic of Ireland. After a vote however the motion was defeated by 187 votes to 161. The issue was debated again at the Ard Fheis held on 1-2 November 1986.]
Friday 15 November 1985
Anglo-Irish Agreement Signed
Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister, and Garret FitzGerald, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) at Hillsborough, County Down, on behalf of the two governments. The first part of the document stated: "The two Governments (a) affirm that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland." The Agreement established the Inter-Governmental Conference that for the first time gave the Irish government a consultative role in matters related to security, legal affairs, politics, and cross-border co-operation. The Agreement also stated that the two governments would support any future wish by the people of Northern Ireland to enter into a united Ireland. Many Nationalists saw this as an important development. Unionists were outraged at the Agreement and began a long campaign to have the AIA removed. [The AIA was only superseded when the Good Friday Agreement was implemented on 2 December 1999.] Loyalist paramilitaries also reacted and the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) declared all members of the Anglo-Irish Conference and Secretariat to be 'legitimate targets'. Ian Gow, then British Treasury Minister, resigned in protest at the signing of the Agreement.
Saturday 16 November 1985
The Northern Ireland Assembly voted by 44 votes to 10 for a motion calling for a referendum to be held on the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA). Unionists also announced that on 17 December 1985 all 15 Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Members of Parliament (MPs) would resign their seats and so cause by-elections in most of the parliamentary constituencies in Northern Ireland. Unionists also said they would withdraw from all advisory boards in Northern Ireland and refuse to meet with government ministers.
Monday 18 November 1985
Mary Robinson, then a Senator (and future President) in the Republic of Ireland, resigned from the Labour Party in protest at the lack of consultation before the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) was introduced.
Tuesday 19 November 1985
The 18 District Councils that were controlled by Unionists voted for a policy of adjournment against the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA). The councils also threatened to refuse to set the 'rates' (local government taxes). [These developments sparked a long period of disruption in local government in Northern Ireland.]
Wednesday 20 November 1985
Tom King, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, was physically attacked by Loyalist protesters as he arrived for a function at Belfast City Hall. The protests were against the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA). [George Seawright, then a Loyalist councillor, was jailed for nine months in October 1986 for his part in this protest.]
Thursday 21 November 1985
In the Republic of Ireland there was a vote in the Dáil on the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA). Although Fianna Fáil (FF) voted against the Agreement the motion was passed by 88 votes to 75. Charles Haughey, then leader of FF, said he would not oppose developments that were of benefit to Nationalists living in Northern Ireland.
Saturday 23 November 1985
Unionist Rally Against AIA
There was a huge Unionist rally, estimated at over 100,000 people, at Belfast City Hall to protest against the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA). [The slogan in the campaign against the AIA was ‘Ulster Says NO’ and it was one that was to appear throughout the region and to remain for a considerable number of years.]
Monday 25 November 1985
Unionists lost a High Court action in London during which they sought leave to challenge certain aspects of the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA).
Tuesday 26 November 1985
In the House of Commons at Westminster a two-day debate on the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) began.
Wednesday 27 November 1985
The House of Commons approved the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) in a vote of 473 votes to 47. During her speech Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister, said that the government would not give way to threats or violence.
[ PRONI Records – November 1985]
[ NAI Records – November 1985. ]
Tuesday 3 December 1985
Tom King, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, expressed his regret for a speech he made in Brussels in which he had said he thought the Irish government accepted that there would never be a united Ireland.
Thursday 5 December 1985
Unionist members in the Northern Ireland Assembly established a Grand Committee of the Assembly to examine the impact of the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) on government departments.
Friday 6 December 1985
The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI) took the decision to withdraw from the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Saturday 7 December 1985
Two Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers were shot dead during an attack by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on the RUC base at Ballygawley, County Tyrone.
Wednesday 11 December 1985
The first meeting of the new Inter-Governmental Conference established under the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) was held. Protestant workers from a number of firms in Belfast staged walk-outs and marched to Maryfield where the Anglo-Irish Secretariat was based. There were violent clashes between the demonstrators and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) with 38 officers being injured.
Tuesday 17 December 1985
Unionist MPs Resign
All 15 Unionist Members of Parliament (MPs) resigned their seats in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA). Their intention was to highlight opposition to the Agreement in Northern Ireland during the by-elections that would be caused.
Wednesday 18 December 1985
Twenty-five people were sentenced for paramilitary related offences on the evidence of Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) 'supergrass' informer Harry Kirkpatrick. This was the last of the 'supergrass' trials. [The system had depended on the uncorroborated evidence of one person who often was given immunity from prosecution and also received substantial sums of money. A number of people who had been convicted previously under the system had their convictions overturned.]
Saturday 21 December 1985
Des O’Malley formed a new political party, the Progressive Democrats, in the Republic of Ireland.
[ PRONI Records – December 1985]
[ NAI Records – December 1985. ]
This chronology has been compiled from a number of sources:
Bew, P. and Gillespie, G. (1999) Northern Ireland A chronology of the Troubles 1968-1999. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan Ltd.
Elliott, S. and Flackes, W.D. (1999) Northern Ireland A Political Directory 1968-1999. Belfast: The Blackstaff Press.
Fortnight Magazine's monthly chronology of 'the Troubles'.
Sutton, M. (1994) An Index of Deaths from the Conflict
in Ireland 1969-1993. Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications. The Sutton Index of Deaths 1969-2001 - see in particular the list of deaths for 1985.
For a full list of, and links to, on-line sources see the Guide to the Internet.
Notes Major security incidents
Each entry contains information, where relevant, on the following topic areas:
Other relevant items
Information contained within square brackets [ ] may contain commentary or information that only became publicly available at a later date. Any piece of information which is followed by a question mark in parenthesis (?) is a best estimate while awaiting an update.