Operation Motorman Documentary

The Nerve Centre has played a central role in a new Insight documentary that is due to be screened on UTV Thursday December 6 at 9pm.

The Nerve Centre has played a central role in a new Insight documentary to be screened on UTV Thursday December 6. Operation Motorman is a production by Derry~Londonderry based Open Reel Productions for UTV which was edited in the Nerve Centre’s ‘Hub’ post production facility by Justine Scoltock and written and co-produced by the Nerve Centre’s John Peto.

Director and Co-Producer Vinny Cunningham explains that he is a long time collaborator with the Nerve Centre: ‘I have worked with the Nerve Centre for twenty years and with John for the last ten. To have these facilities and knowledge in Derry is a fantastic asset for me as a filmmaker. Previously I would have travelled to London or Dublin for my post-production work but now I am able to work with people that I know and understand what I am trying to achieve with my work and to build lasting creative relationships, as well as having access to state of the art online and offline production facilities here in my home town.’

Operation Motorman will mark the 40th anniversary of the ending of Operation Motorman – when troops, tanks and bulldozers poured into Northern Ireland in an attempt to stop the conflict here and end ‘no go’ areas in Belfast, Derry and beyond.

1972 was the bloodiest year of the Troubles. Spiralling violence on the streets of Northern Ireland saw almost 500 people killed and prompted the British Government into action to restore law and order: that action was ‘Operation Motorman’.

For the first time on television, we hear the story of Motorman from its planning and execution through to its impact in shaping the outcome of the conflict.

The one-hour programme includes interviews with key players including Martin McGuinness, Baroness May Blood, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield and Billy Hutchinson, as well as a number of soldiers who were charged with carrying out the Operation.

The deaths of two young men and the subsequent bombing of Claudy are also discussed in the programme, which lifts the lid on a dark time in our history and examines a surreal and significant chapter in the story of Northern Ireland.

Baroness May Blood recalls: 'Why could the army not do something about these ‘no go’ areas, as they became known? Why did they not move in, why did they not take over? And that was a real sense of frustration in the Protestant areas because they couldn’t see why these people could be allowed to build up their own ‘no go’ areas...'

Motorman was the largest British military operation since the Suez crisis of 1956 and created scenes reminiscent of a war zone on the streets of Belfast and Derry. More than 20,000 troops equipped with tanks, saracens and even HMS fearless were deployed to end the barricaded ‘no go’ areas that had developed in nationalist and loyalist areas.

Overnight, the conflict was transformed and the paramilitaries were initially forced onto the back foot and then firmly underground, in a move which was to set the
scene for the ‘Long War’ and a further 22 years of violence.

Martin McGuinness said: 'I was in [Derry] and remained in the city for many weeks after Operation Motorman and there were actually several occasions in the weeks after… where I was physically stopped and searched by the British army who hadn’t got the foggiest notion that I was Martin McGuinness. So I presume that if I had been arrested at that time, in all probability I would have been either shot or interned.'

Sir General Robert Ford, Commander, Land Forces NI, considered that Operation Motorman had gone ‘very well’. He said: 'The position now in Northern Ireland is that anyone can go anywhere at any time - and that’s what I wanted to achieve.'

Motorman is an Open Reel Production for UTV Insight.

UTV’s Insight special Operation Motorman screens on Thursday December 6 at 9.00pm.