This year’s West Armagh Community Festival kicks off on Monday 3rd August with the summer camp. As can be seen from the accompanying poster there will be a lot on offer this year. We will have a return of the established favourites, particularly the Hughes/McGerrigan under 14 football tournament. The Desy McQuaid Football Challenge, Harry McCartney Tug-o-War, Marie Smyth Ladies Road Bowls are all on the menu as well as a few new ones. There is one significant change to this years’ programme and that is the Peter Corrigan Memorial Quiz. Due to unforeseen events this years’ quiz will actually be held on the Friday following the main events. Devlins’ Bar will be the venue on Friday 14th August at 9.00pm. As with previous quizzes there will be teams of five. A full programme of events will be published and available at numerous outlets.
It is worth remembering the reason why this community festival came about. August has been noted as a volatile time of the year. One of the most significant events in the troubles occurred on Monday August 9th when the then Stormont Government introduced detention without trial, better known as Internment which continued in use until Friday 5 December 1975. During this period a total of 1,981 people were detained; 1,874 were Catholic / Nationalist, while 107 were Protestant / Loyalist. Internment lasted for four years.
Coming about at a time of civil unrest the Unionist controlled Stormont Government convinced the British Government of the need, and the advantages, of introducing internment as a means of countering rising levels of violence. The policy proved however to be a disastrous mistake. The measure was only used against the Nationalist community. Although Loyalist paramilitaries had been responsible for some of the violence no Protestants were arrested in the initial swoops (the first Loyalist internees were detained on 2 February 1973)
In the years that followed Internment and its anniversaries ,August 9th sparked violent reaction particularly in Nationalist areas. It almost became traditional even after the communitys' outage at Internment had subsided. It was against this backdrop that community festivals began to emerge. In Armagh; it was no different as community activists sought to channel energies into something less destructive and benefitial to the community.Perhaps the biggest such festival is Féile an Phobail that takes place annually in Belfast. Although, on a smaller scale Féile Phobail Ard Mhacha Thiar ( West Armagh Community Festival) can claim some benefit for redirecting similar energies in Armagh.