Historic civil rights march remembered


Events have been taking place in Derry to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1968 civil rights’ march, which some consider to have been the start of the recent conflict in Ireland.

Marchers, including British Labour MPs, were batoned off the street on October 5 1968, when they took part in the original march organised to highlight civil rights issues in Derry. The violent clashes on Duke Street were captured by television cameras and broadcast around the world.

Sinn Fein’s anniversary march from Derry’s Waterside to Guildhall Square today terminated outside the Guildhall, where the party organised a rally.

Thousands turned out in bright sunshine to relive Ireland’s civil rights era. Singing ‘We Shall Overcome’, the march highlighted issues such as Irish language equality, victims rights campaigns, as well as abortion and LGBT rights.

Speaking at the rally, party leader Mary Lou McDonald praised the leaders of the civil rights movement, who she described as “a courageous generation”.

“Fifty years ago, good people came together to form the civil rights movement. Facing discrimination and locked into a single party state which did not respect or recognise them,” she said.

“While so much has changed and progress made, we have much further to travel: for women; bodily autonomy. For our LGBT+ community; the right to marriage equality. For victims of conflict; truth and justice and for the rights and recognition of our gaelgeoiri.

“Is cearta sibhialta cearta teanga. Mar sin, ta dualgas ar pholaiteoiri a chinntiu go bhfuil se de cheart ag daoine saol tri Ghaeilge a bheith acu mas mian leo.”

“Discrimination was wrong in 1968. It is wrong in 2018. It was fiercely opposed in 1968. It must be fiercely opposed in 2018”.

She concluded, to cheers: “There are those who try to stall and frustrate us. They can only win if we let them, if we give up and if we go away.

“So let me say, we will not give up. We will not go away. We will not stop.

“We will have full civil rights and we will have equality and we will have a new and united Ireland. And that New Ireland will be a place for all.”

Three of the 1968 organisers, Fionnbarra O Dochartaigh, Aidan McKinney and Ivan Cooper had called on Sinn Fein to alter their plans by sticking to the intended route of the original march which was to have stopped at Derry’s Diamond, approximately 400 metres from the Guildhall.

Mr O Dochartaigh said it was “a deliberate spoiling exercise”, with Irish President Michael Higgins due to be separately delivering an address at that time inside the Guildhall to mark the anniversary.

Eamonn McCann, a leading figure in the North’s civil rights movement and a People Before Profit representative in the city, also accused Sinn Fein of “trying to hijack history” with the march.

“Trying to reshape their history now to pretend that they were just a civil rights party forced to adopt violent means to achieve the demands of the civil rights movement - this is a nonsense.”

But Sinn Fein rejected calls to alter the march, which it said was about “carrying on the march for civil rights today”.

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