The Mayor of Derry, councillor Martin Reilly, welcomed veterans of the Civil Rights movement to the Guildhall this week to mark the 45th anniversary of the founding of the Derry Citizens’ Action Committee.
The group, a key organisation in civil rights era Derry, was founded in the old City Hotel, Foyle Street, on October 9 1968, four days after peaceful demonstrators were attacked by the RUC at Duke Street during the city’s first civil rights march.
Over the next year, the action committee organised marches, protests, and sit down demonstrations against the ongoing discrimination against the nationalist population by the unionist regime at Stormont.
A number of surviving members of the action committee attended the mayoral reception in the Guildhall on Wednesday afternoon, including Nobel laureate John Hume.
Mr Hume was a leading member of the action committee alongside Ivan Cooper, who later went on to serve as an MP and minister at Stormont. Mr Cooper also attended the reception in the Guildhall on Wednesday.
Another civil rights veteran in attendance was Fionnbarra O Dochartaigh, who served as secretary of the Derry Citizen’s Action Committee, and was involved in organising the reunion.
Mr O Dochartaigh organised a series of events, including a lecture and a documentary screening, to mark the 45th anniversary of the October 5 civil rights march.
Mr O Dochartaigh presented the mayor with a copy of the original poster advertising the October 5 march and a copy of the documentary ‘We Shall Overcome,’ which tells the story of the civil rights campaign.
Sheila McClean, civil rights veteran and wife of the late Dr Raymond McClean, was also at the reception. Mrs McClean was an original member of the action committee and also designed the logo of the civil rights movement in Derry which featured a black and white oak leaf.
Dermie McClenaghan and Deirdre O’Doherty, who also involved in the civil rights campaign in Derry, and Sha Gillespie, who has been involved in organising commemorations of key civil rights anniversaries, were also in attendance.
Mr O Docharataigh said; “It is important to recognise important events in the recent history of the city.”