Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has paid tribute to the people of Derry for standing up against the might if the State and sparking the Civil Rights Movement.
Mr Adams said that for decades Derry was a by-word for discrimination and injustice, particularly in terms of houses and jobs.
He was speaking as he addressed hundreds of young Sinn Fein members from right across Ireland at the National Youth Congress in the Gasyard Centre in Derry on Saturday.
In his opening remarks, Mr Adams praised the legacy of recently deceased local man Willie Curran, saying he was a “constant in Derry for the last 40 years or so and particularly archiving, photographing, filming all those big historic events in our lives and the lives of republicans and nationalists here.
Informing the young people about the importance of Derry’s past, he said: “It’s very, very appropriate we are meeting at this Congress in Derry, because Derry was synonymous with the struggle for Civil Rights.
“For decades this city, and unionist misrule here, was a by-word for discrimination and inequality.
“I remember being here before, when Free Derry Wall was the gable of a terrace and seeing the conditions in which people had to live. And this city, which was a nationalist city, was permanently controlled by a unionist minority and the Northern State was an apartheid State. The only difference between here and South Africa was the degrees of coercion, but Derry was a very, very public manifestation of the system of apartheid we were reared under.
“The Civil Rights Association was born in 1968. It took to the streets. It was here in Derry on October 6 that the brutal face of the Northern Orange State was laid bare when a Civil Rights March was attacked on Duke Street.
“Then the decision in August 1969 by the unionist government to allow a march by the Apprentice Boys march to take place in Derry was another pivotal moment and that led to the Battle of the Bogside. And some days later when the people of the Bogside had defeated the RUC, the unionist government asked for help from the British Government, and in August 14 the British Army was deployed here on the streets of Derry and in Belfast.
“We’re approaching now the anniversary of the date of the Bloody Sunday attacks. That changed irrevocably the politics in this island but it didn’t end the need or the struggle for Civil Rights and that struggle goes on today.”
Speaking about the current political situation, Mr Adams said there will be “zero tolerance” for those who refuse to sign up to respect and equality for all in any new administration post-elections.
Mr Adams said that there were several “red line issues” for his party, including parity of esteem for all sections of society, including ethnic minorities and the LGBT community.
He also said that there were those within political unionism who were fundamentally opposed to having “a Catholic about the place,” while others within unionism had moved on.
“It’s time that we faced up to all of this in a civil, in a courteous but in a very firm way.”