The Civil Rights Movement is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has declared.
The Foyle MLA was speaking in Derry yesterday as his party kick-started a year of events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the N. I. Civil Rights Movement.
At an event in the Glassworks, Great James’ Street, Mr. Eastwood described the civil rights years as a “ defining moment of our history.”
Yesterday’s event also featured a panel discussion featuring Brid Rodgers, Chair of the SDLP Civil Rights Committee, Mhairi Black SNP MP, Martin Cowley, a Derry-born journalist who reported on many civil rights marches, and Kevin Donoghue, National Chair, Irish Labour Youth.
In a keynote address, Colum Eastwood remarked that, as politics in the North once more retreated into old trenches and divided into old battles, “the establishment of the Civil Rights Association offers a reminder that it is possible for politics to be united in the pursuit of the common good. “
He added: “That coalition for change was possible 50 years ago and it remains possible now.”
Mr. Eastwood hailed a “generation of young people burning with young political ideas”- John Hume, Austin Currie, Bernadette Devlin, Ivan Cooper and Eamon McCann - who, he said, shook and shattered the status quo of unionist discrimination forever.
“Although the hope of those times would come to be beaten, shot and bombed off the streets, as a wave of history and hatred came to engulf the North, those ideas and those ideals continue to endure,” he said.
The Foyle MLA acknowledged that the anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement in the North belonged to no one individual and to no one political party.
“It would be wrong, however, to deny that it has a special place in the life of the SDLP... Born out of those first marches came a new political movement which came to carve the path to peace.”
“Today we remember in this city of John Hume, that it was these politics, it was that vision, it was those voices, which have ultimately been victorious.”
“The fight for civil rights goes on, “he added. “It was not only yesterday’s fight - it remains today and it will continue into tomorrow.”