President Michael D. Higgins will join leading academics and human rights campaigners in Derry’s Guildhall tomorrow marking 50 years since the birth of the Civil Rights Movement in the city.
President Higgins will give the keynote speech at the festival at 2.00 p.m., followed by broadcast journalist Fergal Keane delivering the John Hume Civil Rights Lecture one hour later, with an introduction by Mrs. Pat Hume.
The programme features a broad spectrum of speakers focusing on a range of issues spanning the civil rights era and reflecting on where we are today as a result of the campaign which changed the face of Irish society.
Looking ahead to the event, Mayor John Boyle said it presented an opportunity to highlight one of the most significant periods in modern Irish history. “I am delighted to see this event taking place here in the Guildhall, to mark what is considered a seminal moment in our history, when the eyes of the world were firmly focused on the streets of Derry. The NI Civil Rights Committee have put together an impressive programme of events.
“I am honoured to welcome President Michael D Higgins to the Guildhall as keynote speaker. It will be the highlight of a packed weekend, offering time to debate, reflect and remember a major period of transition which has shaped our society.”
The festival begins with a special schools’ event today (Friday), featuring talks and discussions around some of the key issues and events of the time.
Speakers include veteran civil rights campaigner Eamonn McCann, Jim McBride, Dr Chris Reynolds, Anne Devlin and Aidan McKinney.
On Friday evening a number of renowned Irish artistes will deliver the ‘Words of the Civil Rights’ in poetry and song. This event will feature Damien Dempsey, Stephen Rea, Martin Lynch, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, Paddy Nash and other special guests.
All proceeds from the evening are in aid of the Mayor’s chosen charity, Foyle Search and Rescue.
Throughout the weekend speakers will include Eamonn McCann, Erskine Holmes, Marian Donnelly, Michael Mansfield Q.C., Gareth Pierce, Lord Alf Dubs, Baroness Nuala O’Loan and other international human rights activists and leading academics.
Looking ahead to the weekend, chair of the Civil Rights Committee, Professor Paul Arthur said: “We are delighted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Duke Street March in Derry, a march that successfully challenged the status quo and led to a new political dispensation.
“The range of events is an acknowledgement of the reflective and inclusive approach adopted by the committee from its inaugural meeting in Belfast last November and its formal launch by the distinguished poet, Michael Longley, in Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church in January.”
For a full break down o f the events taking place this weekend and to book a place at specific events see: www.nicivilrights.org/events/civil-rights-festival/