October 5th anniversary to be marked tonight

Civil rights march on its way across the Craigavon Bridge
Civil rights march on its way across the Craigavon Bridge

The 45th anniversary of the Derry’s first civil rights march on October 5, 1968, will be marked in the city this evening.

The march brought international attention to the discrimination faced by nationalists in the North when peaceful protestors were attacked by the RUC in Duke Street.

It was the first march held in the city by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and, despite a ban imposed by the unionist-led regime at Stormont, attracted thousands of people.

As the demonstrators, including Nationalist party MPs Eddie McAteer and Gerry Fitt, approached Craigavon Bridge they were attacked by the RUC who repeatedly baton charged the marchers.

Dozens of people were injured and photographs and footage of the attack on the marchers were shown around the world.

Following the attack on the marchers, a meeting was held in Derry four days later and the Derry Citizens’ Action Committee (DCAC) was formed.

The DCAC organised a large civil rights march in the city the following month, in defiance of the ongoing Stormont ban, which was led across Craigavon Bridge by leaders of the civil rights movement including John Hume, Ivan Cooper and Fionnbarra O Dochartaigh.

The anniversary of the October 5 march will be marked this evening with a lecture by Mr O Dochartaigh, one of the organisers of the original march, on the events which led to the event. His lecture, ‘From Springtown Camp to Duke Street,’ will form part of the programme of events held in the Derry City Social Club, 19 Crawford Square, this evening.

“Commentators point to that demo as a turning point in Irish history, some referring to that date as ‘the day the Troubles began.’ “Those on the march were attacked by the RUC at Duke Street and scores of peaceful demonstrators were injured. Photographs and news footage of the dramatic event were shown across the world and brought international attention on the civil rights movement and widespread discrimination at that time,” he said.

In addition to the lecture, a documentary film on the civil rights campaign will be shown, followed by a finger buffet and musical entertainment provided by Damian Nixon. Admission to the event is free.