SDLP to ‘celebrate’ Civil Rights anniversary with Derry debate

NOVEMBER 1968... A civil rights march makes its way across Criagavon Bridge in Derry. Copyright: Derry Journal.
NOVEMBER 1968... A civil rights march makes its way across Criagavon Bridge in Derry. Copyright: Derry Journal.
  • Party kick-starts year of commemorative events with Glassworks discussion

The first in a series of events to “celebrate, commemorate and activate” the spirit of the NI Civil Rights Movement will take place in Derry this week.

With next year marking 50 years since the first marches for civil rights, the SDLP is organising a number of events to commemorate what was a seismic era in recent Irish history.

The 1960s marches marked the first steps in the ongoing movement for equality, rights and respect after many years of systematic discrimination in Northern Ireland.

The SDLP’s specially established Civil Rights Committee, kick-starts its year of events in Derry this Thursday - the 49th anniversary of the famous October 5, 1968 civil rights march in the city. It’s the date often cited as the day the ‘Troubles’ began.

On that day, civil rights marchers were violently attacked by police using batons and water cannon. Among those injured in the clashes were N.I. MP. Gerry Fitt and three British Labour Party MPs.

Dramatic images were captured on camera by the media and broadcast around the world.

Television news coverage of these events brought the situation in Northern Ireland to international attention.

The Cameron Report, published in September 1969, concluded that there had been “use of unnecessary and ill-controlled force in the dispersal of the demonstrators” in Derry on October 5, 1968 (pictured right).

Eamonn McCann, one of the organisers of the march, said that the thing he recalled most in the aftermath of the day was “the number of people who came up to me and said, using the exact phrase: ‘Things will never be the same again.’ And they were right.

Thursday’s SDLP event will take place at The Glassworks, Great James’ Street, in Derry (4.30pm to 6pm). It will feature keynote addresses by SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and deputy leader Nicola Mallon.

There will also be a panel discussion featuring special guests on the importance of the Civil Rights Movement, then and now.