Three leading figures within the Civil Rights movement have called on Sinn Fein to revise its planned 50th anniversary march next month back to the original route.
Fionbarra O Dochartaigh, Ivan Cooper and Aidan McKinney expressed concerns that a march in the vicinity of Guildhall Square could cause major disruption to a programme of commemorative events inside the Guildhall being attended by President Michael D Higgins on October 6.
The men said concerns have been raised during discussions held by the Commemoration Committee recently that the march would not follow the original route to the Diamond.
The original march on October 5, 1968 was to start at the Waterside railway station and end at the Diamond where a rally was to be held.
Mr O’Dochartaigh said older Sinn Fein members had also raised concerns over the route of the forthcoming S.F. march with him. “They feel it is a bit inappropriate.
“I actually believe it would be beneficial to Sinn Fein to answer our plea to them.
“Civil rights did not belong to any particular party. We were a dolly mixture brigade. We are not against them marching but we don’t believe it should be partisan and it’s of no benefit to Sinn Fein to be seen to disrupt proceedings. Our main message is please stop at the Diamond and give us our right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in the Guildhall.”
Former Independent MP for Mid-Derry Ivan Cooper meanwhile said: “No matter how one views our three-day festival, any public gathering outside the Guildhall using especially employing a public address system, will be disruptive as the only barrier, between those inside and out, will be a row of stain-glass windows.
“I, and many others, have come to the view that such a rally is intended by its organisers to be a deliberate spoiling exercise. If the Sinn Fein organisers genuinely wish to respect the ideals and principles of the spirit of ‘68, they should have the common decency to stop at the Diamond as we veterans planned on October 5th 1968.”
Aidan McKinney said: “The planned route in 1968 was up Simpsons Brae onto Spencer Road, across Craigavon Bridge and onto Carlisle Road to the Diamond. Simpsons Brae was blocked by the RUC forcing the marchers to move along Duke Street. Such was undoubted a deliberate plan as Duke Street in those days was like a tunnel, with no side streets or lane ways, or any means of escape. Either way, logically and historically the Diamond should be the finishing point, not Guildhall Square, fifty years later”.