Chair of the Derry Trades Union Council, Liam Gallagher, has urged Sinn Féin and the SDLP to stop squabbling over ownership of the Civil Rights movement of 1968 and, instead, work to achieve its unrealised objectives of ensuring jobs and housing for all.
Mr. Gallagher said all political parties should focus on redressing the high levels of economic inactivity and homelessness, which shamefully persist in Derry 50 years after people took to the streets to eliminate the twin evils.
The trade unionist said it was unfortunate energies were being wastefully expended in proprietorial rows in this half-centenary year.
“One of the things we are disappointed about is that there has been an attempt by political parties to take ownership of the civil rights movement of 1968,” said Mr. Gallagher.
“We would say that rather than go down that road of revisionism and trying to take ownership of it they should take ownership of it in 2018 and look at what the fundamental rights of every individual is.
“There should be a right to a job; a right to a house; a right to a future for your kids; a right to be able to provide for your kids.
“These are the rights we should be looking for in 2018 and not what happened in 1968,” he added.
Mr. Gallagher, who was involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the city as a young man, argues that by 1973, the Civil Rights Movement’s grievances over anti-nationalist and anti-Catholic discrimination had been largely addressed.
The unionist gerrymander of Derry, for example, was ended by the Local Government (NI) Act 1972, enacted following Patrick Macrory’s review of 1970, and the Housing Executive, by 1973, had full control of housing following the Housing Act (NI) of 1971.
“As a young man I was involved in the Civil Rights Movement. There was the argument at the time over discrimination and of one section of the city being done down.
“Around about 1972 gerrymandering had been dealt with.
“The Maccrory Report of 1972 brought about local government reform. It was one person, one vote. The property vote had been done away with.
“We also had the Housing Executive, which brought about the fair allocation of housing and we had many more improvements.”
Recalling these victories Mr. Gallagher believes it’s now time to reinvoke the spirit of the barricades of 50 years ago in order to complete the unfinished business of 1968.
“What I’m suggesting is, instead of people being involved in revisionism and trying to take ownership of the Civil Rights Movement, we should take stock and look at the fundamentals in 2018 in this city.
“What we are basically saying is that in Derry it’s a reasonable aspiration for every individual to have the right to have a job, or the opportunity to have meaningful work; to have the right to aspire to getting a house; to have a roof over your head; to feed your family and to give children a decent education.
“I would say that those are the fundamental rights of any human being,” he said.