President Michael D. Higgins paid tribute to the former chair and vice-chair of the Derry Citizens’ Action Committee, Ivan Cooper, and John Hume during the October 5, 1968, commemorations in the Guildhall today.
President Higgins presented a special award to Mr. Cooper who joined him on stage for his key note speech, which was hosted by Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor John Boyle, in support of the festival led by the N. Ireland Civil Rights Commemoration Committee.
During his speech the President remarked: "The 5th of October march galvanised the movement for Civil Rights in Ireland. In the days which followed, civil rights groups in Derry City merged to form the Derry Citizens’ Action Committee.
"Its first chairperson was of course Ivan Cooper, and may I add my own thanks to Ivan, as President of Ireland, for the courage, the leadership and the dedication to the cause of justice – justice in all its forms – that he has demonstrated throughout his political career. The vice-chair of the Committee was another remarkable servant of the people of the island of Ireland, John Hume."
The former SDLP leader whose wife Pat was in attendance was lauded by President Higgins for his pivotal role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and as a peacemaker in the years thereafter.
"I stand in this building, in this city, I wish to pay tribute to the life and work of one man who does so strongly symbolise the efforts to bring peace to our island, John Hume.
"The Civil Rights Movement was the crucible from which John Hume emerged as a national and international politician. He dedicated his political life to realising its programme, and later, its wider emancipatory potential. Sometimes I fear – and I know this is a fear widely held – that the contribution of John Hume, and his dogged persistence through the dark twilight years of the Troubles, might be eclipsed amidst the disputations of the contemporary moment. That would be unjust," he said.