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Civil Rights, then and now

A Chara,

Civil Rights, then and now

On behalf of the Civil Rights Network – rights.civil@gmail.com – I wish to extend our congratulations to the Co. Tyrone organisers of the August 26th Coalisland to Dungannon civil rights march. It followed in the footsteps of the seminal Nicra protest forty-four years ago, which my late parents and I attended.

I remember ten times more people there in 1968 when our peaceful demo was blocked from entering the town centre, by a combination of lines of RUC and what were then commonly referred to as ‘Paisleyites’. That is remarkable insofar as the statistics on homelessness and unemployment are higher these days than when we took to the streets then. In addition ‘special powers’ remain in operation which includes, regardless of official waffle, the return of internment. As pointed out by the main speaker, the human rights campaigner, Monsignor Raymond Murray, this involves prisoners, such as Marian Price and others being routinely “degraded and humiliated”. Regardless of religious, political, or other distinguishing factors, all those incarcerated are entitled to be treated humanely, particularly when in poor health, as stipulated under European and other internationally agreed and legally binding, conventions. Secretary of State, please take note.

Primarily speakers focused on other major issues such as current social benefit cut-backs, affordable housing, accessible healthcare and diverse social justice concerns. From an internationalist perspective it was highly appropriate, as the proceedings commenced, to hold a one minute’s silence in memory of those striking South African miners, so brutally, tragically and needlessly shot down for demanding a better deal from multi-millionaire employers. This industrial elite now includes former leading figures in the ANC. Such betrayals are in stark contrast to those high hopes and expectations of the black population, engendered before and after the apparent demise of the Apartheid regime.

Finally, our salute to the stewards whose protective presence was reassuring, their thoughtful supply of bottled water on that hot Sunday summer afternoon, and the provision of very welcome chairs for we ‘veterans’ as the four-mile march concluded at Ann Street. Last, but not least, we thank the “DJ van” occupants for appropriate and non-offensive popular ballads and the bus drivers who enabled us to more speedily return to our vehicles, parked in Coalisland.

Is Misé,

Le Meas Mór,

Fionnbarra Ó’Dochartaigh,

Co-founder, NICRA, 1967.

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