Michael D Higgins lauds courage of civil rights protesters

Update - The president has said the reconciling vision and courage of Northern Ireland’s civil rights leaders should be embraced on the 50th anniversary of protest bloodshed.

For some, the Royal Ulster Constabulary’s use of violence at Duke Street in Derry marked the start of decades of conflict.

Peaceful protesters seeking rights like one man, one vote, and the fair allocation of public housing were assaulted with batons.

President Michael D Higgins gave an award to one of the founders of the movement, Ivan Cooper, and applauded after St Columcille’s Ladies Choir sang the protest songs of the time.

He said: “The 5th of October march galvanised the movement for civil rights in Ireland.”

He added: “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.”

Derry in 1968 was a Catholic and nationalist city, administered for decades by a Protestant and Unionist majority, the President noted.

Dozens of people, including the MP Gerry Fitt, were injured when the protest march backed by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association entered an area declared prohibited by then unionist minister of Home Affairs William Craig.

Nobel peace prize winner John Hume rescued the wounded and went on to become a statesman who helped end the IRA’s violent campaign decades later.

President Michael D Higgins (Liam McBurney/PA)
President Michael D Higgins (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Higgins said: “As we assemble today let us, above all, recall the vision of John Hume, so rooted in the experience of the Civil Rights movement.

“A vision of a shared Ireland, one that recognises the unionist and nationalist traditions, one that is capable of reconciling communities, one that, North and South, preserves human dignity and vindicates and expands fundamental human rights – in the economic, cultural and social spheres.

“If we remain true to that vision, we can not only sustain peace on our island, but can, together, confront the shared challenges of the future with confidence and courage.”

He said the Civil Rights movement was the crucible from which Mr Hume emerged as a national and international politician.

“He dedicated his political life to realising its programme, and later, its wider emancipatory potential.”

John Hume in front of the Stormont Building (Paul Faith/PA)
John Hume in front of the Stormont Building (Paul Faith/PA)

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association’s leadership came from a diverse and broad cross-section of backgrounds, including Catholics, Protestants, unionists and republicans, socialists and trade unionists.

The president said they were united in their determination to combat the deep inequalities which scarred Northern Ireland – inequalities in housing, voting, and policing.

The association demanded the principle of “one person, one vote”, an end to gerrymandering, elimination of discrimination in the allocation of government jobs and housing, the repeal of the Special Powers Act, and the disbandment of the Ulster Special Constabulary.

Meanwhile, a parade organised by Sinn Fein recreated the original march carrying banners and singing songs. They carried placards protesting against Brexit and calling for LGBT rights.

Earlier - Michael D Higgins lauds reconciling vision of peacemaker John Hume

The president has said the reconciling vision of peacemaker John Hume should be embraced on the 50th anniversary of civil rights protest bloodshed.

For some, the Royal Ulster Constabulary’s use of violence at Duke Street in Derry marked the start of decades of conflict.

Peaceful protesters seeking rights like one man, one vote, and the fair allocation of public housing were assaulted with batons.

Dozens of people, including the MP Gerry Fitt, were injured when the march backed by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association entered an area declared prohibited by then unionist minister of Home Affairs William Craig.

Nobel peace prize winner Mr Hume rescued the wounded and went on to become a statesman who helped end the IRA’s violent campaign decades later.

President Michael D Higgins (Liam McBurney/PA)
President Michael D Higgins (Liam McBurney/PA)

President Michael D Higgins said: “As we assemble today let us, above all, recall the vision of John Hume, so rooted in the experience of the Civil Rights movement.

“A vision of a shared Ireland, one that recognises the unionist and nationalist traditions, one that is capable of reconciling communities, one that, North and South, preserves human dignity and vindicates and expands fundamental human rights – in the economic, cultural and social spheres.

“If we remain true to that vision, we can not only sustain peace on our island, but can, together, confront the shared challenges of the future with confidence and courage.”

He said the Civil Rights movement was the crucible from which Mr Hume emerged as a national and international politician.

“He dedicated his political life to realising its programme, and later, its wider emancipatory potential.”

John Hume in front of the Stormont Building (Paul Faith/PA)
John Hume in front of the Stormont Building (Paul Faith/PA)

The president paid tribute to the nationalist SDLP founder’s achievement in cultivating the politicians of the US and the Republic.

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association’s leadership came from a diverse and broad cross-section of backgrounds, including Catholics, Protestants, unionists and republicans, socialists and trade unionists.

The president said they were united in their determination to combat the deep inequalities which scarred Northern Ireland – inequalities in housing, voting, and policing.

The association demanded the principle of “one person, one vote”, an end to gerrymandering, elimination of discrimination in the allocation of government jobs and housing, the repeal of the Special Powers Act, and the disbandment of the Ulster Special Constabulary.

Derry was a Catholic and nationalist city, administered for decades by a Protestant and Unionist majority.

Mr Higgins added: “Although rooted in the soil of the North and summoned to confront the structural inequalities within the society of Northern Ireland, the Civil Rights Movement was part of a global struggle for human rights – a vision of human rights that extended beyond personal or individual rights, a demand that stretched to collective rights, to shared rights.”

He urged a new spirit of global solidarity, the same spirit and qualities demonstrated by the Civil Rights Movement of 50 years ago.

- Press Association

More on this topic

‘Euphoria’ followed violence at Derry civil rights protest‘Euphoria’ followed violence at Derry civil rights protest

Corporation tax cuts 'will transform Northern Ireland's economy'Corporation tax cuts 'will transform Northern Ireland's economy'

Parties reach deal in Stormont giving UK power to cut welfareParties reach deal in Stormont giving UK power to cut welfare

Deal to revive Stormont powersharing 'imminent', but two parties may not sign upDeal to revive Stormont powersharing 'imminent', but two parties may not sign up

More in this Section

Potential border poll and other formidable challenges await Theresa May’s successorPotential border poll and other formidable challenges await Theresa May’s successor

Whirlpool recall tumble dryers that have not yet been modified to safety standardsWhirlpool recall tumble dryers that have not yet been modified to safety standards

Philomena Canning: The ‘warrior who stood up for what was right’Philomena Canning: The ‘warrior who stood up for what was right’

Gardaí 'extremely concerned' for safety of missing Dublin teenGardaí 'extremely concerned' for safety of missing Dublin teen


Lifestyle

We’ve all had that feeling at some stage as we step off fast amusement park ride, or simply spin around for fun; that feeling of dizziness and disorientation and finding it difficult to stay upright. But why do we feel dizzy when we spin?Appliance Of Science: Why do we feel dizzy when we spin around?

Padraic Killeen reviews Epiphany from the Town Hall Theatre, Galway.Epiphany Review: Not a straightforward adaptation of Joyce’s scenario

More From The Irish Examiner