Members recall a peaceful revolution


Some of the original members of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement in the South Derry area

A meeting in Brackaghreilly Hall in Maghera has heard how the peaceful and revolutionary demands of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement have shaped political life for more than half a century.

Workers Party member, and secretary to the South Derry Civil Rights Association in the late 1960s, Marian Donnelly told the  Party meeting of the significant role played by the Workers Party  predecessor the Republican Clubs and of the political gains the civil rights campaign secured.

NICRA’s demands

  • electoral reform, one man one vote, and end to gerrymandering
  • an end to discrimination
  •  adequate and fair allocation of public housing,
  • removal of the Special Powers Act
  • disbandment of the B Specials

“These were real tangible changes that could be achieved within the constitutional framework but had real revolutionary effects”, Marian recalled. “That’s what NICRA was trying to achieve, – a peaceful revolution”, she said

“What we shouldn’t forget and shouldn’t allow to be forgotten is at that at the time it was quite clear the driving force behind NICRA was the Republican Clubs. There is no doubt about that. Records of the time confirm this to be the case,” she added

“Even though the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement advocated peaceful means, even though it’s aims were limited, in the context of the state of Northern Ireland at that time, NICRA was a movement trying to achieve revolutionary change”, Marian said

Legitimate demands                                                                                          “Had the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and other progressive forces been allowed to pursue their legitimate demands, then those who engaged in the bloody and unnecessary carnage inflicted over three decades could never have purloined the issue of civil rights as a pretext to justify their despicable and unjustifiable campaign of terror.

“Thousands of lives were lost as was the opportunity for a united approach to tackling the social injustices of our society”, she said.

“Fifty years on, our community is still divided: segregated education and segregated housing are still with us. Thirty per cent of our children are living in poverty. Low income homes are the norm, and forty per cent of the population is blighted by fuel poverty. Life expectancy is a post code lottery”, Marian added

Real equality                                                                                                                “NICRA won many reforms but the fundamental change required to bring about real equality has yet to be realised”, Marian said.

“That can only come with the creation of a new future, based on a united working class, a bill of rights that rejects sectarianism and racism and that builds a democratic, secular and socialist society”, Marian concluded.

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