Civil Rights movement commemoration launch

DATE UNKNOWN - Civil Rights march'. John Hume addresses marchers on Craigavon Bridge, Londonderry. Photo: 'Trevor McBride
DATE UNKNOWN - Civil Rights march'. John Hume addresses marchers on Craigavon Bridge, Londonderry. Photo: 'Trevor McBride

A programme of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement in Northern Ireland was launched in Belfast last night.

Poet Michael Longley took part in the launch at the historic First Presbyterian Church in Rosemary Street.

Constructive engagement “with those who did not share the views of the Civil Rights movement,” will be one aspect of a range of events commemorating protests around housing and voting rights in the late 1960s.

The “broad based” commemoration programme is being chaired by Professor Paul Arthur, with members civil rights activists Ivan Cooper, Lord Paul Bew, Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh, Anne Devlin, Lynda Walker, Ivan Cooper, Austin Currie, as well as trade union and community representatives.

Prof Paul Arthur said: “Fifty years on we need to reflect on the lessons of the civil rights campaign and to place it in the context of the current political climate.

“On the one hand we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the signing of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. In that period there has been an attempt to create a climate conducive to human rights. On the other we face very uncertain times.”

He added: “The historian Tony Judt warns that our ‘chief task is not to imagine better worlds but rather to think how to prevent worse ones’.”

Vice-chair Dympna McGlade said: “The broad based 50th Anniversary Civil Rights Commemorations Committee will commemorate events in an inclusive and reflective way. Our programme of events will commemorate key events including Caledon housing protest, Coalisland to Dungannon march and Duke Street march in Derry. There will be a series of events to highlight civil rights issues then and now”.