SDLP begins year of civil rights commemorations

Colum Eastwood said no one party owns the history of the civil rights movement. Picture by Hugh Russell

COLUM Eastwood has said the fight for civil rights belongs to no political party but does have a "special place" in the SDLP's history.

The SDLP leader was speaking ahead of his party's civil rights commemoration event in Derry today.

The event, which marks the beginning of a year of celebrations in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of the formation of the north's civil rights movement, will feature addresses from SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and his deputy Nichola Mallon, as well as a panel discussion chaired by journalist and Irish News columnist Leona O'Neill, whose father William Breslin was involved in the civil rights movement.

The panel will include Brid Rodgers, chair of SDLP Civil Rights Committee, Scottish National Party MP Mhairi Black, former journalist Martin Cowley and Kevin Donoghue, the national chair of Irish Labour Youth.

Speaking ahead of today's opening event, Mr Eastwood said: "No one political party owns the history of the civil rights movement but it would be wrong to deny that it has a special place in the history of the SDLP.

"The civil rights years gave birth to a movement which took on a government that denied people the most basic civil rights and disregarded the most basic of human decencies – backed up by a British government in London who deliberately designed a political state giving them free reign to do so."

Mrs Rodgers said the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement was an important reminder of the "struggle ordinary people here had for their rights, for real equality and for fairness".

"It is important to remember that three short years of mass peaceful demonstrations by ordinary people without a partisan political agenda achieved more change and real progress towards equality than the previous decades of political posturing and intermittent violence," she said.

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