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President to address Derry civil rights commemoration

President Michael D Higgins will address a commemoration marking the 50th anniversary of the October 5 1968 Derry civil rights march. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire.
Seamus McKinney

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins is to deliver the keynote address at a Civil Rights Festival in Derry marking the 50th anniversary of the 1968 October 5 civil rights march.

The Duke Street civil rights march is accepted by many commentators as the start of the Troubles. Television footage of police baton charging a number of British Labour MPs along with other marches focused international opinion on civil rights issues in Northern Ireland for the first time.

An international Civil Rights Festival will run from October 4 to 7 to commemorate the march. Full details of the festival programme will be released later this week. However, organisers have confirmed that President Higgins will deliver the keynote address on Saturday October 6.

Derry mayor John Boyle said he was "delighted" the president had accepted an invite to attend.

"His officials have confirmed that he will be joining an impressive line-up of speakers and performers who have now committed to attend the festival," said the SDLP councillor.

Chairman of the 50th anniversary civil rights commemoration committee, Professor Paul Arthur said organisers have tried to make the festival as inclusive as possible.

Mr Arthur said they hoped to highlight the civil rights movement still faced issues such as racism, sectarianism and challenges to the LGBT, travelling and migrant communities.

“We want to move away from the adversarial debate of them and us by creating a dialogue of recognition and reciprocity. It is appropriate that we are bringing this together in Derry, the site of that history event 50 years ago,” he said.

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