Northern Ireland news

Former SDLP minister Brid Rodgers to lead civil rights movement commemorations

Brid Rodgers
Michael McHugh, Press Association

A former nationalist minister who was one of the earliest supporters of civil rights in Northern Ireland is to help mark its 50th anniversary next year.

Brid Rodgers has been appointed chair of an SDLP committee which party leader Colum Eastwood said would deliver on the lasting legacy of the protest.

A broad coalition of activists including John Hume, Austin Currie, Ivan Cooper and others agitated for rights such as one man one vote and the fair allocation of public housing.

Mr Eastwood said: "Brid Rodgers played a critical role in the struggle for equal civil and political rights in the morth.

"I'm delighted that she has agreed to lead the efforts to mark the 50th anniversary of the movement."

In October 1968, when television pictures of RUC officers baton-charging a civil rights demonstration in Derry were shown around the world, the Northern Ireland civil rights movement became international news.

It had begun some five years earlier in 1963 when protesters began marching over the unfair allocation of council houses in Dungannon, Co Tyrone.

Families later squatted in houses which were due to be sold off by the council for outhouses.

Mrs Rodgers is a native Irish speaker from Gweedore, Co Donegal.

She has lived in Mid Ulster since 1960.

Her involvement in the civil rights movement and politics goes back as far as the 1960s, leading protests in Lurgan in Co Armagh.

She was a founding member of the SDLP, having been encouraged into politics by former party leader Mr Hume, and was agriculture minister at Stormont during the foot-and-mouth disease crisis.

Mr Eastwood said: "The movement for political, social and economic rights for every citizen in the north was a watershed period in this island's history.

"The broad coalition of activists - Hume, Devlin, Cooper, Currie and others - changed this place through the politics of persuasion.

"Their fierce endeavour took on a unionist establishment consumed with the denial of rights and they broke down that edifice."

He said the civil rights campaign, which played a pivotal role in the history of the SDLP, would be marked with a series of commemorative events.

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