Northern Ireland news

Events to mark 50th anniversary of the first civil rights march in 1968

Campaigners take part in a civil rights march in Dungannon in 1968
Connla Young

THE campaign for civil rights in the north will be remembered during a series of events.

Next week will mark the anniversary of the first Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march held 50 years ago.

The march between Coalisland and Dungannon on August 24 1968 proved to be a watershed moment in the recent history of the north as calls increased for and end to `gerrymandering' and anti-Catholic discrimination in housing and employment.

The parade, which involved several thousand people, came just months after the Caledon ‘sit in’ when three Catholic men, including nationalist MP Austin Currie, occupied a house that had been allocated to a single Protestant woman in the Co Tyrone village.

Days earlier a Catholic family had been evicted form a neighbouring property.

The march was blocked by the RUC from entering Dungannon’s Market Square where the Rev Ian Paisley had organised a counter protest.

The Irish News reported that up to 5,000 people took part in the procession before it reached RUC lines at Thomas Street in the town.

An attempt by some youths to break through the barrier was repelled by baton wielding RUC men.

A series of hard-hitting speeches were delivered by prominent figures including Gerry Fitt and Austin Currie before the event broke up.

In October there were violent scenes in Derry when people taking part in a similar march organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association were subjected to an RUC baton charge and targeted with water cannon.

In the months and years that followed the civil rights movement continued to gather momentum which often sparked a violent response from the unionist regime.

The events of the period are due to be marked the McCloskey Civil Rights Summer School in Dungannon this weekend.

A tribute will also be paid to Dr Conn McCloskey and his wife Patricia, who established the Campaign for Social Justice in 1964, by civil rights activist Michael McLoughlin.

The theme of the event is 50 Years On - The Civil Rights Challenges in Ireland Today - Tackling Poverty, Sectarianism, Racism and Inequality and the guest speaker will be veteran civil rights campaigner Bernadette McAlliskey.

The free event will also include an address by the chair of Human Rights Commission Les Allamby.

The SDLP, UUP, Sinn Féin and Workers Party will also take part in a political discussion on How do we Tackle Poverty, Sectarianism, Racism and Inequality Today?

The event will also hear migrant worker testimonials.

The summer school will take place on Saturday at The Junction, 12 Beechvalley Way, Dungannon on Saturday between 9.30am - 4pm.

To book a place please visit:

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin will retrace the route of the original march on Saturday with those taking part assembling at The Square in Coalisland at 3pm.

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