Northern Ireland news

DUP accused of 'sectarianising' 1968 commemoration

Civil rights protesters were baton charged by police when they attempted to march through Derry on October 5 1968.
Seamus McKinney

AN organiser of the original Northern Ireland civil rights' march in Derry has accused DUP MP Gregory Campbell of trying to “sectarianise” events to mark its 50th anniversary.

Fionnbarra O Dochartaigh was responding to Mr Campbell’s plans to host an event to give a “balanced and accurate picture".

Events have been planned to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the October 5 march, viewed by many as marking the start of the Troubles.

Mr Campbell said nationalist and republican events "offer a very biased and one-sided commentary on those times". He said the DUP event would hear first hand accounts of how Protestants were forced from their homes.

His party colleague, assembly member, Gary Middleton said this was to ensure there was “no rewriting of the past.”

However, Mr O Dochartaigh rejected the DUP claims of bias.

"A third of the organisation which organised the 1968 march was from the unionist community. Look at the people involved, Ivan Cooper and the late Claude Wilton (a Derry lawyer)," he said.

He added that organisers of commemorations made a point of including as broad arrange of speakers as possible and had actively sought out views on 1968 that differed from their own.

Fellow-organiser, Aidan McKinney said October 5 1968 was a non-sectarian event.

"It was based on basic civil rights. Marchers walked behind a banner proclaiming `British rights for British people'. How many republicans would have supported that?” he said.

He said the commemoration was not designed to re-write history but to record historical facts for future generations to make up their own minds.

The DUP event takes place at the White Horse hotel on September 27.

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