Letters to the Editor

Caledon ‘squat' was seed that fell on well-prepared Civil Rights ground

Seamus McKinney’s article (June 18) on the ‘trigger’ impact of the 1968 Caledon ‘Squat’ on the 1968 Civil Rights Campaign is a factual account of the incident, a rehearsal of a well told ‘story’ but the account misses the point that, to use a biblical analogy, the incident was only the ‘seed’ to fall on well-prepared ‘Civil Rights ground’ in the Dungannon area. Caledon was a contentious event but it wasn’t the first time that people in the area resorted to direct action. Street political activity was a risky strategy in Northern Ireland and, as someone who had a part to play in the unfolding drama of the first Civil Rights March in August 1968, I feel it is important to place the march in its historical context, particularly its place in the history of

Dungannon. It is also important for me to seize this opportunity to pay tribute to the Dungannon-based ladies of the 1963 ‘Homeless Citizens League’, Dr and Mrs McCluskey who founded the ‘Campaign for Social

Justice, my late council colleagues and friends John Donaghy, PJ McCooey, Charlie McKenna, Paddy Fox, Charlie McKay, Jim Corrigan and Labour Party member, Jack Hassard who prepared the fertile ‘Civil Rights Ground’ in which the Caledon seed flourished.

On election to the council in 1963 I spent weeks researching the council’s housing record. In October 1967 John Donaghy, Jack Hassard and myself encouraged a local family to ‘squat in new houses in Fairmount Park. The incident occurred in the same week as the McKenna/Goodfellow families ‘squatted’ in Caledon.

Afterwards we formed a ‘Housing Research Team with Austin Currie MP. In late January 1968 the team published an analysis of the the urban council’s discriminatory housing record in The Irish News.

In June 1968 Austin and the Gildernew family carried out their famous ‘Squat in Caledon. After the incident research shifted to the rural council and with Republican Club Members, Tom O’Connor and Brian Quinn on board we published an in-depth record in The Irish News in July.

The meetings of the ‘Housing Research Team’ became more frequent after Caledon as we planned to escalate the pressure on the Dungannon councils.

Contact was made with the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and following agreement on approaching them with a proposition to join with us in a Civil Rights march from Coalisland to the Market Square Dungannon.

An NICR committee was receptive to the proposal and in late July with the new title of ‘local representative of NICRA attached to my name, I lodged with Dungannon police the application for the March.

The rest, as they say is history.

Dungannon Councillor 1967-1993


Underfunding of education system needs to be addressed

The Controlled Schools’ Support Council (CSSC) has recently published on its website a series of case studies highlighting innovative work in nursery, special, primary and post-primary controlled schools to enable pupils to reach their full potential. 

This coincides with a CSSC report exploring patterns of attainment in the controlled sector.

The report’s findings show that 61 per cent of controlled school pupils achieve five or more GCSEs at A* – C (including English and Maths), a greater proportion than in the maintained and grant maintained integrated sectors. However, the report adds to the growing body of evidence that pupils, particularly males, in the controlled sector entitled to free school meals are under-attaining when compared to other sectors.

Pupil attainment is complex.  Blunt measures such as GCSE results do not reflect the added value that many schools provide to enable pupils to realise their potential.

Practice across the controlled sector is characterised by a range of innovative approaches that focus on raising attainment and the case studies CSSC has published represent a small sample of the work being carried out by controlled schools.

A number of the case studies emphasise the importance of effective pastoral care, not only in terms of enhanced educational outcomes but also in preparing emotionally healthy, happy and resilient young people.

Investment in staff development is important, as is the effective use of data, demonstrating the impact of having an evidence base to implement change.

CSSC believes that the education system should equip pupils with the skills they need to fulfil their potential. The successful attainment of qualifications which open the door to further study, employment and career opportunities are central to a school’s role in preparing pupils for adult life.

If controlled schools are to enable pupils to fulfil their potential, the current underfunding of the education system needs to be addressed. There is also a need to focus existing resources, such as the extended schools programme, on tackling underachievement.

Chief Executive, Controlled Schools’ Support Council


Dispensing justice

The renewal by the Irish government for a further year of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 in the belief that the ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice and the preservation of public order, should not deter those of us who believe that trial by jury is a bulwark of our constitution. In the Irish state we are lucky in that our constitution is highly valued and robustly defended by the Supreme Court. Indeed, one respected member of the judiciary, the late Cearbhall Ó Dalaigh, felt obliged to stand down as president of Ireland due to criticism for exercising his right to refer suspect legislation back to the Supreme Court for adjudication. Juryless Special Criminal Courts do not require the same level of evidence as normal courts to secure convictions.  Indeed, convictions have been secured solely on the opinion of a Garda chief-superintendent submitted as evidence. 

The behaviour and attitudes of our courts are a determining factor in the behaviour of the Garda. If it was seen that courts were taking short cuts to get convictions then the gardaí could perhaps do the same. Nicky Kelly, who was convicted in the Special Criminal Court for the 1976 Sallins Train Robbery was a victim of an appalling miscarriage of justice there.  Surely the primary function of our judicial system should be to dispense justice not dispense with justice.

Dublin 2


Catholicism is a mystery of the spirit

Mystified by the recent spate of theological pedantry [letters] might I refer the contributors to Cardinal John Henry Newman, an Anglican priest from a Protestant evangelical background, who converted to Catholicism.

Newman in the first half of his life wound up the Church of England and in the second half wound down the Church of Rome. He sought to persuade its leaders not to push their Catholicity into fanaticism or superstition or rigid hierarchy and for that reason to keep their minds open to the old principle of primitive Catholic faith and from that broader base listen to the discoveries of the age, for example the advance of historical method and the progress of criticism of the Bible, but above all to remember that Catholicism is a mystery of the spirit – too glorious and too profound for the tidiest minds to limit; and that faith in God is more real and more certain than the language that seeks to describe faith in God.

Derry City


Fawning SF leaders

It has been going on for six years now, but I still find it very sad to see Sinn Féin leaders fawning to British royals and parroting empty cliches. Has Prince Charles ever even mentioned the Ballymurphy and Bloody Sunday victims, let alone apologised for the numerous misdemeanours of his Paratroopers Regiment?

Charleville, Co Cork

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access

Letters to the Editor

Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: