MPs spotted Civil Rights ‘bandwagon' in 1968 and scrambled aboard
In June The Irish News published my letter making the point that the Caledon ‘squat’ by Austin Currie, was a seed that fell on ‘well prepared ‘Civil Rights’ ground in the Dungannon area. Ground readied by the Dungannon Homeless Citizen’s League, Dr Con McCluskey, his wife Patricia, the Campaign for Social Justice, Austin Currie and the independent councillors, who supported the McCluskeys.
At the time, the ‘squat’ was one of a series of ‘civil disobedience’ acts carried out in the area over the previous five years. Essential preliminary ‘direct action’ measures setting the scene for the ‘Civil Rights Movement, which shook up the unjust Stormont government system of the period and led to many reforms, as later acknowledged by prime minister, Terence O’Neill, in his autobiography (1972).
Undoubtedly, though, the reforms came at an enormous price – a destabilised society, endemic violence for years and heartbreak to many on all sides of the community. Consequences unintended by the organisers of the first Civil Rights March and questions have to be asked, even 50 years on.
Where did it all go wrong for the ‘marchers’ from Coalisland, who legitimately demanded a ‘points system’ for the allocation of public housing, legislation to outlaw job discrimination, an end to the ‘gerrymandering’ of local government Wards, ‘one person, one vote’ and repeal of the Special Powers Act?
Where, as well, did it all go wrong for the ruling unionist community in Northern Ireland, but, especially, its supporters in Dungannon, whom the genuine ‘marchers’ approaching the town hoped to influence and welcome aboard the ‘Civil Rights’ bandwagon?
Regarding the first question, I believe that it was a mistake to involve MPs (Westminster or Stormont), who, mostly, had self-seeking agendas far removed from Civil Rights demands, to ‘right’ civil ‘wrongs’ in society. The MPs spotted the ‘bandwagon’, and scrambled aboard, the first of a number of ‘take-overs’ of the movement. To my mind, the only MP with a legitimate right to be ‘on board’, on August 24 1968, was Austin Currie, who had helped to prepare the ‘Civil Rights’ ground over which everyone travelled.
If, as I believe, the upfront involvement of MPs was a mistake on the part of the ‘march’ organisers, then the unionist community in Dungannon also blundered by backing their councillors who had resisted legitimate requests for the introduction of a ‘points system’ to allocate its housing stock. Putting a ‘points system’ in place was the principal motivation of most people on the ‘march’, a sensible housing reform soon conceded.
In hindsight, then, could all of us have avoided the trauma of the Troubles if MPs had been excluded from the Civil Rights ‘bandwagon’, and, would the ‘bandwagon’ have rolled, at all, if the Dungannon unionist councillors had conceded a ‘points system’ for the allocation of houses?
Councillor, 1967 to 1993, and local CRA Representative, Dungannon, August 1968
Corbyn shouldn’t let bullies change his stance
Regarding Boris Johnson’s derogatory outburst of Muslims and Burkas, if Jeremy Corbyn had made a similar statement about turbans or kippahs, the religious head garb of Jews, there would be uproar worldwide calling him anti-Semitic. Jews would rightfully be parading outside Parliament and his home.
It could rightfully be said this headgear is not functional as it obviously does not keep one’s head warm, nor would it equally protect one’s head in the rain or snow, but like the Muslims if they wish to wear it let them get on with doing so.
Finally, I say to Jeremy, do not let the bullies force you to change your rightful stance for the Labour party not to adopt the IHRA definition on anti-Semitism and similarly. If Labour do so it would mean that when we as a group or individual who rightfully condemn Israel for its barbaric treatment of the Palestinians re killing, terrorising, stealing homes and lands etc could not do so or we would be labelled anti-Semitic.
If that is what qualifies anyone as antic-Semitic I am proud to be so as I’m sure Jeremy would be to be. If IHRA was adopted universally it would mean the injustice, oppression, starvation and blockading of the Palestinian nation and people could never again be legally highlighted.
In short, injustice, apartheid and oppression would be acceptable if it was Israel carrying it out, To me that will never to be acceptable.
If that was all the Israelis did to the Palestinians I’m quite sure they would not care either if they had their freedom and independence and could live in peace. Until this happens there will never be peace in that region.
Banbridge, Co Down
Revealing indicator of Daniel’s political focus
I would like to thank Daniel McCrossan for his letter (August 13) in which he sets out his perspective on the political challenges which we currently face as a society. It is a revealing indicator of his political focus.
In this short letter, Daniel criticises me and Sinn Féin no fewer than nine times. Fair enough. I welcome any opportunity to engage in political debate. But in Daniel’s letter there is not one reference to Theresa May or the British government. No mention of Arlene Foster or the DUP. No mention of the DUP/Tory pact, the blocking of rights for Irish speakers, the LGBT community, the denial of coroners’ inquests for victims of the conflict. In Daniel’s world it’s all about Sinn Féin and, predictably, it’s all Sinn Féin’s fault.
At a time when progressive parties should be standing united against Brexit, against corruption, disrespect and inequality, Daniel’s obsession with Sinn Féin appears more than a little bit off beat?
ÓRFHLAITH BEGLEY MP
Sinn Féin, West Tyrone
Condemnation of abortion
I wish to voice support for Fr McCafferty in his condemnation of abortion (July 31). All right-thinking people know that this practice is against the law of God. The Catholic Church regards it as a mortal sin which deprives the soul of sanctifying Grace and endangers the eternal salvation of those who support it.
Humanity, especially Catholics, need to listen to the Catholic Church.
Abortion is the greatest evil in the world today. There will never be happiness nor peace on this earth until it is eliminated from society.
Lurgan, Co Armagh
Expression of thanks
St Paul’s Disability Lourdes Group would like to thank the youth team, doctors, nurses, helpers and people who make it possible for our group to travel to Lourdes, giving freely of their time and those people who support us towards the cost.
Your families should be proud of you as we are. We could not travel to Lourdes each year if the help of Down & Connor was not there.
We hope and pray that more people will help support the Down & Connor pilgrimage so as people like our Group can continue to travel to Lourdes. Our Lady of Lourdes keep you all safe.
St Paul’s Disability Lourdes Group