President Michael D Higgins to address civil rights commemoration

President Michael D Higgins will deliver a keynote address at Derry's Guildhall on Saturday. Picture by Julien Behal/PA Wire
Seamus McKinney

EVENTS marking the 50th anniversary of the October 5 civil rights march in Derry will culminate on Saturday with a keynote address by President Michael D Higgins in the city.

President Higgins's address is part of a four-day festival marking the anniversary which starts tonight with the screening of the documentary “Gaeltacht Civil Rights 50 years on” at the Tower Museum.

Highlights of the programme scheduled for the actual anniversary tomorrow will include a panel discussion for schools with original organisers Eamonn McCann, Aidan McKinney and others.

A “Speeches, Strikes and Struggles” exhibition will also open at Ebrington Square in Derry from 5.30pm tomorrow and a “Songs of Civil Rights” concert at the Guildhall will feature Dublin singer songwriter Damien Dempsey.

A special collection of artefacts highlighting events of the civil rights era are being exhibited at the Nerve Visual Gallery at Ebrington, Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin 

The festival will hear from many of the original civil rights leaders, including Mr McCann and Fionnbarra O Dochartaigh, at an event on Saturday morning before Ulster Unionist peer Ken Maginnis delivers an address at the Guildhall.

Following President Higgins’s address at the Guildhall at 2pm, the John Hume human rights lecture will be given by BBC journalist Fergal Keane.

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The festival continues into Sunday with a discussion on the British state and civil rights which will be addressed by lawyers Michael Mansfield QC and Gareth Pierce, Baroness Nuala O’Loan and Lord Alf Dubbs.

Events continue on Sunday afternoon with a discussion of the role of the media in 1968 and a presentation on Derry’s “Springtown Camp” where many of the city’s homeless found accommodation in a former US army base.

Parallel to the festival, a series of events has also been organised at the Museum of Free Derry. An exhibition “50 Days of Revolution, 50 Years On” will open tomorrow at 1pm while other highlights include readings by local writers.

 RUC batons from the 1960s on display ay the Museum of Free Derry in the Bogside. Picture by Margaret Mclaughlin

British Labour MP Stephen Pound will be joined by former deputy first minister Mark Durkan and SDLP councillor Mairia Cahill at a discussion hosted by the SDLP at the museum on Saturday evening.

 An original 1968 poster advertising the October 5 march in Derry, plus the names of some of those who took part signed on the back

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that while no one group claimed ownership of the civil rights movement, it had a special place in the history of the SDLP as the party grew directly from it.

“It is right that we remember but also that we revive our sense of determination to deliver a future based on fairness for all peoples,” Mr Eastwood said.

The museum programme will continue until November 22 with panel discussions and film screenings.

A march organised by Sinn Féin will also be held on Saturday, starting at the assembly point of the original march at Duke Street in Derry’s Waterside. The march will end with a rally at Guildhall Square.

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