Eamon Melaugh marks 1968 Derry Civil Rights march with 'walk of atonement'

Eamon Melaugh and Eamonn McCann as they prepare to walk the original route from Duke Street in Derry marking the 50th anniversary of the Derry Civil Rights March of 1968. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

ORGANISERS of the October 5 1968 civil rights march in Derry retraced the route of the march yesterday.

Eamon Melaugh (85) described it as a "walk of atonement" in memory of all those died during the Troubles.

He said he that, while he had no regrets about his role in organising the October 5 march - which is regarded by many as the start of the Troubles - he bitterly regretted the deaths and injuries which followed during the years of conflict.

“We forgot about the dead; we forgot about the injured and my mission here today is to remind people that the price we paid was horrendous. It's a price that never should have had to be paid," said the veteran civil rights campaigner.

Speaking as he completed the walk he said he was overwhelmed by the good wishes he received along the way.

Fellow 1968 organiser, Eamonn McCann and around 40 supporters also staged a commemorative march along the original route. Before setting off, Mr McCann said the violence which emerged after the 1968 march was not planned by the organisers.

“I do look back and say what could we have done differently, particularly what could have been done differently to prevent the sectarian divide here from becoming sharper and, of course, that's a very proper and necessary discussion to have,” Mr McCann said.

A number of events are scheduled to take place to mark the anniversary of the march where protesters were attacked by baton-charging police.

President Michael D Higgins is to give a keynote speech at a 'civil rights festival' at Derry's Guildhall this afternoon following an address by Ulster Unionist peer Ken Maginnis.

The organisers of the civil rights festival opted not to hold a commemorative march. However, a march organised by Sinn Féin will trace the route of the demonstration later today.

Fionnbarra O Dochartaigh, who was one of the organisers of the 1968 rally, was critical of the decision by Sinn Féin to bring along its presidential candidate Liadh Ní Riada .

He said they were distracting from what the weekend of events was about and using it to promote their candidate.

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