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Date Posted: 08:27:59 06/01/03 Sun
Author: To Irish News
Subject: Veteran Writes

Letters Page,
Irish News.

A Chara, Born Again Civil Righters?

Recent letters to your column must have brought back many memories, and certainly mixed emotions, as diverse contributors brought to readers varying degrees of heat, light and shade. It is not my aim here to make comment on those views expressed, for as a co-founder of NICRA in 1967 my own memories were recorded in a paperback entitled “Ulster’s White Negroes – From Civil Rights to Insurrection (AK Press, 1994). The work traces the roots of the civil rights movement, right up to its supposed demise on Bloody Sunday, January 1972. The former Mid-Ulster independent MP, Mrs. Bernadette McAliskey (nee Devlin), kindly wrote the foreword. For the sake of future generations I would urge those with literary ability to write of their own experiences, so that the revisionists in our midst do not hold sway on this critical era in our forward push for human dignity, democratic essentials and a greater degree of social equality.

Around 1997 a group of veterans established a loose local network which has adopted the rather lengthy title October Fifth (1968 Civil Rights Veterans & Supporters) Association. In the weeks prior to the 30th anniversary of Derry first NICRA march on October 5th 1968, several key veterans organised a film show, symposium and the re-tracing of our steps from the Waterside Railway Station. This time we reached our destination, Guildhall Square, this time with the apparent cordial co-operation of the then “pre-reformed” colonial police force. Around 250 attended. Our banner was neutral only insofar as it was red and white, the colours of both the Derry soccer and Gaelic football teams. Our large slogan, for all to plainly see proclaimed, “For Jobs, Decent Wages and Full Human Rights”.

I, and other veterans and supporters of the civil rights cause strongly believe, that as we approach the 35th anniversaries of Coalisland-Dunngannon, Duke Street and later on the equally historic and dramatic Belfast-Derry march (which was viciously attacked at Burntollet Bridge), that we should contemplate the re-creation of the civil rights association, even if only as a loose network across the Six Counties. It would take a much longer letter to argue the many reasons for such a conclusion, but at grass-roots level the need for such is blatant, particularly in the urban areas.

Towards that end the October Fifth Association established an Internet forum which is located via www.voy.com/103427/ On that forum one can find a few obituaries alongside songs, writings on the earlier days, and some exposure of current issues. It would be excellent if this resource was availed of by other veterans and supporters not merely to record historical facts, but to tackle current issues, and widen out the campaign by way of building up a network with at least one central forum at its disposal. Our e-mail address is oct5th_vets68@hotmail.com We have adopted as our symbol, the black and white oak leaf, designed by a local lady, and adopted within a few weeks of Derry’s first NICRA march, by the Derry Citizens’ Action Committee. Alas, it passed into history too quickly. I was its last serving Hon. Secretary.

We shall overcome, someday! Let us all ensure that comes sooner, rather than later.

Is Mise,
Le Meas Mór,

Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh BA [Hons.]

Address supplied.

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