We shall overcome: civil rights at 40

I hope to get along to the launch of the programme later this week of a series of commemorative events to mark the 40th anniversary of the Northern Ireland civil rights movement. Of course, the local civil rights movement neither started nor finished in 1968, but it was the year of nonviolent marches, sit-downs and occupations which brought the issues onto the street. The rest, as we say, is history. That history has also been my lifetime, as1968 happens to be the year of my birth.

The commemorative event will take place in Belfast's beautiful Linenhall Library (itself redolent of the city's history of progressive thought and action) at 6:00pm this Thursday, and is hosted by the newly established Civil Rights Commemoration Committee. This is a fairly broadly-based group of people who were involved in the events of forty years ago. The establishment of the group is a welcome development, given the recent bout of sniping between politicians of various hues declaring that their parties are the true inheritors of the civil rights movement.

The committee will announce a programme of activities for the year ahead. According to the information with my invitation (happily this
doesn't appear to be a very exclusive event), this will include:
"Historical lectures; Cross Community Platforms on Civil Rights; Schools Programme; Exhibitions; The Role of Women in Civil Rights; McCluskey Civil Rights Summer School; Seminars and international conferences to commemorate Caledon Squatting, the first Civil Rights March from Coalisland to Dungannon, 5 October Duke Street in Derry March."

I am glad to se that one of the groups's objectives is: To support and strengthen the protection of civil/human rights throughout Ireland and to share the lessons of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights movement with people working for human rights in situations of conflict.

I hope that at least some of the events will look forwards and outwards to consider how we in Northern Ireland can stand up for justice in a world where so many have their basic rights denied (just look at the TV news tonight for more scenes from Tibet or elsewhere).

For more information: civilrights1968 [at] yahoo.co.uk

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