Northern Ireland – First Civil Rights March Dungannon August 1968

What is the relevance of above to the impending Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021

in August and October 1968 two small demonstrations were batoned off the streets and started the Northern Ireland conflict. The first march took place in Dungannon in August 1968, in protest at the allocation of public housing by the local government and was shortly followed by a smaller protest march in Derry city. The Derry march, famously, was attacked by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), and images of bloodied marchers, including Member of Parliament Gerry Fitt, were broadcast via the Irish state television station RTE, first around Ireland and then around the world.

The second march in Derry on October 5, 1968, was followed by an intense series of protests and disturbances in that city. These culminated in intense rioting with the RUC in January 1969 after a Civil Rights march from Belfast to Derry. People’s Democracy had come under sustained attack by loyalists. The fighting in Derry led to the sealing off of the working class nationalist district of the city – the Bogside and Creggan areas – from the police in early 1969, in what was known as ‘Free Derry’.

Fifty-Five years later, and with over 3,500 deaths, the UK Government has learned nothing. Throughout the Fifty-Five years, the UK Government has fully supported the severe use of force to suppress all legitimate protest. The short-lived civil rights era of the late 60s and early 70s has been conveniently overlooked, perhaps because it illuminates the fact that the endemic discrimination in Northern Ireland was ignored for decades by successive Westminster governments of every political hue.