Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Today in History - NICRA founded

Catholics were treated worse than animals It was on this day, 1st February, 1967, that the 'Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement' was founded.

The movement developed as the Catholic community, who benefitted from changes in education that helped many of its young people, who recognised that they could use campaign techniques already seen in the United States to further the cause for equality.

The BBC provide a good background to the movement:

"The civil rights movement in the US had brought the case of segregation and institutionalised racism and discrimination to international attention. Catholics in Northern Ireland hoped that they could do the same.

"In the half century of Northern Ireland's existence, the Catholic minority had been subject to various kinds of discrimination as Unionists took steps to protect their power - most notably by manipulating public housing.

"Only ratepayers or householders were eligible to vote and successive unionist politicians were reluctant to build houses that would grant suffrage.

"Some of the most obvious examples of "gerrymandering" was found in Londonderry where in the mid 1960s the shape of the council wards deliberately divided the Catholic population to massively exagerate the political representation of the Protestant community.

"In the late 1960s a group of nationalists began to work for change, focusing initially on housing. In June 1968 the young nationalist politician, Austin Currie, staged the first direct-action protest with a sit-in at a council house that had been unfairly allocated to an unmarried Protestant woman when there were Catholic families who had been waiting longer.

"The story was reported around the world - but the media had already started to investigate conditions in Northern Ireland.

"One of the most significant and early investigations came in 1967 from The Times, long considered a bastion of the British establishment. It concluded that the Stormont government was treating the Catholic community as "second class citizens" in their own homes.

"The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association went on to catalogue discrimination and demanded equal rights. Imitating the American civil rights movement, they also moved their protests onto the streets.

"One of its early protest marches took place in Derry on 5 October 1968. The Northern Ireland government at Stormont banned the march. When the group marched in defiance of the ban, some of the police surrounded demonstrators and repeatedly charged them with batons. Among those injured in the clash were Belfast MP Gerry Fitt and three Westminster MPs who had been invited to Derry.

"The violence was captured by television cameras and drew world-wide attention to the looming crisis to come."

As you can see from reading above, the NI state had failed totally and dismally. It was a state built upon sectarianism and which gloried and revelled in discriminating against Catholics.

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement did an admirable job standing up to the tyrannical unionist regime but the unfortuante reality is, if the unionists who held power had conducted the running of the North in a fair and even-handed manner, The Troubles would never have happened.

The NI state itself must take the blame for sowing the seeds of bitterness and mistrust which would explode in devastating fashion in the late sixties.

They left a legacy of hate which we are still attempting to tackle today.

History will look kindly on NICRA and will pour scorn on the NI state, a state built on hatred and division.


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