Sinn Féin to Mark 40 years of Civil Rights Association (NICRA)
This Tuesday, January 29th, marks the formal establishment in 1967 of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA). Four decades later Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP MLA, who was one of the small number people present at the founding of the Association, expresses his best wishes to all of those who participated in or supported the efforts to achieve fundamental civil and human rights in those difficult days.
The Sinn Fein President also announced that; 'This year Sinn Féin will, as we did in 1988 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Civil Rights struggle, be organising a series of events, including public meetings, marches, and debates to commemorate NICRA's unique and important contribution to the last 40 years'.
Mr. Adams said:
"January 29th marks the founding of NICRA. On that day in 1967, in the International Hotel in Belfast, around a hundred people from all across the north came together to establish an organisation to campaign for civil rights. It is a landmark date in the contemporary history of the north.
"It was the beginning of a long and difficult struggle for basic civil and human rights, including the right to vote. A struggle which continues today.
"Groups like the Campaign for Social Justice had been involved in civil rights issues; but the first tentative steps toward creating a civil rights campaign emerged out of the republican Wolfe Tone Society. The first meeting of NICRA was held at the International Hotel in Belfast.
"The strength of NICRA is that it was broad based. People from across the political spectrum came together to demand basic human and civil rights for nationalists. This included many republicans, socialists, communists, liberals, trade unionists, community activists and others, including initially some unionists.
"This is clear in the make-up of the 13 person steering committee that was setup on January 29th 1967 to draft a constitution and a programme of campaigning.
"This year, 2008 also marks the 40th anniversary of NICRA taking to the streets. The decision to move beyond being a pressure group followed a decision by the Unionist government to ban an Easter commemoration through Armagh in April of that year.
"Sinn Féin was already illegal and the previous year the Unionist government banned the Republican Clubs. These decisions spurred NICRA into accepting that demonstrations could play an important role in challenging the abuses of the unionist state. Consequently, 1968 saw the first civil rights marches, and the first serious assaults on civil rights marchers by the RUC.
"This year Sinn Féin will be organising, as we did in 1988 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Civil Rights struggle, a series of events, including public meetings, marches, and debates to commemorate NICRA's unique and important contribution to the last 40 years.
"We will remember all of those, republican and nationalist, socialist and communist, trade unionist and community activist who gave NICRA the strength and diversity to be such a powerful force for change at a pivotal time in our history. These events will also provide an opportunity to focus on the problems of inequality and discrimination that still exist and how we can bring an end to these abuses in our society.
"I want to extend an invitation to all those who played any part in the Civil Rights Campaign, as well as those who today are still active of equality and justice issues, to join in these events.
"NICRA has left a powerful legacy of change and progress but the goals which it set for itself at its first Annual General Meeting in February 1968 and subsequently in April of that year when it ratified its constitution are still as important and relevant for today as they were then." ENDS
Note to Editor:
The five objectives of the association as set out following the April meeting were:
- To defend the basic freedoms of all citizens.
- To protect the rights of the individual.
- To highlight all possible abuses of power.
- To demand guarantees for freedom of speech, assembly and association.
- To inform the public of their lawful rights