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Northern Ireland Hundreds join event to mark 50th anniversary of first civil rights march

HUNDREDS joined a march organised by Sinn Fein on Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the north of Ireland’s first civil rights march from Coalisland to Dungannon.

Organisers warned that the fight for civil rights continues with Stormont having been suspended for months as the reactionary Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) remain at loggerheads with Sinn Fein over issues including language, housing and abortion rights.

Speaking at a conference ahead of Saturday’s march, former MP for Mid-Ulster and leading rights campaigner Bernadette McAliskey called for the north of Ireland’s suspended parliament to be “bulldozed.”

“We are on a hiding to nothing changing racism and sectarianism.

“I run out of patience with that house on the hill. We deserve better and we should bulldoze the place,” she said.

The 1968 march was organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association to highlight discrimination against Catholics in jobs and housing and seeking voting rights for all.

It was sparked when Nationalist MP Austin Currie and a number of others squatted in a house in County Tyrone in protest at the decision to allocate the house to an unmarried Protestant woman ahead of Catholic families in the area.

Veteran rights campaigner Mitchel McLaughlin warned that the DUP and the British government continue to deny rights to citizens in the six counties.

He told those gathered that “the conditions which compelled the civil rights campaign are all around us in very tangible ways.

“The deliberate discrimination in housing, employment and infrastructure of communities perceived to be nationalist has taken generations to repair and remains an unfinished task,” Mr McLaughlin said.

But despite the challenges, he vowed that the movement would continue to campaign for civil rights for all of Ireland’s citizens.

“We shall overcome,” he said, to applause.

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