Socialist Worker


From bad consciences to the barricades
The escalation of the civil rights struggle

(SW, 21 August 1969)

Dave Widgery


1967 Civil Rights Association founded. Like National Council for Civil Liberties, a middle-class conscience group with a tame Unionist on executive. Press statements asked Stormont to be more liberal.

Aug 1968 A CRA-sponsored march In Dungannon for better housing.

Oct 5 Police riot against civil rights demonstration in Derry which defied a government ban. Catholics fight back on Lecky Road. Sympathy demonstration in Dublin. “This is not a riot. It is an uprising. It is an elemental outburst of rage by a class which has been denied jobs, homes and human rights by a regime as near fascist as makes no difference.” – Eamonn McCann.

Oct 14 Peoples Democracy formed, mainly from ex-students of Queens University, Belfast and Young Socialist Alliance.

Dec Derry demonstration with dockers and factory workers versus police.

Jan 1969 Belfast to Derry Long March by the Peoples Democracy. Ambushed and beaten at Burntollet by B-Specials, RUC and Paisleyites.



Feb 8 PD candidates get total 20,000 votes in snap elections.

March Communist Party leaves CRA and Hume and Cooper step down from executive.

April PD march to Dublin. Mass welcome outside GPO.

May Devlin elected. “The unionists want to walk over us with hobnail boots, O’Neill would use carpet slippers!”

May 15 After PD inactivity a squat in Clooney Park, Derry.

July 3 Strabane demonstration 5,000 versus Special Powers Act and high unemployment. Newry march “Civil Rights must turn left or fail” – Devlin.

July 17 Derry uprising. Young people take on cops. RUC dispersed. Fighting in Lurgan, Dungiven and Belfast.

Aug 12 50 hour battle in Derry.


Last updated on 7.3.2002