But could it all have been avoided ? Was there ANY way the gerrymandered rotten borough of Northern Ireland could have been peacefully reformed into something remotely resembling a decent non-sectarian society fit for all its citizens ?
Or did what tragically happened inevitably HAVE to happen ?
An interesting question. IIRC the Stormont PM at the time was trying to push through reform but was being hindered by the died in the wool eejits who wanted to retain the staus quo. The way the RUC acted on the day of that march was incredibly foolish. Those who saw the footage of people being batoned viciously will never forget it.
I believe that if the British Government had intervened far sooner and suspended Stormont there may have been a chance to push through the reforms required. Given that they took such a hard line against the South African apartheid regime, it amazes me that they stood back and watched it occur in what they saw as part of the UK .
Having said that, they didn't do anything at the time and the rest is history.
Interesting that you should mention South Africa, Aindriu. The SA Justice Minister at the time, Pik Botha, was recorded as saying he wished he had half the powers at his disposal as were open to his Northern Ireland counterpart, William Craig, under the Special Powers Act.
What made 5 October 1968 important for many people like myself was that it politicised us.
I was not on the march. I was a schoolboy at the time and was at the Derry City v Distillery Irish League game at Brandywell. We were stunned and shocked to see our city on the news that evening and the horrific scenes unfolding before us. It enraged people (only Bloody Sunday enraged them more) and drove them onto the streets.
As someone else said in another context, a terrible beauty was born.
Regarding the report on the break up of the civil rights march, it was facinating to see this bit, that indicates the innocence and absence of militancy in the Bogside at the time: A number of bonfires were lit in the Bogside area and when a fire engine arrived, the crowd turned on it and threatened to set it alight.
Emergency vehicles were burnt out for an awful lot less in the later years.
What angered many people, myself included, was that the RUC were not just content to break up the march and leave it at that. No, they had to baton and hose (with water cannon) the marchers (who were relatively few in number by comparison with later events) back over Craigavon Bridge to the West Bank and into the Bogside. The RUC themselves then ran amok in a sectarian manner and made a habit of doing so. (See Hunt & Scarman Reports)
While it was certainly the beginning of the end of the old order, I dont think there was anything 'inevitable' about the descent into violence. The early days of the Civil Rights movement (right up to Bloody Sunday) were full of optimism that civil disobedience would work as it had in India and the southern USA. Unlike the US or India though, there was no one unifying figure who could hold the thing together and the violent reaction of the state led the more shortsighted and stupid among us to react in the way they did.
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