October 5th, 1968
Civil Rights March - Derry
CAIN Conflict Archive
Main Events of the day
The march in Derry on 5 October 1968 was notionally organised by an ad hoc committee comprising representatives of the Derry Labour Party, the Derry Labour Party Young Socialists, the Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC), the Derry City Republican Club, and the James Connolly Society. In reality the ad hoc committee never functioned as expected and the practical organisation of the event was undertaken by two people, Eamonn McCann and Eamon Melaugh. The night before the march there was a final meeting between representatives of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) and the organisers in Derry. The NICRA wanted to call off the march because of the banning order imposed by William Craig, then Home Affairs Minister at Stormont. After some discussion it was decided to go ahead with the march.
Estimates of the number of people who took part in the march vary widely. For many such events the organisers tend to inflate estimates of the numbers who took part while official figures tend to be a more conservative estimate. Surprisingly therefore one of the main organisers, Eamonn McCann, stated that "about 400 hundred people formed up in ranks in Duke Street. About two hundred stood on the pavement and looked on." (McCann, 1993; p.97), while the official estimate was approximately 2,000 people (Cameron Report, 1969; p.27). Among those who were present at the march were: representatives of the five local groups who were part of the ad hoc committee and members of the NICRA; a number of Nationalist Members of the Northern Ireland Parliament (NIMPs) including Eddie McAteer and Gerry Fitt and three Westminster Labour MPs; individuals such as John Hume; and many ordinary citizens of Derry. The fact that the organisers had miscalculated and planned the march for a day when the Derry City Football Club was playing 'at home', the fact that the march was starting in the Waterside, or the expectation that there might be an outbreak of violence, all probably contributed to the low numbers. The march was however about to achieve a significance far beyond its size.