Civil Rights, 1968, and all that…

History Ireland Articles PDF

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These three articles appeared in History Ireland September/October 2008, volume 16 No. 5

An accompanying editorial said:

The difference in 1968 was the advent of a university-educated generation fired up by the example of Selma Alabama, Paris ’68, agitation against the Vietnam war and an inchoate counter-culture (although Vinny McCormack admits that there may have been a few covert Val Doonican fansĀ  amongst student radicals!).
The other difference was the violent unionist response (both official and unofficial). Even after the numbing effect of 30 years of violence it is difficult not to be taken aback by the calculated viciousness of the Burntollet ambush. Where did such hatred come from? Roy Garland’s memoir provides a clue.He paints an honest but disturbing picture of a deeply insecure community, easy prey to irrational and contradictory conspiracy theories (both Romanist and Communist). And of course, like all conspiracy theories, their tendency to self-fulfil gives them a veneer of veracity.
Simon Prince controversially points out another difference: the provocative tactics of the civil rights demonstrators. But those other apostles of non-violent protest, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Daniel O’Connell, were equally provocative. In any case, there is no moral equivalence between the (subjective) perception of provocation on the one hand and the (objective) dishing out of physical retribution on the other.

The editorial ends by saying that readers can judge for themselves, and that the strong moral foundations of the civil rights campaign do not make the movement immune to balanced and objective historical investigation. This is the spirit of the 40th anniversary commemoration, and we invite visitors to the site to comment on any of the articles in that spirit.

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