By Ashleigh McDonald – Originally Published: Irish News 25 August 2008
A MEMORIAL stone to commemorate the first ever civil rights march in Northern Ireland was unveiled this weekend in the centre of Coalisland.
Around 300 people attended the unveiling, which took place in the Co Tyrone town on Saturday afternoon.
Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the march, when people took to the streets and walked from Coalisland to Dungannon to highlight civil rights abuses against Catholics.
Speakers at the event were Mid-Ulster MLA Francie Molloy and Bernadette McAliskey.
Mr Molloy, who acted as a steward in the 1968 march, said the memorial stone was a tribute to all those who have played a part in the civil rights movement in the last four decades.
“Forty years ago Coalisland was at the birth of the civil rights movement,” the Sinn Fein politician said.
“It is fitting that we commemorated the original march in the town.
“In 1968 there was a huge optimism that here in Ireland we would challenge the corrupt unionist state and bring about real change.
“Sadly the civil rights movement and its basic demands for housing, jobs and democracy were met with all the violence of the unionist state.”
During Saturday’s event Mrs McAliskey spoke of the problems of racism against migrant workers in Ireland today.
“People who campaign for human rights should also recognise the issues around racism,” she said.
“Migrant workers have the right to live and work here and people should not be discriminated against because of their race or nationality”.