Civil Rights

Fionnbarra O'Dochartaigh

Author & Historian

When I hear the words ‘Springtown Camp’ my mind is flooded with memories, not confined to its supposedly ‘temporary’ WWII U.S-Military huts or post-1945 former residents, but its exemplary association with the prolonged struggle for proper homes. The 1964 ‘Silent March’ by the residents of Springtown Camp, in spite of police-imposed curtailments, provided the spark that ignited a deeper and wider yearning for basic human rights and civil liberties. Such progressive aims came with a human price, yet remain deeply inspiring; insofar as a lobby group would be transformed into a mass movement, almost overnight.

Derry during WWII was indeed a bustling, cosmopolitan and relatively prosperous city, divided by the River Foyle, so central to respective navies and the combined Allied Forces’ strategies in the war against Fascism in Europe. By the 1960s’ things had changed dramatically and could best be described in five words, Defeat, Despair and the Dole.

Springtown Camp’s militant and totally justified stand inspired those of us who created both the Derry Unemployed and Housing Action committees, which in turn led to the creation of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association [NICRA] in Belfast in January 1967. The banning and restrictions imposed on Derry’s first civil rights march were defied. October 5th 1968 is often referred to as ‘The Start of the Troubles’. The rest is now history, as they say.

Fionnbarra O’Dochartaigh B.A. [Hons.],

NICRA co-founder, 1967

Author & Historian