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'Burntollet' by Bowes Egan and Vincent McCormack

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Text: Bowes Egan and Vincent McCormack ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna

'For these ends . . . we are marching from Belfast to Derry'

NEXT morning, Major James Chichester-Clark, the man who has since become Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, set out along the route between Gulladuff and Maghera. Twelve hours before, this area had been peopled by an armed mob determined to attack the marchers. Chichester-Clark came to join the same people who were reassembling, in the belief that the People's Democracy might try to pass that way. Later, he wrote to one of the authors:

"I think I should state to you in quite clear terms that I did not agree to join with any person or group of persons to oppose the march in 'any uncertain manner' or indeed in any unlawful manner."
But the precise degree of obstruction and resistance that Major Chichester-Clark would have tolerated was not resolved, and it is a matter for speculation whether his personal influence would have been more potent than the collective resolve of the mob. While the Minister and the rioters waited, the marchers set out by car from Brackaghreilly Hall intending to return to Gulladuff and recover their march. Almost immediately the road was blocked by police tenders. District Inspector Hood announced that the march was prohibited from passing through Maghera, apparently exercising the wide discretionary powers given to him by the Public Order Act. After discussion, and a token show of resistance, the marchers decided to proceed to Dungiven and to Claudy, the ultimate destination for that day. Even then, free progress was denied; Hood ordered the marchers off the main road, rerouting them by an obscure mountain roadway.

On the third day of the march, Captain William Long, then Minister of Home Affairs, talked with the Rev. Ian Paisley and Major Ronald Bunting. Later, Captain Long said on television that "neither had threatened or hinted that their followers would cause trouble in Derry'. This statement brought an outraged response from stoned and beaten marchers, and from people of Maghera, surveying their boarded windows and damaged buildings.

From there to Dungiven, progress was unimpeded over the bleak and sparsely-populated Glenshane Pass. There were a number of incidents which were not noticed by most marchers. A convoy of cars coming from Maghera collected at a strategic point, perhaps with the intention of making obstruction or attack. These people were recognised by men of the locality, a minor fracas occurred, and the convoy hastily retreated. And, in a press conference, given that afternoon at Stormont, the Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley spoke of the lawlessness of the Civil Rights marchers:

"Today, on the Glenshane Pass, a Protestant was removed by armed thugs from his car and he was told that he had to join the Civil Rights marchers. He refused.

"A loyalist button was taken from his button-hole. A loyalist tie was pulled from round his neck. His car was absolutely smashed until it was undriveable and he himself was frog-marched a mile up the road. . . .

Asked for comment on this statement, one of the marchers said:
"I have heard rather divergent accounts of this incident, or perhaps of a number of similar incidents. It is quite clear to me that some Protestant people opposed to the march were attacked by car-loads of so-called Civil Rights supporters. It would be useless and dishonest to make any Pontius Pilate gesture, and say that the march was in no way responsible. Undoubtedly, its progress provided opportunity of paying some old scores based on sectarian quarrels. But I will say, most firmly, that such attitudes were most vigorously condemned and most clearly opposed by People's Democracy marchers, and by all speakers at the meetings held in course of the march."
Perhaps one reason for the comparative quiet of the morning walk was that Major Bunting had an engagement elsewhere. Together with Dr. Ian Paisley, he was scheduled to meet the then Minister of Home Affairs, Captain William Long, in Belfast, to discuss the progress of the march, and to make some revelations about its subversive and republican nature. The reception given to the marchers in Dungiven was hospitable and enthusiastic. After lunch, before setting out towards the town of Feeney, Michael Farrell spoke to the townspeople. He set out, in detail, the objectives the People's Democracy and their reasons for setting out on the march:
"You know that the call 'one man, one vote' is a principal slogan of the Civil Rights movement. We demand this because we believe that every adult person should have equal say in the local government of his community, irrespective of his wealth or position. And when we say 'one man, one vote' we mean not only that every adult person must be allowed to vote. We mean each vote should be of equal worth. You all know exactly what that means. In towns and other local areas, the boundaries are so arranged that even if all people had votes, carefully built-in advantages would remain with political groups, which have managed to adjust boundaries to perpetuate their control. So 'one man, one vote' means universal adult suffrage and an immediate reorganisation of local electoral boundaries to give all votes equal weight.

"Let me emphasise that we do not promote 'one man, one vote' just to benefit the Catholic community. We do not like to think of Catholics as a separate body, as a distinct political force. We want to see this elementary social justice because it is right, because many thousands of working class Protestants are also deprived of votes, and because this question must be settled so that the religious undertones that some have injected into it may be forgotten. Remember that councillors and aldermen are anxious to maintain control, not for religious reasons, but because of the money and the patronage they control. We want to break this system.

"There are other conventional demands of the Civil Rights movement which we also support. Thus, the Civil Rights Association wishes to see the repeal of the Special Powers laws. So do we. Since 1922 the government in this country has possessed powers that cannot be reconciled with a democracy, that fall far short of the minimum standards accepted by international organisations.

"Thus the Minister of Home Affairs can order that a citizen be arrested without warrant. He can stipulate that a person be imprisoned without a trial. This detention can continue year after year, and if a prisoner should happen to die in custody, the Minister can prohibit the holding of any inquest that might discover the cause of death in custody. Not only can the government provide that a man shall forfeit the right to trial. It can also adjust the way the trial shall be held, and may prohibit a defendant's right to be heard by a jury. And in addition to such iniquitous provisions, barbaric penalties are retained. And penalties can be awarded even where no existing criminal offence has been committed, but where the Minister chooses to create a new offence which he believes may affect public order.

"Some of these powers are not likely to be used. Some, however, have been used within the last decade, and they are ever-present weapons which Ministers may use to choke off any opposition. A South African premier, speaking of the restrictive laws in his own country, has exclaimed how much he would like to be able to use the powers given to the Northern Ireland Government under the Special Powers laws.

"In addition, we have the Flags and Emblems Act, which is quite simply designed to protect the display of one flag and outlaw the use of others. It gives to the Minister of Home Affairs wide powers to prohibit display of emblems of which he disapproves. A democratic society must allow expression of disagreement with the existing government, whether this be done by word of mouth, in writing, or by use of signs of flags or emblems, or in any other way that does no physical harm to others.

"And so, in common with other Civil Rights bodies, we demand of the government one man, one vote, and repeal of repressive laws. But the People's Democracy makes further demands which we think are far more basic, far more important than those mentioned yet. First we call for the provision of full employment. 'One man, one job', is a call that has special significance in areas west of the Bann where unemployment is chronically high and permanent, averaging about fourteen per cent., and where the government has totally failed to channel new industry and development. But government direction of new industry is not at all sufficient. To solve the local problems, public investment and publicly-owned industry is going to be needed.

"Our final call is for 'one family, one house', for the provision of decent accommodation for every family. In a way this is tied in with local council voting patterns because, under the present system, local bodies accord houses not on the basis of real need, but to their own electoral supporters and when these are housed the strong tendency is to forget about the others, or quite deliberately to leave them in slum conditions of an intolerable sort. And so in order of importance the demands which we make are:

One family, one house

One man, one job

One man, one vote

Repeal of repressive laws
"And for these ends, the People's Democracy is marching from Belfast to Derry."
That night, Home Affairs Minister, Captain William Long, appeared in a television programme. He told how, during that afternoon, he had held conference with Dr. Paisley and with Major Ronald Bunting. These gentlemen had been most courteous. The meeting had been very congenial and neither had "either threatened or hinted that their followers would cause any trouble in Derry". The Minister of Home Affairs, relieved that militant Protestant leaders had not subjected him to the embarrassment of disclosing their plans in advance, continued by saying that the followers of the Rev. Ian Paisley had been wholly non-violent during the march. This statement brought amazed and outraged response from marchers, and from others who had suffered at the hands of mobs, or who had seen attacks on individuals and destruction of property.

The people of Maghera, surveying the boarded windows of dozens of smashed-up buildings, heard this statement with incredulity. The drivers of cars which had been battered looked at their shattered windscreens, and listened in astonishment. And the Dungannon Civil Rights Association issued a statement which incorporated the sentiments of most observers. The following account was published in the Belfast Telegraph:

"Dungannon Civil Rights committee says it was incredible that a Minister of Home Affairs could sit back and tell millions of viewers that the enemies of the People's Democracy march had not been violent to date, especially in view of the fact that the world had seen on television and in the press how the enemies of this march had wrought havoc on the property of Civil Rights supporters.

"Did Capt. Long not consider it an act of violence to be armed with offensive weapons and to block the path of a legitimate peaceful parade?"

The statement continued: "Whatever doubts a few faint-hearted might have had about the necessity of this march, Capt. Long most certainly must have dispelled them. His conduct on this programme was in keeping with the partisan conduct of the police along the route when they refused to clear a path for the marchers and allowed cudgel-waving extremists to roam the roads and streets."

The statement added that the People's Democracy members, who had been subject to the vilest resistance along the way by extremists, had proved to the world not only the need for this march but for many, many more marches in the future.

Some marchers, hearing report of this conference between the fanatics and the Minister, took the view that the harassment was now over, that Long must have received firm assurances before issuing so commendatory a statement. But others took a more cynical view: "They have been given full official backing now," said one man from Claudy, "and the police now know exactly whose side the government is on. . . ."

To heighten an impression of unreality, the Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley and Major Ronald Bunting held a press conference at the government buildings, Stormont, and gave their own account of what had been discussed. Asked about his call on loyal citizens to hinder and harry the progress of the march, Bunting replied:

"I have given a request to the Loyal Citizens of Ulster, and thank God they have responded, (pause), I thank you very much indeed, God (pause) to hinder and harry it. And I think they have hindered it, and I think to a certain extent they have harried it. . . ."
In seeking precise verbal description of the activities of his followers Major Bunting laid claim to a form of activity that deserves its dictionary definition:
Harry: to strip; to pillage; to harass, to agitate.
A journalist went on to suggest that it might have been better, from all points of view, if Bunting and his cohorts had chosen to ignore the march. Readers should understand that there was no element of conscious humour in the Major's retort: "You can't ignore the Devil, brother."

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