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Visit of civil rights icon is criticised by DUP MP

By Donna Deeney

Gregory Campbell has criticised the recent visit of US civil rights campaigner Rev Jesse Jackson to Londonderry for his lack of engagement with the unionist community.

Rev Jackson spent two days in the city at the invitation of the Bloody Sunday Trust for the official opening of the Free Derry Museum.

During his stay he also met with SDLP representatives, visited former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness's grave and visited Oakgrove Integrated College.

Mr Campbell said it would be "exceptionally damaging" if Rev Jackson took an unbalanced view back to the US after not engaging with unionists.

Mr Campbell said Rev Jackson was entitled to visit Mr McGuinness's grave, but thought a champion of civil rights would have wanted to see the graves of IRA victims too.

"If he did go elsewhere, perhaps he or the organisers of the visit could outline whose graves he did see. I think it was an opportunity lost that he didn't seek to get a balanced view.

"I think it is exceptionally damaging that a civil rights activist of his calibre takes a very one sided view back to America."

The Bloody Sunday Trust said both unionist parties and all church leaders were invited to meet him at the opening of the Free Derry Museum.

Robin Percival from the Trust added that certain aspects of Rev Jackson's visit had been done in a private capacity at his request, including the visit to Martin McGuinness's grave.

"A number of other groups were interested in hosting Reverend Jackson during his visit. They contacted him directly or the Trust," he added.

"Jesse Jackson was happy to meet with them and to support their work. This included the Rathmor Centre and the Pat Finucane Centre. He also paid a surprise visit to Oakgrove Integrated College at the request of a parent.

"We note that other organisations who have invited guests to the city are not asked such a question."

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