Belfast Telegraph

Inside story of Northern Ireland's Civil Rights struggle told 50 years on

New exhibition puts events in context of global change

By Donna Deeney

A new exhibition chronicling Londonderry's role in the global civil rights movement will open in the city at the weekend.

The Lost Moment, curated by Sean O'Hagan, documents how the civil rights campaign for houses and jobs in places like Derry, Newry, Armagh and Belfast was gathering momentum below the radar at a time when the spotlight was focused on Vietnam, Paris and America.

Mr O'Hagan said: "This exhibition covers a period which ends with the Battle of the Bogside so while I am an Armagh man, it is appropriate the exhibition opens in Derry.

"The exhibition has a huge international context with photographers covering events in Prague, Paris and the American Civil Rights, and I wanted to put the exhibition in the context of the global things that were going on, which I think has been underplayed until now.

"When I talk to people like Eamonn McCann and Bernadette Devlin (McAliskey), they talk about the influence of these things, particularly on the student movement.

"Even though it is in Derry we wanted to show Dungannon, Coalisland, Armagh, Newry and Belfast where marches were also taking place.

"I realise the thing about this is that even to this day everything is contested, which is interesting. There are people who blame the civil rights people for starting the Troubles and then you have Sinn Fein retrospectively trying to own it, so that is a reason to do the exhibition in itself." Mr O'Hagan admits he was and is not a neutral observer and recalls being taken to civil rights marches in his home city of Armagh.

"I remember the almost carnival atmosphere as the marchers, several thousand strong, set off from the Killylea Road," he said.

"Protesters came from all over the north and even from the south.

"Under the civil rights banner, people believing, perhaps for the first time in their lives, that real change was a possibility.

"It was the same in Derry - Eamonn McCann told me about the number of people who arrived in the city and were called The Internationals.

"One of the things that became very evident was the extraordinary amount of dogged work and organisation that went on on the ground.

"Most of the people in Catholic working class areas didn't have a phone but they organised, printed posters and got them transported from A to B. It really was incredible."

The Lost Moment opens at the Nerve Centre Gallery in Ebrington Square on April 28 for six weeks

Belfast Telegraph

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