Belfast Telegraph

SDLP's McCrossan accuses Sinn Fein of rewriting Civil Rights campaign's history

By Staff Reporter

An SDLP MLA has hit out at Sinn Fein over a commemoration event to mark 50 years since the first civil rights march was held in Northern Ireland.

Saturday's march organised by Sinn Fein traced the original route from Dungannon to Coalisland, taken by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in 1968.

Writing on Twitter, SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said: "Don't dare attempt to discredit the Civil Rights Movement with SF's vile rewriting of history. Do you think people are so foolish?

"SF know nothing about Civil Rights, never have! Ask Jean McConvilles family?"

In a follow-up tweet, Mr McCrossan said Sinn Fein's actions at the time were "the complete opposite" of the civil rights movement.

Reacting to the comments, a Sinn Fein spokesperson said: "Daniel McCrossan would have been welcome to attend today's march to stand up for rights and equality for all citizens.

"Unfortunately, he would rather spend his time constantly attacking Sinn Fein and trying to score cheap political points, as usual."

Addressing the crowd at the event, former Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said the civil rights movement was "never a republican conspiracy" but was "an instinctive and largely spontaneous response to decades of unionist misrule, abuse and sectarianism".

Earlier this year Sinn Fein's national chairperson Declan Kearney was criticised after saying the civil rights movements was influenced by the IRA and Sinn Fein leadership at the time.

Civil rights campaigner and former MP Bernadette McAliskey, then-Bernadette Devlin at the time, has said his comments have no basis in fact.

Yesterday, she called for Stormont to be bulldozed at a conference marking the first march.

As a 21-year-old, the then-Bernadette Devlin was elected MP for Mid-Ulster in 1969, the youngest MP at the time.

The tough street campaigner rejected the abstentionism tactic to take her Westminster seat after fighting under the slogan: "I will take my seat and fight for your rights."

Now 71, she said: "I run out of patience with that house on the hill. We deserve better and we should bulldoze the place."

Ms McAliskey also warned that racism and sectarianism were like rapidly spreading ragweed and that people do not understand racism in the way they do sectarianism.

"If you take your eye off them in any time or place or generation they will reassert themselves, every single day," she said.

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