In recent days two parties that did not exist at the time, were out bidding each other, claiming to be inheritors of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association.
It would appear that the Republican Clubs are to be written out of history by those who by their sectarianism and or violence led to the demise of NICRA.
The first meeting to set up NICRA was held in Maghera in 1967 and it was formally established in 1968.
The SDLP was not formed until 1970. The SDLP was not “born out of the NICRA” but the resurrection of Nationalist sectarian politics which continue to plague our society today.
The Squat in Caledon was organised by Brantry Republican Club. Austin Currie who was to claim credit for the Caledon squat, was a founding member of the SDLP who later as a Stormont Minister, introduced the draconian ‘Payment of Debt Act’ which allowed the Government to deduct payment from wages and benefits for those supporting the NICRA organised Civil Disobedience Campaign. His actions were a direct attack on NICRA and aimed at the most vulnerable in society.
Republican Clubs was the name adopted by Sinn Fein (Official) in the north to overcome the Stormont ban and allow them to engage in electoral politics. Not everyone in the Republican Movement supported this political direction. Those who opposed the new direction went on to form the Provisionals.
Despite some individual members attending Civil Rights marches, the Provisionals were hostile to the Civil Rights Campaign seeing it as reformist.
One prominent Provo refused to support NICRA because it used ‘Northern Ireland’ in its name. NICRA was not about Civil Rights for Catholics but for everyone. It was not a Nationalist campaign but wanted to reform and democratise Stormont. The demise of NICRA was the result of being driven off the streets by violence and on going sectarianism.
The Republican Clubs, (now the Workers Party) were to the fore in founding NICRA, organising and stewarding marches and other protests. NICRA campaigned for civil rights for all irrespective of religion, race, disability or any form of nationalism.
Among the reforms won by the civil rights campaign was the ending of the Special Powers Act, disarming of the RUC and disbandment of the B-Specials, the establishment of the NI Housing Executive and a system of fair allocation of housing.