Another Day: Eye-Witness Account of the Start Of The Irish Troubles, 5 October, 1968

Submitted by dalcassian on 1 March, 2017 - 12:07 Author: Peter Graham

[The fuse to the explosion that engulfed the old, Protestant- ruled Northern Ireland sub-state and led to the British Army taking control of N I in August 1969, was lit when Orange police attacked a civil rights march in Derry, on October 5,1968. This brief eye-withness report was written by Peter Graham in a letter to Sean Matgamna* Three years later, in October 1971, Peter Graham would be murdered by members of the urban guerilla group, "Saor Eire" (Free Ireland) of which he was a member..
*(Middle name, family name, Anthony: thus "Tony") ]

Dear Tony,

Gray St.
Dublin 8,
9th Oct. 68.

I am sorry about the delay in writing. We were very busy with the referendum and the Derry affair.

First the referendum: as you probably know by now Fianna Fail was beaten by two and three quarters to one. This sounds like a remarkable victory, but it is not really, when you consider the number of groups and political parties that opposed it. First the L. P. then F. G., S .F., W P. and the combined Trade Union Movement. With all these groups against, F. F. the defeat should have been four to one. But not to worry, we beat them anyhow.

Lysaght and myself were up in Derry on the now famous Saturday, i,e. when the R. U. C. batoned demonstrators and passers by indiscriminately. On the previous Saturday I was at a Civil Rights Committee in Derry. The majority of the committee was, as Eamon McCann described it, a bunch of middle aged, middle class and middle of the road fools. On that committee the only radicals were Cyril Toman, Mike Farrell, other Y. S. members from Belfast and from Derry, Eamon himself. The Chief Marshall wanted the prerogative to beat marchers if they deviated from the straight and narrow as defined by him.

On the march itself the only ones in a position to do any beating were the cops. They blocked us at the top of Duke St. with big police vans and three lines of baton waving cops in front and two lines behind. When the crowd first tried to break the cordon it was viciously driven back, then some people spoke off a chair to the demonstrators (about 8oo of them, only half of them men capable of fighting the Police of which there was 500 ) Eddie Mactteer (Nationalist Party) was booed down and would not be listened to because earlier in the week he said "the nationalist Party would not participate as a party though members from the Party could participate as individuals, we want to keep the politicians out of the Civil Rights Affair."

Betty Sinclair, the N. I. C P. was also booed when she suggested we go home, the next speaker was Eamon. He had absolute silence. "I was bound over to the peace this morning and I am not going to ask. anyone to break that cordon but if anyone goes to break it I wont say or do anything to stop him". With that the crowd rushed the cops and the rest is history----we were beaten back down the road into the batons of two more lines of cops.

The I. W G. has just had its A G M with Lawless and all, a very subdued Lawless indeed, about 12 people were there, including Chris Gray I. S. I haven’t the faintest idea of what went on.

On the same Saturday Sinn Fein had a meeting in solidarity with the Derry marchers. the meeting ended up outside the English Embassy where a 100 cops met them. There were some clashes and a petrol bomb was thrown, a certain Inspect Sheen was injured and had to be taken to hospital; this bastard is always on demos. and has been a marked man for a long time.

The L W R has just bought a duplicator for £35, the same kind as your own.

Fraternally,

Peter