I was among the speakers last night at a public debate on ‘Civil Rights — Missed Opportunity’, as part of the West Belfast Festival / Féile an Phobail.
I said that if the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) and other progressive forces had been allowed by the government and by sectarian forces to pursue their legitimate demands, then those who engaged in the bloody and unnecessary carnage inflicted over three decades could never have purloined the issue of civil rights as a pretext to justify their despicable and unjustifiable campaign of terror.
Thousands of lives were lost as was the opportunity for a united approach to tackling the social injustices of our society.
Opportunities were missed and opportunists have left us with a sad legacy.
Fifty years on, our community is still divided: segregated education and segregated housing are still with us.
Thirty per cent of our children are living in poverty. Low income homes are the norm, and forty percent of the population is blighted by fuel poverty.
Life expectancy is a postcode lottery.
NICRA won many reforms but the fundamental change required to bring about real equality has yet to be realised.
That can only come with the creation of a new future, based on a united working class, a bill of rights that rejects sectarianism and racism and that builds a democratic, secular and socialist society.
Hugh Scullion, Workers Party