Radio host traces footsteps of civil rights movement

Posted By: August 18, 2018

Suzanne McGonagle. Irish News.Belfast. Saturday, August 18, 2018

CO Tyrone radio host Lynette Fay has followed “in the footsteps” of those involved in Northern Ireland’s first civil rights march for a documentary to mark its 50th anniversary.

Born in Dungannon a decade after the events of August 24, 1968, Ms. Fay looks back on the march and the actions which made history that day.

In the Footsteps, to be broadcast tomorrow on BBC Radio Ulster, sees Ms. Fay speak to prominent civil rights campaigner Bernadette McAliskey as well as Mary Rafferty, who took part in the first civil rights marches.

The presenter tells of how she had no idea that people she knew growing up – her brother’s primary school teacher and her next door neighbors – were among the organizers of the first march.

Seen as a watershed moment in the recent history of the north, the march between Coalisland and Dungannon, saw teachers, students and politicians take part, all wanting the same thing – equality and civil rights.

Their actions made history – but Dungannon’s pivotal role in the quest for social justice was soon forgotten as images of beaten and bloodied marchers on the Duke Street march that October grabbed headlines around the world.

In the documentary, Ms. Fay revisits the issue of housing discrimination and the ground breaking protests of the young mothers of the Homeless Citizens League.

She hears from Ms. McAliskey about how the march turned her into a life-long campaigner, as well as from those who took part in a counter-protest.

Ms. Fay asks what spurred them to take to the streets in pursuit of civil rights, whether or not they achieved their aims – and at what cost. She also examines how Dungannon and Northern Ireland have changed 50 years on from that first civil rights march.

“I feel that in order to know where you’re going, it’s important to know where you have come from,” said Ms. Fay.

“It has been extremely interesting to spend time speaking to the contemporaries of the first civil rights march and to learn how and why this march took place, from the people who were directly involved 50 years ago.”

n Stories In Sound: In The Footsteps is to be broadcast tomorrow on BBC Radio Ulster at 12.30pm.