The 50th anniversary of the Duke Street civil rights march in Derry, when unarmed demonstrators were attacked by the police, is being commemorated with a series of events in the city.

The events of 5 October 1968 are often described as the start of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Images and sounds, captured by RTÉ cameraman Gay O'Brien and sound recordist Eamonn Hayes, were seen around the world.

They showed civil rights protesters being beaten with batons and sometimes kicked by police officers.

The Civil Rights movement had only started the previous year.  

Among those injured were the MP Gerry Fitt and three British MPs, Anne and Russell Kerr and John Ryan.

Some of the most dramatic footage showed protester Pat Douglas pleading with police and then being assaulted.

Among those injured in the march was Nationalist leader Gerry Fitt

Mr Hayes said the events in Derry have "left everlasting and significant memories" for him.

On RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said: It was frightful because we were a standard news crew covering normal events but to be subjected to this extreme violence and to be in the middle of it was quite an experience.

"I believe that perhaps it changed the course of history and exposed a lot of wrongdoings and sectarian bitterness.

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"We hope we've made some contribution to changing the nature of the political system in Northern Ireland.

"One would have hoped that we would be in a better place - we are in a lot of ways in the North in terms of the violence - but to be part of possibly the change of history was certainly an experience and it was something that lives in the memory because (RTÉ cameraman) Gay O'Brien has passed away and reporter Pat Sweeney has passed away."

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Mr Hayes also said the reporting crew was "chuffed" that it got the film over the border and back to Dublin as it knew it "had something special."

A march to commemorate the demonstration will take place tomorrow afternoon.

Professor Paul Arthur, Chair of the Civil Rights Commemoration, said we have tried to make the Civil Rights Festival as inclusive and reflective as the times demand.


Footage of the events of 5 October 1968 was shot by local man Liam McCafferty.

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From the Archives: March Marks Beginnings of Troubles 1968