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Eamonn McCann

Paisley thugs stone factory workers

Dockers and Shirt Girls
March for Free Derry

(23 November 1968)

From Socialist Worker, No. 98, 23 November 1968, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DOCKERS AND FACTORY GIRLS marched this week in support of the campaign for civil rights in the Northern Ireland police state.

On Tuesday, dockers marched for the second time into the walled area of Derry, defying a government ban. They clashed with steel-helmeted police and stoned a water-cannon. On Monday, 3,000 girls from six shirt factories staged a token strike and also marched in through the walls.

The girls chanted ‘RUC-SS’ and gave the Nazi salute. The RUC is the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the strong-armed police who battered marchers last October.

The girls held a meeting in the Diamond, the traditional meeting place in Derry.

At 11.45 that morning, 700 dockers stopped work and marched through the walled area to their union headquarters. They instructed union officials to tell Harold Wilson that they demanded an end to police brutality in Derry.

Stones and bottles

Late on Monday night, as girls on the night shift left the Cerdic shirt factory, they were met by a hail of stones and bottles from a mob of followers of the clerical fascist, the Rev. Ian Paisley.

Two girls had to go to hospital to have stitches inserted in wounds. A number of other girls suffered minor injuries.

Socialists moved into the Protestant working-class area and spoke to people about their campaign for civil rights and an end to the persecution of the Catholic majority in Derry.

There was little support from Protestant workers but no one admitted taking part in the Paisleyite attack on the factory girls.

The socialists had to beat a retreat when they were chased by a man with a hatchet.

After today’s demonstration, Derry is quiet. But a slow fuse is burning and may soon explode again.

The campaign seems to be undermining the mental faculties of Home Affairs Minister Craig, lie denied that the factory girls’ march and meeting had taken place at all and had flouted his ban on demonstrations in the walled part of Derry.

‘There was no such march and no such meeting,’ he declared on television. Told that the march had been seen by thousands of viewers, he said he preferred to accept the reports of his officials, not television journalists.

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