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Civil rights movements

The meaning of «civil rights movements»

Civil rights movements are a worldwide series of political movements for equality before the law, that peaked in the 1960s.[citation needed] In many situations they have been characterized by nonviolent protests, or have taken the form of campaigns of civil resistance aimed at achieving change through nonviolent forms of resistance. In some situations, they have been accompanied, or followed, by civil unrest and armed rebellion. The process has been long and tenuous in many countries, and many of these movements did not, or have yet to, fully achieve their goals, although the efforts of these movements have led to improvements in the legal rights of some previously oppressed groups of people, in some places.

The main aim of the successful civil rights movement and other social movements for civil rights included ensuring that the rights of all people were and are equally protected by the law. These include but are not limited to the rights of minorities, women's rights, disability rights and LGBT rights.

Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom which has witnessed violence over many decades, known as the Troubles, arising from tensions between the British (Unionist, Protestant) majority and the Irish (Nationalist, Catholic) minority following the Partition of Ireland in 1920.

The civil rights struggle in Northern Ireland can be traced to activists in Dungannon, led by Austin Currie, who were fighting for equal access to public housing for the members of the Catholic community. This domestic issue would not have led to a fight for civil rights were it not for the fact that being a registered householder was a qualification for local government franchise in Northern Ireland.[citation needed]

In January 1964, the Campaign for Social Justice (CSJ) was launched in Belfast.[1] This organisation joined the struggle for better housing and committed itself to ending discrimination in employment. The CSJ promised the Catholic community that their cries would be heard. They challenged the government and promised that they would take their case to the Commission for Human Rights in Strasbourg and to the United Nations.[2]

Having started with basic domestic issues, the civil rights struggle in Northern Ireland escalated to a full-scale movement that found its embodiment in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. NICRA campaigned in the late sixties and early seventies, consciously modelling itself on the American civil rights movement and using similar methods of civil resistance. NICRA organised marches and protests to demand equal rights and an end to discrimination.

All of these specific demands were aimed at an ultimate goal that had been the one of women at the very beginning: the end of discrimination.

Civil rights activists all over Northern Ireland soon launched a campaign of civil resistance. There was opposition from Loyalists, who were aided by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), Northern Ireland's police force.[citation needed] At this point, the RUC was over 90% Protestant. Violence escalated, resulting in the rise of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) from the Catholic community, a group reminiscent of those from the War of Independence and the Civil War that occurred in the 1920s that had launched a campaign of violence to end British rule in Northern Ireland. Loyalist paramilitaries countered this with a defensive campaign of violence and the British government responded with a policy of internment without trial of suspected IRA members. For more than 300 people, the internment lasted several years. The huge majority of those interned by the British forces were Catholic. In 1978, in a case brought by the government of the Republic of Ireland against the government of the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the interrogation techniques approved for use by the British army on internees in 1971 amounted to "inhuman and degrading" treatment.

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