“I have never felt self-congratulatory in any way about my involvement because it did precipitate a conflict which eventually claimed 3,500 lives, and that is inescapable,” he said. “It would be very cruel to say that what we have ended up with is a twilight home in east Belfast for retired gunmen, but are relations today between the communities really that different?” Referring to the seeming possibility of a modest reform programme having been carried out by Terence O’Neill’s government, Prof Bew said: “I’m just not convinced that the outcome we do have is any better than what we would’ve had, had the march not went ahead.”
And from Eamonn McCann
“The thought that this would lead to a re-emergence of militant Irish nationalism, which would in turn bring about the resurgence of militant loyalism, would simply never even have occurred to us,” he said. “What this was about, and what it has returned to, was equality of citizenship. History will record the Provisional IRA’s campaign as a continuation of the civil rights movement by inappropriate means.”
Chairing the event, Malachi O’Docherty told the audience that Bernadette McAliskey, who was unable to attend due to a family bereavement, had accepted the invitation by saying jokingly that “between the pomposity of Bew and the extravagance of McCann, I might look like the sane one”.