Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association: origins

An overview of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was formed in early 1967.

The ongoing civil rights campaign in the USA provided the new group with much of its inspiration.

At the same time there were other sources of encouragement in the period following NICRA’s establishment, notably the student demonstrations that took place in France during 1968.

What particularly appealed to NICRA’s leaders was the American groups' use of non-violent methods of civil disobedience as part of its campaign to achieve equality for black people.

Most importantly, by 1967 a series of marches and protests had led the US Congress to pass laws outlawing public discrimination and guaranteeing voting rights.

These successes were widely reported in Europe.

What were NICRA’s aims?

NICRA claimed to be open to both Protestants and Catholics, and also stated that it was not trying to create a united Ireland. Its aims were as follows:

  • Achieve one-man one vote (OMOV) for local council elections. If this was introduced, anyone over the age of 18 would be allowed to vote. OMOV would also end the practice of giving multiple votes to business owners.
  • Ensure that local councils allocated their houses fairly. At this time only those who paid rates were allowed to vote in local council elections. If councils did not give Catholics houses then they could not vote.
  • Stop the practice of gerrymandering.
  • Ensure that religion was not used as a factor when allocating government jobs.
  • End the use of the Special Powers Act.
  • Disband the B Specials.
  • Introduce a system that allowed people to report local council violations in any of the above areas.