The civil rights movement in Ireland has its deepest roots in Derry. It was here on 5 October 1968 that the issue of civil rights in the north first came to the attention of the world when the police attacked a peaceful demonstration in Duke Street. It was here that the first no go area was declared in January 1969, when the defiant slogan ‘You Are Now Entering Free Derry’ appeared on a gable wall in the Bogside.

It was here on 30 January 1972, Bloody Sunday, that 14 unarmed demonstrators were killed and 17 others injured by the British Army in the streets around this building.  

By boldly taking on the might of the state, an oppressed people were demanding a different world where justice, equality and freedom were the entitlement of all. In this museum and archive rests part of their legacy. Their epitaph is the continuing struggle for democracy. This museum is dedicated to all who have struggled and suffered for civil rights everywhere, and who will do so in the future.

  • Early Map of Derry

    A Community Without

    The history of the Bogside has been characterised by the relationship between two communities – one within the walls, safe, secure and powerful; one without, powerless, dispossessed and oppressed.

  • The Bogside in the 1960s

    After Partition

    After partition, the Unionist Party set about creating “a Protestant state for a Protestant people” – built on a “foundation of sectarian discrimination, biased administration and a barrage of totalitarian legislation, which both protected unionism and instilled a deep sense of social injustice in the non-unionist population.” (Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, 1978.)

  • Protesters stage a sit-down protest in Ferryquay Street, November 1968

    Civil Rights

    In the 1950s oppressed people around the world began to demand civil rights and change.

  • Police arrest civil rights marcher in Duke Street, 5 October 1968

    Duke Street

    A march was planned for Derry in October 1968. Despite the march being banned by the Unionist government, the protestors went ahead.

  • The original hand-painted slogan, January 1969

    Free Derry

    In early January 1969, as police attacked the Bogside, the slogan ‘You Are Now Entering Free Derry’ was first written on the gable wall. It was inspired by the sit-in protests in Berkeley University, California.

  • Battle of the Bogside (Colman Doyle)

    Battle of the Bogside

    On 12 August, thousands of Apprentice Boys prepared to march through a Derry seething with anxiety and discontent. As the march passed the Bogside, it was greeted by jeering and stone throwing. The police, backed by loyalists, tried to force the protesters back.

  • East Wall 1972 (Peter Maloney)

    Towards War

    Disagreement on how to relate to a dramatically changed situation had led to the Republican Movement splitting in December 1969 into the ‘Officials’ (OIRA) and ‘Provisionals’ (PIRA).  Both groups were making ready for an armed campaign.

  • British Army raid into Free Derry.

    Internment

    As violence spiralled, the British Government, pressed by unionist leaders at Stormont, introduced internment (imprisonment without trial) in August 1971. The measure had been used against republicans in every decade since the foundation of the state.

  • The marchers reach the top of Westland Street in the Bogside (Robert White)

    Bloody Sunday

    British and unionist politicians fumed at the existence of Free Derry. But internment had stiffened the community’s resolve. An anti-internment march was planned for 30 January 1972.

  • Operation Motorman  (Eamon Melaugh)

    Motorman

    Bloody Sunday failed in its objective to terrorise the no-go area. Stormont fell in March and direct-rule from London was re-instated. Free Derry remained. Support for republicanism grew. The conflict continued to escalate. In six months after 30 January, 15 people were killed in the Free Derry area.

  • O'Hara

    The Long War

    Free Derry as a physical entity ended with Operation Motorman, and this area suffered inordinately in the decades of armed conflict that followed. The death and injury rate here throughout the 1970s, 1980s and into the 1990s was high as the PIRA and the British Army fought a long war of attrition.

  • Black flags

    Bloody Sunday 1973 – 2010

    The struggle for justice for the victims of Bloody Sunday continued throughout the years of conflict and beyond. An annual commemoration march was held every year from 1973, retracing the steps of the original marchers.