Founder of North civil rights movement Fred Heatley dies

As a former professional boxer he also wrote extensively on the sport over many decades

A founder of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland has died aged 82.

Fred Heatley was beaten and arrested as a march was stopped by police on Duke Street in Derry in October 1968.

A few months later he suffered abuse as protesters were ambushed by a mob armed with rocks at Burntollet.

He was one of a number of people who parted ways from the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) in 1969 when it appeared that the organisation was getting too close to those wishing to pursue an armed struggle and shifting from its non-sectarian origins, a family notice said.


It added: “As a pacifist, Fred was not willing to condone the use of violence.”

Mr Heatley, as secretary of an interim group, issued invitations to a meeting in Belfast in 1967 which saw the foundation of NICRA.

This meeting was attended by representatives from a wide range of political parties, the trade union movement, residents’ groups and civil liberty groups.

Those present included Austin Currie and the late Gerry Fitt.

Mr Heatley became treasurer of the NICRA and sat on its steering committee along with a group including former Stormont MP Paddy Devlin.

His contribution, and the achievement of “one man, one vote” for the people of Northern Ireland was recognised by then Irish president Mary McAleese when he was invited to Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin in 2009.

As a writer his most noted publications were the histories of St Joseph’s and St Patrick’s churches in Belfast and a biography of United Irishman Henry Joy McCracken.

A founder of the West Belfast Historical Society he was also instrumental in the establishment of guided bus tours of Belfast, acting as guide on the very first tours during the 1990s.

As a former professional boxer he wrote extensively on the sport over many decades.

He is survived by his sister, three daughters, two sons, twelve grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at Roselawn Crematorium on Tuesday.