Grace recalls her early encounters of Sinn Féin Ógra Shinn Féin and her strong interest in politics
“I was always republican minded and believed that British interference in Irish affairs were the root cause of division and conflict in Ireland. I also saw first hand, from living in Castlederg how nationalists were victims of sectarian harassment carried out by the RUC, which continues to this day under the guise of a ‘new police service’, namely the PSNI!"
Also the fact that Orange marchers insist in parading through nationalist areas of our town made me realise that something had to be done to make sure that the rights of nationalists in Castlederg are upheld. This led me to take a strong interest in politics, which influenced me to study it for A-level. Studying this subject opened my eyes to the world of politics. I then negotiated a work placement with Sinn Féin……….. this is what gave me an insight to the workings of Ógra Shinn Féin!"
“I am a strong-minded, highly opinionated woman, so my interest in politics basically came naturally to me, although the sectarian harassment of some family members and family friends on numerous occasions again carried out by the PSNI/RUC and loyalist band members obviously had some influence in the way I was going to think.
“I had been aware of a number of active Ógra Shinn Féin groups in the area. I had read numerous articles in local newspapers about Ógra and saw pictures of some of the protests, which had taken place, but I was never really aware of what the party’s objectives were or the amount of work that they actually do. But this was all made comprehensible to me during a car journey home from an Easter Commemoration in Stormont when I was lucky enough to be in a car with our National Organiser ‘Sleepy!’ (aka Barry McColgan) lol from Belfast to Omagh. He told me about the workings of Ógra and explained in detail everything about campaigns, protests, activities etc. He gave a profound insight into Ógra Shinn Féin, which strongly influenced me to join. And so I joined Ógra early in 2006, taking part in protests and different vigils for the heroic men of 1981. Then, on the 17th of June, we had a successful Ógra launch in Castlederg, where we recruited new members and discussed issues such as drugs awareness, demilitarisation, collusion, suicide prevention and proper policing, as well as the issue of orange marches in our town."
“I joined Ógra with the issue of ‘Brits Out’ in my head, but also simply because of the fact that I want to be involved in an organisation which is playing its part greatly to witness the establishment of a 32 county democratic socialist republic and Irish unity and independence"
Currently Grace hold the Portfolio of Secretary for Ógra Shinn Féin in Castledergs ‘James ‘Josie’ Connolly’ cumann. She outlined her role and also her priorities in this role and indeed within Ógra itself as
"My role basically entails working closely with our Cathaoirleach managing correspondence, organising meetings when they are needed, ensuring activism and generally assist the other Ógra members in our cumann. In the past, with my role, I have attended meetings with senior cumann members, written articles for newspapers and writing to An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern regarding the issue of the unacceptability of the high number of Orange parades in our town, asking him what he was going to do to make sure the rights of Nationalists in Castlederg were upheld and pressing his office to do more in regards this matter."
"In the upcoming year we will be focusing on the new ‘ARISE’ campaign, so I will do as much as possible to get this campaign publicised in the Castlederg area. Also, I am aiming to recruit a few more members in this area within the upcoming year as it is extremely important to make the youth of today aware of this youth movement, led by young people, for the young people."
In the First Year of the ‘James ‘Josie’ Connolly’ Ógra cumann in Castlederg it has worked hard to establish itself as an active, vibrant and determined group
“Seeing as we only launched Ógra in our area this year, we are just ‘getting on our feet. But in this time we have made our presence known through numerous leaflet drops, taking part in the ARISE campaign by Greening a number of British colonial Red post-boxes in the area and along with the senior cumann we held a vigil on the anniversary of each of the ’81 hungerstrikers. We also have taken part in numerous protests including ‘SMASH POLITICAL POLICING’, demilitarisation and against sectarian triumphalist marches in the Castlederg area amongst others."
“In the upcoming year we plan to recruit new members, its always good to have new faces and new opinions. We will also be taking part in and promoting the current Ógra campaign as much as we can in our area. In the future, it would be great to be able to host an enjoyable Ógra weekend in our town…so hopefully if all goes well for our cumann in the upcoming year then we can plan towards this!"
Asked on what shes likes most about Ógra Grace responded,
“I like the fact that there are so many dedicated members promoting the socialist republican ideals among the youth of Ireland. But the main reason would be the fact that everyone can have the craic with each other and everyone seems to enjoy being a member! Ógra events are always enjoyable and theres always a bit of craic mixed with politics.
I will remember the de-mil weekend 2006 in Omagh! It was great craic and extremely successful!! Also, the Ógra colour party making the front page of the herald (UlsterHerald- A local Tyrone Paper) the following week, with much controversy! We’re black shirted fascists and all that (according to a local Unionist Councillor)
Outside of Politics Grace enjoys,
“Going out (when I can), working in a nightclub isn’t all its cracked up to be! BEBO and playing Gaelic Football
Concluding bizarrely Grace commented,
Favourite Music / Artist: Snow patrol, Westlife, Wolfetones, Uisce Beatha, The Feeling, Paolo Nutini etc Anything with words in it!lol
Favourite Film: Dirty dancing, Some Mothers Son, Zoolander, H3, In The Name Of The Father, The Green Mile, The Little Mermaid, Borat etc
Favourite Book: Awaiting the Lark
Favourite Holiday resort: Marbella
Most memorable moment in Ógra: Commemoration in Belfast for the 25th anniversary of the hunger strikers, proudly carrying the best banner there that day … our ‘James ‘Josie’ Connolly’ Castlederg Ógra banner!!lol
Person most influential in your life: Maire Drumm !
When the age-old fight is done,
And we put away the gun –
When Ireland’s freedom’s won –
We’ll remember Maire Drumm.
Person you would like to meet (living) : Nelson Mandela
Person you would like to meet (deceased) : Ché Guevara
If you were president of Ireland or Taoiseach what 3 things would you do to change Ireland?
1.) Try to establish a sovereign 32 county democratic socialist republic
2.) Release all the remaining IRA prisoners
3.) Do my best to ensure that all sectarian harassment is eliminated and that the rights of nationalists in the 32 counties are upheld!
Ógra Visit Long Kesh (Oct '06)