Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ógra Shinn Féin launch Easter lily

West Tyrone Ógra Shinn Féin launched the Easter lily in Omagh on Thursday. Grace Lynch, from Castlederg Ógra Shinn Féin accompanied by John McDermott, representing Strabane Ógra Shinn Féin and Barry McNally representing West Tyrone Ógra Shinn Féin performed the launch.

Speaking at the launch Miss Lynch said,

"Easter for Republicans is a time to come together and remember Irish patriots who have given their lives for the cause of Irish Freedom. Not only do we remember and commemorate them but we also celebrate their lives."

"This year will mark the 91st Anniversary of the Easter rising of 1916, when Irish people stood in open defiance to the British claim in Ireland. What happened thereafter has changed and affected the course of Irish history forever. The proclamation still remains a live and relevant document as it was in 1916. It is a guiding document for Irish republicanism. It talks of equal rights and equal opportunities for all Irelands citizens, for all her children to be cherished equally and it speaks of Irish freedom, politically, economically and socially."

"We in Ógra Shinn Féin will be represented at the parade in large numbers and we will be delivering an annual statement to various commemorations spanning the length and breadth of Ireland. Whilst all Irish patriots are never far from our minds, Easter is a time to come together and remember their sacrifice, but not only that, it is a time to re dedicate ourselves to the cause for which they gave their lives. We aim to make their vision a reality, that is achieving a 32 county democratic socialist republic in Ireland"

The main Tyrone commemoration will happen in Carrickmore in Easter Sunday and people are urged to mobilise for it. People are asked to assemble at Carrickmore for 3 o'clock and the parade will commence shortly after this .

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Marching on!

With the policing debate and the March elections the north Ógra activists and indeed Senior Sinn Féin activist have been busy to say the least. It is due to this that I am only getting around to responding to an article penned by a comrade back in November 2006 regarding Republican colour parties and Republican Flute Bands. Please excuse the delay but here it is….

Barry McNally

Numerous months ago an author, known only as ‘Young And Independent’ wrote an article in relation to Ógra Shinn Féin Colour parties and Republican Flute Bands. The author made it clear that he / she wished to see both things consigned to the dustbin of history.

Whilst I respect the argument I think that if the comments and wishes were given any credence, it could have far reaching negative consequences for the struggle.

Firstly I agree with the decision taken by the leadership of West Tyrone Ógra Shinn Féin (of which I am one) to allow an ÓSF colour party to lead the commemoration march for the Hungerstrikers in October past at the Omagh Demilitarisation Weekend. Far from being what the author describes as negative I believe the colour party provided a strong addition to the parade. Indeed the theme of the parade focussed on youth and the youthfulness of the Hungerstrikers and blanketmen. We also had young people wrapped in blankets and 12 young people all between the ages of 8 and 13 carrying picture of the Hungerstrikers participating in the parade. Therefore I believe it was appropriate to ask an ÓSF colour party, of which there are a number, to lead the parade.

We didn’t try and become Na Fianna Éireann, as the author seems to suggest, who rightly states they were disbanded in the early 1990’s. The very fact that the Ógra badge was present and visible on the coats wore by the colour party bore testament to this. Never in the publicity and / or literature did we try and claim we were anyone else other than Ógra Shinn Féin. It wasn’t a case of wink wink nudge nudge. We were very clear-it was an Ógra Shinn Féin colour party.

The comrade who wrote this article then refers to the ‘left wing activists laughing their heads off on indymedia’ when seeing pictures of the Demilitarisation weekend and the colour party. Whilst I wouldn’t be quick to appease (the many but not all) computer socialists sitting at their keyboards debating and theorising all day but not being active on the ground, I am of the opinion that any publicity is good publicity.

Indeed we got that front page of our local newspaper and a large write up in the paper. When a journalist rang me for a comment I was more than willing to defend Ógra’s decision in commemorating the Hungerstrikers in a disciplined, respectful manner.

In the last contribution, my comrade who penned the article, they pleaded ‘Decommission Republican Flute Bands’. They predicted that this would be ‘most advantageous’ to the struggle. I couldn’t disagree more with this remark.

As a young (er) person I looked forward to 3 things on Easter Sunday. These were
1.) Hearing the Army statement read by a Volunteer of Óglaigh na hÉireann
2.) Eating Fish and Chips till they were coming out of my ears
3.) Hearing the Bands parade through Carrickmore

After joining the Martin Hurson Flute Band numerous years ago I saw for myself the role Republican Flute Bands play in the struggle. For many young people who join these bands it acts as an education tool. Not only this but it is their niche in the struggle for freedom in Ireland. Indeed it was Bobby Sands that said, “No part is too big or too small”. These people I can safely say would not be involved in the republican struggle apart from the band. And if this is their contribution to the struggle it is certainly welcome.

Also in years gone by RFB’s kept morale among the republican people high when times were hard and morale low. Politics by its very nature is frustrating and morale sapping. So I think the role of RFB’s are as important now as they were anytime in the struggle.

As a proud member of the Martin Hurson RFB I am humbled when representatives of the Hurson family thank and praise the band for their dedication and work. After the Easter parade in 2006 the band members were asked to remain assembled for 10 minutes, which we did. Martin’s brother Brendan Hurson then thanked us for keeping the name and spirit of Martin Hurson alive for 25 years. He also told us to continue with our good work. This said to me that we were doing something right.

So I would say as by way of a conclusion that republicans should not be afraid or shy of where we have come from- we shouldn’t hide from the fact that we are proud to remember Ireland's patriot dead, whatever way that is. And neither do I think young republicans should be criticised for taking initiatives to do such. On a closing point the author states ‘let us mobilise behind the starry plough’. I have no problem with this but the tri colour shall be given precedence and the starry plough will be alongside the sun burst in the second line of the colour party.

(Provided the author doesn’t get their way that is)

Beirigi Bua agus Tiocfaidh ar la!

For previous article please follow link:

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Interview with Sinn Féin's Youngest MLA - Daithi McKay

On Monday 23rd March as Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley met for face to face talks, Daithi McKay, Sinn Fein’s youngest MLA took time to speak to Ógra's Barry McNally of his past, the present and his plans for the future.

Sitting in room 385c on the 3rd Floor of Stormont, Daithi McKay lays back oblivious of the task that lies ahead of him in a potentially restored government in the north of Ireland.

The young north Antrim man has been on a roller coaster ride over the past 6 years from his first involvement with republican politics through Sinn Féin to becoming its youngest MLA and proceeding his successor as the youngest MLA- fellow north Antrim man, Philip McGuigan.

Speaking of his early involvement with Sinn Féin Daithi recalls,

“I first got involved with Sinn Féin following the Westminster election in June 2001. Selling An Phoblacht / Republican News throughout the countryside in and around Rasharkin was one of my first jobs within Sinn Féin. Shortly after getting involved I found myself in the post of director of publicity for the party in North Antrim. Also after the Westminster election a number of activists in North Antrim, myself included, came together with the idea of setting up an Ógra Shinn Féin group in the local area, one, which continues to grow from strength to strength today. Moving to Belfast in 2002 due to work commitments I worked along with a Sinn Féin cumann in south Belfast. However I moved back to Rasharkin in 2003 and spent a month in Cuba before returning home to Ireland once again.”

When reflecting upon Daithi’s decision to join Sinn Féin and his motivation he remembers,

“Whilst family tradition certainly wasn’t the motivation my family became supportive of my decision and remain steadfast in the support for what I’m involved in. Certainly in more recent times people are becoming more receptive to Sinn Féin, and I suppose as they say our record stands by us. We deliver for people.

In the Basque Country with Ógra (Sept '05)

I remember growing up the story was quite different with the media regularly vilifying republicans. However through reading more and more and looking in detail at republicans, it was clear to me they weren’t the villains that the media portrayed. The republican politics of idealism and non-careerism really appealed to me and also a willingness to help people. Not for the cause and benefit of Sinn Féin but of the people themselves, with the peoples cause at heart, a concept that most Irish political parties have failed to grasp”

When asked about being elected in ‘Big Ians backyard Daithi stated,

“ I have a role to play, and I am no more important than any one else in the Sinn Féin party. In north Antrim we see ourselves as a team and I am no more than a team player. However what is different is that it has never been easy for republicans in north Antrim in places with Ballymena and Ballymoney. So strong leadership by republicans is key in such areas, something that has been lacking amongst unionist politicians.

In my capacity as a councillor I sit face to face with councillors from the DUP, many of who still engage in sectarian politics in the area. One of the biggest issues here is the equality agenda, which we will be pursuing to implement. What we need to see now is leadership from Unionism in places like North Antrim. Events like the sectarian murder of Michael McIlveen in Ballymena must be consigned to the dustbin of history, Catholic families must be able to live without sectarian harassment or fear of intimidation, particularly in areas such as Ahoghill. The DUP need to begin the work to bring to an end the so called ‘no go’ areas for Catholics. This is the agenda of Sinn Féin, it is simply equality.”

Representing Ógra in Kurdistan (Nov '06)

When asked about how it felt to be the youngest of the Sinn Féin assembly team a modest Daithi replied ‘Alright!’ However he did say ‘everyone in this team are equal. However we do have the best gender balance amongst the parties represented here and everyone within the Sinn Féin team is of various ages. However all in all gender or age doesn’t come into it really. We are all here to do a job to the best of our ability.”

On youth involvement in the political process Daithi said,

“A primary step in gaining youth involvement in the democratic process is lowering to voting age to 16. This is something Sinn Féin have already been calling for and I know Ógra Shinn Féin have been doing great work in trying to achieve this. If people are old enough to pay taxes and be part of the workforce then it is only common sense to allow them to vote."

"The onus shouldn’t be on young people themselves but on elected representatives an others to make politics attractive to young people. Indeed Gerry Adams said that it is his belief that young people aren’t in fact turned off by politics, rather turned off by ‘establishment’ politics. The future is in the youth and time and again we have been shown without a vibrant youth organisation a political party can fade into oblivion. We in Sinn Féin have recognised this and currently there is a strong confident and ever growing youth organisation in Ógra Shinn Fein. The youth must be heard and the mechanisms within the party for them to be heard must be maintained and strengthened.”

Asked about a possible future outside of politics Daithi assumed he would be “definitely involved in something along social or community life. In working in this area you begin to see the changes you make within your community and there is a certain degree of job satisfaction if you call it that. Politics gives you a great chance to work for the community and work for the betterment of the people. But through community work you can improve the quality of life for many people in so many ways and that is what Sinn Féin are about. We are there to work for the people and fight on their behalf.

Speaking at Mass Basque Mobilisation on behalf of Ógra

In conclusion Daithi said,

“Obviously our primary aim at the present moment is getting the devolution of powers to a locally elected accountable administration. Not only this but we need the All Ireland institutions up and running. There are many issues to be dealt with such as PPS14; we need to strike a balance not only to protect the environment but also to ensure that the traditional way of life in Irish rural communities is not lost. We also need to have an improved education system and make sure the old way-including the 11+ exam is consigned to the history books, equality must be the backbone of our education system, which offers opportunity to all our children and not maintain a two tier education system. And we must increase cross border co-operation and stop this business of two different departments operating the same remit on the same island.”

As the interview concluded the restoration of the institution looked even closer with a joint press conference between Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley being screened on the TV in the corner of room 385c.

Quick fire round


Film: Motorcycle diaries

Book: The Ragged Trousered philanthropists

Singer: Christy Moore

Food: Sausage supper with Garlic Dip!!!

Drink: Orange Lucozade

Person you would most like to meet (Living) Nelson Mandela

Person you would most like to meet (Deceased) Malcolm X

Future Ambitions: Continue to play a constructive role, alongside others, in securing a 32 county democratic socialist republic,

Monday, March 26, 2007

‘Alarming’ increase in Suicide rate - McColgan

Ógra Shinn Féin National Organiser, Barry McColgan has said he is ‘alarmed’ at the announcement by the Department of Finance and Personnel that the north’s suicide rate has risen by 37% in the last Year.

In the latest morality statistics released by the department they reveal there were 291 registered suicides in 2006 compared to 213 in 2005.

Mr. McColgan said he was ‘shocked’ and ‘alarmed’ by the statistics. However he said that ‘this trend will continue unless the governments take this issue on board and invest money into mental health services and into bodies aimed at helping vulnerable people in society.’

‘We in Ógra Shinn Féin had written to both British Direct rule minister Paul Goggins and also Mary Harney in the south calling for the implementation of an all Ireland suicide prevention strategy. We believed it was nonsensical investing money into two different strategies when the common sense approach would be to implement an all Ireland strategy on the issue, where resources and results could be achieved collectively. Whilst the British direct rule minister refused to meet Ógra, the department of social services and public safety initiated a consultation process and released a document entitled ‘Suicide Prevention in Northern Ireland- A New Focus’ we believed it lacked the all island dimension, which we believed would be best used to seriously address this issue."

"However this will act as a wake up call to ministers that this major issue must be addressed immediately. It is peoples lives at risk here, that is the reality of the situation and I would ask both departments north and south to make more money available for mental health and this issue of suicide prevention. It is one of the biggest killers of young people on this island and must be addressed without delay. However it is regrettable that such statistics have to be made public before ministers will sit up and take notice.”

Ógra activist elected to Queen's Student's Union Executive

Last week the students of Queen's University in Belfast elected a member of the Sheena Campbell Ógra Shinn Féin Cumann, which is based in the Belfast University, onto the executive of Queen's Students Union. Michál Harkin was elected to the position of VP Education.

The Cumann was named in Sheena's memory when it was established in the mid-1990s. Sheena had been instrumental in developing Sinn Féin's electoral strategies in the late 1980s and early 1990s and proved, by her work and dedication, to be a thorn in the side of the British establishment. She was ruthlessly targeted for harassment by the British crown forces, particularly the RUC and UDR/RIR.

It was members of these locally recruited crown forces, with links to loyalist death gangs, who set Sheena up for assassination when she was shot dead in the York Hotel, near Queen's on 16 October 1992.

In his acceptance speech, Michál dedicated his victory to Sheena’s memory and pledged to continue her work along with his comrades and campaign team in the cumann.

Speaking on the result Cumann Chair Dermot Keenan explained that the election of an Ógra Shinn Féin member to the Students Union executive shows that the Student Body are sick and tired of the sectarian, bigoted politics of the past year which has seen a traditional Irish music society being refused affiliation as a society to the Students Union as well as other acts by an executive which was largely controlled by those with unionist affiliations.

He continued,

“Michál’s success is not just a success for us but for all students in this University. Our slogans during the campaign trail were ‘Building a Student Union of Equals’ and ‘Your Union – Your Voice – Your Vote’, we wanted to put ownership and control of the Union back into the hands of the students and not just a few narrow minded, careerist student politicos. Michál’s election with almost 800 first preference votes has made the hard work worth while and we are sure he will serve all students well when he takes office next September, a month before Sheena Campbell’s 15th anniversary.”

Keenan also remarked on how the Student Union Elections have become more professional.

“This year seen a marked professionalism in the approach taken towards the elections, this may have been as a result of the Assembly elections being the week before. We used PA systems and large A1 posters mounted on last weeks elections boards attached to lampposts to highlight our candidate. We hope to continue on from this success and continue the professional approach to the elections, we will now start to select and profile candidates for the next elections, in the hope that Michál will have a few republican colleagues on the Executive next year.”

"We are determined to ensure that the union represents all the students of Queen's — regardless of class, colour, creed or political persuasion — fairly and equally. This after all is what republicanism is all about."

Decision nonsensical but not surprising – McGibbon

Ógra Shinn Féin Uladh organiser Johnny McGibbon has slammed a British government decision which will see the UDA / UFF recipients of a one million pound grant from the British exchequer.

McGibbon said,

“For years the British government directed protected and paid loyalist paramilitaries of the UDA to murder Catholics, many in their own homes. What we have seen with this effective grant is legitimising and indeed an effective endorsement not only of the UDA but of its sectarian murder campaign waged against Catholics."

"It beggars belief that this money will be paid to an organisation who has no intension and has said so publicly of decommissioning that it is not even on the agenda for the armed group."

"What this decision says to the UDA is that sectarian violence and extortion pays. It is complete madness although not surprising that the British government are funding loyalist paramilitaries to carry on their dirty work, however this time it is the public domain instead of taking money from the special branch, the UDA will now be collecting their money from the British cabinet. Its good to know were the taxes go."

Friday, March 23, 2007

Magee Ógra Host Rebel Night!

The Magee Ógra Shinn Féin University cumann in Derry are hosting a function next week to raise funds for the development of the cumann.

Rebel Night

Dungloe Bar
Waterloo St. Derry

Thursday 29th March

Music by Celtic Beat
Táille: £3

All welcome !


Billets provided for activists travelling - contact in advance.

Shell Farce at Odyssey Arena

Shell to Sea Belfast have organised several events to coincide with the launch of a Shell Oil sponsored wildlife exhibition.

The ‘Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ collection is due to be opened at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast this Saturday (March 24).

Shell to Sea will be staging a protest at the event and will be launching their own exhibition to show the environmental cost of Shell’s activities around the World.

Shell to Sea Belfast spokesperson Ciarán Ó Brolchain said that Shell could not be allowed to bring their propaganda road show around Europe without being challenged.

“Considering Shell Oil’s record in places like Nigeria, where they have systematically destroyed the local environment, it is somewhat hypocritical for them to be sponsoring wildlife exhibits.

“From Shell to Sea’s point of view, while this company continues to ride roughshod over the rights of the community in north-west Mayo their hypocrisy will not go unchallenged.

“With our own exhibition we will aim to expose the role of Shell in destroying the environment as opposed to protecting and promoting it.

“Until Shell cleans up its act and respects the wishes of the people of north-west Mayo, it will not be welcome in Belfast.”

For further information you can contact

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"We will make you rue the blood spilled at Loughgall!"

This year, 2007, marks the 20th Anniversary of the brutal and bloody SAS ambush of eight IRA volunteers and 2 civilians in the Co Armagh village of Loughgall.
In order to help commemorate the anniversary and to promote commemorative events, a website has been set up at The website contains a background to the Loughgall ambush and a short biography of the eight brave volunteers who died on active service.
It also has information on events which will be held to remember the sacrifice of the Loughgall Marytrs. Of particular note, the National Loughall Commemorative March which will take place on Sunday 6th May in Galbally, Co Tyrone, with the main oration being delivered by Brian Keenan.
It is hoped that the website will allow young people who don't remember the 8th May 1987, will appreciate the heroism and single mindedness of these men, and many more men and women like them, who made the ultimate sacrifice and who gave up many years of their lives in jails around the world, in the fight for Ireland's freedom.
On the evening of the 8th May 1987 eight volunteers of the East Tyrone Brigade, Óglaigh na hÉireann, approached the RUC barracks in Loughgall.
The SAS brought in a squad of heavily armed, specially trained men the day before the attack to reinforce the RUC Special Task Force. Although the Active Service Unit was under constant surveillance the SAS allowed them to enter the village unhindered, watched them drive past the barracks a number of times, then waited for them to detonate the bomb before launching a devastating fusillade of heavy fire.
The ambush ended with the SAS having fired thousands of rounds. All eight IRA volunteers lay dead. Vol. Declan Arthurs, Vol. Eugene Kelly, Vol Paddy Kelly, Vol. Jim Lynagh, Vol. Padraig McKearney, Vol. Seamus Donnelly, Vol. Tony Gormley and Vol. Geread O'Callaghan.
Also dead was Anthony Hughes, a civilian murdered by the SAS fire who drove into the ambush area with his brother Oliver. Oliver who was also seriously wounded with massive head injuries, miraculously survived despite being denied medical attention for a significant period of time after the ambush.
The Loughgall Martyrs, 20 years following their huge sacrifice for Irish Freedom, continue to be an endless source of inspitaion to Ógra Shinn Féin and Irish Republican Youth.
We remember them with pride!
Ógra Shinn Féin
N.B. Please note the Loughgall Commemoration Committee can be contacted via eamil on

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


The Belfast Ógra college cumainn have been continuing their recently launched recruitment drive, in the student area of South Belfast.

Join Ógra signs have sprung up in the Holyland area in recent days and the Queen's, Jordanstown and St.Mary's college cumanns remain hard at work even approaching this busy time in the academic year.

Ógra Shinn Féin Uladh organiser, Johnny McGibbon said,

"The colleges are undoubtedly a very important recruitment ground for Ógra. The profile of Ógra within the south Belfast area is already strong and is certainly increasing. This is a credit to our activists in the colleges this year and the initative been shown."

He concluded with a quote from Salvador Allende,


British choppers must be grounded immediately!

Stephen McGahan
West Tyrone
Ógra Shinn Féin

The recent crash of a British Army helicopter in South Armagh is an indication, if any were needed that these instruments of Britain's war machine in Ireland must be removed immediately from our skies.

There is absolutely no justification for British army helicopters flying throughout the six counties after over a decade of a supposed peace process.

This is not the only accident over the past number of year's involving British military aircraft. Had this accident or any previous been over densely populated or built up areas the effects would have been catastrophic. Indeed the helicopter which crashed on Sunday landed only yards away from a large housing estate and the grounds of Crossmaglen GFC.

Such flights by British aircraft must cease immediately. With the welcome news that Omagh British Army camp is to close in August of this year I would hope that this will see British helicopters in the sky a thing of the past, not only in Omagh but throughout the north of Ireland.

Love is not imprisoned

Through the barbed wire that separate the Miami Five from their friends in 300 support groups in 80 countries around the globe comes this interview which gives us a glimpse of the strength, dignity and humanity of one of their number, Ramon Labañino. He is clearly a man whose freedom is well worth fighting for.

The destiny of five men is involved in a cruel absurdity, the vengeance and impotence of those who will not tolerate a strong Cuba. Eight years in prison in the United States cannot counter the truth. With barbed wire between us comes this dialog which brings us closer to one of these heroes of the resistance. Here is Ramón Labañino, in the flesh, sent by mail. Authentic, six feet tall and more than 200 pounds and all the strength of the truth.

The news talks about how the regimen of the prison where you are imprisoned is particularly rigorous. How is the life of Ramón behind the barbed wire?

U. S. P. Beaumont is a maximum security prison, and like all its kind in the United States it houses the most violent, most dangerous, most aggressive prisoners, and so the system of imprisonment is severely strict, restrictive and intimidating. "The cells measure approximately five by seven feet, a very small space, where they enclose us from 10:00 at night until 5:45 in the morning. On the weekends and holidays it is until 6:45. Every unit is made up of two floors of 32 cells each, in other words 64 total, for a maximum of 128 `tenants' per unit.

"On every floor there is a steel door that only the guard can open with keys. Behind this door there is a metal detector, after that another door that's opened by a central remote control from one of the five outside towers. Only then can you go out into the central yard, made up of two little baseball fields, which is all surrounded by tall cells enclosed by huge barbed wire, super-sharp razors that look like that which you've seen in the prison at Guantanamo. "To access any area: the dining room, the church, the commissary and others, you have to go through other doors with keys, metal detectors and innumerable guards that are checking you every second. All of this is tied together with a huge army of video cameras, located in every imaginable corner, that take note of every activity, every fight, every glance.

"Another security measure are the infamous shakedowns, that consist of the guards checking every cell and throwing out anything they want to. Also, every so often there are urine and breath tests to detect drugs and alcohol. "As is known, in this prison there are some very dangerous prisoners. Life here is surrounded by anxiety and uncertainty, which causes acts of violence that occur every day. Because of this, there are very frequent times when the prisoners are shut in their cells, for 24 hours or longer periods of time, during which you are not permitted to bathe, or make phone calls, or receive family visits, or legal visits or consular visits. For a large part of last year we were in this regime of lock down, as they call these times when we are locked in.

"Moreover, I am subject to a program of check-in every two hours. In other words, between eight in the morning and eight at night I have to leave what I am doing and present myself to the nearest guard. "In the midst of all this I always try to surround myself with healthy, peaceful, educational activities and avoid conflicts. For me, it's simply Beaumont, where I have learned to live, to test myself, and also grow, the same as my four brothers do where they are. "Our struggle for peace, for a better world is not just a philosophy of life but also a form of living it. I want to leave here as a better human being, and nobody can block that. This is one of the challenges and commitments of, the Five."

How do you channel your energy as a man of action, a friend of practicing sports and also being an intelligent professional?

My days here are spent struggling in a constant fight against monotony, so I frequently vary my activities and schedule. "In the morning, after my personal cleanup, I clean and organize my cell and then go to the laundry room, Monday through Friday, to do my work as an orderly, which consists of cleaning off the washing machines and cleaning the room. The rest of the time I occupy with doing something that will make me forget the solitude and isolation. "I do exercises; I run and also practice some yoga (just in my cell) for strength, flexibility, etc. I have to confess to you that for me physical exercise is essential, to sweat, to relax, to relieve daily stress. Since I was little I've always strongly practiced sports; it's a necessity for me. "I also look to satisfy my intellectual restlessness. I dedicate a large part of my time to reading and answering letters which, with all love and affection I send to all the brothers and sisters in the world who write to us, although there's never enough to respond to everyone as we would like to. I'll take advantage of this opportunity to express gratitude in the name of the Five for all the letters we have received. "The important thing is to try to maintain a balance between physical and intellectual activity. Both are essential for us and that's what we try to do. "Also I play chess, another sport which fascinates me and I need to play daily. At eight thirty at night they call us all inside the units until ten, the hour that they lock us in the cells until the following day. At this time I read the correspondence I've received that day, and then I listento the news until I fall asleep; I go to bed with Cuba, and with her I always get up."

What are the people like with whom you share space in the prison? What have you learned since you've been a prisoner?

I have learned that here you relate to the human being, and not with the crime that he has committed, although for me there are unpardonable crimes, such as rapes, child abuse, murders. Aside from that I have gotten to know sensitive human beings, including honest ones, and with some of them I have shared and learned sports and other skills. "I want to emphasize that the inmates and the personnel of the prison have treated me with respect; they know I am Cuban."

Do the prison authorities know about the decisions in the legal process? How do they react to that??

I believe they know about the decisions that have been made in our case, especially the reversal of the trial verdict by the three judges in Atlanta. Then they asked me when I would go free, and why I was still in prison. Later, how was the case going, and why the delays. I tell them about the manoeuvres of the Government, the appeals . . .

In these years of imprisonment you have been able to see your wife Elizabeth and your daughters Ailí, Laura y Lizbeth in a few visits to the prisons. In the few photographs of these reunions permitted by the prison regime you can't see what's going on in Ramón's mind when he embraces them for the photos, the only time that he's permitted to touch them. How do these visits go? And at the time to say goodbye, knowing that when you will see them again is an uncertain mystery subject to the prison regime and the delayed visas?

The visits of Eli and my three little ones are the happiest moments I have in all this time of imprisonment. When I am with them nothing exists, nothing matters, just love, tenderness, the happiness of having them. I forget the place where I am and it's like I'm at home or in a park with them, in Cuba. I surrender to all the passion of being a husband and father. The only thought in my mind is to stretch out every second and hold onto it. It's a magic moment; I bare my soul to the four of them and involve myself in every little bit of their lives, of their achievements, of their dreams. I advise them, teach them, encourage them, take care of them, I show them all that I can in this place. And they do the same with me. "Between Eli and I we create the family framework that we so much miss living every day. We laugh, we sing, we argue, we criticize, we inspire, we analyze goals and dreams, and also we cry. And there have been scoldings too; that's part of my duty as a parent, although afterwards I fill them with praise and encouragement. "The time for the photos is very special. Then we can walk together and embrace the four of us, just like a dream come true after I return. "The partings are the worst, terrible. That last day, that last minute is heartbreaking for all of us. I always save my best smile for that day. I try to distance myself from all that sadness, to move through that difficult passage without pain or tears. So I say to them that it's not the end of a magical visit, but rather the beginning of another period of hopes. "The pain of not knowing when we will see each other again is offset by the certainty that our love is invincible. I dream every day with this love that unites us; this keeps me and my spirits alive. One day we will recover the tenderness and affection that is denied us today."

Your daughters are growing up and becoming women without their father close by. What do you hope for them? How do you want them to see you?

I hope that my daughters can be everything that they can be. I want them to always study a lot, that they graduate from the university in the specialty that they prefer. That they fulfill themselves in every sense, as human beings, as women. They live in a country where dreams have no limits, and I know that they will realize theirs. I want that they will forever be Cuban and revolutionaries. "I would like that they see me as a father who, although he is far from them, has not abandoned them. Everything I did was for love, to save the dreams and the safety of the Cuban people, to try to be faithful to my duties as a human being and as a revolutionary. I want them to always know how much I love them."

I have spoken many hours with Elizabeth and I've seen how her face lights up when she speaks about you. How do you manage to continue nourishing the love that unites you? How do you resolve the challenge that this separation imposes on you? In your opinion, how is sheassuming, in the name of both of you, the tasks of teacher and guide for the lives of Laura and Lizbeth?

Love has many aspects. It's not just nourished by physical presence, by sex; although both are very important, they are not indispensable. The spiritual aspect, the intimate one, the sweetest, the profoundest, these usually can't be destroyed. "The big advantage that Eli and I have is that we have lived and intensely enjoyed ourselves as lovers, as faithful friends, as eternal compañeros every second that we have shared together. In the present circumstances, we utilize all resources, from letters, phone calls and visits, to poetry, painting and the communication between our spirits. "With this strength that the conviction of love gives us, I know that I will return to her arms to continue being that which we have always been: as one.”Elizabeth is a special woman and an extraordinary human being. She has overcome all the trials. In addition to being a faithful and loving wife, she has been a compañera of battle in this cause that we defend. Her role as father and mother of our daughters has filled her with impeccable virtue. "I always knew that it would be difficult to find a partner who could endure the ups and downs of my missions, of my life. But when I got to know Eli, my doubts were resolved and I understood that I had found that person. Facts have proved that true. I have for her only love, eternal gratitude and infinite tenderness."

It's known that you couldn't even tell your mother about the work you were doing outside of Cuba. How difficult was it to keep quiet, especially when you knew that you would not see her again?

Look, my beloved mother Nereida always dreamed that I would be a military man or a doctor. She would have been enchanted if I had chosen one of these two careers. I once thought when I completed 12th grade that I should ask to go into medicine to please her. Nevertheless, from a very young age I honoured her dream, even though I could never tellher. "In 1998 during an urgent trip to Cuba due to the delicate state of her heath, I was intending to tell her the truth, that I wasn't in Europe nor head of a corporation, as everyone thought. But I never did it, to avoid putting at risk the important tasks I was carrying out. That's why I wrote, dedicated to her, the poems Deuda (Debt) and Carta para una madre ausente (Letter to an absent mother)."

The Five usually and often speak in the name of all of you. How do you agree? Do you communicate with each other?

Do you believe in extra sensory perception? Well something like that happens with the Five. We don't need to speak, to communicate with each other, to know what each one of us is thinking. I believe this is because we were all educated with the same ideals, the same reasoning, the same dreams. I am sure any worthy Cuban would do the same. We are the fruits of a people, of a generation that doesn't give in or abandon independence, national sovereignty, socialism.

What virtue do you most admire in each of your four companeros in the struggle? What are the keys elements in which you five have put your hopes of achieving your return?

My brothers have many virtues that I admire. In particular I stress for Gerardo his eternal humor; in Tony, his sensitivity and nobility; in René, his exquisite culture, and in our Fernando, his virility and determination. "We defend a totally just and noble cause; we haven'tjust used our intelligence. We haven't ever injured anyone or anything, on the contrary we have tried to save the lives of innocent human beings, fighting against terrorism and preventing wars. "We count on the support of our people and many brothers and sisters in the world, which is essential in this battle. If we obtained two important victories (the overturning of the trial by the three judges in Atlanta, and the declaration of the United Nations Group on Arbitrary Detentions that our arrests are illegal and arbitrary), true justice could come at any time. This is the essence of our optimism and our conviction that final victory and the beautiful return to our country and liberty will come."

How do you feel about Cuba? In what do you have the most confidence, and what worries you the most? Do you see any threats to the Cuban Revolution?

I feel Cuba in my soul, in my skin, in every moment. Without her we would not exist. I have confidence in our people, in the Revolution, in our humane socialism, which we should take care of carefully against real threats and the ambition of the empire. This is why we should be prepared and ready for any contingency. Also we have to maximize our vigilance within the country so that weak minds, lovers of the second rate and treason, don't prevail. "Fidel lives and will always live because he lives in the people, in their ideas and their way of makingthe Revolution. But it won't be maintained by spontaneous generation, but by fighting for it and caring for it. We will make in Cuba a society that is each day better, more advanced, just and humane, with the efforts of everyone. "Cuba represents the dream of many people in theworld. We cannot commit the grave error of failing humanity."

What figures or personalities inspire you to resist day after day?

The history of our country is our inspiration. But since you ask me to single someone out – it's very difficult to do, I would have to say many names –, I tell you that I think of Marti, of Maceo, of Mariana, of Che, of Celia, of Fidel . . ."

Have you had any weak moments or moments of doubt? If you have, how didyou overcome them? If not, why not?

When one defends a just cause like the right to life of a people, of humanity, there is no space for weakness or doubt. You know that this is the way forward and how to act, what to do in every moment and in the face of every trial. You are accompanied by truth and love of life.

What do you think of the people of the United States? In particular, I'd like to know your evaluation of the work of the people in solidarity with the case, with whom you maintain ties through letters from the prison.

The people of the United States are very hard workers, warm, friendly and happy. I have excellent memories of these people, of the people and their lives. The affection that I receive from some of them I will keep with me always. Very special is the solidarity of all the compañeras and compañeros who facing all the adversities of these times, support us with bravery, determination, in the defence of Cuba and our liberty. They represent the best, the most pure of the North American people. "Solidarity is so important that I think that the solution to our case will have to rest with it, and the national and international pressure that will obligate that justice be well applied, the laws and the Constitution of this country. We obtained two victories in 2005, a year that set decisive standards. For this reason, I see the return to our land nearer every day. The light goes forward."

What do you think of your attorney, how has the relationship between you been, in spite of all the violations there have been in the process?

When the trial started, the prosecution limited the contacts between my attorney, William Norris and me, so the process was difficult. Now we are very far apart, he's in Miami and I'm in Texas; communication is difficult. Basically it’s been through letters, official documents, atthe end of the year, etc. "In spite of the obstacles, the relations between us are good, cordial, respectful, and warm. We have succeeded in his understanding well the essence of the case, and I can tell you that he sees me as a patriot who defends his country, just as he would."

If you could go into a time machine and go back in your life, what things would you do exactly the same, and which ones differently?

I would do exactly the same.

Have you imagined you return to Cuba? What would you want to do as soon as you got back?

I have imagined, dreamed, analyzed, painted the return to Cuba, the Five have even made jokes about it among ourselves. But nothing will be as extraordinary as living it. I only know that it will be spectacular, the most beautiful and happiest day of our lives. We have thousands of plans. I would like to be able to embrace every Cuban and then go to the place where my mother rests to take flowers and put these words in her eternal rest: Mother, I fulfilled your dream. I love you eternally,



Friday, March 16, 2007

Announcing the Visit to Ireland of Philip Agee

After blowing the whistle on the dirty tactics of his CIA bosses in the 70s, Philip Agee was forced into exile.
Thirty years on he has found a safe haven in Cuba, but his fight to expose the complicity of Washington in terrorism goes on. Free the Miami Five and Cuba Support Group Ireland are pleased to jointly sponsor the visit to Ireland of this former CIA undercover agent and author later this month.
Agee is in Ireland to bring attention to the case of the Miami Five and to promote a new film by Bernie Dwyer and Roberto Ruis called "One Man's Story: Philip Agee, Cuba and The CIA".
This is a follow up to the filmmaker's previous successful tour of Ireland with their "Mission against Terror" film, also on the case of the Miami Five. We are pleased to confirm that all public meetings will be chaired by very distinguished human rights academics, attesting to the global profile of the case of the Miami Five and the miscarriage of justice that has seen them spend eight years in jail in the USA for seeking, through entirely non-violent means, to prevent terrorist crimes against Cuba.
The following is the tour itinerary:
Peter Froggatt Centre,
Queens University Belfast,
1pm Friday 30 March 2007
chaired by Professor Denis O'Hearn
Walton Theatre,
Trinity College Dublin,
7.30pm Tuesday 3 April 2007
chaired by Professor Ivana Bacik
Town Hall Theatre
8pm Thursday 5 April 2007
chaired by Professor William Schabas
Admission free, all welcome.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Interventions into the political process by hostile forces must end according to Ógra Shinn Féin Uladh organiser Johnny McGibbon.

McGibbon labelled the arrest and subsequent charges against two Tyrone republicans as 'disgraceful' and 'political policing at its best.'

McGibbon said,

"The job of Sinn Féin is to take the power from these people opposed to the political process. They cannot decide whether or not we move forward with a radical agenda. However it is worth remembering that Sinn Féin and indeed republicanism as a whole pose a real and growing threat to the power held by this group of securocrats."

"That's why we have witnessed the political puppetry we have seen over the last number of days. Our position in Ógra as it is in Sinn Féin has been very clear and consistent. Political policing must end now!"

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Ógra Shinn Féin Activists Arrested

Ógra Shinn Féin National Organiser, Barry McColgan has condemned the arrest of two teenage activists who are members of the youth movement.

On Sunday 11th March the two Ógra Shinn Féin activists were arrested after breaching security at a Shell Depot in Letterkenny and scaling an Oil Container. The two activists then draped a banner from the container which read ‘Shell Chun Sáile – Shell to Sea’.

Within minutes the Gardai were on the scene and forced both off the containers. As the teens were being handcuffed verbal abuse and derogatory remarks were directed at them by members of the Gardai. Whilst in the barracks both teens were asked to sign statements accusing the teens of ‘trespassing’.

One of those arrested was held for two hours whilst the other Ógra activist was held for four and a half hours. Both men have been informed that they are to be charged with trespassing on private property.

Commenting on the arrests Barry McColgan of Ógra Shinn Féin said,
“I commend both Ógra Shinn Féin activists for bringing the message of Shell To Sea to the streets and people of Letterkenny. Speaking to both activists it is clear that their protest was noticed and both were in high spirits as motorists totted their horns in support of their cause."

"However, we have seen yet again the typical nature of the Gardai and state forces in standing shoulder to shoulder with large multi national companies who exploit the Irish workforce and reap Ireland ’s natural resources to line their own pockets. It is worth remembering Ireland's resources do not belong to Shell or indeed Bertie Ahern to give away, but to the Irish people."
"Ógra Shinn Féin will continue to stand by the people of Co. Mayo and in particular Rossport and we will stand up against shell and their allies in the Dublin government. The clear message must be sent out to the Irish People- Shell To Hell - Shell To Sea."

Successful Donegal Ógra Weekend

North West Donegal Ógra Shinn Féin hosted a successful weekend of events during 10th and 11th of March in Letterkenny, County Donegal.

Hugh Doherty spoke to Ógra Shinn Féin highlighting the many years he spent on active service and in particular he years he spent in jail in England, whilst bringing the freedom struggle to England. Indeed it was such actions which forced the British to call a ceasefire with the IRA in the 1970’s.

Following Hugh’s talk Ógra Activists held a well attended protest in support of their Basque comrades in SEGI. SEGI are a similar youth group to Ógra, which campaigns for freedom and independence in the Basque county. Earlier this year a Spanish court deemed the youth movement as an illegal organisation. Arrest warrants were issued for the arrest of their leadership, which now find themselves in jail due to this nonsensical decision.

On Sunday morning Ógra activists were up bright and early to unfurl a banner from a local shell depot. Ógra were protesting at the decision by the multinational giants to bring and on shore pipeline through Co. Mayo against the wishes of the locals. If such a pipe were to burst the effects would be catastrophic. As the Ógra activists came down from the Oil Depot, they where arrested by Gardai.

Barry McColgan National Órganiser of Ógra Shinn Féin has condemned the arrest.

Speaking following the weekend local Ógra Spokesperson Frankie Gallagher said,

"Despite the arrests and Gardai harassment, the weekend has been a huge success. We sent fraternal greeting to our comrades in Euskal Herria who have been feeling the full effects of Spanish and indeed French oppression and at this time we in Ógra Shinn Féin declare our full support to the membership and leadership of SEGI."

"Also we were active in highlighting the Shell to Sea Issue. Shell has held the community in Rossport to ransom over their quest to line their pockets using Irish resources. Indeed the actions of the Dublin government in assisting Shell have been nothing short of disgraceful and we call for an immediate end to the construction on the on shore pipeline. Let the call be heard as we shout ‘SHELL TO SEA’."

Ógra Shinn Féin National College Forum in UCC Cork, 27 - 28 March

The University College Cork - Ógra Shinn Féin Martin Hurson Cumann, recent winner of Best Political Organisation in UCC, will be holding a two day ÓSF Inter-Varsities College Forum.

The event in UCC will be held on Tue 27th and Wed 28th March. The aim of this will be to rally Ógra activists from all of the 3rd level institutions from across Ireland.

As part of the College Forum there will be a number of workshops dealing with Ógra youth strategy, the further development of Ógra on campus across Ireland and general workshops with regards to organisation and party building.

Aside from the usual hard work that ÓSF activists will put in there will also be the opportunity to build links between different cumann and it is intended that this event creates a sense of closer comradeship amongst the participants.

All Ógra activists are welcome and any queries are to be sent to:

Monday, March 12, 2007

New Uladh Organiser for Ógra Shinn Féin

Johnny McGibbon of Ógra Shinn Féin in Lurgan, Armagh has been apointed the organiser of Uladh Cuige of Ógra Shinn Féin. Johnny was appointed at the February meeting of Ógra Shinn Féin National Executive and he takes over from Andrea O’Kane as Uladh Organiser.

Traditionally one of Ógra’s stronger Cuigi, Johnny looks forward to the task that lies ahead,

“One of my first priorities which I will be working on will be recruitment, which indeed is ongoing within Ógra. I will be focussing in particular on recruiting more women and paying more focus on the new Irish ethnic minorities.”

“Also we in Cuige Uladh will be running with the A.R.I.S.E. (Anti Racism, Imperialism, Sectarianism, Exploitation) campaign which calls for an end to Imperialism both at home and abroad, as well as bringing and end to the destructive by products of Imperialism.”

“We also have numerous campaigns issues such as demanding and Irish Language Act in the north of Ireland, British demilitarisation and Shell to Sea. So our work really is cut out for us. But I’m confident in the activist base of Ógra to work with vigour and determination on these issues and I certainly look forward it the challenge in front of me.”

Sunday, March 11, 2007

UCC Ógra Shinn Féin, Best Political Society of the Year Award 2006/07

Ciarán MacConaglaigh
An Runaí, UCC Ógra Shinn Féin
The Ógra Cumann of UCC Sinn Féin are proud to announce that they have been awarded the title of the best Political Society in UCC for the Academic year 2006/2007. We in the Martin Hurson Cumann are very proud of this achievement and we feel it shows the fact that UCC Sinn Féin are the hardest working, most dedicated and motivated political society in UCC.

Our actions during the year have involved a register to vote campaign, where we spent a week signing people up to vote and signed up over 1000 students in UCC alone. We have been active on issues such as Killer Coke, Anti-Racism, Shell to Sea, Promoting Irish Independence Day and have played a full role within the Sinn Féin party in regards the policing debate. We have also held a Republican Commemoration in UCC, complete with a Republican flute band, an event which is a totally new experience for the student population of UCC and one which we hope to carry on on a annual basis. At present we are also organising a Ógra Shinn Féin event for the end of March, which will hopefully bring all the College Cumann to a round table discussion on the role of Ógra in third level institutions and how we can make our politics as relevant as possible to the student population of this island.

We in UCC Sinn Féin are totally committed to our Republican Politics. We are committed to our goal of a 32 County Socialist Republic. We go forward in the memory of all our fallen comrades. It is from the inspirational sacrifices these people made and our belief in the Radical Politics of Sinn Féin that have led to us being so active in the promotion of Republican Politics in UCC.
The members of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the PDs etc in UCC join so as to have something to add to their C.Vs. However most members of UCC Sinn Féin will never be able to include any of their activity on their CV due to the stigma view of Sinn Féin. However we do not do what we do for our careers or the like, we do it for a love of our politics and out of our belief in our politics, this is why UCC Sinn Féin is the most active Political Society in UCC. In winning this award UCC Sinn Féin beat the likes of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Progressive Democrats, Labour, The Socialist Party, the Politics Society and The International Relations Society.

Ógra Shinn Féin is on the rise all over the Country, and we need to keep up the work, we do not need complacency, we need to keep our radical edge and our grassroots activism. This is what makes Sinn Féin and Ógra Shinn Féin unique.

Onwards to a 32 County Socialist Republic!

Tiocfaidh ár lá

Monday, March 05, 2007

Standing on the Thresh Hold!

Frankie Gallagher
Donegal Ógra Shinn Féin

The 1st of March. The significance of this date to all republicans.

31 years since the end of Prisoner Of War status for imprisoned republicans. 26 years since Vol.Bobby Sands began the hungerstrike of 1981.

When the British government removed POW status for republicans and opened the H-blocks, a new phase of conflict was born.

It would last many long hard and painful years in this new infamous battle ground.

Some say the 5th of March the date that Bobby Sands died, is a more significant date to repulicans, but I beleive the 1st of March should be as important as Easter Sunday for all republicans.

The date the '81 hungerstrike began and those ten brave men made the choice that this was the path they would walk until victory or death.

Their sacrifice for the cause, their beliefs, and the fight to be recognised as POW's and the true soliders they where, is an inspiration to all.

Today I think about what I was doing this time last year planning marches, erecting billboards, attending events and what this day meant to me then and what it does today.

It fills me with pride but also an overwhelming sadness.

I did not live through the hungerstrike or even know about it until many years after it ended, but as a young republican it still has a deep meaning for me, as I think of the pain and the sacrifices made"yet the heartache and pain linger on, they're still here, though its so long since you've gone", these lyrics from Song for Marcella are so true , and also the line "but we're stronger now".

I believe this day should be rememberded by all republicans and on this date we should again, re-access our aims, tactics, goals and also the past as we continue the fight for what these men and many others died for and redouble our devotions to the struggle for freedom.

Tiocafaidh Ar La! Beidh si linn go foil!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Ógra in Election Drive!

Queen’s University Belfast Ógra Shinn Féin were out in high spirits today, telling people SOMETIMES IT TAKES A FOUR LETTER WORD TO BE HEARD: VOTE!!!

The busy Student’s Union area and the Holyland area were the targets of a major election push by QUB Ógra. With the March 7th election just around the corner it’s crucial Ógra are the people to put youth issues on the agenda.

QUB Ógra Chairperson Dermott Keenan said,

“It’s up to young people like us to put the issues relevant to students to the fore.”

He continued,

“It’s also up to us to make republicanism relevant to the students of the university.”

With the commitment to seeking better protection for young people in private rented accommodation, opposition to student and tuition fees, campaigning against high rates of car insurance for young drivers and calling for a minimum wage of £5.50 for all employees regardless of age; it’s easy to see why more and more students are looking to Sinn Féin and Ógra.

Mr Keenan concluded,

“Make your voice heard on March 7th. VÓTÁIL SINN FÉIN.”

Sinn Féin Engage with Students

Sinn Féin candidate for South Belfast, Alex Maskey and MEP Bairbre De Brun visited Queens Uiversity last week. They were joined by members of the Sheena Campbell Cumann as they handed out leaflets and walked around the Students Union canvassing for the election.

The visit generated plenty of interest with large numbers of people engaging with the elected representatives.

Spokeman for the Queens Cumann Eunan Carlin commented,

"Todays response was very positive. It provided a chance for the public and particlularly young people to hear what the politicians had to say about issues effecting them on a daily basis and what they hope to do about it when in power."

"If today's response is echoed at the polls then the hard work ógra have been doing in the run up to the elections will have been very worthwhile."