Friday, October 31, 2008

Black Panthers - All Power to the People!

Barry McColgan
National Organiser
Ógra Shinn Féin

40 years on and the Black Panthers still provide inspiration and lessons for young progressive political activists.

The 1960’s was a time of great social change and upheaval, with the Cuban Revolution in its infancy, the Cold War at it’s height, the daily massacres in Vietnam being flashed across television screens, and the black civil rights movement in the US steamrolling forward.

In the north of Ireland, young people, students, workers and those who couldn’t get a job, joined together to demand civil rights, they where inspired by the positive and defiant actions of the black community in the USA.

The fraternal links between the Irish and black American’s have historic links, with an escaped black slave Frederick Douglas arriving in Ireland in 1845, to campaign in support for the anti slavery movement in the US, receiving backing from Daniel O’Connell.

The 1960’s was a time to take action, struggles across the globe showed that they could only be won by confronting the oppressor and making their demands felt loud and clear.

Against this backdrop, an organisation in Oakland, California, the Black Panther’s arose in defence of the Black community and to ensure that civil rights be achieved and the racism that oppressed, and marginalised their people be confronted and ended.

Throughout the civil rights movement in the USA, the white supremacists under state orders, and in state uniforms, baton charged, brutalised, jailed and even murdered those who marched in support of equal rights for the black community, a similar trait that would later manifest on the streets of Belfast, Tyrone and Derry.

Defence for the black community was needed in such times, and the Black Panthers stood up and where counted when their people needed them. This was a major factor in a huge upsurge in support for the fledgling organisation which soon spread, empowering black people and communities across the USA.

The Black Panthers, where not simply a defence movement, yet placed community led socialism at the very heart of their struggle, they believed in organised empowered communities, where citizens where cared for and accommodated on a need’s basis. They soon began to organise many community projects, which enhanced and built a community spirit, and while providing training, and education, they also provided food kitchens, and refuge for the most needy in their communities.

While many in the Black Panthers where Marxist/Leninist, they did not stick rigidly or dogmatically to Marx’s teachings, and very much applied their ideology in a modern pragmatic context.

Irish Republican’s similarly organised their struggle through the oppressed nationalist ghettos in the north, and while our ultimate objective is a 32 County Socialist Republic, when the Provisional IRA arose in 1969, their primary role was in defence of the nationalist community who where being subjected to genocide, with whole nationalist streets being burned out and many being brutalised and murdered by unionist death squads aided by the unionist state.

The similarities in the response by both the Unionist State and US authorities are shocking.

Indeed the Black Panther’s kept a close eye to Ireland, the emerging civil rights and war of national liberation, with Kathleen Cleaver of the Black Panther’s saying at the time,

“All our sympathies were with the IRA -- even with the Provisionals -- because they took such a clear-cut position on armed struggle,"

The Black Panther’s received massive and sustained harassment and repression from the US authorities, and coupled with that it has been widely suggested that the State allowed and even directed a huge influx of narcotics into black communities in order to destroy any attempt at an organised and empowered community, the same has been said of British Intelligence in Ireland, with drug dealer’s receiving immunity in return for their attempts at disempowering communities and passing on information.

While the Black Panther’s no longer exist as an organisation, their ideology and legacy prevails, they stand as a monument to black power, and a risen people who confronted the state head on, exposing their institutionalised racism and ensuring that it could never happen again.

The Black Panther’s played a huge role in building confidence and empowering of the black and working class communities not only in America, but across the globe.

All Power to the People!

Sheena Campbell QUB Cumann have Successful Freshers

Queen’s fresher’s fayre which took place at the start of this month was a huge success!

Students from first to final year were signing up and showing a genuine interest in getting involved within the party.

The people signing up ranged in age, background and there was also a good mix of males and females joining up. Indicating that the party is becoming more and more appealing to young ladies.

Some of our elected representative and other senior members of Sinn Fein came along to help us with the day, Micky Brady, Baribre De Brun, Alex Maskey, Bik Mc Farland and Connor Murphy were there throughout the day to answers questions and promote Queens University Cumann.

With pages of names and numbers gathered we are now busy ringing people and meeting with them on a one to one basis in order to find out more about them, to tell them how the cumann works and answer any questions they may have.

With a trip to Stormont already planned for Wednesday the 5th of November we are confident that this year will produce a successful and active cumann.

South Armagh Youth Visit Kilmainham Gaol

A large contingent of young people from South Armagh travelled to Dublin last week to visit sites of significance in Irish History.

The group which was made up of Crossmaglen Flute Band and South Armagh Republican Youth visited Kilmainham Gaol and Glasnevin Cemetery.

Over 30 people took part and engaged in discussions which were both educational and enjoyable.

Sinn Féin Protest March on Sunday

Speaking today at a press conference, North Belfast Assembly member Gerry Kelly MLA said that;

"Sinn Féin is determined that the focus of our protest is the British Army march and the irresponsible decision by the British MoD to stage such an event in Belfast.

The clear opposition to this military parade points up the stupidity involved in staging such an event."

Mr. Kelly went on to say that Sinn Féin is determined "that those attending the protest can do so safely. Therefore we are proposing to switch our rally and protest to the Grosvenor Road/Fisherwick Place, with Dunville Park as the Assembly point.

Sinn Féin is also determined that the protest this Sunday will not be hijacked by so called dissident groups, or some loyalist elements or English fascists."

Mr Kelly said:

"The decision by the British Ministry of Defence to organise a military parade through Belfast City centre is totally unacceptable. The history of the British Army in Ireland is one of great cruelty and hurt. Victims of collusion and British State violence are particularly offended and incensed by Sundays march.

The Sinn Féin protest on Sunday is intended to highlight our opposition and to do so in a peaceful and dignified way.

We will not allow any group - either so called dissident republican or some loyalist elements or English fascists - to hijack the protest of the victims of British State violence.

All of those taking part in our protest must be able to do so safely and return home safely.
Therefore Sinn Féin is proposing altering the route of the protest. We are now planning on assembling in Dunville Park at 10:30am and departing at 11:00am along the Grosvenor Road to the city centre.

Our rally and protest will take place at the junction of the Grosvenor Road and Fisherwick Place.
This would facilitate republicans and unionists being on the streets of Belfast in a peaceful way and at the same time, while respecting each others differences.

We want to reiterate that the singular focus of our protest is the British MoD march. The changes we are proposing will ensure this.

Our protest will still be adjacent to the route of the planned British Army parade. If the PSNI properly police the British Army parade and the loyalist mobilisation then the city can return to normal quickly.

We trust the Parades Commission will play a positive role in facilitating this.

In conclusion we are concerned that dissident republican groups are seeking to hijack the justifiable concerns of victims of British State violence for their own narrow end. Neither Sinn Féin nor the relatives groups want any part of that.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Overwhelming UN General Assembly vote against blockade of Cuba

The UN General Assembly yesterday approved by an overwhelming majority the resolution demanding an end of the U.S. blockade of Cuba, a vote passed by the Assembly over 17 years.

Of the 192 UN member states, 185 voted in favor of the resolution, while three voted against (the United States, Israel and Palau) and two abstained (Marshall Islands and Micronesia). With this result, Cuba has gained another vote this year in relation to 2007, when 184 voted in favor, four against (the United States, Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands), and Micronesia abstained.

The resolution calling for an end to the blockade has been approved on 16 occasions with a backing that has grown from 59 votes in 1992 to the 185 of today.

Before the vote, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque spoke before the Assembly and noted the special situation in which this resolution is taking place, an economic crisis that is being internationally felt and above all, the imminent U.S. elections which, he observed, will produce a new president who "will have to decide whether the blockade is a failed policy."

"You are alone, isolated," said the foreign minister, addressing President George W. Bush. Pérez’ speech was loudly applauded by the Assembly.

Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ógra Shinn Féin An Lorgain Engaging With Students

Ógra Shinn Féin An Lorgain have continued their programme of engaging with students this week, as they entered St Michael’s School in Lurgan to talk with A Level students. Ógra in Lurgan have offered this programme to schools in the area over the last year and is seen as positive by all involved.

Chairperson of Ógra An Lorgain, Lee Casey commented,

“We offer students the opportunity to talk to young people involved in politics. We go into the classroom, present who we are and what we represent, and then throw it open for the students to ask us, or discuss, whatever they want.”

The events allow students the opportunity to talk to young republicans face to face, and discuss issues of interest to them.

“I feel these are worthwhile events as they give both the students a chance to engage with political activists, and ourselves the chance to engage with students on the issues that matter to them.”

“It is crucial that political parties allow and encourage young people to make their voices heard. Sinn Féin and Ógra will continue our efforts to promote this.”

No! Welcome 4 War Criminals/State mUrDeRers!

The Irish Republican Youth Movement, Ógra Shinn Féin, are set to join the march and rally in Belfast this weekend in opposition to the British MOD’s parade for the notorious UDR/RIR regiment of the British Army.

Demonstrators from across Ireland will join in solidarity with the relatives of victims of British State Murder and Collusion at Bank Square, 10.45am this Sunday 2 November. There will be a number of speakers including Mark Thompson of Relatives For Justice and Martina Anderson for Sinn Féin, before marching to Royal Avenue for a dignified and peaceful protest.

Encouraging maximum turnout National Organiser of Ógra Shinn Féin, Barry McColgan said,

“The British Army and UDR/RIR have a brutal and bloody legacy in Ireland, which has included internment without trial, torture, shoot to kill, and collusion with unionist death squads. The hundreds of families, who have lost loved ones through collusion and state murder have been ignored and shunned over this coat trailing exercise.”

“These families still have many unanswered questions regarding the British policy of Collusion in the North of Ireland, and to grant a ‘victory’ parade to a regiment notorious with collusion and state murder is insensitive in the extreme.”

“The UDR/RIR and British Army remain as an imperialist army of occupation in Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, and are part and parcel of the daily massacres in the Middle East. All right minded people who demand the truth on Collusion and are opposed to their ongoing illegal occupations should turn out to oppose this highly insulting ‘victory’ parade for war criminals, and state murderers.”

Bígí linn ar son na fírinne!

Successful Gender Equality Forum

ÓSF's Gemma McKenna with Eibhlin Glenholmes and Bridie McMahon

Cúige Uladh Ógra Shinn Féin organised the first of a scheduled series of Gender Equality Forums this past weekend, in the Felon’s Club in Belfast . Young Republicans from across Ulster gathered to discuss the role of women in the struggle, and discuss the importance of gender balance issues within Sinn Féin.

Guest speakers Eibhlin Glenholmes, head of Sinn Féin’s Gender Equality Department, and former Republican prisoner Bridie McMahon, provided a vibrant and interesting account of gender balance issues and Republican politics.

Cúige Uladh Ógra Gender Equality Officer, Gemma McKenna commented,

“This weekend’s forum provided an opportunity for activists to gather to discuss the important issues surrounding Gender Equality in our party. Many activists were attending there first event of this kind and by all accounts it was worthwhile for everyone.”

She continued,

“Great thanks must go to Bridie and Eibhlin for their contribution to the forum. I have no doubt they sparked the interest of all activists who attended. This event is the foundation for several future forums in the months ahead, in which we intend to expand. We want to create a forum for all Republican activists to debate Gender Equality issues, to get training, to develop skills and build on the good work already being done by Sinn Féin on Gender Equality.”

"I urge all activists to watch out for information on the future forums in the weeks and months ahead."

Dublin: IPSC National Rally and Public Meeting commemorating the Balfour Declaration

Rally @ 2pm, British Embassy, Ballsbridge, D4 / Meeting: 3.30pm, Mount Herbert Hotel, Sandymount, D4

The IPSC is holding a picket and rally at the British Embassy (followed by a public meeting in the Mount Herbert Hotel) in Ballsbridge on the 1st Novemeber. The aim of this event to highlight the role of British Imperialism in the partition of Palestine, and its collaboration with the Israeli occupation and the crimes and abuses of the Israeli State ever since.

Speakers at the event will be Professor Ilan Pappe (Israeli historian of the Nakba), Anaheed al-Hardan (Palestinian Academic specialising in refugee studies), Jeremy Corbyn MP (British Labour Party and patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Britain) , Professor Mahmoud Muhareb (Political science professor in Al-Quds University and member of the Arab Balad Party in Israel), Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD (Sinn Fein spokesperson on Foreign Affairs) and a speaker from the British PSC.

On 2nd November 1917, in furtherance of its imperial ambitions in the Middle East, the British Government under Lloyd George made a promise to the Zionist Federation that it would 'establish a national home for the Jewish people' in Palestine. This promise, contained in a letter sent by Lord Arthur Balfour, the Foreign Secretary, to Baron Rothschild, was made without consulting the people of Palestine who hoped for independence from the imperial powers. It came to be known as the 'Balfour Declaration'.

Balfour, a Tory grandee, was a suitable envoy. As Secretary of State for Ireland he had long opposed Home Rule. These imperial efforts to frustrate the colonised peoples of Ireland and Palestine would yield the same tragic results for both: conflict, suffering and Partition. A bitter legacy remains to this day especially for the colonised people of Palestine whose very survival seems a matter of indifference to the powerful.

In this 60th Nakba commemoration year, the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign wishes to publicly indict British colonial policy as the root cause of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. We will therefore hold a symbolic picket of and rally at the British Embassy in Dublin on Saturday 1st November, anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. Speeches by prominent political figures in support of this will then be held in a nearby hotel. Please join us on the day.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ógra represented at GUE/NGL Youth Forum

The European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) group invited Ógra Shinn Féin to attend the first meeting of their study days in Paris last week. The theme of the forum was young people and ‘my expectations of the EU.’ International Officer, Orlagh McCauley represented Ógra. Other young groups in attendance included the Young French Communist Party, Swedish Left, Die Linke from Germany, the Portugese Communist Party and the Young Communist in Italy.

The main issues raised by the invited guests were the ability of the EU to advance social progress, its capacity to deal with the current international financial crisis, the implications of the crisis within European countries, the alternatives to the Neoliberal system, the impact of EU university reforms, how progressive forces in the EU can promote greater solidarity among its peoples and the precarious situation faced by young workers today.

Speaking after the forum Orlagh said “the meeting was very productive and a great opportunity to exchange views with other young organisations. It’s surprising how similar the social and economic problems we face in Ireland are to the majority of other European states. I found the MEPs really interested in young people’s views and assured us of their commitment to voicing these in the European Parliament. While the European Union has a lot of negative dimension we should not forget the positives and use the EU Parliament to bring about real social, political and economic change.

Over 15,000 March To Say No To Fees and Education Cutbacks

Yesterday Wednesday 22nd, over 15,000 students including a large Ógra Shinn Féin contingent took to the streets of Dublin to show their opposition to the threat of third level fees, raised registration fees and educational cutbacks. The protestors, many for whom this was their first time at a protest, came from all the main colleges of Dublin city, as well as further a field such as Maynooth.

The crowds developed at Parnell Square on O’Connell St and outside Trinity College, converging in the cities main thoroughfare to form a thronging mass of voices of dissent and anger. They marched to Molesworth St. to face the Dáil and tell the establishment that fees are no solution, that cuts are no solution chanting, shouting, drumming and singing all the way.

At Molesworth St they were addressed by a number of opposition politicians including Sinn Féin’s education spokesperson Seanadoir Pearse Doherty, a former student of DIT, had this to say:

“Having failed to win public support over the summer for the reintroduction of third level fees government’s plan B is clearly to over time increase registration fees to the point that they will effectively equal third level fees. Fianna Fáil and the Greens should be delivering education policy that takes down barriers to education access not policy that puts them up”

The crowd was also addressed by Shane Kelly USI president who reiterated the students resolve to campaign until fees are dropped as a possibility and the attacks on education cease.

Oisín Ó Dubhláin, Cathaoirleach of Ógra Shinn Féin who attended the march said this:

“Today the young and old of Ireland have sent a clear message to the FF/Green government. Cuts and other attacks on essential services which are the right of all the people of Ireland, will not be tolerated. This is simply the beginning, if the government and its cronies do not recognise our wishes students will not simply comply. We came today to take back our rights, to stand up to the irresponsible policies of this government and we will not stop until we have achieved our aims. We owe it to ourselves and our country."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

UCD SF Cathaoirleach Arrested During Anti-Fees Protest

Cathaoirleach Cumann McDonagh/Farell UCD Mick Reynolds was arrested and cautioned on Monday the 20th of October when taking part in a peaceful sit down protest against a proposed visit by Brian Lenihan to address a meeting at UCD.

Reynolds and a member of the Free Education for Everyone (F.E.E) group were grabbed by Gardai shortly after the protest began, handcuffed, and brought to Donnybrook Garda Sation. Reynolds and others arrested were released later with a caution for breaching the Public Order Act.

The protest iteself was organised by F.E.E and was supported by the UCD Student's Union. Students staged a sit down protest in front of the Clinton Institute of the college where Finance Minister Brian Lenihian was due to guest chair a meeting. Students were protesting against the possible return of third-level fees and the €600 increase in annual college registration fees announced in last week's budget, which would undoubtedly price many students out of college. Anger was also directed at Lenihan's disgraceful decision to take away medical cards from the over 70s. At least 200 students took part in the protest at its height, which was viewed as a huge success by the F.E.E movement, the Student's Union, and members of the Sinn Fein Cumann in UCD, many of whom were in attendace.

Students chanted "No cutbacks, no fees, no Fianna Fail TDS!" and waited outside the building for Lenihan to leave, having entered quietly through a side entrance earlier on. The crowd gathered as the evening wore on, as bystanders joined in the peaceful protest, but the Gardai still felt the need to pull people along the ground and out of the way.

Brian "The Budget Slasher" Lenihan

UCD Students Union president Aodhan O'Dea said the protest was designed to protest at Mr Lenihan's decision to increase third level capitation fees. "Students are saying that education is a right -- if a barrier is created against their right to go to university, they will create a barrier against the minister coming here," he said.

Mick Reynolds said "It was a really successful protest that showed that UCD students are becoming more and more aware of the need to fight Fees and high registration costs and any measures that Mr.Lenihan is going to bring in to discriminate against students. I'm just sorry I missed most of it having been picked out of a crowd at random by the Gardai with another young lad and dragged off to a prison cell, but it was great to see so many people still there when I got back to UCD, still protesting and waiting for Lenihan to leave. Heavy handed tactics won't stop anyone from Ogra Shinn Fein or any student from fighting fees, the fight is on now and if we can mobilise people like this again this is a fight we will win."

Remember demonstrate against education fees and cutbacks, Wednesday 22nd 2pm at the Dáil on Kildare St.