Friday, December 18, 2009
A placard nearby read ‘the two Brian’s put a dampener on your Christmas, let them know how it feels!!’ and quite a number availed of this opportunity with great relish!
Brian Lenihan, AKA National Organiser, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, said that while he was feeling distinctly wet and cold, he was glad the people of cork enjoyed soaking the government so much.
‘People were certainly enthusiastic, maybe too enthusiastic! Even though people are pretty frustrated with this government, still it’s good to make a bit of fun of it.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen aka Joe Lynch said 'Even if they cut our social welfare and wages, there will be no cutbacks in Cork people’s humour’
Ógra will continue to protest against this anti youth, anti working class budget, all across the country and to provide a voice for those who have none.
Family, friends and comrades packed in to Craigavon Council buildings to celebrate Ella O’Dwyer’s excellent compilation of tributes and memories, featuring moving interviews with Sheena’s son Caolán, partner Brendan and mum and dad, Jean and Patsy. As people began to filter through in to the conference suite with their tea and coffee, the diversity of individuals became apparent. Republicans from various eras flowed through the doors to a newly developed part of Craigavon Civic Buildings. Former republican Prisoners Of War, Hunger Strikers, Blanketmen, Sinn Féin MLAs, Councillors, party members, supporters and community activists, gathered with close family of Sheena Campbell to launch what local MLA John O’Dowd described as a “wonderful tribute to Sheena”.
The event was chaired by local Ógra Shinn Féin activist Gemma McKenna, who welcomed Sinn Féin’s Lurgan By-Election candidate Liam Mackle to open the evening with the poem ‘For Strong Women’ by Marge Piercy.
FROM Togher on the south side of Cork City Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire (20) was appointed National Órganiser for Ógra Shinn Féin last month. He has taken a break from study, after completing two years of a Law degree, to undertake the role. Here he speaks to ELLA O’DWYER about the role of Ógra in the wider republican struggle
“I don’t come from a Sinn Féin background”, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire explains, “but I was always interested in politics from when I was about 15 or 16. Sinn Féin struck me as the party that best represents the community I come from in Cork City.
“Togher wasn’t necessarily the most prosperous of places when I was growing up so I always had the inclination to look at issues around social justice. I joined Ógra two years ago when I was in University College Cork and I was appointed Ógra National Organiser last month.
The previous organiser, Barry McColgan, has been very supportive of me in taking on his former role. I’ve the height of respect for Barry. He’s done a huge amount of work for Ógra and has put in fantastic foundations and done a tremendous amount of work.
“The primary role I would see Ógra having is providing a space for young republicans to develop politically before going into the party and it’s an important means of recruitment. Secondly Ógra allows for the education of young republicans so that we can produce high quality activists. We have a very good educational programme. We go away for educational weekends, five to eight times a year. As well as having a social side these weekends allow us to have talks and debates. Not so long ago we had Arthur Scargill talking about the miners and we’ve had talks from people from the Basque movement - things like that.”
“Because I’m based in Cork I’ve an opportunity to build more in the South. Uladh is our strongest Cúige but the 26 counties wouldn’t be as strong. There’s a lot of work to be done in building the organisation down here. Also, something Barry was interested in himself and will probably help us with, is getting a more policy orientated aspect to Ógra and trying to get the organisation thinking more about Sinn Féin policy and having an impact on that. I’d like to see Ógra taking an active role in policy development and taking positions on policies particularly in terms of issues around youth.
“We held our Congress in the Felons [Club in Belfast] recently and launched our ‘Who Fears to Speak of a United Ireland’ campaign. The idea isn’t just about trying to heighten national consciousness around the united Ireland theme and motivating people to work to that end. It’s also about exploring why some people don’t believe it will work. It’s about investigating people’s reservations, unionists in particular, and how you might overcome that.
“It’s also about highlighting the inequalities in everyday aspects of the border. I think it’s very important to engage with young people on their perspective on partition. In the South most people have an underlying sense that a united Ireland makes sense but not everyone. I was in a debate recently in UCC and it was quite interesting. The biggest objection to a united Ireland was based on whether we could afford it and whether it really makes sense. It wasn’t about the armed conflict or whether unionists’ rights would be trampled on. It’s good that we’re having the debate and getting the republican argument across. That debate on a united Ireland is immensely winnable. It makes more economic sense to be a single unit rather than a divided country where you have two civil services and two transport systems and separate telephone networks – all the practical things.”
The new National Organiser says young people were ‘viciously targeted’ in the recent budget. “The Budget has left a lot of people reeling. It’s probably one of the most right wing budgets in the history of the state. Young people have been almost viciously targeted and almost singled out. Even before this budget there were cutbacks in community services and drug rehabilitation services that would have affected young people. I think it’s a sign that this government doesn’t see young people as having a political voice and as being an easy target that won’t fight back.
The broad republican family has a lot to offer Ógra by way of support, Ó Laoghaire says.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
It was an important act of solidarity considering the recent arrests of 34 Basque youth political and cultural activists. The recent fascist onslaught by the Spanish state on the Basque pro independence movement, has been widely condemned across the globe, not least in Ireland, where protests and actions have taken place across the country.
While in the Basque Country, Dave engaged in a number of protests, rallies and press conferences pledging Ógra's ongoing support to our oppressed and imprisoned comrades.
Dave was interviewed on Basque Info on Feile FM last night about his time in the Basque Country and his thoughts on the recent arrests.
A full report of Dave's solidarity trip will be published soon.
Ollie Reilly Ógra Shinn Féin
On 24th of November, The Spanish Fascist court arrested 34 members of SEGI, the youth Basque organisation. SEGI is a youth, feminist, revolutionary and internationalist organisation. Their crime is to organise and struggle for another Basque Country, defending their rights as youth and as Basque.
On behalf of Ógra Shinn Féin in Fermanagh, I would like to extend our solidarity to the young people arrested, and pledge the support of our organisation for the cause for which they struggle.
I furthermore call for their release. Ógra Shinn Féin will be on the streets throughout Ireland in the coming days and weeks in protest at these latest arrests.
If the Spanish are really interested in establishing dialogue with the pro independence movement, such arrests do nothing to advance their case. It would be our hope that they grasp the chance while they can.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Ógra Shinn Féin
In the 26 county Budget announced on the 11th of December job seekers allowance (means tested) for new applicants was cut to:
•To €100 for those aged 20-21 age.
• To €150 for those aged 22-24 years old.
The April 2009 emergency budget had already reduced the rate to €100 for those aged under 20.
This is just one in a long line of cuts affecting young people including cuts education and community services.
The track record of the government in terms of young people is far from enviable – they did their very best to introduce student fees, they inflicted enormous cuts in education, and on community services.
This Budget is surely the most scandalous and shocking example of this governments callous and short sighted disregard for young people.
Brian Lenihan spoke in terms of protecting the vulnerable, and of the young being the greatest resource we have. However the Government’s actions speak far louder than their words. They seem almost determined to cast an entire generation to the scrapheap, whilst they write blank checks for the Banks.
“The reduction of the jobseekers benefit will trap many in poverty and encourage more to emigrate, and the cuts to social welfare will inflict significant hardship on many Irish young people. These cuts are short sighted in the extreme, and the money saved is a pittance to the potential loss of young people to our workforce.
Brian Lenihan targeted the young unemployed, which constitutes some 25% of all young people, because he thought they would not fight back. We intend to prove him wrong.
It is up to us to provide a voice for those who will be affected by these cuts. All areas affected should mobilise against these cuts.
Get out with leaflets and go fly-postering, make your presence in the community visible and engage with people. Posters and leaflets templates have been distributed, if you have not received any, email email@example.com.
Speaking on the recent events Cork Organiser for Ogra Shinn Féin, Dave Barry, had this to say,
"Cork Ogra Shinn Féin condemns the recent wave of arrests on the members of SEGI by the Spanish government and sends our solidarity to our comrades in the Basque Country. Cork Ogra Shinn Fein will continue to highlight the plight of the Basque people by the Spanish Government and call for the immediate release of all Basque political prisoners illegally held and tortured in Spanish concentration camps. Your struggle is our struggle."
Go dti bua!
Whilst reading through the Ógra blog I was disheartened to see an anonymous post stating that Ógra should forget about international struggles and concentrate on our own struggle. Whilst I agree that our own struggle must take priority over all else I disagree with the sentiments echoed in the post.
Who knows whether the anonymous poster was an Ógra activist, republican supporter or either a loyalist or akin to ‘stir up the pot’ so to speak. However if they sat back and looked at Ógra policy and strategy they are certainly out of step.
Ógra Shinn Féin are Republican, Socialist, Feminist, Environmentalist, anti-racist and last but certainly not least internationalist. We make no apology for being so.
You only have to look at the foundation of Sinn Féin Youth (later reconstituted as Ógra Shinn Féin) to see the huge influence our international comrades had on our movement.
The Basque Youth movement of that time, Jarrai, the fore runner to Segi were instrumental in the establishment of Sinn Féin Youth. Many young activists of that time learned the skill of political activism from the well established and organized group in the Basque Country. This included exchange visits of activists from
The first national campaign, launched at the first Sinn Féin Youth congress, was ‘Young and Independent’, again this took its origins from a similar campaign which was running in the Basque Country. Incidentally at that congress Ógra were joined by international comrades from
If you also look at the ANC in
Who would have thought when Sinn Féin were protesting against the apartheid regime in south Africa many years ago that we would one day have strong fraternal links with the now ruling party in south Africa, the ANC?
So whilst I agree that our struggle should take priority I am totally opposed to the sentiments echoed that we should forget about international struggles.
I will leave the closing remarks to Matt Carthy who brought the 1st Ógra congress to a close. He was the incoming National Organiser for Sinn Fein Youth at that congress. Closing the congress he said;
`To advance our republican aims and objectives it is crucial that we continue to struggle through campaigning and mobilising, our peace strategy, advice centres, local constituency work, councils, education and international work. Only when these areas of struggle are placed together can we have the force and capacity to achieve our goals'.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Veteran local republican Sean Lynch attended and spoke at the launch which was chaired by new chairperson of Fermanagh Ógra, Chris Conwell. Ógra activist Liam Lappin sang flag of Na Fianna to bring proceedings to a close.
Following the launch, the republican tour took in sights such as the spot where Vol. Seamus McIlwaine was ambushed and killed, the monument built in memory of Vol. Tony Ahern, sight of the famous Derryard attack, the museum at Derrygannon Hall and finally Roslea graveyard, where those on the tour visited the republican monuments and the grave of Ollie Reilly, who the local Ógra Shinn Féin cumann is proudly named in memory of.
Speaking on the tour Ógra activist Cillian Sweeney said,
“The tour was extremely educational, it is important to visit these sights and to remember Irish history, educating another generation and safeguarding them from the revisionism and lies that is being peddled today by some with political, cynical and self financing agendas who are given a pedestal by the mainstream gutterpress to misrepresent and distort our history.”
“Tours like this are extremely helpful, and allow us to visit the places which we read about, or maybe learn of events which have been attempted to be airbrushed from history. Republicans have a duty to know their history, to promote our history, and allow the true story to be told.”
“The tour was a success, including the launch of the excellent mural, which now holds pride of place in Roslea and stands as a tribute to all the young republicans who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the struggle for Irish freedom. We will be continuing with our project of educating the youth of Fermanagh and promoting our republican vision.”
Students flocked to the exhibition which traced the history of the pogroms in the Clonard area of Belfast. In particular it focused on the burning of Bombay Street in August 1969, the aftermath and lasting legacy of this genocidal act by loyalist paramilitaries assisted by the British State.
Speaking on the successful exhibition, James Sheridan cumann spokesperson Caolan Quinn said,
“As part of our ongoing campaign to promote Irish history and educate the student body on significant events in our recent past we brought in the Bombay Street exhibition. We where surprised at the high level of interest in this excellent archive of information, photographs and artefacts, and due to this will be hosting further exhibitions on the Hunger strike and Anti – Collusion.”
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Sinn Féin staged a protest in Derry at the weekend against the arrest of 34 members of Basque youth group Segi in the Basque Country.
Members of the Segi youth movement are regular visitors to Derry and have taken part in a number of events organised by Ógra Shinn Féin in recent years.
Speaking at the protest at Free Derry Corner, Adrian Óg Kelly of Ógra Shinn Féin said;
“I would like to extend our solidarity to the young people arrested and pledge the support of our organisation.”
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire
Ógra Shinn Féin
“This generation needs to be a generation of ‘impatient republicans’,” that’s the message Senator Pearse Doherty sent to Ógra Shinn Féín at its National Congress a number of weeks back in Belfast as we launched our new national campaign, ‘Who fears to speak of a united Ireland?’
He’s right, of course, and as impatient republicans the reunification of our country is an urgent priority and vital objective. That’s why we are launching this campaign to encourage our generation to get involved in the struggle to smash partition.
In the North, with all the benefits of peace, comes a semblance of normality. And while the majority of the nationalist community is behind our project, the danger of apathy setting in is difficult to avoid. Young people in particular, many of whom have little to no memory of conflict, are particularly susceptible.
The urgency of what we intend to achieve must be communicated in simple and clear terms, and indeed we have to listen to their perspective on what partition means to them. For a lot of young people, it’s things like two mobile phone networks, two sets of currency, language rights, the British Army presence, public services being duplicated and two mediocre soccer teams instead of one half-decent one.
It’s the small practical details as much as it is the bigger picture. That’s not to neglect the bigger picture, of course, and we will continue to promote national consciousness and develop a unitary Irish identity that we can all – nationalist, unionist and other – be proud of. We need to communicate that, to paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, ‘Ballymena is as Irish as Ballymun.’
Nor can the South be taken for granted.
A combination of a partitionist media, hostile to republicanism, an Establishment comfortable with the status quo, and an underlying mentality that the national question is settled means that support for reunification isn’t what it should or could be. It isn’t exactly on top of the agenda for most people.
Having said that, most people in the South, if pushed, will state their support for a united Ireland. But have they, or are they ever, likely to do anything to further the cause of unity? In most cases, no. And indeed many of these people may not vote for a united Ireland if push comes to shove. I’m sure you can imagine the media spin – it’ll destabilise the country, we can’t afford it, etc, etc. So it’s abundantly clear we need to get the national question back on the agenda and being debated.
That isn’t going to be done by lecturing and hectoring people for not being active, or by endlessly ruminating on the past. We need to make it relevant to people in the South: why it makes sense financially and socially, and to sell it as something current and attractive.
We need to make it clear that a united Ireland would not be a ‘26-County state deluxe’ but something new, a clean break. After all, this isn’t about lines on maps: it’s about making the quality of life better for all Irish people.
We intend to use this campaign to explore ways of developing support amongst the public in the South, and in particular young people, for a united Ireland.
But it’s not just the wider nationalist community who have to be engaged with. At that Belfast congress, Stephen Agnew of the Green Party said that if we really want a united Ireland it’s up to us to persuade the likes of him, open-minded people who have no ideological attachment to either unionism, or republicanism; to persuade people like him that we can afford a united ireland, and that the quality of public services wouldn’t deteriorate in a united Ireland. And more than that, to persuade them that a united Ireland is economically and democratically the most viable option open to the people of the Six Counties.
Agnew is entirely right. These are the issues that we must engage with and the arguments we must win. There are nominal unionists, sensible people who will vote for a united Ireland if we can assure them that their interests and identity will not be hindered and that stability will not disappear. We intend to engage with these people to find out exactly what concerns they have about a united Ireland and how best to overcome them.
So this campaign will be taking on our traditional objective, quite simply ‘The reconquest of Ireland by the people of Ireland’, in an innovative and imaginative way, widening the debate and mobilising Irish youth. There will be videos, talks, debates, publications, protests and murals, along with some more unconventional methods. How well will it work? As impatient republicans, our success will be measured simply by how long we have to wait.
Ógra Voices for unity
Úna Nic Guidhir
UCC Martin Hurson Cumann/Kerry Ógra
Creidim in Éire aontaithe toisc gur cuid dár ndúchas, dár gcúltúr agus dár spioraid náisiúnta iad na sé chontae a ghoideadh uainn agus, dár liomsa, bheadh sé ar mhaitheas mhuintir na hÉireann ina n-iomlán an tír a bheith aontaithe fé rialtas daonlathach sóisialach amháin.
Tá sé de cheart bunúsach againn an tír a bheith comhlán fé mar a bhí fadó. Ní chuid de Ríocht Aontaithe na Breataine Móire iad na sé chontae. Is cuid de Chúige Uladh, Poblacht na hÉireann iad agus ba chóir go n-aithnítear mar san iad.
Fad is atá rialtas na Breataine Móire ag cuir dlíthe agus polasaithe Sasanacha i bhfeidhm i gcuid dár dtír, tá orainn na prionsabail polaitíochta seo a chuir os comhair na ndaoine ionas nach ndéantar dearmad ar an streachailt polaitiúil, agus chun an chreidimh in Éire aontaithe a bhrú ar aghaidh.
I WANT a united Ireland because partition is illegal and immoral. The British have no right in Ireland. People like me who live in border areas suffer because of the border due to very bad roads, poor public transport and also the great financial burden on young people. Two mobile phone tariffs operating on one small island – it just makes no sense.
A United Ireland is not solely a necessity for nationalistic reasons but it is also important for the running of this country.
We are in the middle of a recession, where Government policies and socialist alternatives are vital in order to create jobs. The fact that two parts of this country use two different currencies and have separate institutions controlling their finances can only hamper any real attempts to stop this recession.
The occupation of this country is as important today as it was 800 years ago.
Vol. Dermot Crowley Ógra Shinn Féin
County Tyrone, 3 times All Ireland Champions, a burning passion for our native language and culture, a county enriched by local literary and musical genius, and of course an unflinching and noted track record of rebellion and resistance against British colonial rule, the O’Neill County has indeed played its part in Ireland’s freedom struggle.
These many factors have greatly attributed to the republican stronghold that it is today, a Sinn Féin MP covering every corner of Tyrone, the largest party representing Tyrone in the Assembly and holding the majority in all local councils, Strabane, Omagh, Dungannon and Cookstown.
The young people of Tyrone have a strong Irish identity and it manifests in the huge interest and active participation in the GAA, Irish dancing, Irish language, Traditional music and the continual growth of Sinn Féin throughout Tyrone.
Despite growing up in the north, under British occupation and living slap bang next to two huge British military barracks, Lisanelly and St Lucia in the County town ofOmagh, I have always had strong Irish Identity and many of the above factors have ensured it.
My childhood like thousands of other young people across the north was spent with a shadow of occupation over our estate and town, watchtowers, perimeter fence, barbwire, and cameras accompanied your walk to school, and you were greeted daily with the constant sight of Brit foot patrols, the constant drone of helicopters, and if you’re lucky a house raid, where the local friendly neighbourhood RUC assisted by their foreign friends would show you the benefits of occupation.
No matter how normal the Brits and their lackies tried to present the ‘normal’ situation in the north, it was very very clear to me, from my earliest memories that something was most certainly wrong, and as I got older I was determined to play my part in changing it.
While ultimately I wanted a United Ireland, as a 16 year old becoming active in Ógra Shinn Féin, it was local issues that concerned us, getting rid of the massive foreign occupation in Omagh and helping to empower our local community.
We helped establish the Omagh Demilitarisation Committee, and jointly lobbied and protested for the immediate closure of the British War Machine’s base in Omagh, we were successful and this came to pass in August 2007. Work is now continuing to ensure that the once occupied land is returned to local people and utilised by the entire community by turning it into an educational campus.
In my opinion that is what ending British rule in Ireland is about, it is ensuring that the illegal, foreign, oppressive and downright nuisance of an occupation is gone, and the stolen land, is handed back to local people, and utilised for the benefit of local communities, to educate and empower local people. It is about ensuring that Irish people determine their own future that we collectively, free from foreign intervention; make the decisions that will place us high on the world stage as a beacon to other oppressed peoples, fighting tyranny and inequality.
It makes sense, it is going to happen in the immediate future, but freedom in itself is only the beginning, it is then that our struggle begins anew, with economic sovereignty we have a duty to implement an agenda of change that stays true to the proclamation but more importantly the people of Ireland.
The young activists of Segi have shown enormous strenght and resilience in the face of brutal torture by the French and Spanish states, they have been outlawed, censored, deemed terrorists, yet they stand here proud with us today.
The occupying forces target them so much, arresting and imprisoning their activists because they fear them, they fear the future, a free egalitarian Basque Country. Welcome comrades.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who I have worked with over the past number of years as National Organiser.
I want to commend all of the cumann and activists who have dedicated so much of their time and effort to build Ógra into the movement it is today, continuing the upward growth, professionalism of the most active youth movement in Ireland.
I want to particularly commend my good friend and comrade Johnny McGibbon who assisted me greatly in my role, and has been a pivotal figure at a national, regional and local level. For being an inspiration, a constant support and dedicated leader and activist within Ógra despite many local responsibilities as a councillor, and Sinn Féin Upper Bann Organiser, while also trying to juggle a university degree and pretend to have a social life.
I have said it many times in the past, if we had more activists, as rounded, not in the physical sense, then we would be free by now. Johnny understandably will be stepping down from the national executive, but will continue to play a key role in the future development of Ógra in Upper Bann and Uladh. At this point, I would like everyone to join me in a buaileadh bos for Johnny.
In my 9 years as an Ógra activist I have met hundreds of young republicans, and have been struck by their dedication, intelligence, majority eager and willing to play their part in freeing our country and creating a better society for all of us.
Many of those young people are now leaders of our struggle.
Toireasa Ferris, Eoin O'Broin, Pearse Doherty, Daithi McKay, Matt Carthy, Charlene O'Hara and David Cullinane, not to mention the many other young republican activists who have cut their teeth in Ógra, and now play a leading role in building the party behind the scenes.
I have been struck by their ability, humility but most importantly comradeship.
Comradeship, friendship, a sense of respect for eachother, for our differences as young people, and difference of opinion. That is what sets us apart from all the other status quo parties, who are driven by ego, individualism, careerism and backstabbing.
Republicans are defined by our comradeship, our openness and honesty, by the close bonds we form, the support we offer one another, and the lifelong friendships that endure.
Ógra provides that necessary forum for Sinn Féin, where young republicans can come together to strike up those lasting friendships, share and debate the ideas that will shape our future, and harnass the activists who will lead us to and in a United Ireland. I believe in this, and have experienced all that is good about Ógra at first hand.
I also believe that for Ógra to continue to grow and prosper, like the recent spurt of growth, with Fermanagh, Coalisland/Clonoe, Kerry and South Tyrone Ógra forming in the space of one week, then activists should continue to play an active role in Ógra as activists as long as they can and thereafter as mentors.
I think this has been a failing of ours in the past, that some activists get to a certain age and feel they are too good, or too important than younger activists, or some simply prioritise other projects deeming the youth project and Ógra as less important.
That attitude is completely wrong, and in my opinion goes against the ethos of republicanism, every activist and cumann should see it as their role to not only recruit but also develop younger activists. Without youth coming through their is no struggle. While some ground has been made in recent times on dismantling this mindset, we need to continually oppose this flawed mentality until it is blown out of the water.
We are a regeneration body for Sinn Féin, and a training ground for activists and future leadership, if each activist prioritise building the youth project, building Ógra and the college cumann, if each activists give that commitment, I believe we would be producing alot more activists.
People like Liam Lappin, Eddie Gallagher, John McDermott, and Colm O'Mordha are examples of activists who where involved in Ógra when I joined and are still utilising their skills, and experience to push Ógra and the colleges forward today.
And me, I'm not going anywhere, with your blessing I will be assuming a national finance role for Ógra and will continue to be an activist until I am 29, and a mentor, supporter and advocate thereafter.
Another common misconception or myth, is that Ógra are somehow a separate body, absolute nonsense. The majority of Ógra activists play an active and leading role in their local cumann, I am chair of Billy Reid Sinn Féin in Omagh, Barry McNally is chair of the Frank Ward Sinn Féin cumann in the centre of the universe, aka Carrickmore and Johnny McGibbon is organiser of Upper Bann, not to mention the many Ógra members who stood in the last 26 County local elections.
Far from being a separate body, we are an integral part of Sinn Féin and very proud of that.
I have been honoured over the past 3 and half years to lead Ógra, and I honestly believe that the team of dedicated activists I have been working with have transformed Ógra as an organisation, making it more fit for purpose, and constantly striving to professionalise our operation, for example the recent drive to put over 100 young activists through child protection, or the innovative online promotion of Ógra, through our many websites, social networks, and YouTube are but an example.
But more importantly and where it matters, on the streets or across the countryside where we have increased our campaigning, providing imaginative and larger displays of solidarity at demonstrations on Palestine, Anti Fees, the Mass Trade Union Protests and Hungerstrike, and leading on issues like Suicide Prevention and Drug and Alcohol Abuse by producing many innovative short films and organising workshops and public talks on these vital issues. And channeling young people into community groups, to play an active role in empowering their peers and community.
The party need to prioritise youth and assist Ógra and the college cumann. The same position we have on opposing the cuts on student fees, because we believe in a knowledge economy and see it as an investment in the future, needs also to be supported and applied internal to Sinn Féin.
Any assistance, resources and finance for Ógra should be seen as a sound investment in the future. The same message we are giving to the Free State government, is the same we need to be enacting internally, less lipservice to youth and more investment.
That is not to negate our responsibility as young people to stand on our own feet, far from it, any drip fed attitude is wrong, we need to fundraise intensively, and if need be look to fund a number of positions, and various projects and events. Everyone needs to weigh in behind fundraising and I would ask that everyone steps up their efforts in the year ahead. We need to get back to basics, be more proactive in fundraising, and remember that we are not going to be able to operate effectively without money.
So clearly I'm not saying that the party alone fund Ógra, but they must play a part in it, and an important one at that.
To conclude my remarks, I would like to wish my successor, Donnchadh O'Laoighaire, a proud Cork muck savage, all the best. Donnchadh is an outstanding activist and individual, and has a proven track record at organisation, playing a key role in last years very successful National Congress in Cork, and building the 3 Ógra cumann in Cork. His dedication, strong republican politics, deep analytical mind and great ability to get on with everyone will keep him and Ógra in good stead and good hands for as long as his tenure. And even though he's not from Tyrone, I have every confidence in Donnchadh that he will take Ógra to another level, and make it the youth movement that we all know it can be.
Again, thanks to everyone for being supportive and working with me over the past number of years, I look forward to plaquing you's all in the year ahead for money, and thanks to everyone for travelling to be here this weekend, lets use this National Congress to assess the past year, to discuss and debate our struggle and plot the course for the year ahead.
In this the 100th Anniversary since the foundation of Na Fianna, let us commit ourselves to a productive and successful year, using the young Fians as inspiration to further growth of Ógra and more progress in our struggle to freedom.
Onwards to the Socialist Republic!
Galway Ógra members began with a march up the main street, followed by a protest at a main tourist attraction in the city centre, during which leaflets were distributed and slogans chanted.
As information leaflets were being handed out to passer’s-by the reaction was as expected, very few people, if anybody, knew about what had happened in the Basque Country and when engaged in conversation, became interested in their struggle for freedom. The media is doing a great injustice by refusing to cover this story and give publicity to the Basque cause.
Luke Callinan, chair of NUI Galway’s D’arcy/ Hurson cumann, called for the immediate release of these political prisoners and freedom for the freedom of the Basque country.
Chairperson of Fermanagh ÓSF Chris Conwell is encouraging young republicans to mobilise for the events,
"We would like to extend an invite to all young republicans, to come along to Fermanagh, and experience the strong republican tradition which Fermanagh has to offer."
"Our day will begin with a republican tour of Fermanagh, tracing a number of famous historical events and allowing participants to be educated on the conflict in the area. Following this will be an exhibition, which will contain artifacts and items in relation to a number of key events including the Brookeborough raid of 1957."
"In the evening we will have a mural unveiling to mark the 100th anniversary of Na Fianna Éireann, a major milestone for republican youth. This will include a guest speaker who will address the crowd."
"We would ask you to take advantage of this opportunity, and to join us for what will prove to be an insightful and enjoyable day."
Monday, December 07, 2009
Speaking at the event, Dublin Ógra activist Mark Moloney said; "We are here today to show solidarity with the 34 imprisoned activists but also to express our disgust at the repressive actions of the Spanish state. The arrests of Basque nationalist youths in recent weeks is part of a sustained campaign by the Spanish authorities to stamp out Basque Nationalism. There is absolutely no justification for these type of actions and we call on the Spanish government to release the 34 immediately".
The two young activists, who were both under the age of 16, were questioned under section 44 and threatened with arrest during the incident in Enniskillen. The individuals had hung a banner in the town connected with the national campaign, calling for an end to British presence in Ireland. A short time afterwards members of the PSNI detained and questioned them, and placed them under arrest.
A number of Ógra leaflets, a camera and a phone were confiscated. In addition the two individuals were directed to report to the PSNI barracks this week.
Ógra Shinn Féin National Organiser Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire had this to say:
'This is the third such incident of unjustifiable and unprovoked harassment in the space of a week, following similarly absurd events in Dungannon and in Strabane. Given that fact, and given that in this instance the two individuals were minors, this incident cannot go without comment. The recent actions of the PSNI, in attempting to intimidate and to harass young republicans, cannot be allowed to continue, and we will raise our concerns at the highest levels.'
'This latest incident is particularly disturbing and smacks simply of intimidation. However, Ógra will not be intimidated off the streets and will continue to campaign on issues such as these.’
‘We will be bringing these incidents to the attention of our members on the DPP, Policing board and will ensure the Police Ombudsman investigates this case. It is clear that individuals within the PSNI are intent on intimidating and harassing young republican activists at any given opportunity. We will continue to work to ensure that these bad policing practices are consigned to the dustbin of history and we have a policing service representative of the whole community.
Friday, December 04, 2009
Following the introduction of Internment in August 9th 1971, during Operation Demetrius, the British Army and in particular the notorious British parachute regiment attempted to ‘lock down’ the Ballymurphy area, and went on a killing spree that would claim the lives of 11 innocent civilians over the next 2 days, including Father Hugh Mullan, who was going to the aid of a wounded man. These tragic events would become known as the ‘Ballymurphy Massacre’.
“The families of those murdered by the British Army in Ballymurphy have a long running campaign for truth and justice and will be coming to Omagh, to raise awareness and talk about their personal stories and their collective demands for an independent international inquiry that can help determine the truth and facts around the brutal deaths of their loved ones.”
Thursday, December 03, 2009
In encouraging maximum attendance, Derry Ógra organiser, Adrian Óg Kelly said 'As the first significant event of 2010, this is going to a great opportunity for young republicans to reconvene after the Christmas Break and to start a new year with a flourish.'
'Bloody Sunday remains a key moment in recent Irish history and we hope this weekend allows republicans from all over Ireland to remember it, and to learn more of the republican heritage of Derry, as well as the opportunity to consider our present struggle.'
The weekend will cost £30 /€35 and this includes all food, accomodation and entry to functions and museums. Bookings should be in for January the 22nd, and cheques/postal orders made out to Barry McColgan.
Address for bookings - Barry McColgan Ógra National Finance officer, 4-5 James Street,Omagh, Tyrone.
This was followed up on Wednseday the 2nd when a large contingent of local ógra members joined with the Irish Basque Solidarity committee in a leaflet drop and banner Drop in Daunt Square for an evening protest.
Cork Ógra spokesperson Dan Harty had this to say 'Given the complete and utter media blackout with regard to this issue, we felt we had to be vocal and to highlight this issue.
On both occassions i noticed people were genuinely surprised that these sort of things could be happening in Western Europe without comment, and the vast majority of people were extremely supportive of our actions.'
'There was a great deal of people willing to support the on-line petition as well, and hopefully these people will spread the word about the disgraceful actions of the Spanish government.'
His comments come after an incident on Friday night where two members of Ógra Shinn Féin were searched and threatened with CS gas and arrest after they where followed by the PSNI while removing a Sinn Féin sign in Strabane town centre.
The two men cooperated and gave their details when one male officer, without stating his intention to conduct a search, placed his hand in the pocket of one of the men who objected at which point he was grabbed physically restrained and shoved against the wall.
At this point the other young man protested against this heavy handedness and was pushed away and threatened with CS gas which was pointed into his face. Four more PSNI members arrived on the scene and threatened to take the two men to Antrim for ‘questioning’.
At this stage a number of people had gathered to watch what was happening, and realising that their actions were seen by a number of members of the public, they quickly searched the two men and left the scene without explanation or issuing the necessary ‘stop and search’ documents.
“This is a clear abuse of stop and search powers and it is clear from other representations made to me that there are particular PSNI officers in Strabane who are continually engaged in such gung ho antics against young local nationalists”.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Speakers on the night included Ógra Shinn Féin National Organiser Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire and Cork City Councillor Jonathon O’Brien, a founder member of Ógra who gave an inspiring speech on the role of youth in republicanism and who documented his own time in Ógra to those in attendance.
Chair Joe Lynch, having given a review of the campaigns undertaken by the Cumann since its formation in September, had this to say “...we can’t be content with already being the most active political party in the college, we can’t stop there and we won’t rest on our laurels, the real work begins now. The signs are extremely positive though, in the past six weeks I’ve seen nothing but commitment and drive on the part of my new comrades and as the Cumann matures with further recruits being brought on board who are in turn familiarised with Sinn Féin policy and structures there is no reason why can’t eventually emulate more established Cumainn in terms of campaigning on the issues affecting the people of this island, and recruiting and educating young activists.”
Following the various speeches the film was shown to a very enthusiastic audience and upon its conclusion the music kicked off, ending with a rousing rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann some time after midnight.
Vice-Chair Niamh Kerins commenting afterwards was pleased with the level of support from those in attendance “it was great to see so many people there supporting CIT Ógra, we won’t let them down” and PRO Jason Kelly commented “a great time was had, what a shame we can only have a launch once!”
All those in attendance agreed a great night was had and the Cumann can look forward to the year ahead and beyond with optimism following a great show of support from senior party members, Ógra activists from other Cumainn and from fellow students and supporters alike.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
At 10am activists erected the weekly stall at the GPO, asking the public to sign a petition calling on the Government to a) immediately combat the current homelessness crisis, and b) to ensure no bank repossesses anyone’s home while public money is being pumped into these banks. Hundreds of signatures were collected and the support from passers-by was positive.
Dublin Ógra spokesperson Shane McKenna said; "We hope this sleepout will go a long way to highlight this worsening crisis. There are 60,000 on local authority housing waiting lists, and there are 25,000 vacant homes in the Dublin city council area alone. Of the 5,000 people who are homeless, 1,000 of them are children. These are people who sleep rough, live in emergency accomodation or in inadequate, insecure or unsafe housing. There has never been a better time to address this issue and provide mainstream housing to those badly in need. We are calling on the public to sign out petition and we will stay active on this issue in the coming months."
Ógra Shinn Féin spokesperson Fergal Connolly said,
“Today we set out to highlight the ongoing activities of a draconian Spanish state against the young people of the Basque Country. We wanted to show our solidarity with those young people who have been arrested last weekend. There is no justification for this type of repression by the Spanish state.”
"This is nothing new by the Spanish state. They have a history of refusing negotiations and not respecting the mandate of the Basque independence movement. Any future democratic process in the Basque Country must be on the basis of equality. The Spanish state must stop erecting barriers to a peaceful and democratic process."
Sinn Féin Councillor Noel mcGeown (1st Left) with Sinn Féin and Ógra Shinn Féin Activists at the protest