Friday, December 18, 2009

Minister and Taoiseach soaked on Grand Parade, Cork‏

Cork Ógra Shinn Féin took part in a novel protest today, friday the 17th, to highlight their opposition to the budget. With two Ógra members dressed up as Brian Cowen, and Brian Lenihan, members of the public were encouraged to hurl wet sponges at the taoiseach and minister for finance. The protest took place on front of what was the Capital Cinema, on the Grand Parade in the middle of Cork City.

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.

Unmistakeable air of change at launch of booklet on Sheena Campbell

CRAIGAVON Civic Buildings were for long an example of everything that was wrong in the Six Counties. But there was an unmistakeable air of change surrounding events on Tuesday, 15 December as republicans gathered to launch the latest book in the Republican Legends series; ‘Dancing to the Revolution: Sheena Campbell, A Lost Leader’.

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.

The book’s author Ella O’Dwyer offered a background and inspiration for the book, expressing gratitude and talking humbly of her interviews with Sheena’s family. Ella conveyed the importance of remembering our heroes as they were – as people – as a mother, daughter, sister, cousin, partner and friend.

Evidence of change in the area where Sheena lived with partner Brendan Curran, Sinn Féin’s first Councillor on Craigavon Borough Council, could be clearly seen as local Councillor and MLA John O’Dowd delivered the evening’s main address. O’Dowd, himself a friend and comrade of Sheena, was noticeably pleased to be speaking at the event. Sinn Féin is now the largest nationalist/republican party in the Upper Bann constituency, with seven councillors spanning Banbridge and Craigavon, and an MLA. The foundation of this success was not lost on O’Dowd. “I have no doubt that the foundation for the growth of Sinn Féin in Upper Bann is the result of the efforts of Sheena Campbell,” he said.

John also talked of the fun loving, outgoing, friendly Sheena and of the lasting image he and his brother joke about, remembering Sheena as “the girl in the Bay City Roller trousers.”

He concluded, “This book is a wonderful tribute to Sheena Campbell. But the only fitting tribute to Sheena Campbell is achieving the Republic she dedicated herself to and ultimately gave her life for.”

Interview: Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Ógra Shinn Féin National Órganiser

A fighting voice for young people

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.
What I would say is that it’s Ógra’s job to provide a voice for those young people. An awful lot of young people aren’t politically engaged at all and they don’t feel their vote is worth anything much. But some of that is because they are not engaged. A lot of people feel that they can’t make a difference and that is something Ógra needs to address.”

The broad republican family has a lot to offer Ógra by way of support, Ó Laoghaire says.
“‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’ was a term phrased by Declan Kearney recently at the Antoine Mac Giolla Bhrighde lecture in Derry and it’s a theme that came to mind during our recent Congress because we had prominent republicans like Bobby Storey, Seán Murray and Daithí McKay popping in and out to share their experiences and advice.
“There’s a lot of experienced republicans out there who actively support Ógra by giving talks and encouragement. These people are very supportive and where that happens you get more young people coming through. We get a lot of support from individuals in the Movement but I think the party itself is not massively geared towards young people. But the party and Ógra are two parts of the same thing and the more support we can get from the party the better.”

One of the other goals Donnchadh has set himself is to get more young women involved in Ógra. “We need to recruit a lot more people into Ógra and particularly women. Politics in Ireland is generally geared towards men and there aren’t enough women in the Movement. We’ve had a lot of inspirational young women in the Movement, people like Sheena Campbell for instance. She was a law student like myself. A book was brought out about her recently and there’s actually two Ógra cumainn called after her, in Queens and DCU. She would be someone I’d admire and also people like Mairéad Farrell and Eibhlín Glenholmes. Women like these would encourage young women to get involved.”
Donnchadh stood in the last Local Elections and came very close to getting elected. Will he stand again? “I won’t commit to that”, he laughs, “If the lads see that in the paper below in the Cork office they’ll be onto me. But I’ll see again in five years time, but it is a lot of work and I’m not sure yet.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Radio Interview of Ógra Activists Solidarity Trip to the Basque Country

National Secretary of Ógra Shinn Féin Dave Collins from Cork, recently travelled to the Basque Country to express the Irish Republican Youth movement's solidarity to the Basque Youth Movement, SEGI.

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.

Fascism alive and well in Spain

Cllr Phil Flanagan
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.

Fermanagh shows solidarity with Basque Country

Activists from the newly formed Ógra group in Fermanagh were out on the streets recently to show solidarity with members of the Basque pro-independence youth Group SEGI, who were arrested by Spanish authorities at the end of November. Fermanagh Ógra held this protest, which included a banner drop and the distribution of hundreds of leaflets to call for the release of these activists.

Fermanagh Ógra spokesperson Chris Conwell had this to say,
“The Basque youth activists are guilty of no crime, and are being imprisoned for their political beliefs. No where else in Western Europe would this be tolerated. Ógra Shinn Féin stands in firm solidarity with the Basque youth movement at this difficult time, and will ensure that the issue continues to be highlighted.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Call to action against Budget Cuts

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire
National Organiser
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

Solidarity with Segi

On Wednesday the 9th of December members from all three Cork Ogra cumainn took to the streets to inform the public on the recent illegal arrests of the members of SEGI via a leaflet drop in Cork city centre. The streets were packed with people doing christmas shopping and coming to and from work. Ogra members handed out well over 200 leaflets highlighting the illegal imprisonment of the members of SEGI and the current situation in the Basque Country, and received good feedback from members of the public interested in finding out more information.

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."

Our struggle is also Internationalist.

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 Ireland to the Basque country and vice versa.

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 Euskal Herria, Catalonia, Wales, Scotland, England, Germany and Denmark.

If you also look at the ANC in South Africa they have been of enormous support to our movement. They have demonstrated that change is possible no matter what odds are against you. There are massive lessons to learn for our own struggle when looking at the changes brought about in South Africa.

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

Fermanagh Ógra commemorate Na Fianna as part of Successful Tour

A mural marking the 100th Anniversary since the founding of Na Fianna Éireann takes centre stage in Roslea, County Fermanagh, after the republican youth movement, Ógra Shinn Féin launched the art piece at the weekend as part of a republican tour of the border county.

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.”

Bombay Street Exhibition viewed by hundreds in Jordanstown University

The James Sheridan Cumann in Jordanstown University hosted a very successful exhibition on campus last Wednesday.

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

Derry Ógra Shinn Féin Stand in Solidarity with Basque Youth

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

Who fears to speak of a United Ireland?

This article was originally printed in an Phoblacht. This will be a regular series of articles to examine Irish Unity from various personalities.

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire
National Organiser
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.

Chris Conwell
Fermanagh Ógra
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.

Mairéad Farrell
Hurson/D'arcy Cumann

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.

Barry McColgan
Vol. Dermot Crowley Ógra Shinn Féin
West Tyrone

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.

Outgoing National Organiser's Report - Barry McColgan

I would like to thank everyone for travelling to the 2009 Ógra Shinn Féin National Congress here in the heartland of republican West Belfast, second only to the number one heartland West Tyrone, young republicans from as far away as Cork and the Shortstrand, and I would like to extend the warmest welcome to our International Comrades from the Basque Country.

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!

Solidarity with SEGI - Galway

At lunch time on Wednesday 2nd December, Galway Ógra Shinn Féin gathered a large crowd in Shop Street, Galway city centre to protest in solidarity with the Basque youth movement SEGI, members of which were captured and tortured merely for seeking freedom for their country. ‘Self-Determination for the Basque Country’, ‘Cuir stad leis an ngeirleanúint’ and ‘Put an end to repression in the Basque Country’ were just some of the slogans sprawled across banners at the protest. This demonstration displayed powerfully the outrage of young people and students to this blatant attack on democracy.

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.

Fermanagh Ógra Shinn Féin Day Of Events - Bígí Línn!!

Saturday 12th December will see Fermanagh Ógra Shinn Féin host a day of events including a republican tour of Fermanagh, an exhibition, and culminating in a mural unveiling for the 100th anniversary of Na Fianna Éireann.

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

Dublin Ógra show solidarity with Basque youth

Dublin Ógra Shinn Féin along with the Irish Basque Committees staged a solidarity protest outside the GPO on O'Connell Street last weekend. The protest called for the immediate release of the 34 members of the Basque pro-independence youth Group SEGI, who were arrested by Spanish authorities at the end of Novemeber.

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".

Further PSNI harassment of Ógra in Fermanagh.

Ógra Shinn Féin national organiser has condemned the harassment of two Ógra Shinn Fein members in Fermanagh at the weekend.

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

Big Irish Night in Strabane

Ballymurphy Massacre Families to speak in Omagh

Families of some of the 11 civilians murdered by the British Army in Ballymurphy between 9 – 11 August 1971 are set to speak in Omagh. The Public Talk will take place in the Omagh Strule Arts Centre at 7pm on Friday 18th December and everyone is welcome, to hear the moving and emotive story of those tragic events, and the families’ quest for justice and truth.

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’.

Encouraging people to come along to the talk on the night, West Tyrone Ógra Shinn Féin chairperson Kerry McColgan said,

“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.”
“The notorious British parachute regiment, who demonstrated a trigger happy bloodlust in Ballymurphy on August 1971, went on to kill 14 innocent civilians on the streets of Derry only 5 months later on Bloody Sunday 1972. These brutal massacres are a blight on the British occupation of Ireland and the continuing concealment, and cover up is a constant slur on the British Governments commitment to a lasting peace in Ireland. We would ask you come along on the night to hear from the families, and assist them in their campaign for truth and justice.”

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Bloody Sunday Weekend '10- Bí ann!

The annual Bloody Sunday weekend will be held in Derry from the 29th to the 31st of January, and is being organised by the Derry Na Fianna Martyrs cumann.
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.

Cork Ógra take to the streets in support of Basque Youth activists.

Twice in the last week, members of Cork Ógra have taken to the streets in protest against the arrests of the Basque youth activists recently. On friday the 27th hundreds of leaflets were distributed in Daunt Square and Winthrop Street at a peak shopping time.

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.'

Sinn Féin accuse PSNI of ‘abusing powers’

Sinn Féin Councillor and chair of Strabane District Policing Partnership, Brian McMahon has accused the PSNI of abusing ‘stop and search’ powers for the purpose of petty political harassment.

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.

At around 7:30pm on Friday evening (27th November) two Ógra Shinn Féin activists were removing a party sign from the wall of a building in Butcher Street when they noticed an unmarked police car circling the area paying particular attention to them. When returning home having completed their work the same police car pulled up beside them, the officers exited and proceeded to question them under section 44 of the ‘terrorism act.’

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”.
“Incidents such as this pose extremely legitimate and serious questions about the PSNI’s official justification for its extremely high use of stop and search powers in areas like Strabane and Derry compared to the virtually non-existent use of these powers in areas such as Larne”.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

CIT Ógra Shinn Féin Launch

A large group of republicans gathered in Cork last Thursday for the official launch of the new Cumann in Cork Institute of Technology at An Spailpín Fánach in Cork City. The event included a showing of Terry George’s 1996 film “Some Mother’s Son” which was followed by a very enjoyable music performance by Sean Ó Sé and a sing-song session with contributions from all around the room.

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

Successful homeless day of action in Dublin

Dublin Ógra Shinn Féin organised a successful twenty-four hour day of action to highlight the homelessness crisis. Activists travelled from Laois, Meath and Fermanagh to take part in events which included a twelve-hour sleep out at the GPO on Saturday night.

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 Highlight Repression in the Basque Country – Lurgan

Ógra Shinn Féin held a protest in Lurgan town centre last weekend to highlight the ongoing repression in the Basque Country. Last weekend 34 Members of the political youth organisation Segi, were arrested as the Spanish State continued to upscale its efforts to quell the pro-independence movement in the country.

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.”

He continued,

"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