Monday, May 25, 2009

Israel’s Forbidden Words

Pro-Palestine Blogger

Spoke the dreaded words but didn’t accept the principle…yet anyway.

This appears to be the attitude of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after his recent trip to the US.

After being told by President Obama – arguably his new line manager – not to build any more settlements or outposts on Palestinian land, Mr Netanyahu used the dreaded words for the first time… “Palestinian State”.

Well to be clear what he is actually reported to have said is:

“clearly we need to have some reservations about a Palestinian state in a final status agreement... when we reach an agreement on substance, we will reach agreement on terminology".

He went on to point out that any future Palestinian State must not pose any threat to Israel. Quite rich all the same, when Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territories continues.

Strictly obeying President Obama’s instructions he now agrees no more settlements will be built…but on the same day says he will not take measures to control existing settlement growth or stop construction within them. It seems inch by inch occupation will do for now.

Still you can only hope that the Netanyahu Government is sincere when they say they will now remove the illegal outposts in the West Bank. Interestingly the Israeli state acknowledges these settler-built outposts as illegal, yet they have failed to fulfill their 2003 ‘Roadmap’ commitment to remove them.

I notice one was removed this week in Maoz Esther, in the West Bank, following Netanyahu’s trip to meet Obama… Funny that.

Still let’s hope it’s not just a token gesture.
With Obama reiterating his public support for a Palestinian state, there is sure to be pressure building on Netanyahu already. Only in the job from March but for a second period, I can only hope there is a drastic change in Israeli policy to the Palestinians… but with shootings again occurring over the last few days and his previous positions relating to Palestine, this interested individual isn’t holding their breath.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Building a Mass Youth Movement

Eoin O'Broin
First National Organiser
Ógra Shinn Féin

Why build a youth movement? Why be a socialist republican? Why become an activist in Ógra Shinn Féin?

These are important questions whose answers will determine what you do, why you do it, and whether or not you are successful.

When a small group of young Sinn Féin activists created Sinn Féin Youth -as we called it then- in 1997, we had very clear answers to all three questions.

We were republican socialists because partition we were opposed to the status quo and wanted change.

In our view partition is undemocratic and negatively affects the lives of people across the island. It has failed and must end.

Capitalism, the economic system which promotes profit before people, produces inequality, discrimination, and environmental damage, forcing millions of people to live in poverty and without basic human rights. This system has failed and must be replaced.

Sexism, the system which divides our world along lines of sex and gender, relegating women to the status of second class citizens, socially, politically, economically and culturally, is unjust and must be overturned.

And the other forms of discrimination, inequality and denials of democracy which exist in Ireland, Europe and the world today, whether racism or homophobia to name but two, are all barriers to the full development of the human race, and to the realisation of the Irish republican aspiration for a nation founded on principles of liberty, equality and solidarity.

If you accept all of this -as we did when founding Sinn Féin Youth- then the next question is how can we change the world? How can we transform a society based on partition, inequality, and discrimination into one based on liberty, equality and solidarity.

The answer is simply, by building a mass movement of political activists who in every sphere of life agitate for change.

On the streets, across our communities, in our schools and colleges, in the workplace, on the media, in every forum of government, and in every conceivable social space in which people gather, we need a body of radical socialist republicans campaigning for and popularising the demands for change.

The answer is simply, by building a mass movement of political activists who in every sphere of life agitate for change.

On the streets, across our communities, in our schools and colleges, in the workplace, on the media, in every forum of government, and in every conceivable social space in which people gather, we need a body of radical socialist republicans campaigning for and popularising the demands for change.

And within this broader movement we need a youth movement. A coming together of like minded young people who want to play their part in this exciting and challenging process of social, economic, political and cultural transformation.

That youth movement is Ógra Shinn Féin. Does Ógra have all the answers? Clearly not. Has Ógra reached its political potential? Definitely not.

But by working, day by day, to build a large radical popular youth movement, and using that strength to further our republican socialist demands Ógra can play a crucial role in achieving James Connolly's vision of an Ireland, free and at peace - an independent democratic socialist republic.

This is the task facing all Irish republicans today. A task for which a strong, vibrant and radical youth movement can play a leading role.

This was the vision which motivated us to create Sinn Féin Youth in 1997. That is your task today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Inaugral Volunteer Martin Doherty Republican Youth Weekend - Bígí Linn!

A chara,

I am writing to invite you along to the first Vol. Martin Doherty weekend.

To mark IRA Vol. Martin Doherty’s 15th Anniversary, the following events have been organised by Ógra Shinn Féin, the Dublin Republican Commemorations Committee and the Local Finglas Clarke/Smith/Doherty Cumann.


Friday 22 May

6pm: Registration in Sinn Féin Head Office, 44 Parnell Sq, Dublin 1

7:30pm: Memorial Lecture in the Teachers club, 36 Parnell Square, Dublin 1, the Memorial Lecture will be delivered by a leading Republican, comrade and friend of Doco Nicky Kehoe, this talk is solely on Doco the person

Saturday 23 May

On Saturday morning there is a 5 a side football tournament, people or teams interested in playing must contact Tony Duncan on 0863963958 to participate

11am: Republican Walking Tour. Assembling at the An Phoblacht Book Shop Parnell Square

2.30pm: Martin Doherty 15th Anniversary Commemoration is assembling from the Dick McKee memorial, Finglas

5.30pm: Training session on campaigns

9pm: post commemoration function with the Irish Brigade which is being held in Jolly Toper. Taille 10E

Sunday 24 May

11am: Protest for truth and justice regarding the Martin Doherty case at the Department of Justice

12.15am: Youth Canvass

If you are interested in joining us on the weekend require accommodation, we would ask you to please contact me on 0851270603, so that we can book you accommodation.

If you don’t require accommodation you can just join us at one of these events.

Is Mise le Meas,

Michael Farrell Doherty (son of Vol. Martin Doherty.)
Dublin Ógra Shinn Féin

Ógra Shinn Féin On The Run

Ógra Shinn Féin recently took part in the Belfast Marathon Fun Run kitted out in Cystic Fibrosis Trust T-Shirts, raising money for that most vital charity.

Belfast Mayor Tom Hartley opened the Marathon at City Hall.

Of those competing, some fit and others not so fit, we had the youngest MLA, Daithi McKay, and Ireland’s youngest male councillor Johnny McGibbon.

Ógra activists came from as far away as Cork and ‘El Paso’ aka Dundalk in order to get fit and raise money for the worthwhile charity.

Most Ógra activists put a good showing in on the day, with the exception of the National Organiser who was even beaten to the finish line by Eugene Garvey, and two particular Down and Tyrone comrades who spent too much time in the Hatfield the night before so decided to walk and take in the lovely sights of Belfast.

The first 3 to finish where, Daithi McKay, Roisin McGreevy and Liam Lappin respectively. We have left the rest out to spare them their blushes.

Ógra Shinn Féin would like to thank all those who took part in this year’s event, and will be going one further next year with a combination of participants in the Relay, and the Fun Run, but with even some eager activists intending to run the whole thing.
Go raibh mile maith agaibh!
After a thorough investigation and some comments from some ego.. I mean people who felt hard done by in the initial report, we are now publishing the first 3 people who completed the race.
1. Daithi 'The Beard' McKay
2. Liam 'Grey Head' Lappin
3. Eddie 'The Bald Eagle' Gallagher
Roisin McGreevy came in a respectable 4th, although Gemma McKenna has requested a formal inquiry into this obvious gender inequal podium.
And Johnny 'McMandate' McGibbon has informed us that he let everyone beat him in the spirit of true comradeship.. In other words 'bulls***!'.
See you all there next year ;)

Young People Need Their Voices Heard

South Down Ógra Shinn Féin representative Fra Cochrane has said that young people must have their voices heard by getting out to vote in the upcoming European elections.

"I would encourage the young people of South Down to get out an cast their vote in the upcoming election, making sure that they have a voice and a say in the issues that matter to them.”

"Whilst I can appreciate that many young people may feel disillusioned with politics, especially on a European level, I would stress that their are many key decisions taken in the european parliament which will affect them. Whether it’s tackling environmental damage, reducing pollution of waterways, addictions, immigration, poverty and social exclusion or ensuring our food is properly labelled, there are issues which are of concern to us all."

"Sinn Féin are the party of the future and a party for the young people. With an active youth wing in Ógra Shinn Féin and campaigning on issues which affect the youth of today. I would encourage young people to increase our mandate and give us a stronger voice to represent the youth by voting Sinn Féin."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Targeting the Youth Vote in Enniskillen

Ógra Shinn Féin activists organised a youth canvass of Enniskillen last Saturday 16 May, campaigning for Sinn Féin’s Bairbre de Brún MEP in the upcoming EU election on June 4th.

The young republicans targeted the local nationalist estates of Kilmacormick and Cornagrade, and as well as urging the local youth to vote for Sinn Féin, they registered any outstanding people, and also distributed recruitment leaflets.

Speaking on the youth canvass, Ógra Shinn Féin spokesperson Chris Conwell said,

”We received a very good response at the doors, and we engaged with many young people on issues that matter to them, including education, youth facilities, and proper employment. We also ensured that quite a few people where put onto the electoral register and where encouraging young people to play their part by joining Ógra Shinn Féin.”

“Enniskillen has a proud republican history, with its people playing a pivotal role in electing Bobby Sands as MP in 1981. From the response we received on Saturday, we are confident that proud legacy will be continued on June 4 when the electorate, young and old come out to vote Bairbre de Brún in even bigger numbers than before.”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Women in Struggle Interview: Jade Kinsella

Gemma McKenna
Gender Equality Officer
Ógra Shinn Féin

I caught up with 19 year old Waterford Ógra activist Jade Kinsella during the week, to continue the women in struggle series of interviews.

The keen fisherwomen is currently studying biology in WIT, and is politically active on campus and in the local community.

Tell me a bit about your-self:

I am a 19 year old student, currently studying for my higher cert in applied biology.

Where are you from?

I'm from Waterford originally the city, then moved to the county and now living in Gracedieu.

What do you do? (student/occupation) if student what are you studying:

I am a student, studying science in the WIT

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to just relax I seem to be always on the go between college and work. I like to go fishing, meet with my friends, read, and spend time with my family.

How did you get interested in politics?

As far as I can remember I have always had an interest in politics since I was young. My parents were very open with me and helped explain what was going on in the country at all times and translate what the news meant for me.
Were you involved in politics before getting involved in Ógra?


How did you find out or know about Ógra Shinn Fein?

I read a notice in college

Has your interest in politics come your family influence? And How?

I suppose both yes and no. My dad would support Sinn Féin and my mother votes Labour so I had mixed views on politics growing up. In the end I suppose I did my own research, kept up to date with the news and decided for myself.
What would you be doing if you weren’t involved in Ógra?
If I wasn’t involved in Ógra I don’t think much would change, I am always active and on the go, I probably would just have a bit more free time.

What actions have Ógra taken in your area (weekend’s protests etc)

Ógra have protested against the student fees, and have participated in protest with main party Sinn Fein against unemployment.
What do you like most about Ógra Shinn Féin?

Ógra has given me an opportunity to really evaluate the political system today. I have attended talks with Ógra which focus on the economy and I must say have been very informational.
Also Ógra has given me the opportunity to speak the Irish language in a comfortable, relaxed environment. I love speaking Irish and would definitely consider that I have much to learn before holding good conversations but I now have the opportunity to do that over a quite drink and a social chat.

Have you any major achievements within Ógra or things that you will remember for a long time to come?

Within Ogra I can say that I haven’t achieved anything major as of yet. However I am determined, and was the first female to represent Ireland Internationally in angling so you never knows what’s in store for the future.
Why do you think it is important for young people to get involved in politics?
It’s important for young people to get involved in politics because we are the future of the country. And in order to achieve a government that has the best interest of the people at heart one needs to learn how politics works from a young age, and can be given the ability and confidence to speak up against systems that do not benefit people.

Politics not only gives people the information they need to make informative discussions such as when voting but also gives one a voice.

What do you think are the major pressing issues for young people?

Currently as a student myself the proposed fees are a big issue at the moment, for many students are worried that they won’t be able to afford to return to college, or that they will have to put the burden of loans on themselves or their immediate families which will lead to long term debt.
Quick fire Round
Favourite Food: Prawns
Favourite Drink: Orange Juice

Favourite Music / Artist: Christy Moore/ Traditional Irish

Favourite songs: Do not stand at my grave and weep, Ordinary Man

Favourite Films: PS. I love you
Favourite Book: Pride & Prejudice

Favourite Holiday resort: Australia

Person most influential in your life: Dad
Person you would like to meet (living): Gerry Adams
Person you would like to meet (deceased): Michael Collins

If you were president of Ireland or Taoiseach what 3 things would you do to change Ireland?

The Health system, there is too many waiting lists for simple procedures, tests. The health system is not efficient enough, and needs and a lot more funding.

Unemployment: It would be an objective of mine that all people that have the ability to work, are given the opportunity to freely educate themselves and have the chance to work.

Tackle social issues like homelessness, drinking problems, drugs, anti social behavior.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Na Fianna Éireann Online Commemorative Project

As this is the 100th Anniversary of Na Fianna Éireann, the modern day Republican Youth Movement Ógra Shinn Féin have undertaken a project to remember all those Fians who lost their lives in pursuit of Irish Freedom.From Na Fianna's establishment in 1909 until its end in 1992, 44 Fians paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Throughout the year Ógra Shinn Féin will be producing small videos on YouTube on each of the Fian on the Roll of Honour. We are currently traveling Ireland into the areas where the Fian where killed, and conducting interviews with young Republicans in those areas, about the life and lasting inspirational legacy of the fallen Fians.

While other initiatives like booklets, murals, public talks, marches, plays, commemorative dinners and much more will be organised through the 100th Anniversary, this particular remembrance project is geared towards the ever increasing number of young people who use the internet and especially YouTube.

We want to make the history of Na Fianna, and the Fian patriot dead as accessible as possible so that another generation of Irish young people can be inspired by their sacrifice to continue on Ireland's freedom struggle and bring it to a successful conclusion.

This is the first in a series of short films that will be uploaded throughout the year.

The first film deals with the Fianna roll of honour from the most recent phase of the conflict, from 1969 until the last Fian John Dempsey died in 1981.

Please help us in promoting the legacy of Na Fianna Éireann by uploading these short films onto the various social networks and emailing to all contacts.

Béirigi bua!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Protest against Basques' extraditions in Belfast

40 people protested against Spanish political persecution of Basques.

Yesterday afternoon a hearing on the extradition case against Belfast-based Basque pro-independence activist Arturo "Benat" Villanueva was held in the Laganside Court in Belfast. Benat was arrested on the 22nd of April by the PSNI at his home in west Belfast after a European arrest warrant had been issued against him by the Spanish National Court (Diplock Court).

He's been charged with "membership of terrorist organization" because of his political work in the Basque pro-independence youth movement. The Basque youth organizations Jarrai, Haika and Segi were declared "terrorist" by the Spanish Supreme Court in 2007.

At the hearing Benat's solicitors raised their concerns surrounding the breach of the retrospectivity principle. The barrister said he thought he could proof in this case there is a clear persecution of his defendant's political ideas. Benat has been acussed of being a member of the Basque pro-independence and socialist political organization Jarrai from 1994 to 2000 while the mentioned organization was declared illegal in 2005 and terrorist in 2007.

The 12th of June was set by the judge as the date to present a defence skeleton argument. Meanwhile Benat will remain under the same bail conditions: curfew from 9pm to 7am and presenting himself every day at police barracks.

40 people held a picket outside the court buildings with a banner on which this slogan could be read:

"Stop political Spanish political persecution against the Basque Country. Don't extradite the Basques."

A public meeting to launch the campaign against Benat and also Belfast-based Basque pro-independence activist Inaki de Juana will be launched on Thursday 14th of May at 6pm in An Chultúrlann, Falls Road, Belfast.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Don't Extradite the Basque's Protest - Bígí Linn!

Two Belfast-based Basque citizens, Iñaki de Juana and Arturo 'Beñat' Villanueva, are facing extradition to Spain because of their political pro-independence ideas.

Please come and support them on Wednesday 13th of May at 9.45am at Laganside Court buildings, Belfast.

On Thursday 14th of May at 6pm a public meeting will be held in An Chultúrlann to set a campaign against the extraditions.

Stop Spanish political persecution against the Basque Country!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

To be a student and not a revolutionary is a contradiction

Mick Reynolds
Ógra Shinn Féin

“To be a student and not a revolutionary is a contradiction” – Salvador Allende

The words of the Chilean leader Salvador Alende may not hold much relevance to the ordinary student in Ireland in the 21st century.

However, at it’s basic level this statement does tie in with the ideal of what a student should aspire to: to question the norms of society, to challenge, to debate, to get involved in wider society and explore and develop your opinions.

These ideals become especially important with regard to the current economic climate and mishandling of the economy by successive governments on this island. Last December, Ogra Activists gathered together in the Rebel County to launch the Educate To Be Free Campaign, dedicated to pursuing the ideals of a fair and equitable education system for all who aspire towards it.

But whilst acknowledging the need and benefits for a campaign like Educate To Be Free and the work it has done, it is also important to reflect on the conditions which have necessitated its creation. The main impetus for the establishment of this year’s national campaign was the announcement in September by the Education Minister Bat O’ Keefe that third level fees, graduate tax, and an increase in the registration fee were all in the pipeline over the months ahead.

This announcement sent shockwaves through the student population, but the supposed leaders and defenders of student rights, U.S.I, were either unwilling to or constricted by their positions to take the actions necessary to tackle the issue head on. A cursory glance at the potential damage that the re introduction of fees could cause beings up horror scenarios.

A levy of 5000 Euro is the proposed aim of the government will price thousands of families out of education. The government would like to portray the proposed re introduction of fees as a tax on rich post graduates who supposedly can afford to pay it. The fact of the matter is that education should be free for rich or poor, and the proposed re introduction would primarily affect those families of a lower income.

Parents will be forced to budget for one child going to college whilst another is deprived the right to further education.

It surely ranks amongst the most heinous mis deeds of a government on this island that despite a decade of unprecedented economic growth, Irish families will soon face a situation where the aspirations of their children are equitable to factors that lie out of their control.

It is not unfeasible that vast areas of the country could become unemployment blackspots with the knock on effect of families being deprived of proper education. 21st Century Ireland is already massively over dependent on private education and even a small increase in the student registration fee would price thousands of students out of a viable opportunity to further their education.

As with seemingly every cutback that the Fianna Fail - Green government makes, it will be the most vulnerable who suffer most, as special needs services and small class sizes will be cut straight away.

My own university UCD has so called executive vice presidents who are on exorbitant wages for essentially chairing board meetings, one of whom has the title of “Executive in charge of Innovation”. As far as I can see, colleges on this island are still being dominated by elite cadres whose shadiness and lack of transparency are just a smokescreen for pure unbridled greed.

I’m not saying that the education system in Ireland is acceptable as it is, like everything under this government it is laden with inequality and cronyism, and though the government tries to paper over the cracks, the proposed re introduction of fees shows just how disastrous the whole system could become if we don’t fight for a fairer system with direct action.

For me, direct action is as word that is bandied about too much with no real definition. Is direct action something other than sitting round a room talking, doing a letter writing campaign or holding up placards outside a building? Or is it engaging in civil disobedience and breaking the rules of law in order to advance our cause?.

There will always be people who fall on either division of how best to deal with the problem of Fees and other inequalities within the education system, and it is only be working together with other organisations dedicating to fighting fees that we have a chance of initiating real change on this island.

It is not for us to explain why the government dropped the ball within the education system or to reconcile differences with them. We are not apologists for the incompetence and corruption that pervades politics in modern day Ireland, and we should be prepared to take any and all means necessary to ensure that there is a just and unbiased education system for all people in Ireland today. This is why student activism is so important in contemporary Ireland, at a time when there is so much to be uncertain about and so much to be questioned.

There is something of a resistance from wider society and students in general to see young people as a group that can exert real power and push their own agenda in Ireland. Perhaps because young people across Ireland are so divided across many different universities in all corners of the island there is something of a difficulty in realizing that regardless of what avenue young people are pursuing in life, they have the power to exert real change on this country.

It is clear that there is a sizeable majority of students who are opposed to any attempts to hike the registration fee or introduce third level tuition fees. Whilst this issue is obviously a very worrying and imperative problem that will affect students, it also gives the student movement in Ireland its greatest chance to present their agenda to the ruling elite for many years.

The problems which students have faced over the last couple of years have largely been localisized and as such do not turn into relevant nationwide campaigns. The Fees issue is something which will have an impact on every student or prospective student in Ireland, and gives students a chance to build a national campaign that will work towards increasing the power of students to affect change and develop a campaign that gets media recognition and the support of the people of Ireland and politicians.

But student activism cannot stop at protesting and national demonstrations. Students need to contribute their ideas and take part in localized campaigns in and around their campus and community, and the Educate To Be Free campaign can facilitate this.Ogra Shinn Fein are one of the main movements mandated and to be relied upon by students to take a direct message to the government that we are not going to sit back and accept the education system as it stands to persist in modern day Ireland.

But we are still a growing organisation, and we need to boost our numbers and engage in more direct action that gets media attention, and we cannot do this without student support.
We have a job of work to do, but provided we don’t get sidetracked, and provided we gain the support of the ordinary students, this is a battle we can win. So participate in the debate today and join a movement that won’t accept a two tier education system.

“Everything for Everyone – Nothing for Ourselves!”

Ógra Shinn Féin activist Gary McClean recently spent 3 months as a volunteer worker in Autonomous Rebel Zapatista Territory (Chiapas, Mexico) and reflects on events and progress there:

Since the insurrection of January 1994, the Zapatista movement has been relentless in its resistance to neoliberal economics and government oppression and has been actively working towards building a fairer and more inclusive society for the traditionally marginalised and exploited indigenous populations of Mexico.

(Civilian Government in Oventik)

Many indigenous communities in Chiapas have been transformed by the events of the past decade and a half and have emerged with a new form of social organisation based on participatory democracy and a new set of just and fair economic relations.Although poverty and malnutrition remain relatively high in Chiapas , with many still lacking basic necessities, it is clear to see how these communities have become organised in order to build themselves out of poverty.

One incredibly successful example has been the development of organic coffee cooperatives, which uses environmentally sustainable cultivation techniques in order to produce a high quality product, which then serves as a source of income for many campesinos.

(Women's Co-Op)
Another inspiring case has been the establishment of women’s clothing cooperatives. When I met with one such cooperative they explained to me how this had changed their lives...

“Before [the uprising], there was very little work for women to do except work around the house. One of the things the Zapatistas did was to organise women’s cooperatives which gave women an opportunity to develop skills in trades and the cooperative provided a means to purchase materials and an outlet to sell the products.”
Such progress has been occurring despite a perfidious campaign by the Mexican government and its ideological allies to undermine the entire process. Fearful of the Zapatistas’ autonomy, their economic reorganisation and experimentations with real participatory democracy, the government and armed forces have been engaged in an ongoing war against these communities.

Tactics have involved arming and training paramilitary forces whose efforts in harassment, intimidation and violence have resulted in many deaths and massacres, such as that of Acteal in 1997. The government has also been seeking to fuel division and conflict within the indigenous populations and the tensions this creates threatens a further escalation of violence.
Despite paramilitary intimidation and a racist vilifying propaganda campaign, the Zapatista’s have been unswerving in their efforts to develop autonomous and democratic institutions.

As a result of centuries of economic exploitation, isolation from decision-making and cultural oppression, the Zapatista movement was born.
Today, as in 1994, demands for democracy, liberty, justice and peace continue to characterise and guide the Zapatistas in their campaign to reorganise society in order to better the livelihoods of a long forgotten people.
(Constructing a new school in a Zapatista Community)

Placed within a wider context, the Zapatista movement has been observed by many sympathisers as a symbol of a much larger resistance to globalisation and neoliberal hegemony.

The international publicity and solidarity that has been attracted by the Zapatistas has played a key role in putting much-needed pressure on the Mexican government to refrain from launching an all-out war to eliminate this movement and its popularly-supported social programmes.

Although one effect of this has been to push the war deeper underground and is now reflected mainly through paramilitary violence, the positive impact of international solidarity and support is undoubtedly apparent.

A movement such as ours has much to learn from the Zapatistas and shouldbe doing everything it can to be a part of this network of international solidarity. We must support the Zapatistas, their cause and their demands, since this also is our cause and these are our demands…

“Work, land, housing, food, health care, education, independence,freedom, democracy, justice and peace.”
First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle – Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).

Bobby Sands Lecture 2009 dedicated to Irish Republican Youth

DELIVERING the annual Bobby Sands Memorial Lecture at Cumann na Meirleach in Belfast, ‘Countess Markievicz and the 100th anniversary of Na Fianna Éireann’, Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún dedicated her speech to republican youth.

YOUNG PEOPLE have been at the vanguard of the republican struggle since its inception so it is with great pride that I dedicate this year’s Bobby Sands Memorial Lecture to Na Fianna Éireann.

As a woman involved in politics myself, I would like to say a few words about their founder, Constance Markievicz – someone who continues to be an inspiration to me and to countless other republicans today. Here was a woman who came from a life of privilege yet dedicated herself to those less-well-off and to the cause of Ireland.

Whether it was as second in command at St Stephen’s Green during the Easter Rising or providing food for workers’ families during the 1913 Dublin Lock-Out, she always led from the front.

Countess Markievicz saw that the shared history of Ireland was something that the Anglo-Irish of her class could also embrace. She went beyond the norms of her day in other ways, embracing the interests of the less-powerful of that society, including organised labour and women of all social classes. Her politics transcended gender, just as they transcended class and creed. It is not surprising then that she also recognised the potential of young people to play an important role.

This year we mark the centenary of the Fianna’s creation by Constance Markievicz and Bulmer Hobson. They named this new organisation in honour of Fionn mac Cumhaill’s warrior poets of Irish folklore. The ancient Fianna were renowned not just for their skills as warriors but for their talents at poetry, the arts, their guile, and their love of humour and song. They were noble through their actions and deeds, not by birth or title.

It was certainly quite a legacy for the young people of Na Fianna Éireann to uphold in 1909. But uphold it they did. They played active and crucial roles throughout the subsequent century of struggle.

They served in the Easter Rising, the Tan War, the Civil War and the most recent IRA campaign, and they conducted themselves with the kind of courage and commitment for which their legendary namesakes are famed in the annals of Irish mythology. Many of them lost their lives while countless others were to spend years in a prison cell.

Indeed, many of those at the forefront of the great national movements over the years were very young, very idealistic and, like those who have led the movement for change in more recent years, were motivated not by hatred or in the hope of personal gain but by the fact that they saw great wrongs around them and wanted to put them right. We need to recognise that this doesn’t just apply to past history. Young people can and do take on roles of responsibility in republican politics today and we need more young people to join in these tasks.


I want to pay tribute to that modern generation of young people. I am delighted to see so many of you here tonight. We see that same steadfastness, enthusiasm and commitment in the young people in Ógra Shinn Féin, in the Sinn Féin cumainn in the colleges, and not least in our local councillor Charlene O’Hara, who is a really good example of the bright, active and committed young Irish republicans we have today, and I salute you all.

Bobby Sands was just 19 when he first went to jail. At the age of 25, he was sentenced again. This time he would never taste freedom again. Like the Fianna of folklore and the Fianna of the past century, Bobby Sands and his comrades in Long Kesh and Armagh Jail were little more than children when they took on the might of their oppressor.

For five years they endured the horrors of the Blanket and No-Wash protests. They withstood the torture and degradation of a system which sought to crush the freedom struggle by brutalising naked and defenceless young men and women. But it was the system itself which would ultimately perish in the tombs of Long Kesh.

Bobby Sands and his comrades may have lost their lives but their spirit lives on. It is here in this room. It is here in the hearts of the young people who are carrying on the struggle for which they died, in a new way befitting the new times which republicans have brought about.
By contrast, it is Britain’s attempts to demonise, criminalise and defeat our struggle that today lie buried in the rubble of Long Kesh.

The Sunday Times newspaper last month tried to call into question the republican leadership’s handling of the Hunger Strike with lurid, misleading headlines in the paper when it published British Government documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Yet when you read the British Government documents they published, these actually corroborate the account of what happened at the time by Brendan McFarlane, by the surviving Hunger Strikers, by Sinn Féin, and indeed by the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace.
There were negotiations, there was an offer (in fact a number of different offers) but as the British refused to sign anything or give a public commitment to move before the Hunger Strike ended there was no ‘deal’. Due to the way the British Government had acted in the wake of the first Hunger Strike it was inconceivable for the Hunger Strikers to end their fast without some form of public guarantee.

The timeline published by the Bobby Sands Trust also shows that the British Government refused to meet the Hunger Strikers and stand over their offer.

In song and poetry, in film, art and commemoration, the 1981 Hunger Strikers live on and continue to inspire new generations of Irish republicans. And what of Margaret Thatcher? Is she remembered for bravery and sacrifice? Is she remembered for her contribution to freedom and liberty? Does her memory inspire younger generations to work for a better world? I think not.
She will be remembered for intransigence, brutality and a refusal to act honestly and honourably.

The Hunger Strike is already regarded as a watershed in our history and I have no doubt that, in the fullness of time, it will come to be seen as a pivotal point on our long march to freedom.
The struggle and the sacrifice of Bobby Sands and of his comrades continue to sustain republicans the length and breadth of Ireland today. What has changed is the context and the means by which that struggle is carried out.

Tá cosán síochánta agus daonlathach ann anois chun Éire a aontú. Tá an saol anseo in Éirinn athraithe mar gheall ar próiseas na síochána agus mar gheall ar sár-oibre Poblachtánaithe. Chruthaigh poblachtaigh na deiseanna seo trína bheith straitéiseach, dírithe agus trí araíonacht. Tá gá leis an fhócas céanna arís anois.


We have come a great distance. We have changed relationships on this island and changed them forever. We have opened up a peaceful and democratic path to a united Ireland. We have ended the old ways of the Orange state. There is no going back to the days of domination and discrimination.

I would appeal to young republicans not to be swayed by the rhetoric of micro-groups who seem intent on pursuing war for war’s sake. Armed struggle is not a philosophy or ideology in itself. It is a decision of last resort and something that can only be justified when there is no other avenue. It has to have a moral basis. It has to be understood and supported by huge numbers of those who are being oppressed.

That last point is one which Bobby Sands dealt directly with himself when reflecting on his life as an IRA Volunteer.

“The people stood by us,” he wrote. “The people not only opened the doors of their homes to lend us a hand but they opened their hearts to us. I learned that without the people we could not survive and I knew that I owed them everything.”

While I accept that there are some unionists and also some who would aspire to Irish unity who have difficulties with where we are, the reality is that the popular will is to move forward. And the reality is that our struggle is the only struggle which is going to deliver Irish unity and freedom and I would urge everyone to get involved.Again, as Bobby Sands said:

“Everyone, republican or otherwise, has their own particular part to play. No part is too great or too small; no one is too old or too young to do something.”

Táimid níos daingnithe ná riamh chun Poblacht na hÉireann a bhaint amach. Ní raibh muid riamh níos cóngaraí do lá na saoirse. Ach is iomaí dúshlán romhainn a mbeidh orainn tabhairt fúthu.

The union has been hollowed out and an increasingly confident nationalist and republican community are taking co-ownership of every aspect of political, civic and social life. But if we are ever to pay a truly fitting tribute to Bobby Sands, to the Fianna, and to all those who sacrificed so much for Irish freedom, then we have to build on that progress and complete the task at hand.


Over the coming weeks, there are a number of elections that will soon be upon us – European elections across this island and across Europe, and local government elections in the 26 Counties. There are also a number of ongoing justice and equality campaigns. And, both here and abroad, Sinn Féin is building a vibrant and dynamic campaign for a united Ireland. The national dialogue that kick-starts that campaign has already begun.

So, as you take the campaign trail to the streets of our towns and the highways and byways of our countryside, take with you the message that the conditions for achieving a united Ireland are stronger now than they have been for generations.

I know that the daily grind of working and building within communities, of organising and campaigning, can all be challenging. At times, it may even be difficult to see how your efforts fit into the bigger picture.

But that’s not how Bobby Sands saw it. Bobby Sands understood better – and earlier – than most the critical importance of campaigning and working on behalf of people. After he was released from his first prison sentence, Bobby threw himself into community activism in Twinbrook, bringing to the task all his legendary energy and enthusiasm.
When Bobby was knocking on doors in Twinbrook and agitating and organising on behalf of people, he was creating the template for the Sinn Féin activists of today.
So when you take to the campaign trail, when you apply yourself to the work of the struggle, always remember whose example you are following.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The future of the Unionist identity.

Funny how something innocuous can get you thinking. The following is a pretty run of the mill piece on the broader economic picture in the north.
At About 2.25- 2.40 in to the clip UUP MLA David McNarry notes the failure of the finance minister to fight harder to keep hold of funds allocated by Westminster. What he says in revealing, in a subtle way. ‘Look at the great contrast between the welsh assembly and the Scottish executive’s reaction…… they are angry at the penalties their countries are going to be affected by.’
It got me thinking, does Mr McNarry equate the north with a separate country? What then is Britain? What is his country?

The launch of a new book by Robert Ramsay, reviewed here by Eamon McCann also examines how modern day unionism identifies itself.

Ramsay was a senior civil servant during the hey-day of the orange state in the mid sixties, and he now feels that Unionism has become outmoded, and old fashioned. One only has to look at the Orange Order to see his point. Rather, he sees Europe as the future for Ulster unionism. He states ‘To me, the most important aspect of the development of the Ulster Scots identity is that it would take (unionism) out of the internationally damaging context of religious division, into one which is not only understandable, but is even fashionably in harmony with the zeitgeist of today’s European Union.’

He believes that the ‘Ulster Scottish’ culture would fit in well as a minority culture within a European context, emphasising, apparently, their cultural differences with the British as well as their differences with the population of this island. Leaving the merits or demerits of this argument aside, that he considers it to be an Ulster Scottish identity is curious.

The Ulster Scots identity seems to be a new weapon in the inventory of unionism. The last 130 odd years unionism has been telling us that Ireland, and subsequently the north, were indivisible from Britain. For the last 90, they have been telling us they were British (never mind that the British themselves didn’t quite see it that way, note the Act of Union of Great Britain and northern Ireland).
So now they are Ulster Scottish.
And British.
And maybe Irish as well, depending on who you ask.

The Unionist Identity was probably always a frail thing. Indeed in reality it was an invention to attempt to defeat home rule. There was no organised unionist party until the late 19th century, and even then, there was no question of Ulster Unionism. The union was to be preserved in its entirety. However as William Gladstone supported the Irish party’s request for Home Rule, the conservatives, whipped up a sectarian frenzy in the north of Ireland, with Randolph Churchill claiming Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right, and others still claiming Home Rule is Rome Rule.(The irony of Laudabiliter , surely lost on them)

In the short term, the campaign was successful, home rule was defeated, three times in fact. But the conservatives had created a monster which survived the partial independence granted in 1921, a great edifice, an identity that purported to be more British than the British themselves, and one that equated the catholic population as a grave threat to their existence.

But then it was an identity that demanded paranoia anyway. And the fact is that as much as they distrusted the nationalist population of Ireland, it was matched by their distrust for those in the British government. Fuelled by a constant belief that the final treachery of Westminster was just around the corner.
The idea of an Ulsters Scots identity is interesting in itself. It implies an independent heritage from Britain, separateness. Perhaps this is a new Europhile version of Ulster nationalism, as advocated by some in the vanguard party and by the Ulster British dominion party. Indeed, much of the ideology of various loyalist groups has been tied in with a vague idea of a ‘Free Ulster’ and so on. At present they remain very much wedded to an idea of a ‘British Ulster’, but who knows what shape this could take in time to come, though embracing the idea of Europe would indeed be a battle in itself.

So what relevance does this have to us? Ultimately the creation of a united Ireland, and not just united in name but united in reality, depends on removing the great fear and paranoia inherent in the unionist identity, and deconstructing the attachment to a barely interested Britain. It is possible to persuade the unionist community that there is as much, and probably more room, within an Irish republic for a broad northern protestant identity as within a British Kingdom. And this will be our task in the next 5 10, 20 years, and more. And the fact is, the unionist community is in many ways a broken population. Distrustful of those to whom it pledges it allegiance, betrayed by their political leaders for generations. They are desperately seeking an identity and a vision for themselves that can give them peace of mind and some semblance of real nationhood. Why not Irishness?To quote Gerry Adams ‘Republicans and democrats believe that the union with Britain is a nonsense, even in these more enlightened times. Under the union, unionists make up fewer that 2% of the Kingdom. They would constitute 20% of the New Republic. They would be citizens, not mere subjects. They would have rights, not concessions. They would belong. They would be welcome. We have to persuade them of that. So too does the Irish government.’

Remember our Prisoners

Dave Barry
MacCurtain/Doherty Cumann

As many of you know already we still have political hostages throughout the 32 counties of this Island. The month of December is always a month of action for those still incarcerated in the gaols, once the month finishes some people forget about the POWs, the POWs should never be forgotten throughout the rest of the year. As I know well myself it is impossible to campaign every single day of the week and other things do crop up, be they personal or, take for example the local elections here in the 26 counties and the European elections.

One small thing you can do is write a letter or send a card to any of our POWs. These not only boost morale but also let our prisoners know they are not forgotten about. Below is a list of the POWs still incarcerated, the prison they're in, and the prison addresses. If anybody has any queries or any matters relating to the political prisoners you can email me at or 00353872630891.

Beir Bua

Don Bullman
E2 Landing,
Portlaoise Gaol,
Co. Laois
Release Date: March 2010
Birthday: August 6th

Kevin Walsh + Pearse McAuley
Castlerea Prison,
Co. Roscommon
Release date(s): August 2009

Kevin: April 6th
Pearse: November 9th

Duncan McCrory + Tommy Tolan
Maghaberry Prison,
Old Road,
Upper Ballinderry,