Monday, January 25, 2010

The battle for the ideological heart of the Union of Students in Ireland

Originally printed in an Phoblacht.

Seán Ó Sé

Cathaoirleach, UCC Martin Hurson Cumann
Oifigeach Gaeilge,
UCC Students’ Union

THERE’S a misconception that all students must harbour some revolutionary idealism. This is easy to understand when you look back at history.
The first revolutionaries against the rule of the Czar in Russia emerged from the country’s universities.

Irish universities such as University College Cork were very wary of debating societies in the 19th century because they believed that they would be a hotbed for Fenian activity. Similarly, many of the leaders of the Cuban revolution were radicalised during their college days. However, apathy seems to be the most prevalent political thought amongst today’s students.
Unfortunately, many young people are turned off politics when they look at the actions of Fianna Fáil and the tribunals. Young people have been turned off by the politics of the Progressive Democrats, who sold the country away to big business.

Who could blame students for their apathy when they see the Green Party selling out on all their ideals in order to get into power? The political elite has not set a good example for the youth of the country.
The most political contact that the average student would have is with their students’ union.
Students’ unions are an integral part of nearly every campus in the country. They provide services and campaign on issues that affect the student body. They are also very effective in bargaining with college authorities to make life easier for the students that they represent.
Some students’ unions have become invaluable to students who have borne the brunt of the economic decline, especially students from working-class backgrounds who have found it hard to pay their way through third-level education.

The national body representing student interests is the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). This is the organisation that is supposed to fully represent the interests of students at a national level. Apart from in a small number of third-level institutions, most third-level students are represented by USI. It operates in the same manner as any other union, with an annual membership fee, a national congress that decides policy and the direction of the organisation, and a full-time officer board that is in charge of the day-to-day running of the union.
USI was founded in 1959, at a time when the world was changing radically. Post-war Europe had brought many new ideas into a country that was still stuck in the world of the 1930s. The aim of the organisation was to educate students as to their rights and to fight for better conditions for the student population. It was an era when very few went on to third-level education and those who were lucky enough to make it often fell on hard times, especially those who were funded by a scholarship or a grant. USI emerged at a time when many things were changing and Ireland began opening up to the world. It was also a time when student activism was perhaps at its greatest.
Those who involved themselves in student politics in that era took part in protests against the Vietnam War and got involved in such local issues as the Dublin Housing Action Committee. Many young republicans, such as members of the Republican Club in University College Dublin, became actively involved in these campaigns and in student politics.

During the early days of USI there was no problem in organising students to take to the streets in their thousands in order to campaign on the pertinent issues of the time. So why do we not see weekly student protests on the streets of Dublin or the other cities around the country today?
A major problem is with those who become involved in the body. USI has produced many public figures of Ireland today. Joe Duffy of RTÉ and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore are both former presidents of the union. Young careerists in Ireland’s third-level institutions see USI as a means of furthering their own career prospects.

While they may be joining a union, they do not operate within USI like traditional union organisers. This is perhaps one of the biggest debates that takes place within USI. Some of its members believe that USI should be run like a representative body that lobbies for students and that its only concern should be the student population. These are the same people who, once their student life is over, will become part of groups such as IBEC and lobby only for the interests of big business and profit.
The other side of USI is the traditional student radical. These are people who see the bigger picture. At a heated debate at the 2009 USI National Congress on the issue of affiliation with the Unite trade union, one emotive speaker summed it up when he declared: “This is a battle for the ideological heart of USI.”

While these two directly-opposed viewpoints exist within the body, it is easy to understand how USI finds it hard to achieve its aims.
There is still a lot of good work done within USI. The campaign against the reintroduction of third-level fees was without doubt a major influence on the Programme for Government, which put fees on hold. USI also runs other very important campaigns tackling issues such as sexual health and equality. However, if USI is to be a progressive force in this country it needs to decide whether it is a union or not and come out and join with workers and the unemployed and be a force for change.

Government to target low paid workers...... again

Mark Ó' Maoldomhnaigh
National PRO

Ógra Shinn Féin

Low paid and minimum wage workers are again in the firing line in the south following the announcement by the junior Minister for Labour Affairs, Dara Calleary, that he is to ammend the Industrial Relations Bill to include a "get out" clause which will allow companies in the hotel, catering and retail sector to claim an "inability to pay" the minimum wage.

Ógra Shinn Féin completley opposes any move to reduce the minimum wage. Such an action would affect the most vulnerable in society by allowing them to be exploited by employers. A decision to allow businesses to pay under the minimum wage will also greatly impact on young people and students, many of whom take part-time jobs in the catering, fast-food and retail sectors to help them through third-level education.

Pat Lynch of the Quick Service Food Alliance which represents fast-food outlets such as McDonalds, Supermacs and Subway said he estimated that 70% of the companies he represents would apply for an exemption claiming that food outlets have been put under "huge strain" due to the recession.

This is at odds with the official figures which show that fast-food businesses actually gain in times of economic recession. McDonalds for example, had profits of $1.22 Billion in the last 3 months of 2009, up 23% on the same period for 2008, while Supermacs had a four fold increase in profits last year.

The reality is that were such a clause to be brought in, it would undoubtedly be abused by companies to increase their profit margins. Once again Fianna Fáil has shown itself as a party for the rich who are not concerned at the effects such drastic legislation would have on the working class people of this country.

Fianna Fáil need to realise that the solution to the current economic crisis will be found in a national job creation strategy, investment in renewable industries and improvement of our national infrastructure - the solution to the financial crisis will not be found through job losses and wage cuts.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ógra Shinn Féin Lead Commemoration for Charlie ‘Cha’ Love

Republicans gathered in Strabane on Sunday 24th January to commemorate Charlie ‘Cha’ Love.

Charlie was 16 years old when he was killed in a tragic accident in Derry during the Bloody Sunday commemoration of January 1990. It was a tragedy that sent shockwaves through the Republican movement and the wider Strabane community.

Charlie was a committed political activist, member of Republican youth, and unwavering supporter of Sinn Féin and the IRA’s armed campaign. The kind of political activity that Republican Youth were involved in at the time resembled the work carried out by the present day Republican youth movement, Ógra Shinn Féin.

Even everyday tasks that young Charlie would have been involved in at this time such as erecting flags for commemorations, attracted the hostile attention of the British army and RUC. Charlie and his young comrades would have been constantly harassed for carrying out their political work, yet he remained a proud, unbowed and committed young republican.

A large crowd, led by an Ógra Shinn Fein Colour Party, made its way from Drumrallagh Estate to Townsend Street. The location of the monument is situated on the site where the Love family home used to stand. A statement was read on behalf the Love family by Paddy Jack and Bloody Sunday Representative Tony Doherty sent solidarity greetings from the Bloody Sunday Committee.

Speaking after the event, Strabane Ógra Shinn Féin activist Patrick Breslin said,

“Ógra Shinn Féin were extremely proud and honored to lead the commemoration for this brave and selfless young republican. It was great to see so many people, particularly young people come out to remember Cha today. Those in attendance were from all walks of life, some were close friends and comrades of Cha, others never knew him and some weren’t even born at the time of his death.”

“All those gathered had one thing in common, they where there to stand in solidarity with the Love family in their ongoing loss, and because they shared Cha’s desire for Irish freedom. Whilst the monument serves to remember Cha and the sacrifices he paid, the only fitting tribute we can truly pay to him is achieving Irish freedom and the establishment of a Republic as outlined in the proclamation. We in Ógra Shinn Fein will play our part, to ensure these national rights are realized.”

Friday, January 22, 2010

Unionist Unity?

Michael Grey
Padraig Pearse Ógra Shinn Féin
South Down

Not for the first time the political leadership of the North’s two main Unionist factions have once again risen the ghost of Unionist unity. Previous occasions have included the notorious Unionist Worker’s Strike of the 1970s and the Unionist voting pact that followed the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. There is a fantastic book I remember reading called ‘How To Get Anyone To Do Anything - And Never Be Unsuccessful Again’. The book is aimed at business people and spends most of its time talking about body language and how to manipulate it to your own advantage (One section of how to shake hands was especially impressive).

Another interesting point was focused on how to get work colleagues united, focussed and diligent employees. The trick was to create or centre focus upon an outside enemy. This in turn would draw attention away from internal disagreements and focus everyone towards the real enemy on the outside.

Sinn Féin

For Unionists that enemy is us, and our continued growth and expansion in the Six Counties. Unionism is facing a nightmare: Unionist division + united Nationalism = Sinn Féin as the largest party in the North, a massive physiological blow for them, a moral boast for us. Of course we know that power wise there is no difference between the status of ‘First Minister’ and ‘Deputy First Minister’ they are both equal. But Unionists don’t think like that. All Unionism sees is the real possibility of Sinn Féin, a proud Irish Republican party dedicated to the ending of partition, emerging as the largest party in the North - think of the headlines and symbolism. Think of Unionism at the last European election...


Assuming that this happens and I suspect it might, raising the flag of Unionist unity is a stroke of genius by Peter Robinson, this is the torpedo that will blow Jim Allister and the TUV out of the water. By sidelining Allister and creating a pact with their less bitter rivals the Ulster Unionists. (coupled with the Sinn Féin ‘boogie man’) the DUP hope they can draw Unionist attention away from Iris, Peter and their finances, as well as dealing Allister a bitter blow. If the TUV fail to perform in this Westminster election, it will severely weaken them and may allow the DUP breathing space to rally and finish them off.

Electoral Implications
But there is another side to this, Unionist Unity has never worked, had it, we would only have one Unionist party in opposition to us. This is a cry of desperation, Unionist unity is a smokescreen for weakness. The DUP are in trouble, The TUV and Ulster Unionists are on the rise, a split in the Unionist vote would not only see Republicans and Nationalists hold onto their current number of seats, but it also opens up the possibility of two more gains at MP level. North Belfast and Upper Bann, thanks to demographic changes, these constituencies but in particular North Belfast are on the verge of becoming Nationalist majority.

Image of the 1983 Westminster election results

Few people realise that at the last Assembly election Sinn Féin gained two seats at the expense of Unionism, South Antrim and West Belfast. Even fewer people realise that Sinn Féin came within a whisper of gaining a second seat in Upper Bann. Add this to the SDLP seat and Upper Bann changes from a Unionist majority constituency to one that is even. Furthermore in South Down it was a tussle to see if Sinn Féin, the SDLP or UUP would take the final seat, Unionism will not hold onto that seat come the next election, leaving them with one out of six.

In Addition according to the SDLP, they could make gains (at Assembly level) in East Antrim and Strangford, both at the expense of Unionism. The potential a chairde, is a Republican/nationalist gain of 5 assembly (or even six) seats in a 10 year period. Imagine the implications if, at the next Assembly election Unionism was divided three ways. Not only would these combined gains be made, but the potential is there for more.

It is for these exact reasons why the leadership of the UUP and DUP have decided to flaunt ‘Unionist unity’ once again. Unionists have resorted to old habits and will use fear to mobilise their supporters. The possibility of a snap Assembly election also filters into this. Robinson and Co. know that if Sinn Féin walk over DUP procrastination over policing and justice, the DUP will be slaughtered at the polls by Allister, that is unless, they can agree on a Unionist pact. The question is, will the Ulster Unionists go for it.

The answer for us is to be vigilant and carefully watch this space.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

UCC to host annual commemoration

The U.C.C Martin Hurson cumann will hold their annual commemoration on Wednesday the 27th of January. The commemoration was started a number of years ago, to commemorate 13 volunteers buried on campus, killed during the tan war, where Cork Gaol once was.

It has gone from strength to strength in recent years, becoming a regular fixture in the local republican calendar.
Last year’s commemoration was particularly successful, with Senator Pearse Doherty giving the oration, and a large crowd attending.

This year the oration will be given by Dr Feilim Ó hAdhmaill, lecturer in Social Science in UCC, and former political prisoner. The event will be chaired by Bandon town councillor and U.C.C. student, Cllr. Rachel McCarthy, and the commemoration will be attended by the Youghal Volunteers RFB.
The commemoration will begin in the amphitheatre on front of the student centre in U.C.C. and will proceed past the Quad, and down to gaol cross, where a wreath will be laid at the old gaol wall, where Free State soldiers shot a man attempting to aid an escape.

The commemoration will then move on to the plot in front of the science building, where the oration will be given.
The commemoration will be followed by light refreshments.

Assembly at 8.00 pm sharp - All welcome!

Beidh an comóradh bliantúil ag Cumann Máirtín Ó hUrsáin ar an gCeadaoin an 27ú lá de Eanáír. Do thosnaíodh on comóradh cúpla blian ó shin chun comóradh a dhéanamh ar 13 Óglaigh a chuireadh ann tar éis dóibh bás a fháil i bpríosún Chorcaí, in aice an láthair ar a bhfuil UCC sa lae inniu ann. Is onóir mór don chumann é go bhfuil an Dr. Féilim Ó hAdhmaill ag tabhairt an hóráide i mbliana, agus beidh Banna Poblachtánach Óglaigh Eochaill ann chomh maith, le Cllr Rachel McCarthy, mac léinn i U.C.C. ag glacadh páirt an chathaoirleach.

Tosnóidh an comóradh os chomhair Áras na Mic Léinn, agus raghaidh sé thar an quad, ag stopadh ag Crosaire an Phriosúin, áit a fágfar bláth-fhleasc i gcuimhne an fhir ar mharaigh saighdiúirí an tSaor Stát agus é ag cuidiú le éalú na bpriosúnach. As sin imeoidh an comóradh go dtí an plasóg, áit a tabharfar an t-óráid.

Cruinnigí ag 8.00 . Fáilte roimh cách.

Republican Youth Top of Agenda at Tyrone Forum

Republicans from across County Tyrone recently converged in Kelly’s Inn, for a forum that focused on streamlining the strength and support of Sinn Féin in the O’Neill County.

There was a large presence of Ógra activists and young republicans, with republican youth high on the agenda.

The forum was introduced by leading republican activist Sean Hughes, who is chair of Sinn Féin’s Organisational Development Unit. Sean gave a strategic breakdown at the current time.

There were also contributions from MLA’s Barry McElduff, Pat Doherty, Francie Molloy, Claire Magill, and Agricultural Minister Michelle Gildernew.

Veteran republican Stan Corrigan also addressed the crowd on being innovative and fresh in our approach to commemorations, before Joint First Minister Martin McGuinness gave a leadership briefing.

The main focus of the day however, and the talk which received the warmest round of applause was a talk on ‘Republican Youth – Where we are at, Where we are going!’ by Ógra activists Kerry McColgan and Laura Gildernew.

Kerry spoke about the growth of Ógra across Tyrone in recent years, with cumann now, in all corners of the County, and how a simple mix of organization, education, level headedness and most importantly steady activism, has ensured this constant growth. She also spoke of the many initiatives and campaigns that Ógra have been involved in, and the many educational weekends, and events that have been successfully undertaken.

Laura focused on where we need to go, and what we can do to build outside of the existing base, she urged the senior party to be continually supportive, and not defensive of young republicans coming through the ranks. She stressed that only with a healthy, open and welcoming environment can we hope to attract even more republican youth activists. She talked about different campaigns that can be initiated and different issues tackled to ensure that the party and young republicans have their finger on the pulse of the most pressing youth issues in Tyrone.

Both young women got a warm round of applause and many of the older activists, particularly female, thanked them for their contributions and confidence, noting that 10 or 20 years ago, they would not have held the same confidence, in such a male dominated environment. They paid testament to the strong work of Ógra on engaging youth, and on gender equality, particularly recruiting, educating and training young female activists.

Speaking on a very successful Sinn Féin Tyrone forum, Ógra activist, Sean Gillespie said,

“It was great to have so many key activists from across Tyrone, making themselves more informed, and setting out solid ideas for the future. It was particularly heartening to see the strong emphasis on young republicans, with Kerry and Laura delivering very inspirational and sound speeches on measures that we need to take in order to ensure we not only retain, but increase our support and activist base across the County.”
“Tyrone has a very strong republican youth base, with Ógra cumann covering every corner of it. The message was very clear from that meeting though, that no one is resting on our laurels and it will be a constant and vigilant drive to ensure the successful continuation of this struggle, by engaging and winning constant support from a new generation.”

Successful Youth Weekend in North Antrim

Young republicans from across Ireland recently gathered for a youth weekend on the beautiful coast of Antrim. The tranquil and serene setting of Ballintoy, set the tone to an extremely worthwhile and constructive weekend.

The youth event was hosted by Coiste, and many of the participants where Ógra activists.

The clár for the weekend included a talk on ‘A Century of Republican Youth’, with Daniel Jack and Barry McColgan delivering the talk.

Daniel spoke about the first republican youth movement Na Fianna Éireann, its foundation, ethos and evolution as an organization in various phases of the republican struggle. Barry linked Na Fianna to the modern day republican youth movement Ógra Shinn Féin, stating their objectives and inspirations where the same and young republicans will always play a vital role in ensuring any struggle remains rooted, relevant and revitalized.

There was also a workshop on the role that young people can play today in enhancing their communities, and outreaching to unionism, in a process of nation building.

Following a night of craic agus ceol, the Saturday morning began early with a talk by former Basque POW Inaki de Juana.

Inaki spent over 20 years in a Spanish prison, and whilst imprisoned embarked on a Hungerstrike for 114 days, protesting a Spanish attempt to not release him from prison.

He spoke about his life, as a prisoner, and about the Basque struggle, and also talked about the Basque youth movements, and the success of these movements to educate and mobilize thousands of young people onto the streets. This in particular created a lot of questions and debate.

The weekend ended with a tour of the Antrim coast, taking in many historical sights of interest.

Speaking on a successful weekend, Ógra spokesperson Kerry McColgan said,
“Weekends like these are extremely beneficial for educating activists and it also allows young people to develop and to enhance their confidence. It is evident at these events that young people develop, and the level of debate and discussion was a credit to the organizers and the youth present. All talks, tours and workshops where very interesting and everyone had a brilliant time, more determined to go back to their areas and implement the ideas and utilize the skills learned and enhanced at the weekend.”

Belfast Community Lecture Series - Sinn Féin and the politics of Left Republicanism. Bígí Linn!

Senator Pearse Doherty addresses Galway Students

A large crowd of Galway students attended NUIG Ógra Shinn Féin’s first event of 2010. The talk, entitled ‘Education Cutbacks’ was addressed by Senator Pearse Doherty, party spokesperson on Education and a founding member of Ógra.

Following an introduction from Ógra NUIG Chairperson Luke Callinan, Pearse Doherty spoke of the current challenges facing young students.

“Sinn Féin is totally opposed to this attack on education and to the dishonesty and disrespect shown to students and their families by Fianna Fáil, the Greens and Fine Gael.”

The Senator criticized Fine Gael’s proposal of a graduate tax, stating that “Education is a fundamental right and not a luxury for those who can afford it”.

In the days prior to the event Ógra Shinn Féin undertook a major publicity campaign throughout Galway’s inner city, with Eyre Square in particular the target of Sinn Féin activists with posters and leaflets.

The after party was held in Monroes, where balladeer Liam Lappin provided the nights entertainment.

Galway Ógra Shinn Féin is committed to opposing the re-introduction of college fees in any form.

Ógra Hoodies For Sale!

Barry McColgan
National Finance Officer
Ogra Shinn Fein

A chara,

Ogra Shinn Fein have worked with O'Neills to produce a top quality Ogra hoodie.

A picture of the hoodie is attached.

The hoodies are a great thing for all activists to have particularly at national events and protests, or to identify and create a sense of identity or promote Ogra in the community or on campus.

They can be ordered individually by activists or whole cumann bookings can be made.

We will be ordering another batch of hoodies on Monday 1st February so get your orders in advance of this.

The unique hoodie will be reasonably priced at 35pound or 40Euro, and all orders must be sent with full payment.

Hoodie sizes are;

Adult; S, M, L, XL XXL
Child; anything up to 13/14
Send name, address, hoodie size, and full payment to;
Barry McColgan
Sinn Fein Office
4 - 5 James Street
County Tyrone
Please get your orders in now.

Government must start creating jobs - Dublin ÓSF

Dublin Ógra Shinn Féin took part in a demonstration outside Leinster House alongside the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed and Dublin Sinn Féin in calling for the Dublin government to initiate a labour intensive programme of infrastructure construction to create jobs and invest in Ireland’s future.

Speaking at the protest Ógra Dublin spokesperson Mark Moloney criticised the southern government for cutting social welfare payments at a time when unemployment was soaring.

"The government is doing nothing to create jobs while at the same time they are cutting unemployment benefit, specifically targeting young people. This is simply unacceptable. If we consider the state of Ireland's infrastructure - sub-standard schools, poor roads, water shortages due to hundreds of burst mains - These areas all need investing and improving, now is the time for the government to invest in Ireland's future by upgrading our infrastructure and providing thousands of jobs in the process."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ógra Shinn Féin take part in Community ‘It’s a Knock Out’

The Ógra Shinn Féin Hawks failed to shine in the recent community ‘It’s a Knock Out’, coming a respectable 4th (there was only 6 teams).

The event took place in the Falls Park and which included teams from various sporting and community groups, proved a tough test of the republican youth group.

A source from Ógra, said that they had acted in good faith, ‘allowing’ other teams to beat them, so as not to cause embarrassment to some of their much older counterparts.

Ógra raised over £500 for the event which will go towards community investment.

In the first event, ‘life size fuzz ball’, the die hard GAA Ógra’s couldn’t grasp the foreign sport and where trampled by a huge margin.

Many on the sidelines blamed the in-ept John ‘Benny Hat’ McDermott for his arrogant style of play which exposed the backlines and Fra ‘Spider Shinner’ Cochrane for his lack of height which ensured many shots being fired over his tiny frame.

In the next event, the ‘destruction ball’, the Ógra Hawks regained some lost ground, with the heroic exploits of Neilly ‘Bambi legs’ McDonnell. Despite Stevie ‘Sore Back’ McGahan being absolutely useless, the clarity of instructions called out by the gallant leader Neilly, moved the Hawks up in the ranks.

In the Sumo event, there was some fine victories by Lee McMahon, Caolan Loughran, and Barry McColgan, and a tense battle ensued between Neilly and some aul doll.
The pressure was evident on McDonnell’s face, with the aul doll proving the eventual victor. The team was also let down, in a shock defeat of Eugene ‘E Honda’ Garvey.

In the Assault Course in the end, despite a slow start from the Hawks, they regained their composure to tramp home to victory (although only in that event.)

The huge defeat in the fuzz ball ensured that they still ended up 4th.
Ógra Shinn Féin would like to distant themselves from the useless members of the team that day, most notably, ‘Benny Hat’, ‘Spider Shinner’ and ‘Sore Back’.

Young Republicans Debate the Past, Present and Future

Young republicans from across and living in Belfast, gathered recently for a youth event held in the Culturlann.

The day which was hosted by Coiste, had young people travel from all parts of Belfast to be involved in a day full of discussion, debate, and craic. Ógra activists assisted in facilitating some of the discussions.

As well as a workshop on ‘Play your part’, which focussed on the contribution young people can make in their community and the wider republican struggle, there was a DVD showing and also a talk from local Boxing hero Martin Rogan, on his life and overcoming adversity in sport. The day ended with a discussion on ‘what do we know of our history?’

Speaking on a successful and engaging event, Ógra spokesperson Padraig Keenan said,

“The discussion and debate was excellent, particularly around how we can play a part in our local community. Also everyone enjoyed the talk from Martin Rogan, who was very inspirational, and urged us to be confident and proud, and encouraged us to aim high in life and that we can achieve whatever we want, using his own life as a reference."

“The day involved looking and learning from our past, and dealing with the present, knowing where we have come from, where we are, and where we want to be. It focussed on how young people can play their part in all aspects of sporting, cultural, civic and political life, and encouraged us to do so, and more importantly the discussion was facilitated and led by young people and for young people. These types of peer engagement are extremely beneficial and more are planned in the coming year.”

Big Irish Nights in the Hatfield - Bígí Linn!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Commemoration to honour young Strabane Republican

An Ógra Shinn Féin colour party will lead a parade in Strabane on Sunday 24th January to mark the 20th anniversary of the tragic death of Charlie Love at the annual Bloody Sunday march in Derry in January 1990.

The commemorative proceedings will begin at 1:30pm with a short parade leaving Drumrallagh led by an Ógra Shinn Féin colour party and the Strabane Memorial Flute Band, to the former site of the Love family home on Townsend Street where a plaque will be unveiled.

Urging a good turnout from young Republicans at this event, Strabane Ógra Shinn Féin activist Patrick Breslin said;

“Charlie was 16 years old when he was killed in a tragic accident during the Bloody Sunday commemoration in January 1990, a tragedy that sent shockwaves through the Republican movement as well as the wider Strabane community.”

“Charlie was a committed political activist, member of Republican youth, and unwavering supporter of Sinn Féin and the IRA’s armed campaign. The kind of political activity that Republican Youth were involved in at the time resembled the work carried out by the present day Republican youth movement, Ógra Shinn Féin, although it is worth pointing out that even the most meagre of tasks that young Charlie would have been involved in at this time such as erecting flags for commemorations, attracted the hostile attention of the British army and RUC. Charlie and his young comrades would have been constantly harassed for carrying out their political work.”

“We in the Tobias Molloy Ógra Shinn Féin cumann would encourage young people from Strabane and further afield to come along to Sunday’s event and pay tribute to this dedicated young republican activist.”

Aid appeal for Haiti

Only a few days have passed, since the earthquake that rocked Haiti and it's people to it's very core. The death toll is unfathomable. A number will not justify the pain and suffering that the Haitian people face. It's now tipped to reach 200,000 people. To put that into context, that's nearly the entire population of Belfast - removed from the face of the earth in 60 seconds.

Haiti is now in dire need of assistance, and we ask that you put aside a few euro or pound for the Irish Red Cross or charity of your choice. You can donate by visiting the Irish Red Cross website at: - We ask all activists to make a special effort, to help Haiti and it's people get through these troubled times.

"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." - Bobby Sands

Is mise le meas,
Seán Ó Briain

Friday, January 15, 2010

Winnie Harte – The Loss of a Republican Stalwart

Barry McColgan
Dermot Crowley Ógra Shinn Féin
West Tyrone

Tyrone lost a republican stalwart and a pillar of the wider republican family, with the recent death of Winnie Harte on Friday 20 November.

Hundreds turned out for her funeral, including West Tyrone Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty, and Joint First Minister Martin McGuinness. Pat delivered a heartfelt graveside oration on behalf of the republican movement.

Winnie was the mother of IRA Volunteers Geread and Martin Harte, who where killed on active service on the 30th August 1988 in the Drumnakilly ambush, alongside their comrade in arms Óglach Brian Mullin.

Unimaginable how it must be for anyone to lose a child, having to deal with the loss of two sons which she loved dearly must have been a devastating blow.

However the massive regard and pride in which Geread and Martin were held in their community and in the republican movement, as evidenced by the massive turnout at their funerals, kept Winnie and her family steadfast, and must have been at least some comfort, knowing that their struggle was not in vain, and their memory and legacy would live on.

The Loughmacrory community, extremely tight knit and deeply republican in nature rallied around the Harte family following the deaths of Geread and Martin, and were of constant support to Winnie up until her death.

She was a highly respected member of the community, and the loss of her sons was softened by the shared sense of loss, and the huge pride which the local community always placed on the memory of these brothers in arms.

It was with great honour that Winnie would unveil a plaque to her sons at the family home on the 15th Anniversary of their deaths, and witness a massive weekend of events to mark the 20th Anniversary of their death which saw thousands of people from across Ireland descend on Loughmacrory, filled her heart with pride.

Although reserved in nature, and still mourning the loss of her adored sons, she was evidently brimming with pride, by the huge out pouring of solidarity from all the people who travelled to honour the selflessness, and courage of Geread and Martin.

Winnie was to endure more hardship, and loss in recent times, she cared for her husband John for many years until his death in 2005, her daughter Kathleen passed away in July 2009, and her sister Patsy who died just a month before her death.

Despite all the hardship and suffering she was always a pillar, always upbeat and positive, renowned for her sharp sense of humour, her door was always open, and her generosity was immense.

She always had time for young republicans, and was proud to see young people follow in the footsteps of her sons, inspired by their sacrifice to continue the struggle for Irish freedom.

In October 2006, West Tyrone Ógra Shinn Féin organised a Demilitarisation Weekend, and to coincide with the weekend, of events there was a talk on the Drumnakilly martyrs and a visit to the site of the ambush.

On hearing of this, Winnie invited all 80 of the young republicans too her house for lunch, and catered for the lot. That was typical Winnie.

Demonstrating her generosity and deep sense of community that is evident in all republicans.

It didn’t spare her a thought about the cost of feeding 80 hungry teenagers, or the mess they’d make, she was just proud to host these young republicans and knew they would appreciate being present in the house in which Geread and Martin grew up.

She got her hair done that day, and chatted about it the whole week, and was in her element as many queued to get her signature for a Drumnakilly poster and everyone was keen to shake her hand, in appreciation of her kindness, and expressing their ongoing solidarity for her loss.

West Tyrone Ógra Shinn Féin also presented Winnie with a special painting of the Drumnakilly Martyrs on the 19th Anniversary, and again she was deeply appreciative of this.

Winnie Harte was and will always be an inspiration, she has suffered and endured more than most, yet she continued resolutely, she would not be intimidated or bowed by anyone, she was proud of her sons, proud that they were Irish, proud that they were Republicans, proud that they where IRA volunteers.

She was a constant, and from her strength, Tyrone republicans derived confidence and belief, Winnie was an inspiration.

Her death is a huge loss to the wider republican family, the community of Loughmacrory, and her children, Séan, Neshey, and Teresa, and her wider family.

The young republicans that were fortunate enough to have met Winnie consider themselves lucky to have met a modern day Republican giant, and on behalf of Ógra Shinn Féin we would like to extend our heartfelt sympathy to her loved ones.

Sheena Campbell – Inspiring Another Generation of Republican Women

Gemma McKenna
National Gender Equality Offcer
Ógra Shinn Féin

(The following piece was originally written for the new Sheena Campbell book produced by An Phoblacht.)

I never met Sheena Campbell, I was only a child of four when she was murdered. However, Sheena’s life has been an inspiration to me. The first Sinn Féin cumann I joined was the Sheena Campbell cumann in Queen’s University, at the start of my first year at university.

There are moments in our life that we will never forget, and I firmly believe that the talk I went to mark Sheena Campbell's fifteenth anniversary will be one of mine.

I could hardly believe the strength, courage and commitment this young women possessed. What was even more inspiring to me is that Sheena is from the same area as myself, she was a local woman.

I often think about Sheena Campbell and find motivation from the way she lived her life.
When I am in my local Sinn Féin office, which is named after her -Teach Sheena Campbell- I regularly hear stories about Sheena. Brendan (her partner) speaks of how strong and determined a woman she was and also of her great sense of humour.

Sheena was chair of her local Comhairle Ceantair in her early 20s. Being one of the few women in the party at the time didn’t intimidate her, she knew there was work to be done and just got on with it.

It is difficult to put in words how some-one that you did not know could have such a powerful impact on your life but I am completely honest when I say Sheena Campbell is a constant source of inspiration for me and a reminder of what all our struggle is all about.

I live in a different time than Sheena did, with different challenges ahead, but the goal of a united Ireland remains the same. Sheena Campbell embodies for me what it is to be a republican; she was a completely dedicated young woman who constantly strived to better her own community.
I am proud that Sheena Campbell came from my own area and our struggle was advanced because of her dedication.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ógra Shinn Féin: Young republicans growing stronger

(This piece was originally printed in an Phoblacht)

FIANNA ÉIREANN, the original republican youth movement, was founded in 1909. So it is fitting that a hundred years on, we see republican youth still vibrant and growing, with Ógra Shinn Féin continuing to thrive and develop. Here are the highlights of a very active year in 2009.

January 2009 had a grim start, with Israel’s ‘Operation Cast Lead’ killing hundreds of Palestinians and causing suffering to many more. Ógra did its utmost to show solidarity with the plight of the Palestinian people, with protests in Derry, Strabane, Cork, Dublin, Portadown, Armagh, Lurgan, Newcastle, Omagh, and Belfast.

January also saw Newcastle in County Down host its first-ever republican weekend, which was a tremendous success. Included were a demilitarisation protest, a torchlight protest against the slaughter in Palestine, a historical tour of south Down, and talks on ‘From Prisons to Politics’ and ‘Lessons from the Cells’, MLAs Catríona Ruane and Barry McElduff took part in the talks, as well as a number of leading local republicans.

It was in February of this year that the national student anti-fees movement reached its high point, with 20,000 taking to the streets of Dublin. A sizeable and visible Ógra contingent was there on the day.
The 2009 Ard Fheis also took place in February, with a noticeable youth presence throughout the weekend and with Ógra activists speaking on many motions.

The Waterford youth weekend took place in March and was noted as a particularly informative and educational weekend. Along with a talk on economics from David Cullinane, the local launch of Eoin Ó Broin’s ‘Sinn Féin and the Politics of Left Republicanism’ and a talk on the Irish language, there was a tour of Waterford and social nights.
March also saw Strabane host a very successful torchlight vigil for victims of state violence, and Queen’s University Belfast hosted a well attended and intriguing debate on the 1916 Proclamation.

The run-up to Easter each year sees Ógra roll out its annual campaign seeking equality for the Easter Lily and this year was no different.
There were petitions and launches, and pickets of the Equality Office on foot of its absurd decision to deny the Easter Lily its due recognition.

One of the most positive aspects of the year was the reinvigoration of Dublin Ógra, for which the catalyst was the Martin ‘Doco’ Doherty commemorative weekend in May. The weekend opened with an address from one of Doco’s comrades and former Dublin City Councillor Nicky Kehoe and included a republican tour of Dublin, and social events.

The weekend was built around the 15th annual commemoration of Volunteer Martin Doherty, which Ógra attended. It was organised by his son, Mick Farrell.

This year’s National Youth Camp was hosted in Knockatallon, County Monaghan, with the theme of ‘Republican Youth – A Century in Struggle’.

A very full clár included talks from former National Organiser Matt Carthy, Jim Monaghan, Bronwyn McGahan, and Pádraigín Uí Mhurchadha. There was a republican tour of the area and a mobilisation for Bodenstown with some taking part in a Fianna colour party.

As part of Ógra’s drive to mark the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Fianna Éireann, many areas painted murals. Two of the more striking examples were in Derry, launched in June, and in Strabane, launched in July.

The annual Hunger Strike Commemoration on 16 August was in Galbally, County Tyrone, this year. As usual, the annual Ógra Hunger Strike Weekend was organised around it.

The weekend included a republican tour of Tyrone, talks on ‘Youth in Struggle’ including international speakers and former Fianna members, the unveiling of a plaque in memory of the Fianna, and a talk on the Hunger Strike.
The Saturday night also saw the Fianna Éireann Dinner Dance in Strabane. A Fianna colour party made up of Ógra members led the following day’s commemoration.

The annual Slógadh na nÓg was hosted in Rath Cairn in September with the theme of ‘Tír Gan Teanga Tír Gan Anam’.

The highly-successful weekend involved language classes, talks from local republicans, a tour of nearby Tara and Newgrange, and traditional music sessions.
September and October also saw the season of freshers’ days in campuses, North and South, with Sinn Féin signing up an unprecedented number of applicants throughout the length and breadth of the country.

The end of the year saw a sustained spurt of growth with the launch of a number of new cumainn. The development of a south Tyrone cumann was initiated this month, and would be followed shortly after by the launch of cumainn in Coalisland/Clonoe, Fermanagh and CIT.
More than 20 Ógra activists attended a suicide prevention training day organised by PIPs (Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self-harm) in Belfast on Sunday, 18 October, on what is a touchstone issue for Ógra.

In University College Cork, a cross-party model Dáil competition hosted by the UCC International Relations Society saw cumann chair Seán Ó Sé, previously better known for his singing skills, emerge with the best individual speaker award.

November also saw the key event of the year, with in excess of a hundred young republicans travelling to the Felons’ Club in Belfast for what was widely regarded as an excellent Congress opened by Uachtarán Shinn Féin, Gerry Adams.
The weekend also included lengthy debates on various motions, public talks, a film showing, workshops with a selection of senior republicans, the launch of a mural, social nights, a football match, a Fianna Éireann Dinner Dance and the launch of the new national campaign ‘Who Fears to Speak of a United Ireland?’ Senator Pearse Doherty was the keynote speaker.
Few young republicans envied Dublin Ógra on 28 November as they undertook a successful 24-hour day of action to highlight the plight of the homeless. This culminated in a sleep-out in front of the GPO which Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD and Councillor Matthew McDonagh also participated in.

Newly-appointed National Organiser Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire spoke at the UCC Philosophical Society in favour of the motion that ‘This house believes in a 32 County republic’, and succeeded in getting the motion carried comfortably.
The year began as it ended, with Ógra standing in solidarity with the oppressed overseas. Tuesday 24 November saw 34 young Basque youth activists arrested for their political beliefs in a shocking display of oppression. In solidarity, Ógra organised many protests and Ógra activist David Collins also visited the Basque Country to join a rally against the arrests.

Ógra successfully mobilised in support of the imprisoned Basque youth and will continue to highlight instances of oppression at home and abroad over the next 12 months, and will continue to grow and develop into 2010.

Big Irish Nght in Galway - Bígí Linn!

Senator Pearse Doherty to Address Galway students on Education Cuts

Senator Pearse Doherty will be addressing Galway students on his continued opposition to education cuts when he speaks this Thursday night, 14th January in GMIT at 6.30pm and NUIG at 8pm.

The compelling, youthful and articulate Sinn Féin activist, has been a vocal figure in opposing the cuts in education and was a key speaker at the monster student rally in Dublin last February when thousands faced down Minister Batt O’Keefes drastic and cruel cuts.

Encouraging people to attend the talk, NUIG cumann chair, Luke Callinan said,

“Pearse was a founding member of Ógra Shinn Féin, sitting on our national executive and was also active in student politics when he studied in Dublin. He is an extremely apt person to address students on education cuts, considering that he is still young but also because he himself has seen what it is to be a student and struggle financially, never mind being over burdened by a government that is only too quick to protect bankers, while throwing the young, old and vulnerable to the scrap heap.”
“Ógra Shinn Féin believes in a knowledge economy, we believe in investment in our future, we believe in investment in education and in our children. Education cuts will damage Ireland’s future, and whatever short term savings will lead to long term recession, and immigration. It is time that the Dublin government heeded the words and ethos of the 1916 Proclamation, and adopted policies that ‘cherished all of the children of the nation equally.’ Come along on the night for an enjoyable and informative talk, and more importantly to inform yourself and have your say.”

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Strabane to host Republican youth weekend, 19th-21st Feb 2010

Republicans from across the island of Ireland will descend on the county Tyrone town of Strabane on Sunday 21st February, to mark the 25th anniversary of the deaths of IRA volunteers Charles Breslin, and Brothers Michael and David Devine.

These three brave volunteers of the west Tyrone command Oglaigh Na hEireann were killed by the British SAS in one of the most notorious shoot-to-kill operations conducted by the British state in Ireland, and extensive work has been ongoing over the last year to plan for this watershed anniversary.

To coincide with events planned by the 25th anniversary steering group, the Strabane Memorial Flute Band, and Sinn Féin, the Tobias Molloy Ógra Shinn Féin cumann has organised a weekend of events running from Friday 19th to Sunday 21st February. Although the clar for the weekend has yet to be finalised, events will include, a Republican tour of west Tyrone, rebel night, SMFB annual dinner dance, and the annual commemoration parade on the Sunday, which is expected to draw huge crowds from across Ireland and further afield.

Speaking on behalf of the Tobias Molloy Ógra Shinn Féin cumann, Chairperson Seán Mac Giolla Easpaig said;

“A huge amount of time and effort has gone into this year’s commemorative events, with a steering group established to oversee various aspects of the three volunteers’ 25th anniversary including the production of a commemorative DVD which will be available on the weekend.”

“We in the local Ogra Cumann took the decision to organise a national Republican youth event over the course of the weekend with many events and activities planned covering commemorative, political and the social aspects. We have no doubt that the weekend will be a great success and hope that we succeed in educating a new generation of the courageous exploits of the Volunteers who have gone before us.”
“The Tobias Molloy Cumann would like to invite Republicans both young and old from right across Ireland to attend this event and join with the local Republican Movement in marking this significant anniversary, we encourage all Ógra cumann to plan for this event now as the clar, booking forms etc will be sent out ASAP. Bígí linn.”

Monday, January 04, 2010

Emotive Ballymurphy Massacre Talk Inspires Support for Campaign

Relatives of those murdered in the Ballymurphy Massacre from the 9 - 11 August 1971, recently addressed a public meeting in the Omagh Strule Arts Centre raising awareness and support for their campaign to demand an Independent International Inquiry into the state murders of their loved ones.

The relatives, Liam Quinn and John Taggert, and campaigners Maureen McGuinness and Liam Stone where introduced by West Tyrone MLA, Barry McElduff.

Maureen set the context of that time, of what life was like for Ballymurphy residents in the lead up to the massacre which cost the lives of eleven civilians. Liam Stone then continued on speaking about the militarization of the area by the British paratroop regiment in the days leading up to and during the massacre and updated the assembled crowd on the progress of the campaign so far. John Taggert and Liam Quinn then spoke very emotionally about their personal loss and how their loved ones where murdered.

Following these very raw and touching addresses by the relatives, a question and answer session teased out more interesting personal stories but also developed ways in which people can assist in the family’s campaign for truth and justice.

Encouraging people to support the families and campaign, West Tyrone Ógra Shinn Féin chairperson Kerry McColgan said,

“The deeply emotive talk delivered by the families and campaigners have touched those gathered, and has ensured they will get active on the campaign to achieve truth and justice for the families, through an Independent International Inquiry. Many ideas where developed throughout the discussion on ways on which people can support the campaign, through fundraising, letter writing to papers, public vigils, public talks, mural unveilings, and also supporting the online petition which the families have established at”

“We in Ógra Shinn Féin are committed to assisting the families every step of the way and we encourage everyone to do their utmost to ensure that the many years of heartache and denial of even the most basic truth and justice for these families are ended.”