Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ógra activists attend engaging Glencree Summer School.

'Unique, fascinating and engaging', was how several Ógra Shinn Féin activists described the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation' Summer School, held in the centre last weekend.

Glencree was the venue for a number of discussions at various stages of the peace process, and has played a role in developing the space for a peaceful future since the centre was founded in 1974. The summer school has been a regular event over many years, and has brought together a wide variety of speakers from all political parties here, and many other Irish and International Organisations, as well as interesting individuals.

The theme of this years school was 'Leadership for a new generation - Power, politics and participation', and it kicked off on a sunny friday in the picturesque Wicklow countryside, with an opening address by independent MLA and former PUP leader Dawn Purvis, and the hunger striker Laurence McKeown, chaired by David Bloomfield from Glencree.

L to R; Dawn Purvis MLA, David Bloomfield, and Laurence McKeown

The second session, on the topic, of 'What kind of Leadership do we need' involved a panel discussion which included SDLP Cllr Niall Kelly, Sean Ruth, Author of 'Leadership and Liberation', DUP MLA Jonathan Bell, and chair of Ógra Fianna Fáil, Thomas Byrne TD.

The final session of the evening was another panel session, this time on the topic 'What is the Role of Young People in Creating Change?'. The crowd was addressed by Brian Hayes TD of Fine Gael, John McAllister MLA of the UUP, Robert Mulhall of Lucca Leadership, and Ógra's National Organiser, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire. This discussion was highly entertaining and a number of interesting. and surprising, opinions were voiced. However all present were reminded that 'Chatham House rules' (ie no attributing controversial quotes to speakers!!!) were in force. However Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire's speech is below.

Following further heated discussion in the bar for the rest of friday evening, the programme began again in the morning with a dicsussion on Minority Issues in Irish Politics, which heard views from Patrick Nevin of Travellers for Travellers, Hallala Ahmadi, of the Irish Kurdish Community, Palestinian Yaser Alashqar, and Salome Mbugua, of Adikwa.

The rest of saturday took on a different format, with all present participating in open space techonology, a unique and fluid form of convening workshops and moving from discussion to discussion. many topics were discussed here, from the role of political ex-prisoners in the Peace Process to Integrated Education. Activisrs explored many issues outside of their confort zones, and very much found their beliefs challenged in a stimulating and positive manner.

L to R Sean Ruth, Cllr Niall Kelly SDLP, Ian White and MLA Jonathan Bell DUP

The workshops carried on until the afternoon, after which the weary guests let their hair down with some entertainment in the centre.

While there may have been a few tender heads the following morning, there was little slow or lax about the sunday mornings opening debate on 'International Dimensions', involving Ruth Zach, Deputy Head of Mission at the Israeli Embassy, Michael Semple author on Afghanistan, Freda Hughes of the IPSC, and H.E Jeremiah Ndou, Ambassador to South Africa.

This was the final discussion, and following a closing adress, delegates parted ways, having developed new contacts and friendships, and heard as wide a range of points of view as one could imagine.

Some of the Ógra activists present

Speaking after the event, Ógra Shinn Féin National Organiser said 'This weekend has been a very unique opportunity to hear points of view and analysis from many people we woudlnt ordinarily come across. So this was undoubtedly an invaluable experience for me, and I hope, for the other Ógra activists. Many of the discussions and speakers made some fascinating and interesting points, and in particular it was invaluable to be able to have discussions in the social time with other young political activsts, from the UUP, DUP, the SDLP and the Labour party, to get their perspective as young people on Ireland's future. These opportunities for discussions are always welcome, and we should grasp them when they arrive. We certainly hope that we have the opportunity to return to Glencree at some point.

National Organiser Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire's address to Glencree Summer School

'The role of young people in creating change.'

At the risk of being predictable, I’m going to start with a quote, or maybe I should more properly call it an anecdote as I may not have the exact quote verbatim. John Stuart Mills, the well known Victorian writer, philosopher, theorist, jurist whatever you choose to call him, once said about the working class of the time, that they lie constantly, and yet they are ashamed of it. At some later date, he was elected A liberal MP, and at a public meeting he was confronted by a crowd of working class people who challenged him, did he make such comments. He was forced to admit he had. This was greeted with uproarious applause.

One individual, who led the group came commended him, with the comment, the working class do not need flatterers, and rather they need fighters.

I feel that in this context, that quote applies equally to young people. We do not need lip service backed up by a total lack of interest, or a patronising attitude bordering on the contemptuous. Statements that young people’s issues should be the sole preserve of young people, and that that should be their main area of focus are misguided. The corollary of this is they should steer clear of the big issues. - ‘Let’s allow young people to their issues, and we will get on with the serious business of running the country.’

Young people should be included in the deciding of all the issues, and all people should have a say in youth issues. There should be no special pleading, youth has a right and a duty to get involved, the same as any other person, and we should not allow them to be corralled off. Let’s not be trapped in to including young people just because they are young people – that’s not valid, and far from being empowering it is disempowering.

Rather, when we are considering, the role of young people in creating change, We should consider, what do we have to offer that is specific and unique to young people, and that’s why we should seek to get young people involved.

So to get down to the nub of the matter, what is change, and why do we need it?
Change is essential to the development of humanity. Without change there can be no progress, and conditions will stagnate and deteriorate.
Of course not all change is positive, so we need to ask ourselves what change do we need to make.
Do we want to instigate change or have change imposed upon us?
What are the changes that we want to see and to make?

I’m going to introduce a dirty word here – politics -
What specifically does this mean? Politics comes from the Greek word polis, meaning City State, and politics is simply the actions which benefit the state, or more pertinently, the community.
So when I say politics I do of course mean party politics, but I don’t just mean that. Because any action we take to benefit other is political, and indeed an inaction can also be political.
Involvement in Trade Unions, NGO’s Charities, church groups, Trade unions, Student Unions, Credit unions, and so on, is by its nature political.

Which is why I have never bought this idea that young people aren’t interested in political activity – in my opinion, it’s a nonsense.
You look around any community or campus in the country and you will see countless young people involved in political activity. No I don’t mean in your Young Fine Gaels, and Ógra Shinn Féins, I mean in groups like Suas, the SVdP, or the Free legal advice societies, Youth Clubs, even the scouts, along countless others. Young people are as willing as ever to get involved in activities that can make a difference in their communities or in the wider world.
There must be a question there as to how political parties have failed to engage with young people, given they are evidentally community minded.

I take it by your presence here, that everyone here is interested in change. The question at issue here, is what is the role of young people as a group in actually helping to create conditions for change, for implementing change, and indeed for leading change.
I’m not going to stand here and say that we as a generation have a unique genius or insight in to change. Some among us will, and so among us won’t.

What I will say, however is that young people do have a flexibility and an openness to change that may not be shared by older people. They are less likely to be institutionalised or ground down by the system. Think about it. Someone who has been within an organisation, which functions at an adequate, if not perfect, level, for 20 or 30 years, will rather ‘tinkering’ with the problems, rather than take a more holistic approach.

On the other hand a young person is far more likely to say, ‘hold on, why are we doing it that way, we need to try something entirely new, to take a whole new approach’, whereas an older person might react, well, it’s worked perfectly well here for quite some time, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. And of course, both can be right and both can be wrong.
But it’s this dynamic that is crucial to anything that actual works, and actually promotes or is open to change.

It is this tension and co-operation between the young person who is fresh and innovative and willing to disregard perceived wisdom where it is faulty, and the older person who knows not to throw the baby out with the bathwater which brings about thoughtful, and considered change.
But if we as young people neglect our role in challenging, then we are actually stifling change.
We as young people don’t actually have to win all the arguments, but it is very important that we make them.

In the horror of the northern conflict – let’s not get in to the rights and wrongs of it here – the impetus for change was lost on many, jaded by the conflict perhaps, or who maybe saw it as intractable. It required people, on both sides, to open up to a new way of going forward, to accept that there was a need to go beyond traditional outlooks.
These leaders, I won’t go in to names for fear of omitting someone, appealed to young people across the divide, and brought them to consider the possibility of something new, a new way of doing things

These people, these leaders, often relatively young people opened the door for a new Ireland, didn’t drop cherished traditions, rather they had the courage to look beyond those traditions, and beyond those values, to a new way of working.
There is a value in traditions. All living traditions presuppose change. Without change, long established traditions stagnate, atrophy, and die, because they lose pace with society and become ill fitting with a changing society.

For example, look at the GAA or the IRFU. Two solid traditional organisations, with a wealth of history behind each of them. But neither has ever been more popular than at present. They have proved innovative and able to keep up with society, as evidenced by the modernisation of stadia, professionalization in a broad meaning of the word and so on.
This is because the space and the mechanisms exist within these organisations which allows for that tension I have discussed.
It’s no co-incidence either of course that both count as among the largest organisations with youth involvement in the country, and have huge youth projects.

So to return to the nub of the question, to what is the role of young people in creating change.
We have to visualise it, and get involved in the making it happen, and we will get it wrong, regularly, but the advantage is that we are not afraid to make mistakes.
Ireland will be what we make it, based on the values that young people prioritise.

In terms of the tangible change I want to see, I simply want to be involved in the building a new Ireland. One which has as its core, the rights of its citizens. The right to be free from sectarianism, racism, sexual discrimination, the right to education, the right to social justice, and the right of the people to be able to control their own destiny, economically, socially, and democratically. Where young people are at the forefont of change, and positive change.
We have no option but to create a new Ireland, in our own image. Because in fact there is a different Ireland created every few years, - the question is, who will make it, what will it look like.

It’s the same thing of being responsible for change or having change foisted on us.
Change comes from/through social involvement. One of the biggest era’s of change in Ireland in modern times was the early part of the last century, when enormous amounts of young people. But how much were party politically involved in that pre war period? Precious few. But young people were involved right across the board in actions that benefitted their community.
For example GAA, Gaelic League, flourishing of Anglo Irish Literature and theatre, trade unionism. Huge organisations of immense importance and relevance to the people who were involved, and which materially benefitted their lives. This were the key political forces of that period, and ultimately they would be the fount of much party political change in the subsequent years.

As someone involved in politics, yes i am involved to play my part in ‘X, Y, Z’.
This is my sphere, and many of yours as well, where I feel most comfortable. But I am under no illusions that this is the only, nor, arguably, the most effective. We see that movements such as the US civil rights movement achieved extraordinary things without ever becoming a party political organisation.
But this is where I am at, this is where I am confortable
I recently read an opinion piece in the Irish Times, by Hugh McDowell, on young people in politics.

He said that he had never once heard any contemporary of his express the ambition of achieving High political office. He claimed that the recent controversy around Ivor callely and his expenses was met with complete Indifference, and that this was symptomatic of the disregard for politics and politicians among young people.

But that this was a concern Ireland’s youth will be paying the economic price for our current governments profligacy with our money and that we needed to get young people to re-engage with the political process.
He ventured a number of solutions, for example a list system of electing TD’s and making politics a more attractive career for graduates.

In many ways this is the received wisdom, and indeed, I find myself in agreement with him on a few points.. Hugh McDowell was right to highlight the fact that many young people feel disengaged from the political process. Young people have been most unmercifully targeted by the government in their desire to cut their way out of the recession. Youth unemployment and emigration have skyrocketed, young people’s dole has been cut and community facilities largely aimed at young people have been savaged. However this has been met with little or no resistance. Because young people have no real vocal, effective, lobby, they are seen as an easy target. In this context, the disengagement of young people from the process is of particular concern.

However, as I read the prescriptions i found myself thinking, is this really the issue? For the people I grew up with, in my street, is it truly list systems and electoral reform, and making politics a more attractive career that is really going to change things?

For my money, Hugh had his priorities in a perverse order. Certainly, we need our best and brightest young people to consider politics as a worthwhile endeavour. However, surely to focus almost exclusively on the representatives, rather than the represented, is symptomatic of the wider malaise in Irish politics, which is stopping our generation getting seriously involved.
Young people bring energy vibrancy and a willingness to challenge, we have seen that young people engage politically outside of party politics, so i don’t believe that it being an unattractive career is what is holding people back. Indeed some might say it is already an attractive career.
I also recall thinking, as he mentioned a few young TDs currently in the Dáil, that yes its positive to have young TDs, but these TDs don’t properly represent young people, or at least not the young people I know. Young people aren’t so foolish as to think that just because they elect a young person, that they will represent them any better (wording?)

What will re-engage young people is quality representatives who are interested in, and willing to fight for, their point of view, to get involved in meaningful two way engagement, and to work, and that is what we are singularly lacking.

It’s also incumbent on young people to grasp the opportunities which now exist, to recast the political system in their mould. That won’t be achieved by a new elite cadre of young, well connected politicians, but by ordinary young people, refusing to take cuts or inaction on unemployment lying down. If we can achieve that, all the old certainties go out the window.
Whatever of our differences on this panel I’m sure we can all agree on the crucial role that the youth wings and youth groups within political parties and it’s something which can be lost in the public perception of these groups. But that role in arguing their corner and creating a space for young people to bounce off each other, to learn from one another and to makes mistakes is crucial.

If you want to empower people if you want to get them to show leadership, you have to give them autonomy, you have to leave them the space to make mistakes, which is something Irish political parties do poorly.
This is what brings young people on. Give them their head, let them have their say, and if we are wrong, call us on it. And we will be wrong, of course we will, on occasion, but that’s the only way of developing leadership skills. There will be wins there will be losses, but arguably the most important are the draws, where youth and experience collaborate.
When I was considering what I would say here today, I was speaking to my father, and he put it to me in a very simple and succinct manner. Why did you take a year out of your degree to go travelling around the country as national organiser?

Because the answer to that question, is the answer to the question at hand today. The actions I took were based on that desire to enhance my party by reinvigorating it with young people, young people who could inspire debate, and challenge the perceived wisdom, and to advance our struggle. Thats what it boils down to.

As the poet once said ‘Riddle me this wise men, what if the dream come true?’
The role of young people is not only to dream the dream, to consider, to wonder at the possibilities, but to actually try and put that dream that big idea, into action.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oh, Ivor...

Large Crowd gathers for 'From the Armalite to the Ballot Box' in Derry

Spokesperson for Ógra Shinn Féin in Derry has hailed the success of a youth Q&A session entitled “From The Armalite To The Ballot Box” which took place as part of the 2010 Gasyard Féile, young people from across Derry questioned the Sinn Féin leadership and a number of community activists in the city about a wide range of issues.

The event was chaired by Nicole Lamberton of Ógra.

Spokesperson for Derry Ógra Shinn Féin Adrian Óg Kelly said,

“The event was a huge success we had over 100 young people from across the city in attendance and they questioned the panel on a wide range of issues. Some of the questions centred around what was happening up at the Assembly such as the 11+, education and road infrastructure which Martin McGuinness and Martina Anderson answered.

"Some young people felt frustrated over the lack of facilities for teenagers in Galliagh and other parts of the city.

The panel also tackled the big topics of day such as what was Sinn Féins position towards those who are opposed to the peace process, the ongoing situation in Maghaberry , the Hunger strikes and what to it if young people felt they were being harassed by the PSNI.

This was very worthwhile exercise and is something we hope to do on an ongoing basis. I would like to thank everyone on the panel , all those who attended and participated in the questions and answers session.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dublin Film Night - Che: Part One

Óglach Dermot Crowley and Paula Murphy - Inspiring Young Republicans

Barry McColgan
Dermot Crowley/Paula Murphy Ogra
West Tyrone

Dermot Crowley and Paula Murphy are two young republicans whose names will be forever linked as West Tyrone Ógra name their cumann in their honour.

Paula and Dermot were young Irish people, proud and committed republicans, who were deeply passionate and resolved to see their country free, and determined to build a republic that, would guarantee the rights and equality proclaimed in Easter 1916.

They were young people that grew up in two rebel counties, Dermot from Cork and Paula from Tyrone, they grew up in different era's, Dermot witnessing the emerging war of liberation in 1969, Paula living through the emergence of the Peace Process, but they were both united in their drive and determination as young Irish republican's absolutely resolute in changing Ireland for the better.

Their destinies seem almost intertwined, both young republicans, both very popular confident young people, both tragically lost their lives at the young age of 18 and died not far from each other on the Gortin Road in Omagh.

Both Dermot and Paula are not gone, they are with us, they inspire us each and every day providing us with unlimited motivation in driving forward our vision for a free and new Ireland.

Their faces will always shine down on us, and we will always count ourselves fortunate to be following on their brave legacy and achieving what they strived for in their short yet full lives.

There is a great sense of family in the republican movement, and a collective sense of grief every time one of our own is taken from us, there is a collective outpouring of grief and solidarity, it is that what sets us apart from everyone else.

We hope that by honouring Paula and Dermot, we can keep their memory alive and do justice to their proud legacy, and we can only hope that our small gesture and efforts in remembering these two outstanding young republicans, can bring some hope and pride to their families, knowing that their loved ones, are forever remembered and will never be forgotten.

West Tyrone Ógra rededicate and relaunch cumann at Successful Summer BBQ

The Boe Inn in Dromore, County Tyrone was packed to the rafters on Saturday night as West Tyrone Ógra Shinn Féin organised their inaugral summer BBQ were they rededicated and renamed their cumann in memory of Óglach Dermot Crowley and Paula Murphy.

Dromore is a great town for fleadhs and the spirit of the fleadh was evident on the night with music and dancing and plenty of food in abundance.

Following a belly busting BBQ, there was a number of speeches from West Tyrone Ógra spokesperson Barry McColgan, Omagh District Council Chairperson Declan McAleer and the newest Councillor to Omagh, Glen Campbell.

All spoke of the huge importance of remembering our patriot and republican dead, of the great atmosphere on the night but stressing the only true legacy to our fallen comrades, to Dermot and Paula was to free Ireland and establish a republic that stayed true to the Easter Proclamation.

Presentations were then made to the families of Paula Murphy and Dermot Crowley, with Paula's mother, father and sister accepting it, and Dermot's sister June Burke, and brother in law JJ Burke travelling all the way from Cork to support the event and receive their presentation.

The night ended with the 'Glens men from Poitin' playing an eclectic mix of folk, trad and rebel into the wee small hours.

Speaking on a successful night, West Tyrone Ógra chairperson Kerry McColgan said,

"We would like to thank everyone who played their part in making our inaugral summer BBQ a success, particularly to the families for supporting and joining with us on the night. It was a great night where we had the opportunity to host the families but also to build camraderie and recruit new members with many applying to join, during and after the event."

"Óglach Dermot Crowley and Paula Murphy will inspire us to be bigger and better in everything we do, to be more innovative, professional and active in engaging and republicanising the youth of West Tyrone.

We are looking forward to the year ahead, on further building Ógra in West Tyrone, progressing Sinn Féin and ultimating progressing the struggle for Irish freedom, with two such great young republicans looking over us, we can't fail."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Counter-revolutionaries attack children in Lurgan

Lee Casey
Ógra Shinn Féin
An Lorgain

Last weekend counter-revolutionary elements planted a bomb in a nationalist part of Lurgan not far from a primary school. It detonated and nearly killed three young children. This is a disgrace in a long line of disgraces. The PSNI moved in to search for other devices and came under attack by recreational rioters.

The great republican mantra from Bobby Sands ‘our revenge will be the laughter of our children’ is especially significant in light of the weekend’s events. Claiming to be the true voice of the community, then planting a bomb in the community and injuring children from the community is both senseless and an absolute disgrace and so is any attempt to justify it. The subsequent recreational rioting is also to be deplored. This causes massive disruption and destruction to the local community and everyone, especially elderly members of the community in the lake street area of the town, have had enough of it.

The small anti-peace process elements are deluded if they think this sort of activity will win them any support amongst the nationalist people of Lurgan. It won’t. They have no support as it is and absolutely no mandate whatsoever. They represent no-one but themselves and they’re own warped mentality.

All of this distracts people from the real republican advancements being made. The devolution of policing and justice from London to Belfast, the biggest shake-up of the education system since its creation and the possible onset of Sinn Féin being the largest party at the next election and the advances and changes that could bring to society in the six counties. The peace process has ensured the drawback of the orange state and political unionism is in a state of disarray. We, as a people, no longer live in a ‘cold house’ and do not subscribe to second class citizenship.

If these counter-revolutionaries really think they’re justified in their activities and in their position then why don’t they test their stance with the electorate? Why don’t they bring this debate into the open? Then maybe they’ll realize just how wrong and deluded they are.

Commandant Thomas ‘Toby’ Mannion remembered at event in Kiltoom

A large crowd gathered at the Celtic Cross monument on the Roscommon Road last Monday to commemorate Thomas ‘Toby’ Mannion, a local IRA volunteer from the Hill of Berries area of Kiltoom, who was killed by the Free State Army in August 1923.

The commemoration took place in front of the monument, about a mile outside Athlone, which was erected in memory of Toby’s death. Sinn Féin councillor Martin Kenny from Ballinamore, Co.Leitrim spoke on the day along with Connacht Ógra Shinn Féin organiser Mairéad Farrell as the crowd listened attentively on a wet and windy Monday evening.

After the event local Ógra Shinn Féin activist Luke Callinan had this to say: ‘The hard work put in by young republican activists across South Roscommon over the last few weeks and months in anticipation of today’s event has really paid off as the day proved to be a complete success. Large numbers came out to join us in remembering a brave, valiant and courageous young man whose life was cut short in tragic circumstances. The attendance today was greatly appreciated and we are encouraging everyone to come out again next year for the annual event.’

David McWeeney, a member of the local Ógra cumann – which is named after the deceased volunteer, Toby Mannion – finished off the day with a fabulous rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann and the crowd gradually filtered away and down to Daly’s Tavern in Kiltoom for a well earned cup of tea.

Youthful presence evident at Hunger Strike Rally

‘One of the most encouraging aspects of this phase of our struggle has been the numbers of young people attracted to our struggle. A new generation of activists are taking their place in the struggle and we must ensure that place is secure. We are the only party which has experienced such growth, and it is a sign that young people see our party as a vehicle of change for a new generation.’

Not without reason did Joint First Minister Martin McGuinness make such comments on the positive role young people are playing and have to play in the struggle over the coming time, as many were struck by the youthful profile of those in attendance.
Many thousands of republican activists and supporters, among which number there was a high number of youth activists, travelled to the South Derry village of Bellaghy, the home of IRA volunteers and hunger strikers Thomas McElwee and Francis Hughes.
An impressive crowd came out to support the rally, and the rally was extremely well supported by locals.

Padraig Quinn, Coalisland/Clonoe Ógra as a Blanketman

As well as the many Ógra activists in attendance, there were many involved in the impressive selection of republican flute bands, the various colour parties and the various dramatisations of the hunger strikers lives. Ógra activists also attended the annual Vol Kevin Lynch Parade in Dungiven on the Saturday night.

Catherine Kelly and Kathy Crawford banging bin lids.

Speaking at the National Hungerstrike Rally, National Organiser of Ógra Shinn Féin Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said,

“This weekend’s events have been a fitting tribute to the Hunger Strikers here in south Derry. We in Ógra feel that this is a crucial date in the republican calendar, to remind ourselves of the extraordinary sacrifices and commitment of the republican activists involved. Reflecting on their sacrifices and on that pivotal time in our history, inspires us all to redouble our efforts and to ensure that the only fitting tribute to their lives - a 32 county socialist republic - is established.

Ógra activists at Kevin Lynch March in Dungiven

The role of youth was one of the key themes of Martin’s speech, and the following words capture well the key message that young people should take from the rally, and should note when they remember the sacrifices of the Hunger Strikers.

Ógra activists at mock anti H-Block protest

The role of youth was one of the key themes of Martin’s speech, and the following words capture well the key message that young people should take from the rally, and should note when they remember the sacrifices of the Hunger Strikers.

‘Many of our activists who gave their lives over the past four decades, including the Hunger Strikers were young men and women; they made a brave choice in life. They could have chosen a different path. It is worth remembering also that they were ordinary men and women like any one here today. But they rose to an extraordinary challenge. There are young people standing here today who have that extraordinary ability to give leadership but don’t yet know it.’

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ógra Shinn Féin to hold Suicide Prevention Course

To coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th, Ógra Shinn Féin are organising a suicide prevention course, which will take place in Enniskillen on Saturday 11th September. The course, which is being part funded by Enniskillen Youth Bank, will run from 10am - 4pm and a buffet lunch will be provided. There is no charge to take part in the course, but numbers are strictly limited.

Speaking on the Suicide Prevention Programme, which is to be delivered by PIPS, a Belfast based charity, event organiser, Phil Flanagan said:

"Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in Ireland, and has caused enormous grief on families and communities. Ógra Shinn Féin have been pro-actively working on Suicide Prevention and Awareness over the last number of years; organising public meetings, vigils, leaflet drops, meeting with ministers responsible for funding and also attempting to empower people to work on suicide prevention by hosting suicide prevention courses in different venues across Ireland.

"This course is aimed at ordinary members of the community because suicide can affect us all and suicide prevention should be everyone's business. With local people trained to be more aware of the risk of suicide and the sources of help available, our communities will be safer. The training will provide a better understanding of suicide and it's impact on our society, as well as giving participants the skills to prevent suicide and the knowledge of who is at a higher risk of suicide.

"This is the first time the course has been offered in Fermanagh, and the PIPS programme will equip people with the necessary experience to act as a care giver to anyone who is in danger of taking their own life; the more people trained in PIPS, the more people can have a positive impact on Suicide Prevention. This is an issue that we all need to tackle collectively, and the PIPS programme is open to everyone and is completely free of charge. However as spaces are limited, I would encourage anyone interested in taking part to contact me ASAP on 07985955555 or phil.flanagan@sinn-fein.ie"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Voices on Unity - David McClarty

David McClarty MLA
East Derry

I am unapologetically a unionist who believes very much in the union between ourselves in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. I firmly believe that economically and culturally the best future for the people of the Province is within that context.

As a democrat, I have no difficulty with those who aspire towards a united Ireland provided they try to persuade with the power of their argument rather than bomb and shoot their way towards that goal.

In economic terms, the UK Exchequer gives a block grant of approximately £16 billion plus a further £3 billion in social security payments. The UK Exchequer raises approximately £12 to £13 billion in taxes from Northern Ireland. Effectively, therefore, we are being subsidised to the tune of approximately £6 to £7 billion by the UK Exchequer.

Do the tax payers of the Republic of Ireland want to bear that financial burden? Finally, do the people of the Republic of Ireland want one million disaffected unionists?

Voices on Unity - John Smyth

Cllr John Smyth
Antrim Borough Council

As someone from the unionist family who has suffered from 100 years of nationalist violence how would I feel safe living with you as a neighbour. For the safety and financial security of my family I need to live with the protection of Her Majesties Government.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bankers sponged in Cork City

Ógra and SF activists and City Sinn Féin councillors and members recently held a protest outside Bank of Ireland on Patrick Street, to highlight the contrast between the billions handed over to banks and the lack of assistance for ordinary householders.

Reprising a theme used in the past, members of the public enthusiastically queued up to throw wet sponges at Ógra Shinn Fein's National Organiser Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, who was dressed as a banker for the day.

The protest was part of Cork Sinn Féin's ongoing housing campaign.

Speaking at the event, Cllr Jonathan O'Brien stated: "The government's indifference to the plight of ordinary homeowners struggling with mortgage arrears and negative equity, or the hundred thousand waiting for social housing, is in sharp contrast to the extraordinary commitment it has shown to bailing out the banks.

"Sinn Féin believes the people who really deserve a bailout are those ordinary families who bought properties at inflated prices during the boom, convinced by the government's promise that it would never end, and now find themselves with mortgages worth more than their houses and, all too often, without jobs. Banks which have been bailed out should be obliged to write off a portion of the difference between the purchase price and the current market value of a family home for those average income households who bought their properties since 2004.

"We also want vacant properties taken over by NAMA to be handed over to local authorities to provide homes for some of the 100,000 people on the waiting list."

Ógra organiser Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire added, 'Todays stunt was a bit of lighthearted fun, and the response was great, people were happy to take the opportunity to have some some craic and to 'take out their anger' on the bankers.

But having said that there is also the very serious issue of home repossesions and people struggling with mortgages, as well as the massive waiting list for social housing. But while this government is happy to throw good money after bad supporting the banks, ordinary citizens and their housing needs don't seem to be a priority. While we had a bit of craic today, make no mistake there is a great deal of anger out there on the way our money is being spent.

Ógra repsonds to Emigration crisis

In an effort to highlight the extremely high emigration figures which emerged from a recent ERSI report, Ógra Shinn Féin participated in a week of action across the 26 counties of Ireland last week.

Ógra activists at Knock (above) and Galway (below) airports

Ógra activists at Cork Airport.

Activists rallied and leafletted at Sligo, Knock, Cork and Galway Airports as well as Rosslare Harbour in a series of co-ordinated actions throughout the week. The actions were carried out by local areas at sea-ports and airports in a week which saw fresh unemployment figures come out for the 26 counties showing the highest level of unemployment in over 16 years.

Ógra and Sinn Féin members at Rosslare port, Wexford

The emigration issue is inextricably linked to the jobs crises and therefore is an essential part of Ógra's on-going youth unemployment campaign.

Speaking following the actions, Ógra Shinn Féin National Organiser, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire had this to say ':
'The most recent ERSI report on emigration statistics predicts that approximately 70,000 people have left this state in the twelve months before April 2010, that's about 192 people every single day. One of the most striking aspects about the new figures is that this is the first time Ireland has had a net outflow of people since 1995. The fact is that despite efforts being made in the media to claim that the recession is now over, young people, many of whom are highly skilled, are leaving this country in their droves as work dries up. Successive Fianna Fáil-led governments have shown themselves to be utterly uninterested in the lives of young people as well as the unemployed, the elderly and those generally outside the elite political circle.'

Ógra and SF members at Batt O Keeffe's constituency office, North West Cork

'Furthermore, the new unemployment figures which emerged during the middle of last week have been shown, unsurprisingly, to be a continuation of the worsening trend that has marked live register statistics in the past months. A further 13,942 signed on in July raising the live register figure to a massive 466,824 people, 13.7% of the population, a percentage not reached in almost two decades. The governments policies are directly responsible for this shocking state of affairs, and every Fianna Fáil or Green Party elected representative is responsible for this governments unwillingness to tackle the growing problem of youth unemployment, in which the recent increase in emigration statistics is rooted.

Our activists across the country have undertaken these actions this week to highlight the obvious inaction by the government on youth unemployment which, in turn, has had a massive effect on the numbers of able and willing young people leaving the state.

We want to encourage young people to get angry, to get active, and to fightback. These actions are part of a sustained campaign to keep youth unemployment on the agenda and to show the government that young people will not be ignored.''

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Youth Discussion Event in Bellaghy

Bellaghy Club Hall beside the exhibition at 6pm this sunday, (following the commemoration) will be the venue for a dicussion on the changing nature of Youth, entitled, Times a Changing.

The workshop theme is the changing times and phases of the struggle but also of the lives of activists. It will explore the lives of young people and what challenges and opportunities are open to us as well as exploring the youth faced by the hunger strikers.

The Workshop will discuss the lives of the Hunger strikers growing up, and how youth today is similar, but in many ways, faces challeneges which are radically different.

The workshop will be based around discussion and hearing the opinions of all who attended. To confirm your attendance or to hear more about the workshop just call Liam on 07708722995

Bí ann, for what promises to be an interesting discussion.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bus to Ógra BBQ

Bus to Ógra BBQ next Saturday 21st August.


Coalisland - 6.30pm

Pomeroy - 7pm

Carrickmore - 7.15pm

Loughmacrory - 7.30pm

Omagh (Strathroy Shop) - 8pm

Omagh (Coach Inn Car Park) - 8.15pm

Bus will be £5 return.

Call Barry on 07885569940 for tickets.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fian James Templeton Cup

The inaugural Fian James Templeton 7 a side soccer tournament has been organised for Saturday 28th August.

The tournament will host teams from across Belfast and farther afield, and have a cross section of age and ability.

While the tournament is primarily organised to remember Fian James Templeton, it will be a hotly contested cup to win, with competition seriously gearing up for the coveted title.

Ógra Shinn Féin will be organising a team for the tournament. If you are interested on pulling on your boots and playing for the illustrious Ógra Hawks, then contact osfnational@yahoo.ie.

For anyone else interested in submitting a team to the Fian James Templeton Cup, then contact Cora Groogan on 07706441664.

Mobilise for National Hungerstrike March in Bellaghy - Bígí Linn!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

'Gay Rights are Human Rights!'

Voices on Unity online video project

Ógra Shinn Féin have initiated an online public discussion titled 'Voices on Unity', as part of their national campaign 'Who Fears a United Ireland?'

The series of interviews which will be uploaded onto YouTube will include a wide range of people's thoughts and opinions on Irish Unity.

We are encouraging people to post constructive comments and responses to the uploaded interviews, making the debate and discussion interactive and inclusive.

We have uploaded an initial two interviews from Daniel Waldron, Socialist Party Organiser for Belfast, and former Corner Forward for Carrickmore and current Sinn Fein MLA for West Tyrone, Barry McElduff.

These interviews are intended to start the ball rolling on the debate, with more being added in the weeks and months ahead.

Join in the debate, make your voice heard on Irish Unity. Bigi Linn!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Voices on Unity - Andrew Ewing

Cllr Andrew Ewing
Lisburn City Council

I believe in a United Northern Ireland which remains an intregal part of the United Kingdom just like England, Scotland and Wales where all traditions are valued and respected.

The constitutional issue has been settled at St. Andrews. Northern Ireland is better off financially as part of the United Kingdom even in these difficult financial times and I don't believe the Irish Republic realistically can afford to take on Northern Ireland. The Republic can ill afford to take on Northern Ireland and Irish citizens can hardly afford to live in the Republic as it is effectively bankrupt financially. Evidence of this is the packed supermarket carparks in Newry, Banbridge and other border towns and cities in Northern Ireland by Irish citizens who travel long distances to take advantage of the lower cost of living here and shop in the province as they cannot afford to shop in their own country due to the high cost of living.

This answers the question are we better off in the United Kingdom or the Irish Republic. But I do believe in building mutual trust, respect and understanding between our divided communities and I believe we have all come a long way in achieving this but there is more work to be done as the recent disturbances in Ardoyne has demonstrated. We all have a part to play.

Voices on Unity - Ruairi McGinley

Cllr Ruairi McGinley
Dublin City Council
Fine Gael

I believe that in the long run the people of Ireland will be best served by a politically united Ireland.
We can see from many sports including GAA , Rugby that the Irish sense of identity extends to the entire Island. We will always underperform against our potential while there is political division and it is young people left with no economic option but to emigrate North and South who will pay the price.

There is strength in diversity. We need to celebrate the Gaelic tradition alongside the traditions of those Irish people who celebrate a British heritage. Through recognising diversity as something normal rather than something to be feared we will take the biggest step along the road to ultimate unity on a basis that threatens no one but which offers the people on the island of Ireland the best prospect of properly taking our place among the nations of the Earth. The current power sharing government in Northern Ireland offers hope in this regard.

Voices on Unity - Adrian Watson

Cllr Adrian Watson
Antrim Borough Council

Please do not send me any more of this nonsense.

Voices on Unity - Samuel Cole

Cllr Samuel Cole
Coleraine Borough Council

A United Ireland would be not be in the best interests of the inhabitants of this Island except to integrate with the mainland as part of the British Isles and UK. The romanticism that you embrace is impractical, Ireland needs and has always needed the trade links with the stronger economy of their huge neighbour Great Britain including the tourists who pour in from the mainland.

It is economically fortuitous to have a choice whether to live in an integral British society in Ireland and as you know many opt for that in Northern Ireland. Any conflict that remains is motivated by envy of a better standard of living enjoyed in the UK and Republican citizens are pouring into Northern Ireland to benefit from the cheaper better quality goods available. There is also a much better Health Care system in Northern Ireland. The people of Ireland are made up of many different European races races including Vikings, Celts, French and Anglo-saxon etc and that is the reason that Gaelic culture is so difficult to promote although of some interest to a section of tourists.

The prosperity and well-being of the Irish people should remain the goal for any political movement and this is where your ideology is clearly out of step. I need hardly remind you that there are more people of Irish descent living and working in GB than in their homeland. We will not go into the 'Pope's green Island' territory as this romanticism has also been scarred by recent revelations and unfortunately secularism is now prevalent on our small island.

Prison Art and Memorabilia Exhibition in Cavan

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

ÓSF clean up Roscommon monument in preparation for upcoming Commemoration

In preparation for the upcoming Thomas ‘Toby’ Mannion Commemoration in South Roscommon, ÓSF members from the area have completed a comprehensive clean-up job on the monument erected in memory of Toby’s life where the commemoration will take place.

Next Monday, 16th August marks the 87th anniversary of IRA Commandant Thomas ‘Toby’ Mannion’s death; he was shot by Free State forces on a lane off the main Athlone to Roscommon road in August, 1923.

Toby - whose name is the title of the South Roscommon Ógra Cumann - was born into a strong-willed and resilient republican family from the Hill of Berries area and was an active member of the 3rd Battalion Athlone Brigade which conducted many rebel activities in the area during the Tan war such as raids on the Athlone Excise Office.

A commemoration to honour Thomas Mannion’s life will take place on Monday 16th August @ 7.00pm just 1 mile outside Athlone Town at the Celtic Cross monument on the Roscommon Road.

Speaking in advance of the commemoration, local Ógra activist Luke Callinan urged all young republicans to attend:

‘The fruits of Ógra’s recent work in restoring this commemorative monument will be seen by many on the day at an event organised locally by Ógra Shinn Féin. Toby Mannion was a hero of the republican struggle and remained committed to the cause for Irish freedom throughout his life, despite being imprisoned by Pro-Treaty-ites in 1923. He took the Republican side during the Civil War and was opposed to the illegal and immoral occupation of Ireland by the British administration both before and after the partition of the country.”

“Toby Mannion is a prime example of the resilience, steadfastness and dedication that has characterised the Republican struggle for so many years and that is still extremely relevant today for activists - both young and old - in a time when the structures are firmly set in place to facilitate for Toby’s ultimate objective, a United Ireland. The Celtic Cross, where the commemoration will take place, is particularly significant as it stands on the site where Toby was shot by Free State soldiers 87 years ago. On behalf of South Roscommon Ógra I am calling on all young republicans to attend this event in order to commemorate the life of a diligent young Republican whose life was tragically cut short in the struggle for Irish freedom. Bígí linn!’

'From the Armalite to the Ballot Box' Public Talk in Derry