Thursday, September 30, 2010

Give generously for Cuban Medical Aid

With less then 2 weeks to go before they begin their mammoth trek of Cuba's highest mountain range, the Sierra Maestra, Tyrone Ógra Shinn Féin activists Barry McColgan and Marie Claire Devlin are doing a final big appeal for sponsorship.

The committed pair have been very successful in their fundraising drive for Cuban Medical Aid, but are keen to add to the impressive amount raised to date.

Encouraging people to sponsor the trek, Barry McColgan said,

"There has always been a strong bond of friendship and solidarity between the Cuban and Irish people. The upcoming sponsored trek for Cuban medical aid will further cement those strong ties, and greatly enhance the lives and well being of ordinary Cuban people."

"While Cuba has an excellent universal health service, they lack essential medicines and medical supplies because of the US embargo and our trip is aimed at both breaking this blockade through providing these supplies and also building public pressure on the US to end it. To this end we would encourage you to generously donate to our efforts. All contributions are greatly appreciated."

If you would like to sponsor Cuban Medical Aid through Barry and Marie Claire's efforts, then contact 07885569940 or

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ógra Shinn Féin condemns Askapena Arrests

Ógra Shinn Féin international officer John McDermott has condemned the arrest of seven Basque activists who are members of the international solidarity group Askapena. The seven were arrested in dawn raids throughout the Basque country on Tuesday morning.

The operation was directed by Spanish High Court Judge Fernando Pablo Ruz, who replaced Baltasar Garzon on Spain's High Court.

Just weeks after ETA called a ceasefire the raids are seen as an affront to the attempts by the pro independence movement to initiate a new way forward in the Basque Country.

Condemning the dawn arrests John McDermott, who has visited the Basque country on behalf of Ógra in the past had this to say:

“I condemn unreservedly the repressive measures once again inflicted upon the pro independence movement in Euskal Herria.

“It is clear that attempts by the Basque independence movement to proceed forward without armed conflict are being met with further brutality. The words of Spanish politicians who have consistently called for a ceasefire of the armed campaign are now ringing hollow. The response of the Spanish state to the initiative taken by the Basque left has demonstrated that they are not interested in established peace in the Basque Country.

“The Spanish are mistaken if they think that can beat the Basque struggle off the streets by imprisoning those who are actively working for the cause on independence in the Basque country. This has been shown time and again across the world, not least here in Ireland.

“In the past Ógra Shinn Féin has met with various groups who are in favor of Basque independence. One of those groups has been Askapena, whose members were targeted in this latest operation. As we have outlined to them on numerous occasions Ógra Shinn Féin stand shoulder to shoulder with the Basque people in the struggle for independence for the Basque country.

"The arrest of the seven activists has done absolutely nothing to address the outstanding issues facing the Basque people. The Spanish must realize that the only way to deal with the outstanding issues is to engage with the pro independence movement. The unwarranted arrests that we have witnessed in recent days only serve to frustrate the efforts of those trying to establish peace and freedom in the Basque country.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Interesting pictures of Cork Fianna Éireann from yesteryear

Cork Fianna Éireann at Easter 1972

Cork Fianna Éireann marching at the Manchester Martyrs commemoration in 1971

Cork Fianna Éireann at Bodenstown 72

Cork Fianna Éireann at Bodenstown '87

D'Arcy/Mellows Cumann NUIG review 09/10

Friday, September 24, 2010

Grants system failing students

Seán Ó Sé
UCC Sinn Féin
Martin Hurson Cumann

There are several problems with the grants system that Ógra Shinn Féin feel need to be addressed in order for education to become readily available to young people from every group in Irish society. Immediate and proper funding is required to allow students to avail of the many diverse courses and subject available to them in the third level system. However a remedy is needed to fix the many problems that have been encountered when it comes to funding available to students.

Thomas Davis’s much quoted phrase ‘Educate that you may be free’ is still true today. It is through education that people can be lifted from the grasps of poverty. Many third level students will encounter financial hardship during their academic career. This is often through no fault of the student. Without the financial backing from either family or part time employment it is almost impossible for students from a working class background to achieve their goals. Poverty is a quicksand that sucks down the weak and marginalized.
There is a grant system that lessens the burden of some students. However the average grant for the year comes to €3,420 while student accommodation can cost up to €5,500 per annum. In order for many students to attend third level they must either travel or find accommodation close to their place of study. On top of this books must be bought and other costs must be met. According to research carried out by Bank of Ireland it costs over €42,000 to complete a third level degree. There is a clear disparity between the cost of education and the assistance that is provided by the state.

However not only is there a problem with the levels of funding that students receive but many students do not receive their grants until well into the academic year. Some students have been forced to camp outside their respective council offices as it is their only hope that their grant application will be processed in time to allow them to pursue their studies. This is a problem that needs to be fixed immediately as many students cannot afford to wait. Students should not have to wait until February for a grant they were due to receive the previous September.

If we are really serious about ridding our society of poverty then we must make education a priority. In order to cherish all our children equally it is essential that we provide them with the same opportunities. Education can be the bridge that narrows the ever growing divide between rich and poor in Ireland. Ógra Shinn Féin believes that every young person in Ireland has not only the right to receive an education but also the right to make that education possible. Without a proper functioning grants system it is likely that many young people will fall by the wayside.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dublin Ógra newsletter

Dublin Ógra's free newsletter can be picked up in the Sinn Féin shop or at various locations around the city. It can also downloaded here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tyrone Ladies will follow Minors in All Ireland Victory

Tyrone Ógra Shinn Féin, has congratulated the Tyrone Minors on their All Ireland victory yesterday, and is confident that the Tyrone Ladies can follow in their footsteps this coming weekend.

Congratulating the Tyrone minors and tipping the Ladies for All Ireland victory, Tyrone Ógra Shinn Féin spokesperson Kerry McColgan said,

“The GAA is the heart and soul of the community in Tyrone, in many ways the lifeblood of many communities, with thousands of people, particularly young people dedicating time and effort to build their clubs into the first class teams that can deliver players to compete at the highest level.”

“It is because of this commitment and determination that we have such a proud GAA County today, with even this year 2010 having won 1 Ulster Minor Championship, Ulster Senior Championship, All Ireland Minor Championship, and hopefully a Ladies All Ireland Championship to add to that this coming weekend.”

“The Ladies have played tremendous football this entire year, and have been role models to the entire youth, especially the young women of Tyrone, and we are absolutely confident that they can win the All Ireland this weekend. They will do us proud, just as the Minors did on Sunday! Your County is behind you!”

Big Irish Night for Cuban Medical Aid – Bígí Linn!

The newly renovated Boe Inn in Dromore, County Tyrone, having just undergone a major renovation, fitting a fully covered and heated area at the back of the bar, will play host to a Big Irish Night on Friday 1st October.

Music will kick off from 10pm, and good food will be served on the night.

(Organisers, and participants in Cuban Medical Aid Trek with Cuban Ambassador to Ireland)

The up and coming bard of Armagh Liam Lappin’s band ‘Patriot Flame’ will provide the night’s entertainment, and while entrance is free; donations are welcome, with all proceeds going to Cuban Medical Aid.

The night is being organised by Barry McColgan, who along with 10 other Irish people, is undertaking a gruelling trek of Cuba’s highest mountain range, the Sierra Maestra next month in support of Cuban Medical Aid.

Encouraging people to come along on the night in support of his sponsored trek, Barry McColgan said,

“The Big Irish Night has all the right ingredients for a great night’s craic, excellent venue, good food and a brilliant band. It will be a great night, where people can enjoy themselves while donating to an extremely worthwhile cause. I look forward to seeing you there - Bígí Linn!”

Thursday, September 16, 2010

New CD ‘Farewell to Tummery Hills’ launched in Aid of Kidney Dialysis

Dromore singer songwriter and Ógra Shinn Féin activist Siobhan McElholm has launched her first CD 'Farewell to Tummery Hills'.

All proceeds of the 14 Track CD will go to Kidney Dialysis patients outing.

As well as including local favourites like 'Beautiful Dromore', and old classics like 'Dancing in Glenroan' and 'The Rocks of Bawn', the talented young County Tyrone women has written and performed a special song of the much loved son of Dromore, Cathal Quinn who died suddenly 2 years ago.

Cathal was a Dromore man through and through and was in many ways the epitomy of the tight knit town. He was a strong community man, actively supporting the GAA and all around him, in whatever way he could.

Cathal was also a committed republican, a proud IRA volunteer and a dedicated Sinn Fein activist and was instrumental in empowering local people and making Dromore the republican heartland it is today, and played a key role in erecting the Bobby Sands monument as a lasting centrepiece to the town.

It was for these reasons that Siobhan wrote and dedicated the song to Cathal.

If you would like to purchase the CD, priced at £10, you can get one in the Arts and Crafts Síopa, James Street Omagh or by calling Siobhan on 07756389455.

Irish Night for Cuban Medical Aid

Northern Youth Wings work Together on Sexual Health Strategy

The progress of the last ten years can be measured in terms of political insitutions, or particular initiatives, or in various statements and viewpoints of political leaders. But sometimes it's the smaller things that tell the most.

Recently a group of young people from Ógra, the SDLP, Green Party, the Alliance, the UUP and the DUP co-operated in an initiative to discuss a Sexual Health policy, an issue which affects all young people in the north, regardless of their background.

Ógra were represented by Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Barry McColgan, Padraug Quinn, Eimear Ruane mcAteer, and Laura Gildernew.

Having agreed on a strategy, delegates from most of these parties attended a weekend residential from the 3rd to the 5th of September in St Columb's park house in Derry, who facilitated the initiative and the residential. After a relaxed friday evening the Saturday morning began with a series of highly stimulating discussions and talks. Firstly a interesting presentation from Ann Stewart a registered Nurse from the Western Trust area, who has been involved for many years in GUM clinics in Derry.

This was followed by a insightful and passionate presentation from Mary Crawford of the Brook, which provides confidential sexual health advice for under 25s, where she highlighted the difficulties young people face in getting proper sexual health advice and services.
Finally Dr Dirk Schubotz, a lecturer from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work in Queens, gave a sociological analysis of the current profile of young people in the north, their sexual behaviour and their attitudes towards sex and sexual orientation.

Following a break for lunch, the young activists went to do some sightseeing, with all present being taken out of their comfort zones. The Apprentice boys hall in the City was the first stop, where activists learned about the history of the organisation and about the seige of Derry, and about burning Lundy.

Activists at the Apprentice Boys Museum

This was followed by a visit to the Free Derry Museum on the Bogside, where John Kelly, whos brother Michael was killed on Bloody Sunday, showed the activists around the various artefacts and put Bloody Sunday and the Battle of the Bogside in the context of the discrimination of nationalists in Derry at the time.

Activists at the Free Derry Museum

The activists then returned to the attractive St Columbs park house for Dinner and further casual debate, before some departed and some set out for a night out in Derry, with the weekend drawing to a close on the Sunday Morning.

Commenting on the succesful weekend, National Organiser Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire had this to say 'Young people from parties as diverse as the DUP and Sinn Féin discussing issues such as sexual health in the North would have been seen as unimaginable, even as recently as five years ago, not to mind five years ago. I think it's extremely positive, and a sign of young people showing leadership, to see young people working together on concrete issues such as these, and coming up with progressive solutions that are workable.'

'We hope that having agreed on this policy, that we are now able to take this policy and campaign on it, and that we will all continue to work together on this crucial issue.'

Basque Trade Unionists hold succesful day of action

Basque Trade Unionists from the Pro Independence left Trade Union LAB were involved in the World Federation of Trade Unions day of action on the 7th of September.

Basque Trade Unionists from the Pro Independence left Trade Union LAB were involved in the World Federation of Trade Unions day of action on the 7th of September.

Following a protest at the parliament a number of activists occupied a branch of the Santender Bank in Irunea to highlight the irresponsibility of the banks in recent years, for which they have attempted to pass the cost on to working people.

Seven activists were arrested following the 2 hour demonstration and were released the following morning. This information was sent on to Ógra by the Basque pro Independence left, and hightlights that Working people throughout the world are facing similar challenges as here in Ireland, and that there the bankers and capitalists everywhere are trying to force the cost of the crisis on to working people, which must be resisted

'Mol an Óige' - Sinn Féin Newry Armagh Youth Day

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fermanagh Ógra host Suicide prevention programme

Fermanagh Ógra Shinn Féin have worked in conjunction with PIPS to deliver their suicide-prevention training programme to a group of local people to mark World Suicide Prevention Day.

The suicide-prevention training programme was delivered on Saturday 11th September in Enniskillen, to people of all ages and backgrounds.

Commenting on a very productive day, event organiser Phil Flanagan said:

"Suicide is the biggest killer of our young people in Ireland, and is something which we, as a community must be proactive in tackling. Ógra Shinn Féin have been extremely proactive on the issue of suicide prevention and today's PIPS suicide prevention training is a continuation of that work; engaging more and more young people and equipping them with the skills to work in their, school, community, work or family environment to be more aware of the issues surrounding suicide and to potentially save lives.

"I would like to thank PIPS for delivering the training, Enniskillen Youth Bank for part funding it and everyone who participated in the programme. I would also encourage other young people to become more aware and active in tackling this national epidemic, which has cost the lives of so many people, particularly young people. There is no community, no family, and no section of society that has not been touched or affected by suicide.

"Suicide prevention is everyone's business, and it is something that young people should be particularly active on. The tragedy, sense of grief and loss to the family and friends of someone bereaved through suicide is always felt more acute because of the tragic and preventable circumstances of the death. That is why we, as a community, as a people, must come together to do all that we can to ensure that more and more lives are saved, and that we are all better equipped to prevent someone from taking their own life."

Coalisland-Clonoe Ógra recruitment drive

Rhetoric, Contradictions, and the UUP

Luke Callianan
Toby Mannion Cumann
Ógra Ros Comáin Theas (in exile)

The next 3 weeks or so in the run up to the election of a new Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader will be mind-numbing if recent events are anything to go by. The Waterfront Hall in Belfast, which was officially opened by Charlie G (aka Prince of Wales) in 1997, is the chosen venue for the selection of Reg Empey’s successor. So far, two candidates have said they will contest the leadership of the party – MLA for Lagan Valley Basil McCrea and MLA for Fermanagh South Tyrone Tom Elliot.

On a quick analysis of statements circulated by the two candidates in the aftermath of their official announcements it would seem that there isn’t a whole lot of substance to the utterances made by them. However, the battle for UUP supremo is firmly cemented around one major issue, the UUP’s commitment to changing legislation so that Martin McGuinness - or any other Sinn Féin politician for that matter - cannot take the position of First Minister if and when Sinn Féin receive the largest number of votes at the next Assembly election.

Mr. Elliott described the proposed situation in an article for the News Letter as a ‘potential disaster’ which was the result of a deal at St. Andrews between the DUP and Sinn Féin. In fact Mr. Elliott’s colleague Fred Cobain - UUP MLA for North Belfast and the party’s Chief Whip – went one step further on Friday when he insisted that if ‘the Conservative Party reneges on its commitments’ to change the existing legislation, the UUP may ‘be forced into a position of having to work with the DUP in some sort of electoral arrangement’.

Just two points to make on this – first of all, how do the UUP expect to overturn a decision which was made by the two largest parties in the 6 counties only a couple of years ago? Especially considering that the UUP are now void of any elected MP’s and received only 15% of the vote in the most recent Westminster election leaving them trailing behind Sinn Féin, DUP and SDLP? Furthermore, how does this fit in with Tom Elliot’s claims that there that will be no electoral pacts with the DUP ‘as clumping everyone together would only turn many people off from the political process’? Maybe Basil McCrea is correct when he says that the electorate is ‘unsure what the UUP stands for’?

In any case, the attitude of the Ulster Unionists is perfectly summed up by Fred Cobain when he declares that if Martin McGuinness takes the position of First Minister after the next general election it will result in ‘a return to sectarian headcounts and deep divisions’. Ironic, to say the least. In the most recent Westminster elections Sinn Féin received 171,942 votes and became the largest party in the 6 counties. It has a bigger mandate than any other party across the 6 counties at present. The UUP talk about protecting the Union and spout rhetoric about a better society within that Union while Sinn Féin work on the ground for ordinary people and root their policies in reality.

It has been through achievements such as the introduction of Michelle Gildernew's Forestry Bill to overhaul the management of forests in a way that creates significant employment opportunities as well as the extension of free bus and rail travel to 60-64 year olds and the investment of hundreds of millions into rural development programmes and farm modernisation that Sinn Féin has built this strong electoral base. Put simply, by bringing the equality agenda to the table. Why shouldn’t the party who look after those on the fringes of society and receive the largest mandate have the biggest input?

However, it is also clear on deeper examination, that there are some more points both candidates wish to make in the interest of vague rhetoric. Last Monday, 23rd August, Tom Elliot said that he ‘like many unionists’ wants to see ‘a Union in which everyone can have ambitions and opportunities to work to better themselves economically and provide for their families; a Union which is prosperous, and which supports our businesses and farms rather than impeding them; a Union which protects the rights of the most vulnerable in our society, and provides for our children and older people.’ Unfortunately Tom omits a vital component to this romantic discourse. He fails to provide any explanation of how he, or the UUP, will go about constructing this flawless Union.

The fact is that due to a lack of any fiscal control and the imposition of a completely unfair Barnett Formula whereby funding is provided to the 6 counties from Britain based on population opposed to need it is impossible for elected representatives to make the required adjustments in order to bring about such a society within a union context. Interestingly enough, no consensus has ever been reached on how to change the Barnett Formula and in their publication The Fiscal Crisis of the United Kingdom, Iain McLean and Alistair McMillan argue that neither Barnett nor needs-based spending is incentive-compatible. Neither, that is, gives the North an incentive to become economically efficient. Therfore, while a needs based-system would be preferable to the deeply flawed Barnett Formula it is still not a viable long-term option.

What other options are available and will work in the long-term? Economic sovereignty. The absence of this constitutes a massive obstacle to economic development and quality public service provision. To obtain economic sovereignty, a range of alterations would be made including the repatriation of taxation powers to the Assembly and Executive, the replacement of the Reform and Reinvestment Initiative (RRI) by an Executive borrowing service, All-Ireland harmonisation of the public finance regimes and the replacement of rates with a system of progressive taxation.

There are some positives in statements made by Basil McCrea where he asserts that the UUP ‘must offer candidates that reflect and relate to the widest possible section of the electorate. It must realise that electorate has moved on’ and that it ‘must develop a new vision for unionism – inclusive, positive and pluralist’. However what exactly this new vision is I am not sure. He also maintains that the UUP must ‘capture the mood within the electorate for change’.

Now there’s a big one. What change is he talking about? An end to Ulster Unionists doing shady deals with the Orange Orders in an effort to oust a democratically elected woman who has worked hard for her constituency, bringing us back to the days of sectarian head counts and deep divisions within communities that Mr. Elliot talks of? An end to the UUP policy of ‘oppose whatever it is the DUP are’? Or an end to the Union with Britain and the right for Irish people – be they Unionist or Republican – to have a real say in the running of their Island? I’m not sure what other changes could be seen as progressive.

I will leave the two candidates with a quote from American singer-song writer Rosanne Cash (Eldest daughter of the late musician Johnny Cash): ‘The key to change, is to let go of fear’

Monday, September 06, 2010

Tyrone Youth in Fundraising Trek of Cuban Mountains

Two Tyrone young people will be setting out for Cuba in little over a month, to trek the Caribbean island's Sierra Maestra Mountain range, in a fundraising effort for Cuban Medical Aid.

Barry McColgan from Strathroy in Omagh, and Marie Claire Devlin from Pomeroy, will be starting the gruelling trek of Cuba's highest mountain range on the 15th October.

The Tyrone duo, both members of Ógra Shinn Féin are being hosted and facilitated by the Cuban Government while there, and their fundraising efforts have already been officially endorsed by the Cuban Ambassador to Ireland Teresita Trujillo, who greeted them in the Embassy last Thursday 2nd September.

The Sierra Maestra as well as being famous as the highest mountain range in Cuba are historically renowned for the guerrilla warfare that was waged by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara's 26th July Movement at the start of the Cuban revolution.

Encouraging people to support the fundraising effort for Cuban Medical Aid, Barry McColgan said,

"The US embargo of Cuba limits the availability of essential medicines and medical supplies to the Cuban people, we would like to use the fundraising trek to raise much needed medical aid but also awareness about the blocade and the devastating effects it has on day to day life for Cuban citizens."

"We would encourage everyone to donate towards a worthy cause, to sponsor our fundraising trek and by doing so providing essential life saving medical aid to the Cuban people, defying and putting pressure on the US administration to lift their crazy and ill thought embargo of Cuba."

To sponsor the fundraising efforts contact Barry on or call on 07885569940.

Fermanagh Ógra Shinn Féin recreate Pearse Column Walk

A large crowd of over 20 young republicans gathered at Altawark monument outside Roslea early on Sunday morning. Their purpose was to retrace the heroic escape across the mountains from Altawark in Fermanagh to Monaghan after the famous 1957 raid on Brookeborough RUC Barracks in which Seán South and Feargal O'Hanlon lost their lives.

The event, which was organised by Fermanagh Ógra Shinn Féin, sought to better inform young republicans of the heroic activities of the members of the Pearse Column and to commemorate the two gallant men that lost their lives in the attack.

Republicans from across Ireland are aware of the Brookeborough raid from the songs "Sean South" and "The Patriot Game", but there is much more to the story than is told through these folk songs, and it is only by doing things such as taking part in this gruelling challenge that one can appreciate the challenges that the volunteers faced that fateful night.

Over the last number of years, local republicans have put a lot of work into remembering those who were members of the Pearse Column, including rebuilding Micky Joe Mulligan's house, where the volunteers sought refuge across the border in Co Monaghan, as well as the restoration of a Bedford lorry, which is identical to the one used on the raid.

Once the walk had been completed, the crowd gathered at Derrygannon Hall for a barbeque and a discussion with Bobby Storey, Chairperson of Belfast Sinn Féin, and a close friend of the late Eugene Cosgrove, who played a key role in organising many of the commemorative events for the Pearse Column volunteers.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Ógra Shinn Féin welcome ETA ceasefire

Ógra Shinn Féin has welcomed today's ceasefire declaration by Basque separatist group Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA).

ÓSF call on the Spanish government to initiate talks with the leaders of the Basque nationalist movement as quickly as possible. Statements by the Spanish government that it will not negotitate with ETA unless it completely disarms are hopelessley unrealistic. The only available option to move this process forward is for the Spanish government to react positively to this announcement, initiate all inclusive talks and create the conditions whereby peaceful democratic means can become a viable option to resolve this conflict.

The Spanish government must also cease it's criminalisation policy of Basque political parties and movements who support Independence.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Voices on Unity - Ian Stevenson

Cllr Ian Stevenson
Ballymoney District Council

I believe and feel that I am intrinically British and politically this is verified as I live in part of the United Kingdom. I believe I have a stronger affinity with Scotland, a link which has diminished over the centuries. As a Northern Ireland Unionist I have seen so many concessions to the nationalist population within Northern Ireland that are contrary to my wishes that a United Ireland I perceive would only further accentuate the erosion of the culture of a people who wish to remain British. One should also note the decline of Protestant population in South since 1921.

I believe that even within the nationalist population there is a significant difference between those in "the north" and those in "the south". This is manifested by the level of support for Sinn Fein in the 26 counties which is regarded as a Northern party and not one which is wanted in any governmental coalition in the Republic, nor indeed liked by many of those I have talked to in the Republic. I believe, not taking into account the financial instability of any such move, that we should concentrate on making Northern Ireland better instead of trying to alienate one large section of the population who are not welcome to parade in areas which are called nationalist areas. If this is an example of what to expect more of, then that would be one reason alone to say "No thanks".

Voices on Unity - Henry Reilly

Cllr Henry Reilly
Newry and Mourne Council

There will never be a United Ireland so you should stop wasting your time, Unionists are becoming increasingly determined to resist any move towards unification and we now have Republicians actually helping to govern Northern Ireland as a region of the United Kingdom so the Union looks safer now than ever.

Book Launch - Voices from the Other Side; An Oral History of Terrorism against Cuba'