Saturday, February 19, 2011

There's only one choice!

Public Talk on ‘The Murder Triangle’ – All Welcome

The Dwayne O’Donnell Ógra Shinn Féin cumann have announced details of a talk on ‘The Murder Triangle’ by Briege O’Donnell and Francie Molloy MLA in Murphy’s Bar, Pomeroy on Saturday 26th February at 8.30pm.

The public talk will be held to mark the 20th Anniversary of the state murder of Óglach John Quinn, Óglach Malcolm Nugent, Óglach Dwayne O’Donnell and Thomas Armstrong. The four men were killed by the UVF acting in collusion with the British state outside Boyle’s Bar, Cappagh on 3rd March 1991.

Ógra activist Seana Mallaghan said,

“On the day of the indiscriminate and merciless massacre, the crown forces who usually saturated the area were nowhere to be seen, giving their cohorts in the Unionist death squads a free run to carry out their cowardly and heartless act. The murders 20 years ago were part of a state sponsored policy of collusion were the British government worked in tandem with unionist paramilitaries to murder citizens it wished to rule. One of the worst affected areas was the area around Mid Ulster known as the murder triangle and the talk will focus on the many sectarian killings carried out. It is particularly fitting that we have Briege speaking, as the mother of Óglach Dwayne O’Donnell, she will bring a very personal and emotive perspective on how collusion and state murder affected her and Dwayne’s many friends, family and neighbours.”

Encouraging people to attend Ógra activist Marie Claire Devlin said,

“The British government need to tell the truth about their official policy of state sponsored murder and collusion. We are holding the public talk on ‘The Murder Triangle’ to highlight the extent of collusion in the Mid Ulster area, and its bloody and devastating legacy. We would encourage everyone to come along, to show their solidarity to the families who’s loved ones were murdered through Collusion in their on-going campaign for the truth.”

The night will conclude with an Irish Night by Liam Lappin. Taille for the Irish night is £5.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Epidemic of Young Male Suicide in Ireland

Cathal Óg Donnelly.
Ógra Shinn Féin
Cumann Colm Dalton NUI Maynooth.

The troubling issue of youth suicide in Ireland is one, which necessitates close attention from not only policymakers but everyone in society. While youth suicide in Ireland is on the rise, the fact that the vast majority of suicide victims are young males between the ages of 15-30 is worrying to say the least. Young males are vastly over represented in national suicide figures.

The rate of young male suicide has risen dramatically over the last number of decades, in 1977 the suicide rate of men aged 15 or over was 8.9/100,000 population, by 1996 this number had risen to 17.38/100,000 population. Suicide statistics in Ireland are compiled by the CSO (Central Statistics Office), however they rely upon county coroners to provide the details of these deaths therefore many suicides nationally are not recorded. This phenomenon leads to an increasingly skewed reading of the statistics. However, the fact is that even with the loss and confusion of data, young males are bearing the brunt of the rise in Irish suicide rates.

Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, the author of 'Preventable Death: The scandal of male suicide in modern Ireland' argues that Youth suicide shouldn’t be treated as purely a medical issue but a gender issue. Without taking away from the fact that many young women take their own lives each year, he argues that because national suicide figures are overwhelmingly male, young male suicide is almost an issue within the issue of suicide itself. Therefore he proposes that a greater wealth of sociological rather than medical knowledge should be sought surrounding the phenomenon and that conclusions and methods of prevention be formulated from the resulting research.

At present 8 out of 10 suicide victims in Ireland are young males. What is causing so many young Irish men to choose death over life? Of the many different factors cited by health authorities and independent studies on the issue, some are more prominent than others. Aside from the obvious issues of underlying mental illness, personality disorders or substance abuse there are many sociological factors that are often omitted from reports on the subject leading to greater confusion as to what should be done to prevent this needless loss of life.

The issue of gender socialisation in Irish society is one, which directly affects the willingness of men to access help services and express their emotions in a meaningful manner. Irish society has come a long way in the last few decades however the “masculinity factor” remains as strong as ever. It is simply not acceptable for men to discuss their feelings in Ireland. Men are expected to remain “strong” and maintain a “stiff upper lip” attitude to their emotional well-being. Studies show the main barriers to the use of mental health supports among young men are their fear of embarrassment, anticipated shame and apprehension concerning confidentiality.

Those living in a rural environment are generally more prone to depression and are more likely to be victims of suicide than those living in an urban setting. A report by the Young Men & Positive Mental Health Project points out that the social and geographical position in which these men live leads to feelings of isolation. Poverty and economic hardship coupled with changing farming methods along with a sense of lower status within the urban community were also cited as contributing factors.

There is a worrying lack of knowledge about Mental illness and emotional well-being amongst young men in Ireland. Young men when they feel depressed or isolated do not know who they can to turn to. Mental health promotion is the key to alleviating this dreadful problem. Young men need to know that they can talk to people about their emotions and that there is always someone to which they can turn. Subjects taught at second level such as SPHE and other programmes are not sufficient, the Government are not responding appropriately to the issue, the fact that mental health services only receive 7% of the national health budget at a time when suicide rates are rising is astounding.

All of these social factors come under the same umbrella, which is the stigmatisation of mental health issues in Irish society. Stigma is arguably becoming one of the biggest killers of young people in Ireland and must be addressed as quickly as possible. Health promotion organisations and we as individuals can go a long way to help prevent suicide and the silent suffering of those who feel like they have no hope. If we promote knowledge on the issue it is possible to end the reluctance of young men from seeking help. We need to be advocates for our friends and families and make it known that mental health issues can affect anyone at anytime and they don’t spell the end, they can be beaten. Help eradicate stigma in Irish society. Be that person who lends a helping hand and together we can beat suicide!

Article nominated for an Irish student media award. Journalism of the Year Relating to Suicide

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Search for truth goes on

Seán Ó Sé
Ógra Shinn Féin
UCC Martin Hurson Cumann
(originally printed in UCC Motley magazine)

The past is a different country. Last Sunday as I marched from Creggan to Free Derry corner this is a phrase that came back to me. 39 years ago the very route that I was walking, ordinary people, no different from you or me, were shot down by British soldiers. 39 years on and the memory of Bloody Sunday still haunts the city of Derry. Most of the barbed wire is gone. There are no longer slurs of 'paddy' being hurled by camouflaged men with cockney accents. However the ghosts of that occupied city still abound.

The entire six counties are very different place today to what they were in 1972. Internment had just been introduced which rounded up Catholics like cattle and imprisoned them without trial. Many of those interned were active members of the civil rights movement. This was on top of treatment that the nationalist community received from a government dominated by members of the Orange Order. Catholics were discriminated against when it came housing, education and voting.

The situation came to a head when nationalist began to organise themselves into a civil rights group and were beaten of the street by a sectarian police force, the RUC, and the paramilitary police reserves, the B-Specials. This sparked a resistance from the nationalist community from which the IRA emerged.

The family of those killed on that infamous Sunday in 1972 were forced to wait until June last year to receive any form of apology from the British government for what had happened to their loved ones. A report was published in April 1972 by Lord Widgery which absolved the British soldiers of all blame for what happened on Bloody Sunday. The Widgery report blamed the civil rights protestors for what had happened and attempted to blacken the name of those who were killed. This was particularly harrowing for the families of the deceased.

Bloody Sunday is but one example of British cover-ups and whitewashes of events that have happened in Ireland. One such event was the murder of well known human rights lawyer Pat Finucane. The Stevens Report published in 2003 admitted that there had been collusion with police and the loyalist paramilitaries in the killing. The loyalists were given the information they needed and were allowed to carry out the killing without fear of prosecution.

The families of those killed in the Ballymurphy massacre are now campaigning for an inquiry into the deaths of their loved ones. In August 1971 eleven innocent people were killed in the Ballymurphy area by British soldiers roaming the streets. One of those killed was a priest giving the last rites to one of the slain. Another was Francis Quinn who had come to the aid of a wounded man. No British soldier was ever brought to account for these killings and the families have never received any form of recognition from the British government.

There are countless more injustices that were carried out at the hands of the British authorities all over Ireland. Thankfully we now live in a time of peace and reconciliation. There have been trojan efforts on both sides of the community divide to bring those formerly in conflict, together. Former loyalist paramilitaries and former members of the IRA have come together in many community projects and in many areas work together for the aid of their respective communities. However the British government has still many questions to answer about its role in the troubles. They have still to come forward and explain their role in killings right across this country. Until they do many families still are haunted by the ghosts of the past.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Students react angrily to British army recruitment at Queens University

Students have reacted angrily to members of the Royal Irish Regiment recruiting outside Queens University once again. The regiment of the British Army opened a recruitment stall today accompanied by two British soldiers in full military regalia trying to recruit students.

These recruitment drives have been ongoing with the British Army having a stall at the fresher’s fair in September and recruitment posters advertised within the Queens Students union etc.

The British army are an illegal force of occupation and should not be permitted to recruit on campus. A university should be a neutral environment free from offensive literature and posters that only serve to promote an atmosphere of exclusion and segregation.

Student and QUB Sinn Féin activist Megan Fearon said:

“I was appalled at the presence of the British Army at the university today. The British war machine is an occupying force in Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, and should not be allowed to recruit young Irish students.

"It is a disgrace that following the outrage and controversy the RIR ‘victory parade’ caused, that they would choose to target vulnerable students, who in the current economic climate are faced with unemployment issues, this is taken advantage of.

"They promise students adventure, excitement and a good career prospect when in reality all they will be doing is giving their lives to an imperialist power that will use them to invade and occupy other countries. The British army have no right to be in Ireland never mind our universities.

"I call on all Queens’s students to reject the presence of this war force on our campus and for the University to no longer permit them to recruit”.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Youth Canvass this Saturday

Ógra will be doing a youth canvass in Dublin South Central this Saturday the 12th of February.

All activists who are able to should make an effort to be there, in particular activists from the 6 counties or from non priority constituencies.

Where? Meeting at 44 Parnell Square

When? 1pm SHARP Saturday the 12th

Bí ann and pass on!!

Choose Jobs, Choose Sinn Féin

'Choose Jobs' was the message from UCC Sinn Féin yesterday, when they launched their youth jobs plan locally.

The Martin Hurson cumann of Sinn Féin in UCC officially launched the document yesterday, presenting their solutions to the growing problems of youth unemployment and emigration to the student body, and handing out leaflets entitled ‘choose jobs’.

UCC activist Seán Ó Sé said

'Youth unemployment is an issue that keeps coming up, whether on the doors, or campaigning on campus. It is the touchstone issue for young people, and its unfortunately nearly a daily occurence to hear of someone either losing a job, or heading abroad to look for a job.

As republicans it is crucial that we have answers as well as fighting back, and bring forward proposals as thorough and well costed as these. We got a great reaction today, and people are really beginning to see that SF are the only people who can solve the jobs crisis

This follows on from tuesdays National Launch of the policy, where two of Sinn Féin’s youngest candidates in General Election 2011 launched Sinn Féin’s youth jobs policy at the Jeanie Johnston famine ship on Dublin’s quays on Tuesday to highlight the 100,000 young people who will be forced to emigrate in the next two years.

Sinn Féin’s Kathryn Reilly (Cavan/Monaghan) and Paul Hogan (Longford/Westmeath) said that a comprehensive youth jobs plan must be implemented by any incoming government as a priority.

Sinn Féin’s fully costed and credible proposals have the potential to get 50,000 young people under 25 off the dole immediately and create many more jobs in the years ahead.

Kathryn Reilly said:

''As a young person who has seen many of my friends forced to leave their families, their friends and their home country in search of work, I know all too well what a lack of action on youth unemployment can do.

Without a serious youth jobs plan we are in danger of losing a generation of talented young people to emigration. They have been failed by the previous government; they must not be failed by the next.

The absolute priority for any incoming government must be to implement a comprehensive youth jobs plan that works and which will get people back to work or into training.

Our costed and credible proposals have the potential to get 50,000 young people off the dole immediately and create many more jobs in the years ahead.

We need to make youth unemployment a priority and we need to beat emigration. Sinn Féin has the proposals and the political will to make this a reality.''

The plan includes a youth jobs fund to create 20,000 new jobs;

· A youth jobs fund to create 20,000 new jobs;

· An individual plan for the long-term prospects of every person under 25 on the live register

· 2,000 places on a ‘One More Language Scheme’ to give the young unemployed a chance to learn an extra foreign language;

· 5,000 free ECDL places

· 10,000 new CE places;

· 1,000 places on conversion courses at third level to help graduates convert their skills to potential growth sectors;

· Eight measures to treble the number of under 25s who are self-employed including a national entrepreneurship programme, access to credit and greater support for high-potential start-ups;

· A publicly-owned green tech firm for Ireland and a major drive to attract FDI in renewable energy

· Making Ireland a digital media leader through support for skills, infrastructure and entrepreneurship;

· A ‘National Development Scheme’ to employ people directly on public works projects employing 2,000 workers;

· Lifting of the suspension on the early farm retirement scheme to make farming an option for younger people.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Anti Fees Public Talk and Debate in QUB

Queens SF will be hosting a public talk highlighting the main issues that face the youth today including emigration, student fees, EMA and unemployment.

The ‘Anti-Fees’ debate will host SF MLA Mitchell McLaughlin who will address the crowd on economic issues such as the impact of the Tory cuts and other relevant economic concerns, and SF MLA Sue Ramsey who will deal with the issues facing the youth. The floor will then be open to a question and answer session. The talk will take place at 7pm on Wednesday 9th of February in Queens Student Union building, clubrooms 3+4. All welcome. Please attend!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Dublin kicks-off 2011 with Leinster House Launch

Dublin Ógra Shinn Féin members and supporters gathered in Leinster House on the 21st January to strategise for 2011. The event which was attended by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD was held in government buildings to coincide with the anniversary of the First Dáil Éireann in 1919. Dozens of young people attended the event which gave way to lots of discussion of Ógra's activism in 2010 and what lies ahead for 2011.

The Launch Night which started at 18.30 was a huge success. Ógra Shinn Féin Átha Cliath spokesperson Daithi Byrne said;

"A lot of work was put into this event by very dedicated young people in the organisation. Young people attended the event and were impressed with the presentation of 2010 activities including the protests and demonstrations against the handover of sovereignty to the IMF and EU. Young people who were not necessarily political have become interested in developments in the state, especially the disastrous handling of the crisis by the Fianna Fáil/Green Party government. Those who attended last night that weren't Ógra members were encouraged to join Ógra Shinn Féin due to the need to provide a radical alternative aiming to change Irish society to a situation which reflects the ideals of the 1916 proclamation; equality, justice, peace and freedom. Discussions and meetings are taking place all over the country about how to bring young people into the heart of the republican project - now is the time to join Ógra in the community, join Sinn Féin in the college. This is easy to do and there is no better time to do it."

Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD sponsored the Launch Night and was glad to see young people from all over Dublin on their visit to the event in Leinster House. Colm Ó Mordha, Dublin Ógra Chairperson said;

"I'm happy to see young people attend this event and getting involved in Sinn Féin's alternative. Tonight is symbolic in that this event coincides with the first anniversary of the 1919 An Chead Dáil Éireann, which saw Sinn Féin dramatically swept to power in an overall majority vote by the Irish people in the 1918 election. The fightback has begun with the 2011 General Election called for early March. Sinn Féin are about reversing the devastating policies of both Fianna Fáil and the Greens. Young people have always been at the heart of the republican project from the very beginning. Now is the best time for youth to get political, get involved and join Sinn Féin to bring about the alternatives which Ireland needs."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh thanked Dublin Ógra's team for its hard work over the years, especially in 2010 and congratulated its hard-working members with their well designed website launch and professional video which is being distrusted on major social networks.

Dublin Ógra Shinn Féin unveiled its online presence last night by launching its Facebook page, its website and a professionally produced video. Young people are encouraged to visit the website and spread the word on its foundation. The web addresses are, and

A Crucial year for young republicans begins

Last weekend saw large numbers of young republicans gather in the Gasyard in the heart of Derry’s Bogside for the Ógra Shinn Féin National Congress. As well as being the opportunity to reflect on a significant year in our struggle, it also marked the beginning of what may well be a landmark year for republicans, with three crucial elections which could shape the nation for a generation.

The weekend opened with a keynote address from local MLA Martina Anderson, who gave a warm welcome to all delegates for making the journey, and commending the activists present for their efforts to promote Sinn Féin among young people throughout the year, and on their campaigning and activism. She also emphasised the importance of allowing young people the space to lead.

This was followed by a presentation by the chair of the National Youth Committee, Darren O’Rourke, on the contents of the National Youth Strategy. He outlined the importance of the strategic approach, in setting local youth engagement plans, the different nature of work involved in engaging disparate groups of young people, but the importance of keeping our youth structures as the one project, and the need to be ambitious and target serious flagship projects to make inroads among the young people of Ireland.

The floor was then opened to the delegates who broadened out the discussion, with questions and observations on a number of issues, with party chair Declan Kearney also commending it to the comrades present. This was followed by a brief period of motions, before the event concluded for the evening and activists relaxed.

The following morning activists arose the following morning and began straight in to the greater body of the motions, with many interesting contributions and passionate debates on a wide variety of issues, which concluded at 11.30.

There followed perhaps the most powerful and affecting part of the weekend as Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice, Tony Doherty of the Bloody Sunday families and Pat Quinn of the Ballymurphy families spoke on their experiences in the search for truth and answers from the authorities for the death of their loved ones and friends. The discussion was attended a number of others who had been affected by the Ballymurphy and Bloody Sunday atrocities, and indeed many others who had been affected by the conflict. As well as being deeply moving and emotional, it was a talk which gave those present a real insight in to the need for truth recovery, the effect of such loss on families, or even in to what it required to keep the pressure on for a public enquiry.

Following more motions, and a hearty lunch in the gasyard cafe, activists returned to the hall for the evening’s keynote address with the deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness
Martin outlined the crucial importance of the youth strategy;

‘It comes as the culmination of the process of engaging young republicans the length and breadth of this country, and I look forward to seeing it come to fruition etc.
However probably the most crucial aspect of this strategy is that only you can deliver this strategy. The leadership are fully supportive of this initiative, but they can’t deliver it. This initiative is dependent on every young person in the party taking on this strategy, bringing the republican project to your school, your workplaces, your college and your street. We need all young activists to make this your priority for the coming years, and making sure that Sinn Féin is the seen as the most relevant political project for young people. After the assembly and general elections, there could be a period of a number of years without an election. The coming period signifies a significant opportunity for Ógra and young republicans to make the youth project one of our priorities as a movement over the coming years and to ensure that Sinn Féin is seen as the voice of young people on this island.’

He also commended Ógra on its work over the proceeding months and outlined the importance of seeing young leaders coming to the fore and commended the young people who had put themselves forward for elections in the coming twelve months;

‘Candidates connected to the youth project will be contesting seats in Derry City Council, Dungannon Council, Armagh Council, Fermanagh Council, Craigavon council, for the assembly in Fermanagh South Tyrone, and in Upper Bann, and the general election in Cavan/monaghan . Many young people are stepping up to the mark, and providing leadership, and they should be commended. They represent a new generation of leadership, who will be to the forefront of our struggle in years to come, and I wish Ógra all the best over the coming period in producing high quality activists. The lest year or two has seen a number of former Ógra activists gain a profile as national leadership figures, people such as Daithi McKay, Toiráasa Ferris and Pearse Doherty, who's performances in the by election, and in the media since then, has brought many around to our type of politics. We need more like him, and I am glad to see young people stepping up to the mark.’

This followed neatly on to a debate on the current economic crisis and, the solutions to it, involving Mitchel McLaughlin MLA of Sinn Féin, Pol Callaghan MLA of the SDLP, Michael Gallagher of ILEX urban regeneration, and Eamon McCann of the People Before Profit.

After interesting opening contributions from each speaker, the floor was opened up, and activists, along with members of the public in attendance, asked a number of highly relevant, and insightful questions, which focused on the role of the public sector in the economy, how best to respond to cutbacks, the impact of partition on politics of this island, and even abstentionism. The questions provoked further debate, and led to some interesting and often impassioned exchanges, between the panel members as well as with the crowd.

After the discussion wrapped up, activists took a few minutes out before attempting to conclude that night’s business. The last few motions were debated on voted upon, and the floor was opened up for the various reports and addresses. First up were the cúige organisers, who each gave a brief summation of the work that had happened in their cúige since the last congress. The congress was then addressed by SIPTU activist Martin O’Rourke, who congratulated activists on the congress, and urged the importance of a resurgent left, as well as organising at work for fairness and justice. All activists were encouraged to get involved in Trade Unionism, and he noted that a motion had been discussed and debated by the Strabane Cumann on the importance of being involved in Trade Unions.

This was followed by addresses by the international guests, with JERC from Catalonia being present, as well as, for the first time, SUF, the Socialist Youth Front, from Denmark, who both thanked Ógra for the invitation, and wished the republican movement success over the forthcoming years. A statement was also read on behalf of the Irish Basque Solidarity Committee, which outlined the current difficult situation in the Basque country and asked for continued solidarity, as well as thanking Ógra for its solidarity work to that point. The evenings proceedings were wrapped up with a brief address by the National Organiser, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, who thanked all for coming and all who had contributed to the event, in particular the National Executive and Derry Ógra, as well as noting the great potential that lied ahead, in particular noting the current climate, but also the possibilities which the National Youth Strategy created.

Following a rousing rendition of the national anthem by UCC’s Seán Ó Sé, activists congregated at Free Derry Corner to protest against cuts in the EMA, part of a continuing Ógra campaign.
The evening drew to a close with a lively and well attended function in the Culturlann with Shebeen, and plenty more craic and ceol.

The fresh Sunday morning saw comrades get on a bus for a republican tour of derry, starting at the first Battalion IRA monument in the bogside where the crowd were addressed by Gerry McCartney, following on to the second battalions monument in Creggan where comrades were addressed by Mickey Kinsella, (brother of vol. Paul Kinsella), then up to the 3rd Battalion in Shantallow where Seamas Soal gave a speech, and while there, took in an Ógra mural commemoration the 100th anniversary of Na Fianna. The tour also took in the 4th Battalions monument in the Waterside, Patsy O’ Hara’s house, the bloody Sunday memorial service, Mickey Devine’s house, and finishing up at the city graveyard.

The weekend ended on a historic note, as comrades joined in along, with tens of thousands for the last Bloody Sunday March, though not the last weekend. A number of the activists carried enormous portraits of the victims as people entered guildhall square. Proceedings were chaired by John Kelly, brother of Michael Kelly and involved addresses from Mark Durkan MLA, from the Ballymurphy families, and from Gerry Adams, who had started proceedings in style, stepping in during what can only be described as a musical malfunction to deliver the national anthem in style.

Following the addresses the day wrapped up with a moving and powerful rendition of ‘We shall overcome’ by Frances Black, a song with long and historic links to the civil rights movement in the north, and indeed to the Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy families.

As ever republicans, and in particular, young republicans must be to the forefront in the struggle for justice and equality, along with those families, and with the Irish people generally, over the next crucial twelve months.