Monday, April 23, 2012

Suicide Prevention Course takes place in Armagh

The Armagh Sinn Féin Republican Youth committee are the latest area to take part in the ’Mind your Mate’ training program.

Ógra Shinn Féin, now Sinn Féin Republican Youth, have been extremely proactive on the issue of suicide prevention over the past 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 ASIST and similar programme's in different venues across Ireland

Speaking on the issue, Sinn Féin activists Blaine McCartney said;

“It is important to remember 527 people in took their own lives in Ireland last year. The Mind your Mate training programme is aimed at young people aged between 16 and 24. It gives young people the skills to look out for each other and to look after their own mental health. It’s important that we always remember the hundreds of people affected by this every day. It’s time to raise awareness and loose the stigma attached to depression and other mental illnesses!

Sinn Féin Republican Youth in Armagh and throughout Ireland will continue to play our part in addressing this issue, as suicide does not simply affect a certain portion of our society. It is not a problem for a particularly demographic, but a problem for all.” 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Derry Ógra Shinn Féin to hold Suicide Prevention Event

Ógra Shinn Féin in Derry will be hosting the ‘Mind Your Mate’ programme; this is in conjunction with PIPs (Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide). 

Mind your Mate is a training programme aimed at young people aged 16 – 24. It gives young people the skills to look out for each other and to look after their own mental health.

The mind your mate programme aims to:

Help young people understand why someone may become suicidal, Allow young people to identify the signs that a friend may be at risk, Help young people communicate with a friend who may be at risk, Enable a young person to link someone at risk to appropriate support.

The course will take place on the 21st April in Rath Mór, Sinn Féin office at 11am and will run on to 2.30pm.

The courses are free and give those participating a chance of getting a Level 1 OCN, tea/coffee and light refreshments will be available on the day.

Some of the participants at the recent Mind Your Mate course in Omagh

Caolán McGinley, PRO said: 

“I’m happy to announce that all our places for this course have been taken, as well as members of Ógra, we have created interest amongst the wider community. Suicide is the biggest killer amongst young people, and has been an issue in our city and across the North of Ireland. We all have a role to play in Suicide prevention; we believe the ‘Mind your Mate’ programme will provide education and confidence for members of the community and young people in order to look out for themselves, their friends and the people around them. To follow the course on the 2nd June, myself and other members of Derry Ógra will be climbing Mount Errigal to raise money for PIPs and to help them continue the great work they do in communities promoting Suicide awareness. I believe it is our duty to work together as a community and make suicide history” 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Women of Gaza

Álanna Campbell
National Youth Committee
Óige Phoblachtach East Tyrone

I was lucky enough to be part of a recent Irish Delegation to Gaza organised by Derry Friends of Palestine. Myself and my fellow Ógra comrades, Cathal Óg Donnelly, Ruairi McLaughlin and Mickey McCrossan have many special memories of the trip and have returned home to Ireland dedicated and committed to working alongside the people of Gaza until they achieve their freedom.

There are many different aspects to the siege and overall struggle in Gaza, and one that must be considered is the important role played by the women of Gaza. Similar to the role of women in Ireland, their bravery and courage struck me immediately. I felt proud to be in the company of so many strong, independent and loyal women; loyal to their country, loyal to their families and loyal to their basic internal qualities and beliefs of equality, freedom and justice.

We visited several universities in Gaza, and the amount of women in attendance was striking. Women outweighed the men in many universities and several continue their study and do masters and postgrads as a means of progressing themselves and their potential opportunities in the future. In the Islamic University inGaza, there was a majority of 68% female students to the 32% male students and these figures are similar in the various other universities. These statistics show the drive, determination and hope for the future that these young women have, and these women have undertaken the message behind the famous words ofThomas Davies, “Educate, that you may be free.” The education and progression of women's skills is of the utmost important to the people of Gaza and is reflected by groups which have been set up by women for women. One women’s groups that we met with was ‘Ethar Voluntary Initiative’ and it is run under support and supervision of Jana Society for Community Development, aiming at empowering women, improving living conditions and creating opportunities for young people and marginalised groups. We presented them with a quilt, a gift from the women of Ireland to the women of Palestine, expressing our solidarity and recognising the special relationship that the women of Ireland and Gaza share.

One woman who stands out in particular and is now an international figure is Hana Shalabi; her story and her name have been a hot topic for all Palestinian activists around the world. One woman’s relentless courage and strong, un-surrendering beliefs in her rights and her desire for freedom led to a 43 day long Hunger Strike in which the rest of the world looked on, unable to believe that the Israeli authorities were refusing to step in! Four days after she ended her hunger strike, the Irish delegation were lucky and privileged enough to actually meet Hana in her hospital room. I can honestly say that one of the greatest honours in my life was presenting Hana with an Easter Lily, a symbol of remembrance and honour for all the great men and women who died in the pursuit of Irish freedom and re-unification.

We also met with the mothers, wives, sisters and children of many political prisoners. We heard their individual, heart-wrenching and emotional stories and their pleas for the release of the political prisoners. Many of the women had accepted that they might not see their beloved sons, husbands, brothers and fathers again, they had accepted the sad reality that they could die in prison. Mothers may never see their pride and joys again, wives are continuing to bring up their families, singlehandedly, struggling to make ends meet, and children, innocent, beautiful children, shaken with the harrowing realisation that they might never see their father again, and some who will never see their father even for the first time. These women are the strength behind the movement, the drive behind the fight for freedom, their unrelenting and unquenching thirst for justice left us all very emotional, and able to see the many similarities between the women of Ireland and the women of Palestine. We met with mothers who had sacrificed their sons for the freedom of their country, the love of their country and the future of their country. Imagine the feeling of sending your son out to fight, knowing full well that he will not be returning, that he will become a martyr and that his death is solely because of the occupation of his own country by a foreign people who should not be there and have no right to be there!

Ireland and Palestine have always had links throughout their struggles and history, the women of Gaza held posters of our ten brave comrades who died on Hunger Strike in 1981 to show their solidarity to our cause and movement. The people of Ireland have not forgotten that and will stand in solidarity with the men, women and children of Gaza until they are free from Israeli state terrorism!

Free Gaza, Saor Gaza, الحرية لغزة

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Children of Gaza

Cathal Óg Donnelly
National Youth Committee
Óige Phoblachtach East Tyrone

From the moment you cross the border at Rafah you realise that there is something particularly striking about Gaza. It isn’t the bombed out shells of what used to be peoples homes and places of work that struck you the hardest. It isn’t even the sounds of the fighter jets flying overhead, or the Israeli gunfire in the bay preventing Palestinian fishermen from making a living in their own waters. It isn’t the bullet holes that riddled the cities or the mad made poverty and squalor that people were forced to live in. It isn’t the hum of the spy drones overhead. It is the beauty of Gaza and the children of Palestine.

Gaza has a very young population. Over 44 percent of the population are under the age of 14. As you take a look around you would be hard pressed to find a street that wasn’t thronged with small children playing. The first thought that hits you is that Israel air strikes and bombs these streets and residential areas regularly. How many of these children die as a result of Israeli aggression? During the three week Israeli offensive in 2008, Operation Cast Lead, the Palestinian Ministry of health estimates that 431 children were killed as a result of the violence. That’s roughly 20 children per day of the attacks.

We visited a small primary school that was situated next to a three story residential building that was destroyed by an Israeli rocket two weeks before we arrived. The children’s smiles offered the warmest greeting one could receive. They were so happy to see us and jumped at the rare opportunity to practice their English with Europeans. Needless to say 60 children shouting their names at you all at once can be a lot to get your head around and if you’re not good with names you have to shape up or ship out. The side of the school was riddled with shrapnel holes and the image of the children smiling out at you from a balcony surrounded by bullet holes is as eye opening an experience as one could possibly have. On leaving the school a smiling young boy was presented to us. Two weeks before our arrival he and his little brother were walking to school when an Israeli rocket struck killing the boy’s small brother. The boy met us with a smile. He had skipped out ahead of his younger brother before the rocket hit, saving his life.

In Gaza the power cuts because of the siege affect everyone and everywhere from the streets of the refugee camps to the houses of government ministers forcing people to use candles or other primitive forms of lighting. A couple of days before we left three small children were burned to death in their bedroom, they were using the candle to do their homework, after they fell asleep the candle fell over starting the fire. We met the family of the children in their home. We stood in the burned out room in which they had died only two day before. As I looked at the ground where the charred remains of their homework lay I was struck with a great sense of grief and anger. The siege killed those beautiful little children, the Israelis might as well have put a gun to their heads and pulled the trigger. This event is not unique; the siege actively kills, injures and deprives people and children in particular of their dignity.

 The children in Gaza endure immense suffering every day, being back in Ireland and seeing the kids play and laugh here, Gaza and the problems facing its people seem worlds away. Normality toys with you as if it was all a bad dream, but it’s one the Palestinians cannot awaken from. The resilience of these children in the face of the hardships they live under is a beacon of hope not only for me, but also for the Palestinian people and cause. The smiles of the children of Palestine serve as the sign that the Palestinians will ever truly be defeated. Bobby Sands said, “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children”. Hopefully one day we will hear that laughter in the streets of Al Quds in a free Palestine.        


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Sinn Féin Republican Youth interviewed by PressTV in Gaza

Members of Sinn Féin Republican Youth who travelled as part of a solidarity trip to the beseiged Palestinian territory of Gaza spoke with PressTV:

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Play Your Part!!

Joe Dunn
Sinn Fein Republican Youth Committee
Ógra Shinn Fein Doire

“Everyone, Republican or otherwise, has their own particular part to play. No part is too great or too small; no one is too old or too young to do something.” 31 years after his passing, the words of Republican Prisoner, Hunger striker and Member of Parliament Bobby Sands still echo as loudly and as importantly as they did in 1981. The focus of this quote for me is, “No one is too old or too young to do something”. Throughout every phase of struggle the youth of Ireland have always been at the forefront. Previous generations, from The Young Ireland movement in the 1830s, Na Fianna Eireann of the early 1900’s, Sinn Féin Youth of the 1990’s and the countless other Republican youth organisations in the years between, have always been the backbone of the struggle, they have taken a stand and filled the void.

All throughout the past those young republicans who have joined youth movements went on to become leaders, this can now be seen today with many young Republicans in crucial democratic roles, for example, Councillors Colly Kelly, Jack Murray and Elisha McLaughlin; Daithi McKay MLA and Pearse Doherty T.D. Young active Republicans are the future, not only of Sinn Féin, but they are laying the founds for the republican movement as a unified entity and are vital if we are to achieve a United Ireland in the future.

Personally I became active in republican politics in 2010. There were several reasons for my involvement; firstly, coming from a republican household and secondly, attending many republican commemorations. These experiences influenced me in taking an interest in republican politics from a young age. That interest gave me the drive and determination to learn more about Republican history, traditions and culture. The years passed and I was able to see what Ógra activists were doing, I could see from the outset their dedication and competence along with their commitment to the republican struggle. Almost instantly I had aspiration to become that type of activist. Later in 2010 I had attended a number of protests with people who I now value as my comrades. I then joined ÓSF and within weeks I had the honour to speak as a representative of Ógra at an anti-cuts demonstration. Within a number of months I had been elected to the Doire ÓSF Officer board as Campaigns Officer.

I was especially attracted to Ógra Shinn Féin due to the ideologies that underpin OSF. Ideologies including, Republicanism, Socialism, Feminism, Anti-Fascism and Internationalism. Sinn Féin Republican Youth actively stand by these ideals. Republicanism is used in our daily political actions as is socialism. On an international level we have actively campaigned for the Boycott of Israeli goods, the release of Palestinian hunger strikers Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi. As I type this article a number of Ógra activists are in Palestine as part of a delegation to build links with local communities and education services. We have also been present at demonstrations and rallies across the country on International Women’s day.

Without the on-going support of young republicans nationwide, Sinn Féin Republican Youth would not be able to continue the dedicated work on a daily basis, to echo the words of Gerry Adams T.D, “Get involved with Ógra and make a difference to modern Irish politics.” With that in mind and referring back to Bobby Sands’ quote “No one is too old or too young” I would say now that the time has never been better for young republican minded people to become involved in politics. Sinn Féin Republican Youth is a radical, campaigning, activist based party and is the fastest growing youth wing of any political party in Ireland; we are consistently growing and have new Cumainn and Committees forming on a regular basis.

I call on all young republicans to become involved in any way you can. Be it through SFRY, your local Sinn Féín Cumann, local Republican Flute Band or through one of the many community programmes and youth programmes across the country.

You can play your part! We, the youth of Ireland, are the catalyst for change in this country. We can work together to eradicate division and build an Ireland of equals which will fulfil the aims set out in the Easter Proclamation of the Irish Republic and establish a Republic that, “guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.”