Thursday, July 25, 2013

Acampada Jove - Different nations, the same struggle: Independence and Socialism!

Alt scríofa ag: 
Seán Fearon

Armagh SFRY Activist Seán Fearon represented SFRY at Acampada Jove in Catalonia last weekend. 

There are few sights as peculiar as a child scampering to the top of a tower constructed of only three other people, their only support being the shoulders of the person below them; more so when this tower, a spectacular Catalan tradition, is erected on the main road in the centre of a town on a Saturday. One would expect, based on the usual experiences and attitudes found within Irish society, a line of angry motorists, shocked onlookers and remarks all carrying the general sentiment of: “look at those eejits”. However, having spent three days soaking in a culture and a festival that shattered all my presupposed expectations of Catalonia, it was, at this stage, perfectly natural to see motorists applauding, onlookers still infatuated with by this ostensibly repetitive spectacle, and to hear the air filled by the cheers and the spirit of a crowd that was typical of any crowd at Acampada Jove in Montblanc from the 18th-20th July 2013. This small moment now seems to embody everything that makes the Catalonian struggle for independence the beacon for those struggling likewise around the world: the self-respect and appreciation of their culture, the dizzying scale of the demonstrations of the Left Republican movement, and, at the risk of sounding too grandiose, the unstoppable forward momentum, the climb to the stars, earned by JERC and Esquerra in their fight to secure their inevitable liberation from the Spanish state.

I spent four days in Catalonia as a delegate at Acampada Jove, a music festival quite unlike any that will likely appear in Ireland in the near future. Eighteen years ago JERC (The youth wing of ERC, or Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, commonly referred to as just Esquerra) launched a small music festival focused solely around celebrating the ideas of Left Republicanism and Catalonian culture that has since become the biggest music festival in the province, drawing a crowd of anywhere between 15,000-25,000 young people, all paying to see the most popular music acts of the Catalan countries. Apart from the size of the event itself, what is more impressive is the fact that this festival is almost entirely set up by JERC activists, about 450 this year (almost half of the entire membership of JERC), who devote endless hours to meticulous planning, promotion and manual labour to create something that they are justifiably proud of. Bar work, security, stage assistance and the actual creation of the camp, everything except the construction of the main stage (which, by law, must be erected by professionals) is carried out by activists aged 14 to 28. Many work 12 hour shifts, to be rewarded with a 3 hour sleep, only to rise again to work. What seemed like a gruelling endeavour was carefully expounded by Gerard Gomez (National Spokesperson of JERC) when he addressed a crowd of activists on the first night, calling on people to honour their republican principles: “if you don’t do your one hour, someone else must do two hours. We are republicans”. Quite simply, Acampada Jove would not happen were it not for the unshakeable dedication and inspiring comradery of hundreds of JERC activists.

It should not surprise many that such a crowd will flock to a festival that is so politicized, where the main stage is flanked by two massive banners displaying the focal points of the Left Republican movement in Catalonia: Socialism, Feminism, Republicanism, Sexual Freedom, Independence, Jobs, Houses, Language, and Solidarity. After all, recent polls in the state of Catalonia suggest 75% support for independence from Spain, a lot of which can be put down to the economic treatment of Catalonia by the Spanish parliament in Madrid. Catalonia receives 16 billion Euro less than it provides to the federal government and comprises 24% of the Spanish economy, including 30% of its exports. 10% of the GDP of Catalonia is taken by Spain; appalling considering German states for example can lose only 4% by law to the national government. 75% of all toll bridges in Spain are situated in Catalonia, not a cent of the revenue of which will ever remain there. Of course, this support was exemplified in the monstrous demonstration on 11th September (the Catalan national day, commemorating the day that Catalonia was defeated by the French monarchy in 1714 and became entirely subject to a Spanish state headed by a relative of the French monarch, a legacy which remains to this day) last year in which 1.5 million people, a fifth of the population of the state of Catalonia, took to the streets of Barcelona to demand independence from a crumbling Spanish state. It was organised by the ANC (Catalan National Assembly) who, this September, will follow this momentous occasion by drawing the world’s attention to the unity and the determination of the Catalan people to win independence by forming a human chain 400km long (from the East coast of the Iberian Peninsula to the Catalan-Spanish border) that will require the participation of 400,000-600,000 people. Think of 1/3 of the population of the Six Counties linking hands. No words can do justice to the sheer magnitude of this movement, one that enjoys overwhelming support, in Catalonia at least.

As for the rest of the Catalan countries, poll results remain dubious. My guide, Rubo, assured me that Valencia remains steadfastly in favour of a union with Spain, while the Catalan islands of Ibiza, Menorca and Mallorca show signs of increased support. This prompted an interesting discussion between me, members of JERC and of the Basque delegation at a riveting question and answers session on Saturday. Currently, the plan for Left Republicans is to see the state of Catalonia gain independence in 2014 through a referendum. This will, of course, mean excluding the remaining Catalan countries. The Basque movement plan to attempt something similar, assuming electoral support is sufficient, by separating from Spain but leaving the French occupied region behind. Parallels were immediately drawn between these plans and the partition of Ireland and the effect splitting a nation into two or more parts can have on the momentum of nationalist sentiment and the apathy that will invariably rise in a liberated region, regardless of the fate of colonised comrades. Both the Catalan activists and the Basque delegation reaffirmed their willingness to work and their belief that partial independence will act as a stepping stone and an inspiration in areas where the idea is less popular (Valencia, for instance). There are little other options available, however I remain unconvinced – it is hard to imagine the aforementioned energy that exists within Catalonia being apparent in years to come, and one must remain sceptical of the power of apathy and it’s crippling effect on political activism.

One thing that was made clear to me was the incredible support that exists for Irish Republicanism within the Left Republican movement in Catalonia, as evidenced by the ceaselessly hospitable JERC activists and even the townspeople of Montblanc. Long Kesh T-shirts were on display and many were even wearing Irish soccer jerseys, with more pride than many in Ireland have been able to muster in recent years. In fact, the first Catalan Republican party, Nosaltres Sols, was named after Sinn Féin, the Catalan translation to English being some variation of “we ourselves”.  For the first few days it was impossible to pay for any meals, for example, and my annoying habit of asking an endless string of awkward questions was accommodated graciously by all who suffered it. I learned of the violent history of the Spanish Civil War and the devastating effect it had on the Republican independence movement. Three months after its formation in 1931 Esquerra won 74% of the popular vote and an absolute majority in the Catalonian parliament. Following the outbreak of civil war it merged into a popular front to combat General Franco and the Fascist coup, during which 40,000 party members were killed in fighting. The President of Esquerra at the time, Lluis Companys fled the country following Franco’s decision to slaughter his political opposition, but was caught in France in 1940 by the German Gestapo and executed following a military trial.

The Left Republican movement as it is presently is something extraordinarily different than that of which exists in Ireland. Hundreds of esteladas (the Catalan flag) are shown proudly, from balconies, from tents, from public buildings and restaurants, from market stalls and bus shelters, from backpacks, clothes and those that hang on the backs of elated campers and activists alike. This incredible movement as conveyed at Acampada Jove is exemplified when literally thousands of people, at the camp or in Montblanc, periodically erupt into seemingly habitual but invariably awe inspiring roars of their cry for freedom: ‘in, inde, inde-pendenc-ia’. It is a movement that is embodied by the seas of young people who share a love for their music, their culture, a love of all things Catalan; but, above all, share the desire, the belief and a shared sense of inevitability that someday, soon, victory will be theirs. Cap a la llibertat!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Reminder - Deposit Deadline!

Don't forget - The deadline for all deposits for this year's Hunger Strike Youth Weekend is this Friday, the 26th of July. Deposits of £15/ €20 must be sent with a completed booking form.

For more information or to book a place contact Barry on 07885569940 or Leanne on 07742593106.

Ná déanaigí dearmud - is é an Aoine seo, an 26ú Iúil, spriocdháta na n-earlaisí do Deireadh Seachtaine na Stailceanna Ocrais. Caithfear £15/ €20 a sheoladh ar aon le foirm áirthint. 

I gcomhair tuilleadh eolais nó chun do spás a chuir san áireamh téigh i dteangmháil le Barry ar 07885569940 nó Leanne ar 07742593106.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mairéad Farrell Republican Youth does a clean-up!

Despite the sweltering heat, during Ireland’s brief heat wave, members of the Mairéad Farrell Republican Youth were out helping with a clean-up. A fence leading into the Lagmore estate in West Belfast was damaged by offensive graffiti and so SFRY along with local councillors decided to paint over the graffiti.  

Speaking after the clean-up, Mairéad Farrell Republican Youth activist Bronagh Bradley said: “It was a terrible act of vandalism that ruins the image of the Colin area and I feel it is the duty of members of SFRY to help out and improve their local community, no matter how small a job it is. With many members of SFRY being off school/ university for the summer, and with the sunny weather, it is a perfect time for members to take part in activism such as cleaning up local areas.”

If you are interested in the Mairéad Farrell Republican Youth , contact them on Facebook!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Quinn calls for legal action for local tyre bonfire

Alt scríofa ag:
Mary Kate Quinn, Mairéad Farrell Republican Youth Committee (Béal Feirste)

Mairéad Farrell Republican Youth member Mary Kate Quinn has expressed her outrage at a bonfire in her local area in South Antrim. She has called for legal action to be taken against those responsible for constructing and lighting a bonfire made of tyres in Stoneyford. The bonfire also included posters of Sinn Féin election candidates and flags. 

"The people of Stoneyford not only have to endure their lives being disrupted throughout the year by the behaviour of a sectarian band but now they have to endure toxic fumes from a bonfire on the 11th of July."

"The actions of those who built the bonfire were wreckless, irresponsible and offensive. The burning of tyres is illegal and a serious environmental issue, particularly given the toxic fumes that are given off. It can cause permanent damage to the health of anyone who inhales them."

"Those responsible also decided to add insult to injury by placing tricolors  and election posters of myself and my Sinn Féin colleagues on top of the bonfire. This achieves nothing but to incite hate and is certainly not an expression of culture. I therefore call on the relevant bodies to take immediate action against those responsible."

Sinn Féin Republican Youth will be publishing a series of opinion pieces on the blog, please mail us on our Facebook page if interested. 

Óige Phoblachtach Chontae Lú Weekend!

Tháinig slua mór daoine ó Óige Shinn Féin go Ómeith Mara, Contae Lú de hAoine 13ú Meitheamh do deireadh seachtaine naisiúnta na hóige. Thirty young people from all over Ireland stayed in the Granvue Hotel, Omeath to take part in the educational weekend which was opened by Uachtaran Shinn Féin and TD for Louth, Gerry Adams. Gerry welcomed the activists and spoke of how delighted he was to see so many young people in the local hotel.  

The weekend, organised by Óige Phoblachtach Shinn Féin Lú, also gave those present a political update on the Narrow Water Bridge Project ‘Ag aontú Éireann droichead amhain ag an am!’ ‘Uniting Ireland one bridge at a time!’ with Caitríona Ruane and Chris Hazzard both MLAs for Dún Theas, Cllrs. Jim Loughran and Edel Corrigan from Tuaisceart Lú.

Saturday brought a tour of Dundalk Old Gaol (and for some a very early morning after the night before!), where the Watters Brothers Sinn Féin Cumann in Dundalk presented a tribute to the 6 volunteers executed in 1923 in the Gaol and the history leading up to their executions, this included the volunteers’ last letters to their families and the letters received by the families notifying them of the young men’s death. This was a thoroughly moving experience that concluded with the Roll of Honour with the 77 known names of those executed by the Free State forces during the Civil War.

Saturday afternoon; Dundalk Outcomers Society, PIPS Newry, local community activists and Newry Rainbow Community held a workshop around suicide awareness and LGBT equality. The focus was on the use of language and labels surrounding mental health and sexual orientation as well as the role Sinn Féin activists particularly the younger generation have to play in promoting equality. Megan Fearon MLA chaired the workshop discussing how mental health has affected her personally and how as an MLA, Megan is pushing for the better distribution of the healthcare budget in the north to include much needed support to mental health and positive wellbeing. Megan also discussed Sinn Féin’s input to the equal marriage debate earlier this year in Stormont and stated simply that she has no doubt that marriage equality will pass along with the wide range of other issues associated with it including the right to adopt and also to give blood. Óige Shinn Féin members took part in a lively discussion and offered insight into the issues in their own areas with these two highly important and emotive topics – one in particular was how to encourage support from rural communities for those most vulnerable in society.

Damien McKevitt, Newry Rainbow Community, “You are not more prone to suicide because you are gay, it is society that creates these feelings of despair and inability to cope”.

A local Omeath man, took the (now exhausted!) group of young activists on a 3.5 mile walking tour of Omeath as Gaeilge, John explained some of the local history of Omeath and surrounding areas including legends of the likes of Cuchulainn, the Long Woman’s Grave and Fionn Mac Cumhaill.  We were lucky to have the most beautiful weather of the whole weekend for this walk and breathtaking views of the Cooley and Mourne Mountains are now all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram thanks to the townies that were there!

Finally, Cllr. Míchéal Mac Donncha concluded the weekend with a lecture on the 1913 Lockout and its legacy. Not only did Míchéal talk about the relevance of the Lockout in 2013 in terms of poverty and abuse of power Irish citizens are feeling, he also talked about his own first youth weekend and encouraged young people present to be at the forefront of social change, and of commemorating the decade of centenaries upon us.

We were well looked after from start to finish by staff at the Granvue Hotel Omeath, and the feedback we got from local people and the young activists alike was outstanding. The ceol beo both nights topped the weekend of events off and sparked debate among comrades into the early hours. A great weekend had by all, many I’m sure are still recovering, I know all at Óige Phoblachtach Shinn Féin Lú definitely are!

With young people like we had in Omeath, its not a case of ‘Tiocfaidh Ár Lá’ anymore because a chairde, tá ár lá ag teacht… go luath!

Annual Hunger Strike Youth Weekend - 3rd - 4th August

This year's annual Hunger Strike Rally is taking place in Monaghan on Sunday the 4th of August. It was in the Cavan - Monaghan constituency that Hunger Striker Kieran Doherty was elected TD to Dáil Éireann during the 1981 General Election.

The weekend will run from the 3rd to the 4th of August, ending with the annual Hunger Strike Rally in Monaghan. In order to book a place completed booking forms and a deposit of £15/ €20 must be returned by Friday the 26th of July. For more information or to book a place please contact Barry on 07885569940 or Leanne on 07742593106.

Encouraging activists to attend, Sinn Féin Republican Youth member Mairéad Farrell said 'The annual Hunger Strike Youth weekend is one of the key dates in the SFRY calender and as such one of our best attended events every year. Members from across Ireland gather to remember all those who died on Hunger Strike whilst also educating themselves on all that happened in 1980 and 1981.'


Saturday 3rd August

10am: Registration and Check In
10.45am: Fáilte and ground rules
11am: ‘On The Blanket’ Talk by Freddie Toal
12.30pm: Lunch

1.30pm: Tour of Armagh Women’s Gaol

3pm: ‘A Border Poll on Irish Unity’ – Discussion & Workshop

8pm: ‘The 1981 Hunger Strike’ Talk by former Hunger Striker Pat Sheehan MLA in the Four Seasons Hotel, Monaghan

10pm: Irish Night in The Four Seasons Hotel, Monaghan

Sunday 4th August

10am: Breakfast

11.30am: Republican Tour of Monaghan
2.30pm: National Hunger Strike March & Rally

*Clár subject to change

Christopher O'Neill - A fantastic, capable and talented young Republican

Christopher O'Neill was a dedicated republican. By the age of 22 he was already chairperson of his local Sinn Féin cumann in Kilrea. He ran, for Sinn Féin, in the Skerries ward in Coleraine Council in the 2011 election, coming very close to taking the seat. His death is a deep loss for Sinn Féin Republican Youth and wider Republican circles. Sinn Féin Republican Youth would like to express their deepest sympathy with the family and friends of Christopher O'Neill and Declan McKenna.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams gave the main oration at Christopher's funeral, which can be found here.  Sinn Féin Republican Youth activist Seán Bateson alson spoke on the day:

“It is with great sadness that I stand before you at the graveside of Christopher O’Neill to pay my respects on behalf of Sinn Féin Republican Youth.

As you are well aware coming from the many comments and remarks from everyone over the past few days, Christopher was an exceptional young lad who had his whole life ahead of him but instead it was tragically taking from him in the early hours of Saturday morning  along with his close friend Declan McKenna.

I knew Christopher well, he was a comrade but also a friend of mine and it was only last Thursday that me and him sat outside the front of my house chatting about politics and this and that and the other.

Unfortunately like the rest of you it will be the last time I will ever get to speak to Chrissy again.

 But that’s the type of lad Chrissy was. He was an exceptionally kind, generous, down to earth and warm hearted lad who had all the time of the day to sit and chat away to everyone regardless of who they were. These are the type of attributes which made Chrissy such a fantastic, capable and talented young Republican and he took these with him as he served the role of Chairperson of the local Sinn Féin Cumann here in Kilrea.

Coming from a large republican family with his grandfather being John Davey, a Sinn Fein Councillor from Lavey who was murdered by loyalists acting in collusion with British state forces in 1989, Christopher knew fine well about the struggle for equality, justice, unity and freedom here in Ireland and this is what propelled him to take on such a role within the republican movement.

His untimely death at such a young age is a great loss to the republican movement and of course to his family and friends and the wider community here in Kilrea and beyond.

I want to extend my sincere and heartfelt condolences to the O Neill and McKenna families on behalf of Sinn Féin Republican Youth. Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this very difficult time."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Unregulated private development of large Turbines must be addressed now.

Alt scríofa ag:
Martin O Reilly SFRY, Midlands

Local representatives from numerous different Action Groups on Wind Turbines met with TDs in Leinster House on Tuesday 16 July, to discuss their concerns over the unregulated development of Turbines in the midlands.  This was a cross party meeting organised by Sinn Féin. 
Speaking at the meeting were concerned residents based in Laois, Offaly, Westmeath, Kildare and Meath.  One speaker from Roscommon, spoke of his distress at having to live beside a Turbine located just 700 meters from his family home and the constant health problems he has suffered as a result.  Many areas of concern were raised by the Wind Turbine Action Groups to the TDs, such as; height, noise, health, impact to the land and devaluation in cost to local properties where turbines are proposed to be built. 

In attendance at the meeting also was North Offaly Sinn Féin representative Martin O Reilly. Mr O Reilly was also involved in the organising of the meeting in Leinster House for the Offaly Action Group, which is based in Rhode and Castlejordan.  After the meeting had concluded Mr O Reilly stated ‘The current situation regarding the unregulated and unlegislated development of large Turbines is a huge mistake and needs proper attention from our government ministers.  What we need here is cross party support and co-operation to address this huge rural problem.  If we do not act now, we will have a Ghost Estate like situation on our hands with Wind Turbines built on unsuitable sites close to family homes.  This will be to the detriment of local communities and individuals. 

Sinn Féin TD, Brian Stanley pledged his continued support to the action groups based in Laois and Offaly at the meeting also.  

Monday, July 08, 2013

Remembering Joe McDonnell

Today, July 8th, marks Vol. Joe McDonnell's 32nd anniversary. He was the fifth Hunger Striker to die, having spent 61 days on Hunger Strike. 

Republicans from across the country, and indeed all over the world, remember him with pride today. Over the course of the weekend, the Lenadoon Commemoration Committee hosted a series of events, including kids football tournaments, before the main annual commemoration last night in the Roddy McCorley Club on the Glen Road where Mairéad Farrell Republican Youth chairperson Eóin McShane was honoured to have given a short speech before the main speaker, Bik McFarlane.

Below is the text to Eóins' speech - very worthwhile read for any young, or indeed not so young, Irish Republican.

'As the chairperson of Mairéad Farrell Belfast Sinn Féin Youth it gives me great honour to be standing before you all here this evening - I have never done this before, so you may need to bear with me - and that's my disclaimer!

Being born some 10 or more years after the 1980/81 hunger strikes, i never had the privilege of knowing brave Volunteer Joe McDonnell. But being born and bread in west Belfast, surrounded day & daily by the republican ethos and imagery - of which I am very proud - I feel deeply inspired by his sacrifice, and deeply angered, and motivated to pick up the fight and carry on with the struggle that Joe gave his life for.

This weekend marks the 32nd anniversary of Óglach Joe McDonnell. As a young man, like myself, Joe became politicised, and indeed Republicanised, by the injustices that surrounded him day & daily. Joe, like many of his comrades at that time, probably weren't born Republicans; but Joe quickly adopted to the circumstances of the struggle at that time by joining the republican movement.

To me, Joe, along with his Belfast comrades from 1st Battalion Oglaigh na hÉierann, Kieran & Bobby, and their comrades Francis, Raymond, Patsy, Kevin, Martin, Tom & Mickey epitomise everything that it means to be a republican. What Nelson Mandela is to the open-minded free thinkers of the world, the revolutionaries of 1980/81 are to me & the scores of other young republicans across every pocket of this island.

To me, in 2013, this is very much the same struggle - a struggle for the right to national self determination of the Irish People. Granted however that yes, the circumstances are very different, we must not let this deter us from the work that still needs done. We owe our thanks to men and women like Joe McDonnell for this reality, but for me this isn't enough. The only fitting tribute that we can give to Joe and his comrades is to see the current fight right through to the very end.

Much like Joe, we need to adopt to the circumstances that suit this stage of the struggle. It is our duty as Irishmen and Irishwomen to fulfill Joe's vision of a Republic - we can make this a reality and I have never been more confident that this generation WILL deliver Irish Unity.

In my capacity as chairperson of Belfast Sinn Féin Youth I would like to take this opportunity to urge all the like minded, republican youth to join this fight and make Irish Unity more than just a dream or a fairy-tale.

We need to use the stories of Joe McDonnell and remember his sacrifice as we tackle head on the new challenges that face us. These challenges should be embraced and as Irish Republicans we need to lead by example.

I am very proud to be here today in honour of Joe McDonnell, the same sort of pride that we all know is felt by Joe's family feel in relation to his own specific contribution.

As a young republican activist i feel it is only appropriate for me to pay tribute to Fian John Dempsey. Fian John Dempsey was murdered by the brits just hours after Joe McDonnell's passing as he set about expressing his anger at this news on July 8th 1981.

It is fitting, and somewhat coincidental that merely a fortnight ago, Belfast Sinn Féin Youth occupied a once militarised stretch of land in West Belfast and set up a "Freedom Camp" in open protest and in open defiance of the G8 summit and the injustices that the 8 leaders present represent.

Fian John Dempsey was murdered less than 50 yards just over the road from where our protest took place. He was 16 years of age. 

To me, this again illustrates very clearly the unbreakable bond of Irish Republicanism.

As Republicans we thrive the challenges that come to face us. And we win. In 1980/81, Thatchers government tried to criminalise our struggle. And they failed. In 2013, Stormont Ministers, Insignificant Nationalists & Unionist Dinosaurs tried to do the same. They will also fail.

Sue Ramsey often tells me about how we are all learning each and every day. Shes right. Each and every day brings its very own specific challenges. It is from these challenges that we use the determination & unquenchable thirst for freedom shown by brave Volunteer Joe McDonnell to conquer these and further our struggle as effectively, and as efficiently as possible.

At the graveside oration of Joe McDonnell, a very symbolic and relevent quote from P.H Pearse was used - "They may seem the fool who has given his all, by the wise men of the world; but it was the apparent fools who changed the course of Irish History"

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.'

Eóin also used the opportunity to offer condolences, on behalf of Belfast Sinn Féin, to the family, friends and comrades of Chrissy O Neill & Declan McKenna who tragically died in a car accident in the early hours of Saturday morning.