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!