Ógra Shinn Féin National Congress
Over 200 delegates from throughout the island attended the Ógra Shinn Féin National Congress in Belfast last weekend, where they debated and discussed issues ranging from the Peace Process to the living conditions of young people in Ireland today.
One of the first motions of the day changed the name National Executive to `Comhairle Náisiúnta' and the need to develop and promote the Irish language within Ógra was central to that discussion. Concern was raised on issues such as policing and Sinn Féin's attitude towards multinationals, but there was also a real sense of confidence in the party's future among the delegates.
The most comprehensive debate of the day surrounded the possible Sinn Féin participation in a 26-County coalition and, after much discussion, the Congress passed a motion stating that: `Ógra Shinn Féin will not support Sinn Féin coalition with any establishment or right wing party in Leinster House.' There were also debates on access to education and the denial of rights to young people.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, attended the Congress and told delegates that ``the challenge for Ógra Shinn Féin is to become part of the force of change that will create a united Ireland, not in your lifetime, but in mine''.
The greatest welcome of the day was reserved for former POW Jackie McMullen, who read a statement on behalf of the republicans currently held in Castlerea Jail.
The statement made reference to a recent Ógra Shinn Féin delegation to Castlerea prison. Other guests included two members of the Basque Youth Independence movement and members of the Connolly Association in England.
Congress 2000 marked the third anniversary of the establishment of Ógra Shinn Féin. National Organiser Matt Carthy closed the Congress saying that Ógra Shinn Féin have defied their critics, who believed that ``we would be a flash in the pan, a short-term project that would reach a high before collapsing completely''.
``We have set ourselves the target of becoming the largest political youth group on this island. This is well within our reach. Every activist has a responsibility to play their part in achieving this goal.
``The reason we are here today, the reason we are members of Ógra Shinn Féin at all, is to create Irish independence and socialism. We will be the generation that makes this a reality.''
Ógra defy elements
Atrocious weather conditions last Sunday in Belfast failed to deter the several hundred ÓSF members who participated in their Annual Independence Rally.
Marchers made their way from Andersonstown to the Divis Flats off the Falls Road to hear Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty give the main speech. He said that the growth of Ógra Shinn Féin created a challenge for the Sinn Féin leadership:
``In every generation of freedom struggle, young Irish men and women have come to the forefront to lead the movement into the next phase. The continued growth of Ógra Shinn Féin will present a challenge that I believe we are up to.''
RUC attack Ógra demonstrators
Ógra Shinn Féin activists were attacked by the RUC on Saturday at a protest outside Springfield Road RUC barracks in Belfast.
The protest was intended as a sign of the growing frustration among young republicans over the lack of movement on the policing issue. While the event was loud, colourful and to the point, it was also peaceful, but eight RUC Land Rovers arrived on the scene and over 80 RUC members, in full riot gear, began to baton charge protesters.
In the event, quick thinking on behalf of the protest organisers and the help of local residents ensured that the RUC backed off and eventually left the scene as ÓSF continued their protest.