Republican News · Thursday 26 October 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Sinn Féin attracts more young members

Ógra Shinn Féin National Organiser, Councillor Matt Carthy, explains why when other parties cannot attract young people to their ranks, Sinn Féin has little difficulty.

There has been a great deal of media coverage into the efforts that political parties have made to attract young people to their ranks. At the beginning of the university term Ógra Fianna Fáil hit the headlines with their feeble attempt to lure the youth of Ireland with a symbol incorporating the term Viagra.

Last year, Fine Gael got the coverage with their promises of free drink for their new members. The two largest parties in this state somehow feel that alcohol and a drug that helps those who suffer from impotence are what young people are looking for as incentives to become involved on politics.

One party's youth wing has managed to receive more media attention than any other over the past three years, Ógra Shinn Féin, the youth wing of the fastest growing political party on this island.

Ógra Shinn Féin fails to offer new members free alcohol (more's the pity!!). We rarely find that the promise of a career in Leinster House attracts in the huge numbers that other parties claim bring young shirts and ties into their cliques. All we offer is our policies and our activities that are genuinely aimed at the betterment of the lives of Ireland's youth.

Yet young people have been joining Ógra Shinn Féin at a far greater rate than any other youth wing. If the developmet of Ógra continues, we will be the largest political youth organisation on this island within 12 months.

It is a big deal for a young woman or man to join a political party. It's a bigger deal for people to join Ógra Shinn Féin. Because when someone gets involved in Ógra it is not about following the party leadership into the next election. It is not about attending a meeting every once in a while to be told why one principle (such as neutrality) after another has been lost by the party. We leave such stuff to Fianna Fáil and Labour. In Ógra Shinn Féin, when somebody joins they become an activist. The role of a republican in politics, particularly young republicans, is to create an alternative. An alternative to partition and conflict in Ireland. an alternative to the inequality that exists in our society.

The function of young members of other parties is to leaflet and poster for their party during election time, but politics goes further than elections, or Council chambers or Leinster House. Politics must be about the empowerment of people.

If young people want to stand for their parties at election time, then they should be given every opportunity to do so. The three youngest Councillors in this country are members of Ógra Shinn Féin so we have provided that space. But most young people, even those with an interest in politcs, do not see Leinster House as a place where they want to effect change. Not in the short term anyway.

If politics is to work then every individual and every community must be in a position to change the things that are wrong in society. I am a member of a Council. But should this make the political process more accessible to me than to other young people? The simple answer is no. The low turn-out in recent by-elections was not a result of people's satisfaction with the government. It was an indictment of the failure of the establishment parties in this state to bring politics to the people.

That is what makes Sinn Féin different. That is why young people join Ógra Shinn Féin in such large numbers. We work within our communities for the people we represent.

That is why in 12 months we will be the largest political youth organisation in this country. And that is why you, the people of Dublin, will elect Sinn Féin TDs to represent you when the opportunity presents itself.

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