Republican News · Thursday 20 September 2000

[An Phoblacht]

( Ógra Shinn Féin Education and Training seminar

Camloch, South Armagh was the venue last weekend for Ógra Shinn Féin's Education and Training seminar. Over 50 Ógra organisers from all over the country participated in workshops and practical sessions on all aspects of campaigning.

The purpose of the event was to provide those charged with organising within their local areas the skills required to help build and activate the republican structures throughout the country. As the newly elected Six-County organiser for Ógra, Seán Pól Begley said:

``Young republicans must be central in all aspects of the struggle. We recognise that if we are to play a real part in the development of our party, then we must take leadership. In order for us to do this effectively, we have employed a training and education programme for our activists. This is aimed at providing ourselves with the skills necessary to become an integral aspect of Sinn Féin's development. Last weekend's seminar was a part of this programme.'

A television team from Belgium travelled to Camloch to witness the events. They are talking with young people from the UUP, SDLP and Sinn Féin to compile a number of documentaries on youth and politics in Ireland. They were happy to admit that the Ógra Shinn Féin organisation was impressive and indeed unique, as the careerist agenda prevalent in other youth wings is substituted in Ógra with dedication and team work that must be the envy of other parties.

One of those who talked to the journalists was young local woman Orla Murphy from Cullyhana, who attempted to explain to a crew who were obviously learning by the minute the motivation of those gathered:

``The conflict in Ireland was never about religion despite what conservative observors would like people to believe. Our struggle is about the right of Irish people to determine their own destiny. In a way, what we are doing this weekend is a small symbol of republican resistance because we are here to empower ourselves with education just as previous generations have empowered themselves.''

Local Assembly member Pat McNamee was at the conference on Saturday to provide those in attendance with a political update and to hear the concerns and views of the Ógra members. The issues of policing and the lack of demilitarisation were to the fore in the debate, with activists also discussing education and the drugs culture that now exists among many of their peers.

Saturday night saw Ógra Shinn Féin do what they do best - enjoy themselves and have a bit of craic, where they were joined by many republicans from South Armagh in Genie Macs pub in Camloch.

On Sunday, the Ógra contingent, joined by local Sinn Féin members, made their way up to the British Army base on Camloch mountain. There, they confronted British soldiers and RUC members.

After a protest that lasted a little over an hour, the weary revolutionaries assembled in the Sinn Féin office in the village before going home to catch up on much needed sleep. Before they left, National Organiser Matt Carthy told them:

``All those who travelled here this weekend are a credit to our organisation. What we have proven here is that the only people who will empower young republicans are ourselves. This weekend, we highlighted all the things that make Ógra Shinn Féin different. We can educate ourselves - we can enjoy ourselves while doing this and when we have a message we will bring it onto the streets, or indeed the mountains, of our country as we did today.

``Over the last few months, people would have been forgiving for thinking that Ógra was going through a difficult period. This weekend was the beginning of the rebuilding of our youth wing. We couldn't have asked for better.''

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