Sinn Féin Republican Youth
|Sinn Féin Republican Youth|
|Founded||c. 1997 |
|Headquarters||44 Parnell Square, Dublin 1
53 Falls Road, Belfast
Left wing nationalism
|Mother party||Sinn Féin|
|European affiliation||European Network of Democratic Young Left|
Sinn Féin Republican Youth (known as Ógra Shinn Féin until 2012) (Irish: Sinn Féin Óige Phoblachtach) is the youth wing of the Irish political party Sinn Féin. SFRY is active and organised throughout Ireland. Upon its establishment in 1997 it was originally known as Sinn Féin Youth; it changed to Ógra Shinn Féin in 1999. A number of Sinn Féin's elected representatives are also members of SFRY. Although it does not publish its membership figures, SFRY is believed to have about 500 activists. It has also been described as "One of the largest and most active youth wings" in Ireland.
Sinn Féin Republican Youth is organised in all 32 counties of Ireland, in both local communities and universities. Its structure is similar to that of Sinn Féin. SFRY cumainn are largely autonomous from local Sinn Féin structures.
- Cumainn - cumainn are organised within a local area or within a college or university. At present there are over 50 active SFRY cumainn throughout Ireland. A cumainn is required to have a minimum of five members.
- Cúigí - cumainn are then organised within a local cúige. At the moment there are five different cúigí in Ireland, representative of the regions of Dublin, Ulster, Munster, Leinster (excluding Dublin) and Connacht. Each of these cúigí elects its own Officer Board to oversee co-ordination between the cumainn. Each cúige is entitled to at least two representatives on the National Executive. Leinster has both northern and southern organisers due to its large area.
- National Youth Committee - the National Committee (Comhairle Náisiúnta) is the democratically elected governing body of Sinn Féin Republican Youth. It consists of between 21 members. Half of the National Youth Committee will be elected by activists at an annual conference, and half will be selected by those elected already in place. The chair of the National Youth Committee will be appointed by the party chair.
Campaigns and issues
The long-term aim of Sinn Féin Republican Youth is "to recruit young dedicated activists to ensure the continuity and successful conclusion of the struggle" to establish a 32 County Democratic Socialist Republic.
Specific issues of primary importance include: Irish unity and independence; workers' rights; the protection of the environment; an end to sectarianism and racism in Ireland; decent housing for the people; weekend elections and referendums; education; supporting the Shell to Sea campaign, voting age to be lowered to 16; and the promotion of the Irish language (Gaeilge).
The following is a list of some campaigns which Sinn Féin Republican Youth has been involved in:
- N.A.R.C campaign - The "Not Another Ravaged Community" campaign was an anti-drugs campaign launched by ÓSF at the beginning of 2008. The campaign focused on educating young people about the danger of drugs. It included information on alcohol abuse.
- Educate to be Free Campaign - This campaign was launched in Winter 2008 and calls for free education for all. It also calls for an increase in Irish language education and for student empowerment and radicalizing students unions.
- Green Postbox Campaign - This campaign was launched in 2008 and involved young republicans in Northern Ireland painting postboxes green (postboxes in the Republic of Ireland are green while those in Northern Ireland are red). The campaign received severe criticism from Unionist politicians such as Jim Wells. It is alleged that hundreds of postboxes were painted throughout Northern Ireland. Although this campaign was officially launched in 2008, it had been common for ÓSF members and other Irish republicans to engage in this practice. In 2006, a Tyrone ÓSF member was arrested for painting a postbox in Fintona.
- National Suicide Prevention Campaign - In 2006 Ógra Shinn Féin launched a nationwide suicide prevention campaign. The campaign focuses on the dissemination of information and the demand for an all Ireland approach to suicide awareness.
- ARISE - In 2007 Ógra Shinn Féin launched the Anti-Racism, Imperialism, Sectarianism and Exploitation (ARISE) campaign.
- Other Campaigns - It is/was also involved in campaigns regarding Demilitarization, Anti-Collusion, Disband the Royal Ulster Constabulary/Proper Policing, Minimum Wage, Lower Car Insurance, A President for All, Gay Rights, Re-routing Orange Order marches, "Freedom for the POW's", "Bring them home" (Colombia Three), anti-occupation of Iraq, remembering "Irish martyrs", Irish language, Shell to Sea, Save 16 Moore Street and All Ireland mobile tariff .
- In October 2014, Sinn Féin Republican Youth at Queen's University Belfast petitioned for the Student's Union to hold a referendum on Irish Unity. They gathered over 600 signatures at the university's annual Fresher's Fayre, surpassing the quota needed to launch a referendum. On 27 October 2014, the referendum was narrowly defeated, by 21 votes. Five months earlier, in May 2014, QUB Sinn Féin Youth tabled a motion to the Student Council to ban the sale of the Remembrance poppy on the university's campus. The motion was defeated by 40 votes to 15.
Upon the establishment of Sinn Féin Youth, a logo incorporating a petrol bomb, symbolising the militant origins of republican youth organisations, and an Easter lily was adopted. The words Sinn Féin Youth, which encircled the logo were changed to Ógra Shinn Féin in 1999 when the name of the organisation was changed.
As part of the transformation of the Republican Movement to reflect changing realities brought about by the peace process, a decision was taken to change the logo, and at the 2004 National Congress the green star and orange graffiti-style logo was adopted. The logo was again changed at the 2006 Congress when the current logo, incorporating the words Ógra Shinn Féin, the Starry Plough, the Sunburst Flag and the "Freedom Lark" was adopted. Ógra Sinn Féin has been criticised by the Young Unionists for failing to remove the petrol bomb logo from a number of its wall murals.
At the Special Congress in 2007 called during the policing debates in Sinn Féin, Ógra Shinn Féin took the controversial step of voting not to support the motion put to the Sinn Féin Special Ard Fheis by the Ard Chomhairle. This was in opposition to the leadership of Sinn Féin. In their motion that was passed at the Special Congress OSF stated: "We will recognise the decision made by the Ard Fheis."
- National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) - Sinn Féin Republican Youth is a full member of the National Youth Council of Ireland.
- European Network of Democratic Young Left (ENDYL) - Sinn Féin Republican Youth is a full member of the ENDYL.
Sinn Féin Republican Youth has strong connections with a number of pro-independence and socialist groups throughout the world, including:
- SEGI - A Basque nationalist party that forms part of the Basque National Liberation Movement and is aligned with Langile Abertzaleen Batzordeak, Batasuna and the militant organisation ETA. SEGI is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the Spanish and French authorities. ÓSF frequently send delegations to the Basque Country It has been reported in the Spanish media that the Spanish security services are monitoring both groups closely and have noticed a sharp increase in co-operation between the two. Spanish papers have also claimed that the youth wings exchange IRA and ETA knowledge and information.
- Ghjuventù Indipendentista - A youth movement which supports Corsican Nationalism and advocates independence from France. An ÓSF delegation attend the "Scontri Internaziunali" which is held in the town of Corte in central Corsica every year.
- JERC - The youth wing of the Catalan nationalist group Republican Left of Catalonia which campaigns for the independence of Catalonia from Spain.
- Others - ÓSF also supports nationalist movements in Kanaky (New Caledonia), Kabylie (Algeria), Galicia, Spain, Scotland, Sardinia and Brittany.
Notable members and former members
- Pearse Doherty – Current Teachta Dála (TD) representing Donegal South-West and former Senator, served as a member of the ÓSF National Executive.
- Máiría Cahill – Former ÓSF National Secretary who has since gone public with allegations that she was abused by a former IRA member and that the IRA and Sinn Féin covered this up. The accused has denied it and was also acquitted of the charges. Cahill was elected as a Senator in 2015 for the Labour Party.
- Toiréasa Ferris – Elected to Kerry County Council and candidate for Sinn Féin in the European Parliament Elections in 2009.
- Eoin Ó Broin – Sinn Féin Director of European Affairs. He is also a published author and a former National Organiser of Sinn Féin Youth.
- Daithí McKay – Sinn Féin MLA for North Antrim, Ballymoney District Councillor and member of the Policing Board.
- Niall Ó Donnghaile – Sinn Féin councillor representing East Belfast, and Sinn Féin Assembly Press Officer. Lord Mayor of Belfast (2011–12).
- David Cullinane – Senator and previous member of Waterford City Council.
- Eoin Ó Broin - 1997-98
- Matt Carthy - 1998-2000
- Damian Lawlor - 2000-02 (Author of Na Fianna Éireann and the Irish Revolution - 1909 to 1923)
- Chris O'Ralaigh - 2002-03
- Mickey Bravender - 2003-06
- Barry McColgan - 2006-09
- Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire - 2009–2011
Sinn Féin Republican Youth publishes a quarterly republican youth magazine entitled Splanc. The magazine was launched in 2001, eventually ceasing publication around 2006. It was re-launched in 2007, primarily in online format, with the same name, Splanc (which is the Irish language translation of Spark).
ÓSF has published its own book Awaiting the Lark in 2006 to mark the 25th Anniversary of the 1981 Irish hunger strike. The book includes interviews with many well known Irish republicans such as Michelle Gildernew, Barry McElduff, Sean Crowe, Seanna Walsh and Martina Anderson. It includes photographs from the funerals of the hunger strikers and protests that took place around the time. The book also includes information about Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg who died on hunger strike in 1974 and 1976 respectively.
Notable actions and incidents
Sinn Féin Republican Youth frequently attracts media attention or causes controversy due to some of its activities.
Some notable examples include:
- Arrests at Belfast City Hall 1997 - On 3 November 1997 three members of ÓSF were arrested after they scaled the front of Belfast City Hall and unfurled a banner calling for the release of political prisoners. This was part of the "Saoirse" campaign. The RUC special branch later allegedly attempted to recruit one of those arrested to serve as an informant.
- Alleged abuse by Gardaí in Store Street 1998 - In November 1998 seven members of ÓSF were arrested by Gardaí in Dublin for allegedly acting in an abusive manner. While being held in Store Street Garda station the activists alleged that they were kicked and beaten by Gardaí. A protest which took place outside the Garda Station that night resulted in skirmishes between demonstrators and the Gardaí.
- UCC Riot 1999 - In November 1999, 50 gardaí were called in to reinforce University College Cork security after a melee broke out in the corridors of the Science building. Members of Ógra Shinn Féin, the Socialist Party, Workers' Party and anti-fascist groups had attempted to force their way into a lecture hall where British writer and Holocaust denier David Irving was to hold a talk. Gardaí were forced to baton charge the 600 strong crowd.
- South Armagh demilitarization riots 2001 - In December 2001 ÓSF was blamed for carrying out petrol bomb attacks against RUC and British army bases in south Armagh. Twenty-two police officers, three soldiers and two police dogs were injured in the incidents during which protesters attacked the watchtowers at Creevekeeran and Drummuckaval with iron bars, bottles, fireworks and petrol bombs. Two soldiers suffered serious head injuries after being hit with petrol bombs and had to be airlifted to hospital. Another soldier suffered serious burns. The barracks at Crossmaglen was attacked and protesters managed to smash through the main gate after igniting an oil barrel and pushing it into the entrance.
- Attack on SDLP councillor's office - In January 2002, SDLP councillor P. J. Bradley claimed members of ÓSF were responsible for an attack on his offices in Warrenpoint during which eleven windows were smashed and paint was poured over the building and in through the windows. Caitríona Ruane disputed Bradley's comments.
- Attack on Rosslea PSNI station 2002 - On 1 July 2002 ÓSF was blamed for an organised attack against Rosslea PSNI station. Up to 50 masked youths threw stones and bottles at the police station causing extensive damage to the exterior of the building. The Unionist Newsletter described the attack as "appalling" and condemned ÓSF for "laying vicious siege" to Rosslea PSNI Station.
- Sit-in at British Tourist office in Dublin 2003 - In May 2003, six members of ÓSF staged a sit-in in the British Tourist office in Dublin, in protest at the decision by the British government to postpone the elections in Northern Ireland. A picket in support of the protest was held outside.
- ÓSF banned from Trinity College 2005 - Sinn Féin had been banned from organising in Trinity College Dublin until the ban was overturned in 1999. In 2005, it was temporarily re-instated (until the end of the college term) after the TCD chairperson forwarded an email on to others [clarification needed] which included threatening remarks towards former British Prime Minister Lady Thatcher.
- 1916 Auction Protest 2006 - In April 2006 members of ÓSF disrupted a sale of memorabilia associated with the Easter Rising of 1916 at James Adams & Sons Auctioneers on Stephen's Green, Dublin. Two activists were arrested by Gardaí but were later released without charge. The protest was the lead story on a number of News broadcasts including TV3 News.
- Down Orange hall incident 2007 - In September 2007, ÓSF was heavily criticised after one of its members was taken to hospital following a fall from the roof of an Orange hall. The member had been removing a Union Flag from the roof. This incident occurred at a time when Orange halls in the area had been subjected to firebomb and arson attacks. Some people claimed that removing the flag was anti-sectarian and should be applauded.
- Green Postbox campaign 2008 onwards - One campaign undertaken by ÓSF involved changing the colour of Royal Mail postboxes in Northern Ireland from red to green (green is the standard colour of postboxes in the Republic of Ireland). Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff described the campaign as "peaceful political statement". Other politicians claimed this amounted to the MLA condoning criminal damage. It is believed hundreds of postboxes were painted green in such republican heartlands as Derry, Strabane and West Tyrone alone.
- Occupation of Green Party offices 2008 - On 4 December 2008, a number of ÓSF members took part in a protest organised by the student based "Free Education for Everyone" (FEE) group. A number of protesters were arrested after they occupied the offices of Paul Gogarty, Green Party Spokesperson on Education, in Lucan, County Dublin. Gardaí were forced to break down the door of the office and arrested ten of the activists.
- Gregory Campbell incident 2009 - ÓSF were criticised for comparing East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels on its web-blog. An accompanying edited image on the site showed Campbell's head superimposed on the body of a man wearing a Nazi uniform. The article criticised Campbell's NI Executive culture portfolio and his stance on the Irish language.
- PSNI recording incident 2009 - In January 2009 a member of ÓSF in Omagh was arrested following a confrontation in the town. While at the police station, a constable attempted to recruit the man as an informant. The ÓSF member managed to record the incident on his cellphone. The incident has been brought before Omagh DPP and is currently under investigation by the Police Ombudsman. The recording of the incident was uploaded to YouTube.
- Warrenpoint visit 2009 - On 10 January 2009 ÓSF held a Republican Youth weekend in Newcastle, County Down. Part of the weekend involved a trip to the site of the Warrenpoint Ambush where an IRA unit ambushed and killed 18 British soldiers in 1979. Protesters including Willie Frazer and Jim Wells branded the trip an "insult to victims". Loyalist victims campaigner Willie Frazer said "10 years ago the world hoped that they had moved on from terrorism but as the last few days have shown they still firmly believe in armed conflict". The local ÓSF spokesperson claimed it was simply part of a historical tour of the County Down area.
- Belfast dinner dance 2009: In January 2010 the Sunday World (Northern Ireland edition) ran a full page article which criticized ÓSF for hosting a "Pro-IRA event" in a hotel in Belfast City Centre. The paper also claimed that there were numerous chants of "F*** the Brits" and "You'll never ever beat the IRA". According to ÓSF the event was a celebration of 100 years of Na Fianna Éireann with the families of dead Fians in attendance and traditional Irish Rebel music.
- Government protests 2010: On 22 November 2010 ÓSF members took part in protests against the International Monetary Fund bail-out. During a protest outside government buildings in Dublin one member of ÓSF was injured and taken to hospital after he was struck by a ministerial car during a sit-down protest. Scuffles also broke out with police. In Cork, Ógra Shinn Féin occupied the offices of Fianna Fáil councillors in Cork City hall protesting against the selling out of Irish sovereignty to the European Union and the IMF.
- Israel embassy protest 2012: On 15 November 2012, two members of SFRY were arrested during a protest outside the Israeli embassy in Dublin. Gardaí batoned activists who were taking part in a sit-down protest on the road in opposition to the Israeli bombing of Gaza as part ot its Operation Pillar of Cloud.
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