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9 February 2006 Edition

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"Seize the moment" Adams tells youth activists

Ógra Shinn Féin - Sinn Féin President addresses National Congress

Republican activists must build the party, build mass support for our objectives, set out a radical agenda for change and advance Irish unity and independence. This was the message Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams brought to activists of Ógra Shinn Féin on the occasion of their National Congress 2006 held in Dublin last weekend.

Adams commended Ógra for its campaigning work during the year. Ógra was to the fore on the Rossport 5 and the opposition to the Iraq War.

Adams went on to say: "Twenty five years ago young men and women in the H-Blocks and Armagh, many of them the same age as people in this room, were involved in a huge struggle with the British state. They were taking decisions that would have huge consequences not just for themselves and their families but for people right across the world."

The anniversaries of the 1981 Hunger Strikes and the 1916 Rising should be "about activism, about education, about building the party and building support for Irish unity and independence".

Following the IRA's decision to move to a new, peaceful mode the struggle has reached another defining point, Adams said. The party now stands on the brink of an unprecedented opportunity. If support continues to grow partition can be ended and a radical, all-Ireland republican government established "of which we are the heart and soul".

"The enemies of republicanism — be they securocrats, the PDs or the DUP will continue to attempt to defeat us and frustrate progress. They will fail.

"Sinn Féin is now he largest nationalist party in the North — we are the largest pro-Agreement party. We are the guarantee there will be no return to unionist domination or second-class citizenship."

Adams detailed DUP and Paisley connections with unionist paramilitarism over 40 years. Their attempts to undermine the Good Friday agreement were a continuation of the same strategy. But their attempts to undermine and de-legitimate the republican electorate were doomed to failure.

"That is the reality facing Ian Paisley as he addresses his party conference.

"This party stands ready to work with the DUP. We do so already in councils across the North and we did in the Assembly when it functioned.

"Each day British Direct Rule Ministers take decisions on spending reviews, health, education, the environment, energy and other matters which adversely effect every citizen in the North and have a knock on effect throughout the whole island.

"That is the challenge for the DUP. It is also a challenge for the unionist business community, for civic society for community groups and for church groups."

In conclusion Adams said that Sinn Féin was a party with a vision of a new and better future. Irish republicans were now in a new era of struggle and there was a big responsibility on young republicans to "seize the moment and make Irish freedom a reality".

Suicide prevention campaign launched

Congress saw the launch of Ógra's National Suicide Prevention Campaign.

Andrea O'Kane pointed out that with 577 recorded suicides throughout the country for 2003-'04 this was now the biggest killer of young people in Ireland today.

Calling for an all-Ireland approach to the problem O'Kane said: "Suicide prevention must be promoted in an integrated, holistic strategy which is resourced and implemented as one across the 32 Counties."

The wider issue of an all-Ireland mental health strategy must be pursued by young republican activists so that the alarming rise in suicide can be reversed.

Gerry Adams endorsed the campaign calling the national suicide rate unacceptably high. This is an issue of exceptional importance to young people and a national campaign on the issue was much needed.

Delegates discussed issues such as An Phoblacht, all-Ireland integration, and policing, while the Congress also re-affirmed Ógra's position of rejecting involvement in policing boards or associated DPPs in the North and the initiation of a programme for the full demilitarisation of the British war machine in Ireland.

On Collusion, many delegates referred to the fact that files on 400 republicans went 'missing' in the last year while in the hands of the PSNI. Ógra once again supported the fight of victims of British state violence in their campaigns for truth and justice for their loved ones.

S?anna Walsh Over the weekend the Congress was given a presentation by the recently re-organised Sinn Féin Cultural Department led by former political prisoner Séanna Walsh.

The importance of Irish culture and in particular the language in the struggle was discussed. Speakers agreed to tie into the newly-reformed department and be to the fore in promoting and using the Irish language. Representatives of Na Gael Ógra were also present at the congress.

Debates on motions relating to the issues of the environment, social policy, equality, health, education, Irish culture and international affairs were also debated and Ógra reiterated its support for the families campaigning against the construction of the on-shore oil pipeline at Rossport, County Mayo and for the Irish Ferries' workers.

GPO picket

Following the conclusion of the Congress delegates and visitors converged outside the GPO on O'Connell Street demanding and end to political policing. Ógra activists were joined by supporters who joined the demonstration from the street. Chants of 'END POLITICAL POLICING' were heard along O'Connell Street as Ógra Shinn Féin protestors made the issue known.

Harassment by Gardaí

On Friday evening Ógra delegates enjoyed the experience of Dublin's social life with groups of delegates going bowling or to the cinema. However a discordant note was struck when, while on his way to the cinema one Ógra member from the Six Counties attending his first National Congress was politically harassed and subjected to partitionist comments by Gardaí. He was searched and told to go back to his "own country" and "pay his taxes to the British queen".

International guests

Basque youth organisation SEGI, who were unable to attend Congress, sent a statement which said that youth had always been pioneers in the national liberation struggle and went on to say that they looked with interest at the Irish liberation process. New conditions had also been created in the Basque Country but "the repression continues, a lot of youths have been arrested tortured and imprisoned. But we continue struggling proudly and we go forward. Gora Euskal Herria askatuta, gora irlanda askatuta. Tiocfaidh ár lá," the statement concluded.

The Socialist Labour Party also sent members to the Congress and their spokesperson Sukat spoke of their support for the struggle in Ireland and for Ógra Shinn Féin.

Nora, a delegate on behalf of the PDF group from Germany addressed the congress.

A Catalan delegation were also present.

Representatives of the five Cuige regions through which Ogra Shinn Féin is organised reported on local activity. Reports were delivered by Willie Howard for Munster, Eugene Garvey, Leinster, Anna Prior, Connacht/Uladh, Barry McColgan, Six Counties and Brian Keane, Dublin.

Reports showed expansion of Ogra in several areas and involvement in campaigns around British collusion with unionist paramilitaries, the Rossport 5, Irish Ferries, Make Poverty History, political prisoners, Colombia 3, Green Post Box Campaign, 16 Moore Street, Seán Kelly engaging in discussions with other youth groups and exposing issues such as media hypocrisy and Garda corruption.

The 25th anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strikes and 90th anniversary of the Rising are campaigning focuses for the coming year with major objectives being increased recruitment, campaigning and education.

Mickey Bravender, National Organiser of Ógra Shinn Féin delivered the concluding address on Sunday.

Pól Brady brought proceedings of Congress 2006 to a close with a rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann.

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