9 February 2017
Sinn Féin’s ‘Young Turks’ ready for the battles ahead
Youth delegates from Belfast, Armagh, Galway, Donegal, Monaghan, Leitrim, Roscommon, Cork, Limerick, Dublin and Tipperary met in Derry City
“OUR ACTIVISTS are at the cutting edge of change because our heritage is one of resistance,” said Senator Fintan Warfield in his address to the hundreds of Sinn Féin youth activists gathered in Derry City over the last weekend of January.
The Sinn Féin Republican Youth’s Comhdháil Náisiúnta was being held in the Gasyard Community Centre. The Gasyard is overlooked by the Dolmen stone memorial to the IRA Volunteers from the 1st Battalion, Derry Brigade, who lost their lives in the armed struggle.
One of those honoured on the memorial is Fian Gerald Donaghey, who was shot dead on Bloody Sunday by the British Army’s Parachute Regiments. On the Saturday, Derry republicans were joined by the youth activists at an event to remember Gerald and all the young people who died in the conflict.
Daire Lamberton, who chaired the event, told the crowd that “the name of Fian Gerald Donaghey would not be forgotten” before she praised the campaign of the Bloody Sunday families, saying that they “inflicted a heavy defeat on the British political, military and judicial establishments”.
In his conference opening remarks to delegates from Belfast, Armagh, Galway, Donegal, Monaghan, Leitrim, Roscommon, Cork, Limerick, Dublin and Tipperary, Fintan Warfield, Chair of the National Youth Committee, outlined how young activists have brought their progressive political energy to campaigns across the country.
They have stood with the homeless, highlighted corporate greed (such as the ‘Apple Tax’ scandal in the South and the NAMA sell-off in the North), and across the country they demanded equality for the LGBTQ+ community, Repeal the 8th Amendment, and demanded equal status for the Irish language in the North.
The weekend allowed young republicans the space to debate and discuss political and historical issues while also participating in educational workshops.
The value that Sinn Féin places on growing its youth membership was reflected by keynote speeches from Gerry Adams Michelle O’Neill.
They stressed the continuity of the republican struggle and made it clear that future leaders of that struggle would emerge from the ranks of young republicans.
On Saturday, delegates from Catalonia, Greece, Sardinia and Colombia addressed the delegates who heard reports back on the youth committee’s international activity with solidarity visits to Palestine, the Basque Country and Catalonia, among others.
The Comhdháil was closed by Martina Anderson, the Ireland North MEP from Derry City, on Sunday afternoon.
She focused heavily on the potential impact of Brexit on Ireland and emphasised how young people would feel the impact more deeply than others. She urged young people to be active in their opposition to Brexit.
Republicans of all ages, she said, need to ask themselves:
“Are you rooted, are you real, are you relevant, and are you revolutionary?”
The enthusiasm that coursed through the ranks of the young republicans over the weekend was the same as they’ve shown through the past months and are already displaying in the Assembly election on 2 March.
Young republicans are up for the challenge. Let there be no doubt about that.
● Michelle O’Neill gets the picture with delegates
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An initiative for dialogue
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Contributions from key figures in the churches, academia and wider civic society as well as senior republican figures