26 March 1998 Edition
SF's Italian tour
By Owen Smyth
Lotta is the Italian word for struggle. It has formed the foundation of a rapidly growing Italian vocabulary amongst this Sinn Fein delegation.
So far, we have visited Milan, Genoa, Rome, Florence, Turin and the university city of Laquila. We have literally travelled the length and breadth of Italy expounding Sinn Fein philosphy and explaining the current backdrop to the peace process.
The radical left in Italy needs no history lessons, they understand fully that Irish republicans are engaged in an endgame with British inperialism. In a broader European context they realise that what we are trying to achieve is contrary to what the right in Europe wants for all of us. The significance of what happens in Ireland has implications for everyone in Europe, and our Italian comrades are fully behind us. Their insight and knowledge of Irish politics has proved an eye opener for this particular Sinn Feiner.
The enthusiasm, the sense of comradeship, the sense of common struggle between us has generated a bond that will strengten our common resolve. A meeting in Rome on the issue of POWs was particularly interesting. A representative of the Basque party Herri Battasuna, an Italian ex-POW and myself shared our common experiences, and discussed the similiar tactics of oppression used to try to break those in struggle, both in and out of jail.
So far the tour has been very worthwhile, many old contacts have been renewed, many new ones made. The West Belfast group, Seannachie, have accompanied the tour to give a flavour of contemporary Irish music. The Italians have loved them. Their unique mixture of traditional, rebel and rock has created musical mayhem. Catch them on their return.
McElduff takes SF case to Strasbourg
Barry McElduff, Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle member, returned this week from ``a highly successful but hectic round of political engagements'' at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
McElduff, Sinn Fein's West Tyrone elected talks delegate, spent five days in France presenting the Republican analysis and building on previous Sinn Fein and personal contacts.
McElduff had a number of meetings with French, Italian, German and Irish MEPs from across the political spectrum including former French Prime Minister, Mr Michel Rocard.
After the meetings with members from the United Left, Union for Europe, European Socialist Party and Green Party, McElduff said, ``the meetings are very significant, and extremely important in challenging the British spin on the Irish peace initiative.''
He said that the hour long meeting with Mr Rocard was ``particularly useful, given his primary role in international, diplomatic peace missions in the past. We discussed their relevance to our British problem in considerable detail.''
McElduff contrasted the European stance with the more pro-active stance of the US government. He also discussed the idea of establishing a formal `Inter Group' within the European Parliament to focus on the resolution of the conflict in Ireland and laid plans for a possible fact-finding visits to Ireland in the future.
McElduff was welcomed to France by members of `Solidarite Irlande', who co-sponsored his visit with Sinn Fein's international department. Before travelling to the European Parliament, McElduff conducted a number of press conferences, public meetings and video debates in Paris and Le Mans, including a meeting at the prestigious Sorbonne University. He also met regional officials in Paris and Strasbourg. In Paris, he also met with Basque and Kurdish Solidarity Groups.
St Patrick's Day in New Zealand, Australia
After a three year battle, New Zealand's Irish solidarity group Information on Ireland had a highly prominent float in this year's Auckland St Patrick's day parade. They had been banned in previous years for being a `political' group.
This year the group managed to enter a float commemorating the 200th anniversary of the 1798 rebellion.
The United Irishmen (who seem here to be largely women), brandished fierce bamboo poles (pikes are a bit ``thin on the ground'', they said) and attacked English General, ``Vinegary'' Hill.
In Sydney, Australia over 200 people marched behind a number of Australian Aid for Ireland banners which focused on the parade's theme of ``peace'' as well as the 200th anniversary of the 1798 United Irishmen.
In what is reputed to be the third biggest in the world, Sydney's parade saw AAI having the largest marching crowd once again. Despite the inclement weather, the large crowds that lined the parade route greeted the AAI contingent with warm and spontaneous applause throughout. Some fifty people carried posters which ranged from Saoirse messages to the ``22 year men'', as well as references to the Gerry Adams visa campaign.
One of the highlights of the day came as the group approached the dignitaries viewing proceedings at Sydney Town Hall. In full view of the like of the Irish Ambassador, Richard O'Brien, and visiting Irish government minister, Noel Dempsey, the banners and posters were vigorously waved as a timely reminder that Irish republicans, wherever they are in the world, will be strongly represented in the dignified manner that befits them.