21 April 1998 Edition
SFY say: keep Rule 21
By Deirdre Feehan
On Sunday 17 May Sinn Fein Youth held a protest outside Omagh GAC at the Tyrone v Down Championship match opposing the proposed changes to the GAA's Rule 21 and calling for the disbandment of the RUC.
Over 50 young people from Belfast, South Armagh, Dublin, Greencastle, Carrickmore and Omagh took part in the mid-Tyrone SFY organised protest. Assembled at the gates of the ground with banners calling for no change to Rule 21, the crowd caught people's attention with whistles and chants - `no change to 21' and `SS RUC' - which were greeted with applause, cheers and words of encouragement from many of the passing fans.
SFY had planned a half-time pitch invasion, wearing the GAA colours from all 32 counties, but were refused access by Omagh GAA officials. However, over 5000 leafets were handed out after the match.
SFY spokesperson Eoin O Broin stated, ``the British Army, RIR and RUC have been responsible for the murder of over 400 nationalists. Harassment and intimidation continue daily, and have played the pivotal role in maintaining a discriminatory state by force. Rule 21 is not sectarian, it is a valid expression of the anger felt by thousands of GAA supporters against the crown forces and their campaign of harassment and terror conducted against nationalist sports. Rule 21 must remain until all these matters are adequately addressed.''
Continuing RUC attacks on SFY
By Deirdre Feehan
These past months a rising tide of RUC harassment and intimidation against Sinn Fein Youth activists has led to over 30 arrests and 30 charges being brought against 12 individuals. These have arisen from an excessive RUC presence at peaceful protests, where video and stills cameras have illegally been confiscated, and a high level of stop and searches at these events. Activists have also been consistently targeted going to and from SFY offices.
On Tuesday 19 May the RUC in South Armagh stopped a bus entering GAA grounds in Crossmaglen and detained people for over 30 minutes as they attempted to arrest SFY activists. Later that evening, a number of young men passing through the village were stopped, harassed and verbally abused by the RUC and the British Army. One of the young men was subsequently charged. A SFY spokesperson said, ``there were no grounds for this arrest. Other charges were pursued after it, related to rooftop protests at Belfast City Hall.'' She added, ``none of the things the young man was charged with actually occurred.''
The most outrageous charges brought against the young man relate to organising an `End to Sectarian Killings' rally after the loyalist killing spree earlier in the year. SFY did not organise the march or rally, although they did participate and appeared on the platform alongside SDLP councillor Martin Morgan.
The SFY spokesperson also spoke of ``the physical and verbal abuse and the approaching of activists by plainclothes RUC detectives, who have attempted to `turn' them into informers.''
Full-time SFY worker, Aidan Ferguson stated, ``this ongoing campaign of harassment is designed to frighten young people away from taking an active part in this political struggle. Secondly, to undermine the work done by the full-time staff. On both counts they have failed as SFY is getting stronger by the day.''
SFY has stated its total opposition to the RUC, proclaiming them to be unacceptable and calling for immediate disbandment. SFY call for the RUC's replacement with transitional mechanisms involving maximum community and youth consultation in order to produce a democratic, accountable and peaceful police service acceptable to all people.
Shane Feeney, a SFY activist from South Armagh, claimed the ongoing harassment against young activists was because ``the development of SFY is seen as a threat by the RUC and the unionist establishment''. He said, ``this week young people are being asked to vote on the Good Friday document that aims to bring peace to this island. How are we meant to have confidence in this process when our legitimate political activity is met with state violence?''
Feeny added, ``what kind of peace is it that, harasses, intimidates and criminalises young republicans? If we are serious about creating peace and democracy our police must be peaceful and democratic. The RUC are none of these things, they must and will go.''
SFY will shortly be launching a new campaign to mobilise popular nationalist and especially youth opinion against the RUC.