24 June 2004 Edition
Challenging bigotry in Lisburn
On Thursday 24 June, Lisburn City Council will meet to elect a new mayor and deputy mayor for the city. Last year, the majority unionist council voted to exclude all non-unionists from positions of Chair and Vice-Chair from all council committees, as well as seizing the posts of Mayor and Deputy Mayor for unionism.
The largest nationalist party in the new city, Sinn Féin, have consistently been excluded from all positions of responsibility within the council. This abject refusal to endorse and embrace power sharing flies in the face of the Good Friday Agreement and its institutions. This policy of exclusion sends a clear message to nationalists that they are not welcome in Lisburn, and sends an equally clear message to loyalist paramilitaries active in the city that nationalists are not to be respected or treated as equals.
The refusal of all shades of political unionism to endorse power-sharing in Lisburn is indicative of the ambivalence within political unionism towards the basic principles of equality and parity of esteem which underpin the Good Friday Agreement.
Across the North of Ireland, nationalist controlled local government councils willingly embrace power sharing and have done so for many years. The fact that unionists have not crossed this rubicon illustrates the distance that political unionism must yet travel if an agreement is to be secured, and it also reveals the reasons why nationalists must treat with extreme caution British Government proposals to reduce the number of local government councils here. Such a move could create larger local authorities which function according to the narrow, sectarian and discriminatory practices we are supposed to be moving away from.
Cllr Paul Butler,
Sinn Féin, Lisburn City Council.
Unacceptable conditions in Maghaberry
We as members of the concerned families of the segregated republican prisoners in Maghaberry want to bring to your attention the conditions under which these men are being confined, some of which are not even sentenced prisoners and therefore assumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
They are presently on 23-hour lock-up every other day and 22-hour lock-up on the next. When they are out within the allotted time, they have the choice of exercise or showers, not both, so if they choose exercise they go back to their cells in their sweaty clothes and with sweaty bodies.
This is being done to accommodate the prison wardens as part of their protest because of lack of staff, which is a government problem and should not be used as a tool against the prisoners as extra punishment.
To further highlight these problems, the prisoners are being asked to cut their hair and shave in a small wash basin in their cells that they use to wash their dishes in and the same place where they eat their food. As a result the prisoners are now not shaving and having their hair cut so with their pale complexions due to the lack of natural sunlight. Their general appearance is causing us as relatives great distress, especially the children, so we would be most grateful if you would take these comments on board and give them the attention that they deserve before conditions in the prison deteriorate and the tensions escalate out of control.
The Rainey family
The McCrory family
The Fitzsimmons family
The Leonard family
The Tolan family.
Saluting the women of the struggle
Over the last 35 years of conflict in Ireland, many women of Óglaigh na hÉireann, Cumann na mBan, Cumann na gCailíní and Sinn Féin have paid the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of Irish freedom. I believe the price the women of Ireland have paid for freedom was immense.
Many women, such as Maire Drumm, Maireád Farrell and Mary Doyle, have inspired many young women to play an active part in the fight against British rule in Ireland.
In 1980, the men in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh were joined on Hunger Strike by their female comrades in Armagh Jail. Women such as Mairéad Farrell, later shot dead in Gibraltar alongside Volunteers Sean Savage and Danny McCann, were to the forefront of the campaign for political status.
These women were ordinary people leading extraordinary lives. The spirit of Tone, Emmet and Pearse was with them then as their spirit is with us now. They stood up defiantly to the oppression, tyranny and injustices being seen in Ireland.
The average age of the republican women killed in the current phase of the struggle was 31; they were grandmothers, mothers, sisters and wives. The part women played in the struggle advanced and continues to advance the caused of Irish freedom.
Just last week, two more women advanced the cause of Irish freedom by winning seats in the European Parliament, bringing the fight for Irish freedom to the heart of Europe — Mary Lou McDonald in Dublin and Baibre de Brún in the Six Counties.
Let us remember the women of Ireland.
Déan cuimhne ar na daoine a fuair bás ar son saoirse na hÉireann.
West Tyrone, Ógra Shinn Féin.
All-Ireland Agenda delivers for SF
As the political landscape moves ever closer to reunification, the return of an increasing number of high calibre and diligent Sinn Féin elected reps, throughout the country bears testimony to the All-Ireland strategy and realpolitik which have become the thrust of republican politics.
The key role in the evolution of Irish republicanism today has been the impact of the Peace Process and the outreaching of Sinn Féin policies towards developing Anti-Poverty, Health, Education, Tourism, Agriculture, Economic Sustainability, Community Development and Policing on an All-Ireland basis.
The outworkings of the Sinn Féin All-Ireland Agenda are driven by two formidable women. Martina Anderson and Rose Dugdale are two of many many tireless activists who dedicate all their energy to promoting, devising and delivering towards building an Ireland of equals. Martina and Rose are found trekking up and down the country, touching base with an enormous spectrum of party activists, the business sector, governments, non-government organisations, community and voluntary organisations, elected and non-elected reps, advancing not only All-Ireland politics but the wider message of republicanism.
During the EU election push, our candidates were fully conversant with the impact of our policies islandwide. On TV, radio and in the press, the All-Ireland Agenda was at the heart of what it is we are attempting to achieve.
By allowing people the opportunity to contribute in a fully participative way, Sinn Féin will shape an Ireland of Equals for all citizens. This is a fundamental tenet of our electoral, political and party growth.
The European Manifesto was a diverse and transparent document which allowed the electorate to decide where the party stood on key issues. The quality and experience of candidates proved that Sinn Féin will be represented in Europe and in Ireland delivering and internationalising republicanism, the Peace Process and the ever important All-Ireland ethos.
I applaud the gender equality policy promoted and developed by Sinn Féin. No other political entity on the island can offer the level of commitment and energy found in the personalities of Bairbre de Brún MEP and Mary Lou McDonald MEP. They will provide a sharp and focused approach to Sinn Féin politics in Europe and at home but also to Irish politics on the whole.
I wish them every success.
Northern Assembly PA,
Derry Sinn Féin .
More international news please
I was glad to see that Sinn Féin and your newspaper campaigned for a no vote in the recent referendum. It shows that you have principles and do not just say what people want to hear. To do this shows true vision and true leadership.
In a recent article (12 February) you wrote about science and technology and said that more space will be given to this in the future. I would also like to see more space given to struggles in other countries.
I have recommended An Phoblacht as a good newspaper to several non-Irish friends and the lack of such articles is the main criticism they have (I realise that there have been some good articles such as on Palestine and Colombia).
To learn about struggles going on around the world is also an important part of education and may interest immigrants, who hopefully will continue to come to Ireland despite the racist referendum we have had recently.