6 January 2005 Edition

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Demilitarisation conference hears UUP speaker

Ógra Shinn Féin in County Galway's first National Demilitarisation conference on 11 and 12 December in Galway City was a "huge success", according to PRO for East Galway Sinn Féin, Sorcha Ní Dhubhda. The weekend received backing from young republicans all over Ireland, attracting delegates from counties such as Antrim, Tyrone, Cavan, Monaghan, Dublin, Roscommon, Waterford and Clare. The purpose of the conference was to highlight the ongoing problems caused by the military presence in Ireland, both in the Six Counties and at Shannon and make it an issue locally and nationally. Demilitarisation embraces freedom and human rights, a topic of huge importance to Ógra Shinn Féin.

Arthur Morgan, Sinn Féin TD for Louth and party spokesperson on Environment and Local Government and Employment, introduced the event. He spoke on Sinn Féin's growing presence and future in Ireland. Afterwards he answered many enthusiastic questions from the group on a variety of topics.

David Thompson from the UUP trained in mediation and works with the Glencree Centre for Reconciliation. He has several times been a candidate for the UUP at local government elections in Portadown. David's talk covered a history of Unionism, with reference to his own personal background. Afterwards, a question and answer session raised many difficult questions and issues. It was an historic moment, as young republicans actively engaged and listened to views on unionism with a view to understanding the other side of the coin and moving the forward in a positive manner.

The fun began that night with a table quiz, chaired by Cllr Jason Devlin from Ballinasloe Town Council. That night was filled with craic and ceol, with everyone throwing in a song or two.

On Sunday morning, the weekend reached its conclusion with a protest on demilitarisation in Shop Street, Galway city. A large group of young republicans gathered in Eyre Square, some of whom were dressed in mock army uniform for effect. The protest's aim was to highlight various issues, including the fact that there are more British soldiers in the North than in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Towards the end of the protest, members of the Gardaí intervened to protest about the attire of some of the protestors. However, Ógra Shinn Féin representatives dealt with the matter quietly and the protest carried on for a few more minutes until it reached its conclusion. The protestors received many positive comments from passers-by and was a great success.

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