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20 August 2009 Edition

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Spirit of Freedom and Irish youth

The National Hunger Strike Commemoration in Galbally last Sunday was a massive demonstration that the spirit of freedom of which Bobby Sands spoke is alive and thriving in the Ireland of 2009.
The large number of young people participating in the event was notable and it was appropriate as it co-incided with the 100th anniversary of Fianna Éireann, the republican youth movement which was founded a century ago this week.
Fianna Éireann for decades organised young Irish people to work for the complete freedom of Ireland. That proud tradition is carried on today by Ógra Shinn Féin and was on display in the activities they organised last weekend.
One of the Fianna’s organisers was Liam Mellows who was executed by the Free State government in December 1922.  Writing from Mountjoy Jail he praised the Fianna ideal and stressed the need to educate young people into republicanism, rather than simply absorb them. That is a very important lesson for Ógra and for Sinn Féin generally.
Political education is vital if we are to build a strong, nationwide, radical and relevant party, capable of achieving our aims.   Therefore knowledge of the basic tenets of Irish republicanism, Irish history, the Irish language, Sinn Féin policy, socialism and internationalism needs to be promoted among members and new recruits.
One of the best ways of providing political education is regular reading of An Phoblacht and discussion around the issues we cover. IRIS magazine and other party publications also provide valuable material. And all this needs to happen in an atmosphere of constructive debate, sharply focussed on how best to achieve our republican aims.
Therefore education is of key importance for republican activists, not least for those in Ógra. It helps equip them to campaign on the issues of relevance to Irish youth today because, while they are inheritors of a proud tradition, they must make that tradition relevant now.
And what are those issues? Education itself is of course an issue as the Fianna Fáil-Green government imposes more cuts on our already under-resourced system. Youth unemployment is now a massive issue as well as the related lack of adequate opportunities for training. The need for facilities for young people is acutely felt as well as for recognition of their rights to participate in decision-making that effects them directly.
The republican ideal of Irish unity and independence, equality and justice has motivated generations of young people to become political activists. We need to promote that ideal which, in the words of Liam Mellows can “save the future” and ensure that the Irish Republic is achieved.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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