14 May 1998 Edition
RUC attack SFY
By Deirdre Feehan
The past number of months have seen a huge increase in RUC harassment and violence against Sinn Fein Youth activists. There are currently 25 cases ongoing against SFY members. Full-time workers in South Armagh and Belfast are specifically being targeted. Half the charges against these activists are a complete travesty and half result from arrests at peaceful protests.
Shane Feeney from South Armagh said, ``we will not be intimidated by these sectarian bigots or the deliberate attempt by the RUC to prevent SFY from taking an active part in the struggle. This has only strengthened our resolve and we will continue to expose their hypocrisy and violence until they are inevitably disbanded.''
SFY in Dublin had their own difficulties with the Garda Síochána. A presence of three Special Branch cars, two squad cars, a police van and a police motorcycle, together with a high presence of on-the-beat personnel attempted to intimidate those present at the SFY Disband the RUC picket last Saturday.
One SFY member was informed by a female Garda that he was a ``shirt-lifter'' on the basis that he had an earring in his left ear.
Commenting on the ``unnecessary and consistent harassment of young republicans in the Dublin city area'', Matt Carthy of Sinn Féin Youth said that the Garda campaign has been presented in a number of ways.
Within the last week, one Special Branchman has called to an SFY member's home in Dublin on two occasions, informing him that the Gardaí have the authority to arrest SFY members if they do not provide information regarding SFY activity. He also warned that such visits will become more commonplace in future.
On Saturday night, Dublin SFY members, accompanied by members from around the country who were in Dublin for the Ard Fheis, were stopped and questioned by Gardaí from Store Street Station. One member was told that because he lives in a working class area where drug abuse is common, he was liable for a Garda search on suspicion of posessing illegal substances. Three SFY members were subsequently arrested under the Public Order Act and were not released until 3.30am the next morning. Charges have not been dropped.
Carthy said ``SFY will not be intimidated by this constant harassment. We intend to campaign against these actions at every level.''
SFY is holding a national day of action on Sunday 17 May in Omagh, calling for the disbandment of the RUC and opposing any changes in the GAA's Rule 21.
Debating the path to freedom
A truly historic day at the RDS in Dublin began with an intense sense of anxiety and apprehension. After all, this was the day that republicans would decide if Sinn Fein should endorse a Yes vote in the impending referenda, and whether Sinn Fein should take up seats in an assembly in the Six Counties.
Proceedings commenced with Pat Doherty. ``We always knew that the path to freedom was never going to be simple or straightforward,'' he said. ``What is essential is that we are prepared to adapt our tactical positions without ever losing sight of our ultimate objectives and without ever compromising on those issues which are a matter of principle. In doing this we must never confuse principles with tactics. Tactics are there to be adapted and to be changed when the need arises but principles are there to be achieved.''
This was followed by a section entitled `A Strong Mandate' dealing with Sinn Fein's strength, its electoral success and its massive potential for growth. The first speaker, Sean McManus, stressed the importance of increasing the efficiency of activists and structures to maximise success in the forthcoming election. He said, ``let us ensure we start work tomorrow morning. I am confident we can become the strongest nationalist party in the Six Counties.''
Matt Carthy of Sinn Fein Youth spoke in favour of the introduction of legislation to ensure that all future elections and referenda are held at weekends. He said, ``when the Dublin government insists that elections and referenda are held during the week, we see it as a direct insult to people studying away from home.''
Seven young speakers, convincingly and confidently gave compelling arguments on issues such as the disbandment of the RUC, the proposed changes to Articles 2 and 3, opposition to the unionist veto, demilitarisation and the Good Friday document.
The aspect of the document that gave most cause for concern to the young people was the inaction with regard to the RUC. Each speaker highlighted the ongoing harassment campaign directed towards Sinn Fein Youth activists. South Armagh SFY activist Deirdre Feehan explained, ``this is a deliberate attempt by the RUC to intimidate and prevent SFY from taking an active role in this struggle.'' She continued, ``we will continue to expose the hypocrisy and violence of the RUC and despite what Tony Blair says, the RUC will be disbanded.''
Kaniah Ni Chiosoig, arguing against changes to Articles 2 and 3 said, ``for the first time in our history, the Irish people are being asked to consciously choose to accept the legitimacy of Britain's claim to our land and our territorial waters.'' Colleen Gildernew spoke of SFY's opposition to the unionist veto ``in all its forms''.
``As republicans, we do not believe that a national minority has the right to direct the course of a nation,'' Gildernew said, ``SFY calls on all republicans to challenge that veto in every aspect of their lives. At every opportunity, to use every avenue to ensure that our consent is required at every level in every aspect of our lives.''
Conor O Cearnaigh called for the immediate demilitarisation of the Six Counties and stated that it was essential for lasting peace. O Cearnaigh pledged SFY's support for the farmers and residents associations and condemned the increase in military activity, particularly in South Armagh and North Belfast.
Matt Carthy and Eoin O Broin dealt with the overall concerns of SFY with the Good Friday document. Speaking of prisoners and the RUC, Carthy stated, ``these and numerous other discrepancies make our members very uncomfortable with this document.'' However, he also stressed the need for the movement to stay united.
O Broin, in essence, stated that the document and the proposed institutions opened up the possibility for change. He continued, ``however, all republicans need to realise that we are the only guarantee of change.'' He explained that people should be asking if the document copper fastened partition but also ``how do we make sure that it undermines partition''. O Broin concluded by saying that ``walking away from the fight changes nothing. It is time to engage our energies in confronting our opponents''.