18 October 2001 Edition

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Mála Poist

Leadership ignoring youth

A Chairde,

This letter is written out of frustration experienced by Ógra Shinn Féin and Sinn Féin college activists around the country. Sinn Féin is at present in the process of building political strength all over the island. In all the media reports, polling statistics and canvassing reports, the one very noticeable aspect of Sinn Féin's growth is in support gained from young people.

ÓSF activists and college activists are working hard on a wide variety of issues ranging from student funding to 'Disband the RUC' campaigns. This work, along with paper sales, organising public meetings, etc., is done day in and day out by activists with limited time and resources with a good level of success. None of the other parties' youth wings are as active on the ground in communities or in college campuses as are republicans. However, the one major difference in terms of Sinn Féin and these other parties, whether DUP, Fianna Fáil or any other party is the amount of time given over by their political leaderships to develop their youth strategies.

In the past year, despite numerous requests and attempts to facilitate leadership figures, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness each only spent one hour doing work on behalf of Ógra Shinn Féin or college cumainn. Other high profile speakers have done their best to facilitate youth groups and for this we are grateful. However, what has been proved in the few meetings where Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness have spoken is that crowds of 300 plus can be attracted easily in every campus around Ireland. We are in the business of building political strength; we should be in the business of addressing all potential supporters, so why are we not availing of the opportunity to address large numbers of young people?

This letter is written out of frustration. There has to be a way that our leadership can find two or even three days every year to address the development of a radical and autonomous youth movement.

Damian Lawlor,
National Orgamiser,
Ógra Shinn Féin.

Gender imbalance

A Chairde,

It is with great regret that I read about motion 189 not being passed at our recent Ard Fheis. As the only women in Waterford City's Sinn Féin Cumann I'm actively trying to encourage other women to join, telling them that Sinn Féin is the only viable Left alternative.

Quota systems are not the answer to tackling sexism but can be a step in the right direction, for example they are used to be more inclusive of people with disabilities in the workplace, etc.

We need to address and redress the gender balance in Sinn Féin. It's lonely being the only female cumann woman! I would like more women to join but I'm afraid failure to pass motion 189 sends out a message to women that we are not wanted or valued.

Sharon Walsh,
Cathal Brugha Cumann,

Second class news fodder

A Chairde,

I agree with Roy Greenslade's view that there is a 'hierarchy of death' when it comes to devoting comparatively less space to the deaths of nationalists in the media (Irish News, 3 October). I wonder if Mr Greenslade would agree that this problem is also affecting coverage of the sectarian loyalist protest against children going to Holy Cross School, the reporting of which damages perceptions

of 'loyalism' every time it is aired in the media.

For example, news of the exceptional and welcome decision of the British Conservative Party Spokesperson on the North of Ireland to accompany the Holy Cross schoolchildren through the daily gauntlet of loyalist sectarian hostility was not reported in the Guardian (which Roy Greenslade reports on the media in) and only barely made it to the bottom of page 9 of the Irish Times. The Tory spokesperson was called "fenian scum" for his trouble by the (permanently) confused loyalists.

This daily barbarity is as uncivilised as anything else that is grabbing the attention of these reputedly major national dailies. Perhaps the lack of attention given to the story is a symptom of the tendency to see attacks on Irish nationalists as less 'newsworthy' than attacks on unionists and loyalists. I suppose, somewhat tongue in cheek, that attacks on loyalists get more prominence because of the comparative rarity and therefore exceptional nature of the event.

The Guardian and the Irish Times should examine themselves, to see whether they are suffering from this particular media malady. A tragic irony, in the light of the circumstances of Greenslade's comment, is that this bad practice has now affected the brutal killing by news-shy loyalists of Martin O'Hagan, an honest and thorough investigative journalist.

The situation is even worse now of course, because a journalist has been killed who effectively attempted to redress the balance. Maybe that is why he was silenced.

Anne Speed,
Dublin 7


A Chairde,

As a republican, a mother, and a Catholic, I found Justin Moran's letter (An Phoblacht, 11 October) at best misguided, at worst bordering on the offensive. It seemed to say more about his antagonism towards people who believe abortion is wrong, than real compassion for those coping with problem pregnancies.

I do not propose getting bogged down in arguments about ships, planes, information and so forth: people can always find justification for their actions!

What concerns me here would be the pragmatic aspects. If we are to promote and build a truly inclusive Irish society, we need to respect people's beliefs. We have to recognise that many people in Ireland - of differing cultures and creeds - would find the notion of killing an unborn baby unacceptable.

The "pro-choice" lobby has the potential to be deeply injurious not only to our party internally, but also to our electoral success. And while electoral success is not the be-all and end-all, if Sinn Féin does not achieve it on a nationwide basis, we will never be in a position to realise our ideal of a 32-county democratic socialist republic -and hence, implement stated policies of "cherishing all the children of the nation equally".

May I hopefully suggest that the lack of an "abortion motion" on this year's Ard Fheis clár indicates not "moral cowardice", but a growing wisdom?

Carol Mary Fraser,
County Monaghan.

Holy Cross

A Chairde,


Having watched with horror and indignation the suffering of you and your children over the past month or more, we would like you to know that you haven't been forgotten by the young people of Twinbrook, Poleglass and Lagmore. Unlike the so-called Human Rights Commissioner Brice Dickson and other members of the 'respectable' classes, we are proud to show our support for you in your battle against sectarianism and intolerance. The days of Catholics going through back doors are long gone and nationalists throughout the Six Counties owe you a debt of gratitude for your highlighting of the bigotry that remains and that must be faced up to by everyone who claims to have an interest in peace and equality. We would like to offer any assistance possible and let you know that your fight and that of your children is an inspiration to us all.

Lagan Valley Ógra Shinn Féin

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1