Ógra Shinn Féin Launch Election Manifesto
Ógra Shinn Féin Manifesto 2004
Ógra Shinn Féin is the youth section of Sinn Féin. We are committed to the establishment of a 32-county democratic socialist republic. Our guiding philosophy is that all the people who inhabit the island of Ireland have a right to live in a society based upon the principle of equality.
Participation in politics
Young people are interested in political issues, but many feel that politicians don't represent their interests. This does not mean that our young people are apolitical. The willingness of so many young people to participate in political action was illustrated by the huge numbers who protested against the war in Iraq.
Ógra Shinn Féin aims to build a broad movement of young people working towards a more equitable society. We have been expanding our structures to achieve this, and there are now youth liaison officers across the country, five regional youth officers and a national executive.
Decisions are taken by government that affect young people, and to not have young people represented at that level is discriminatory. Young people have to live with the decisions of government and it stands to reason that they should also be involved in them.
We believe a number of areas need to be addressed to give young people a fairer stake in Irish society and to reverse the disillusionment and disenfranchisement felt by many.
Principles in practice
Equality demands social and economic policies to empower those who are marginalised in Ireland. Such policies could include:
- increased state involvement and control over key sectors of the economy;
- the participation of workers;
- the promotion of cooperatives;
- a much higher minimum wage;
- improvements in social welfare benefits; and
- a free and decently funded national health service.
Campaigning for change
Ógra Shinn Féin is involved in highlighting the prohibitive cost of car insurance for young people, the inadequacy of student grants and support mechanisms and in calling attention to the high rate of suicide among young males.
Ógra is also campaigning against drugs, in support of the worldwide anti-globalisation movement, and in support of a campaign for a higher minimum wage.
Respecting our diversity
All of the inhabitants of Ireland should have the right to Irish citizenship. Ireland should be a beacon of hope to oppressed peoples everywhere. Racist immigration laws cannot be tolerated and must be opposed.
The various religious, linguistic, political and ethnic differences of Irish people should be respected and no one conception of 'Irishness' should be promoted over another. This has an obvious importance to the unionist population of the North of Ireland.
Sectarianism and racism must be rejected.
We reject patriarchal structures enforced upon women, inside and outside the home, and commit ourselves to the promotion of equal opportunity in all areas of life for all women in Ireland.
Gay relationships should have the same status and legitimacy in the eyes of the law as any other, and gay couples should enjoy the same legal rights as their heterosexual counterparts.
Reject the Referendum
The government's racist and reactionary referendum to impose restrictions on Irish citizenship must be rejected. The referendum is in violation of the Good Friday Agreement and is a betrayal of the 1916 Proclamation.
We utterly reject the Government's contention that this proposal is either necessary or desired. If this is passed, two children born in the same hospital ward on the same day could be deemed to have different constitutional rights. These children will be denied the same status or rights.
The Human Rights Commission has found that Minister McDowell's so-called facts and 'evidence' used to back up his case for a referendum were not adequately researched or analysed. It has also said that the government should have consulted with other parties to the Good Friday Agreement on the impact of the referendum on the Agreement.
Ógra Shinn Féin is urging people to vote No to the Government's flawed, ill-conceived and ultimately racist referendum.
Government lacks political will
The current attitude to youth work says that we must make do with what we have and continue to allow young people to fall through the cracks. The government lacks the political will to address the fundamental inequalities in Irish society. Last year's government decision to cut Corporation Tax is estimated to have cost us •350 million, in a state that already has the lowest tax take in Europe.
Why are our prisons filled with young people, mostly from deprived backgrounds, without educational qualifications or income, while none of the tax evaders or corrupt politicians are in prison?
Young people are sick of a corrupt political system that is unwilling to correct itself but is always willing to imprison the young, without addressing the dire social and economic circumstances that are a huge contributory factor to the causes of crime.
Ógra Shinn Féin supports the vital work of youth groups throughout the country and has been to the fore in campaigns against student poverty, for an increase in financial assistance and other targeted measures to tackle inequality in accessing education.
Ógra also recognises the need to support young people getting their own homes. We deplore the government's changes to the council housing requirements, designed to force young people out of their parents' home, even while the government's friends in the property industry manipulate house prices to force young people out of the market.
Access to Education
Juts 2% of full time students in the top ten 26-County colleges and institutes come from households where their parents were semi skilled or manual unskilled workers. Yet as a percentage of the population, these households make up more than 25% of the workforce.
Those from the poorest households in the 26 Counties are 16 times more likely to leave school without sitting the Leaving Certificate than those from the wealthiest households.
Those from the poorest households are also four times more likely to get insufficient points to get to third level and three times less likely to go even if they had the necessary points.
According to the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), the maximum grant available to third level students does not even cover the accommodation costs of students who have to leave home for college.
Spending on disadvantage represents less than 5% of the education budget at first and second level.
All our children have the right to a top quality education, but too many are receiving second-class treatment because of government policy.
Ógra believes that funding should be directed at tackling inequality at all levels of the education system. As part of this, we are calling for the current student grant to be increased to social welfare levels.
Cherishing all of the children of the nation equally is a central tenet of republicanism, but Ireland's child poverty rates and the gap between rich and poor are the largest in Europe. This government has presided over one of the most unequal periods in Irish history. Those who can afford private schooling are many times more likely to achieve third level education, and there are still sections of society for whom college education is a pipe dream.
Children's rights must be protected in law. One in four Irish children live in poverty and we have one of the highest levels of child abuse in Europe.
Ógra proposes that:
- parents be made aware of the dangers of smacking and shaking children;
- children be empowered to speak out about any abuse they may suffer; and
- proper support systems are provided.
A President for All
Ógra Shinn Fein is calling on the Dublin government to allow citizens living in the Six Counties to vote in the Presidential Elections.
As a step towards the reunification of our country, we believe that citizens living in the North should have the right to choose a President to represent the whole of the island of Ireland.
At present, we have a President who was born in Belfast; but the very people who grew up with her (and still live in Belfast) cannot vote for her!
Extending voting rights in Presidential elections to the Six Counties is a step towards a more inclusive society. We will only have a President who can truly represent the whole of Ireland when he or she is elected by all the people of Ireland.
Positive Neutrality in Action
The decision to hand over Shannon Airport for the US war effort in Iraq has demonstrated exactly what this government thinks about Irish neutrality. They have ignored the protests of ordinary people and have jeopardised Irish neutrality to an unprecedented and disgraceful extent.
Ógra Shinn Féin proposes an independent and progressive Irish international relations policy that opposes military alliances and works for international co-operation and conflict negotiation. That policy should be directed towards creating democratic social change and respect for human rights, universal demilitarisation and nuclear disarmament.
To this end, neutrality should be enshrined in the Irish Constitution and codified in legislation. We should have no involvement with the EU Rapid Reaction Force or NATO's Partnership for Peace.
Irish troops should train and serve abroad only under the auspices and leadership of the United Nations.
We are totally opposed to the use of Irish airports, airspace, seaports, or territorial waters for preparation for war or other armed conflict by foreign powers.
We also want to see an end to Irish involvement in the arms trade and profit from war.
Proposals for change
We believe a number of other areas also need to be addressed to give young people a fairer stake in Irish society and to reverse the disillusionment and disenfranchisement felt by many.
For years, the National Youth Council of Ireland and the Union of Students in Ireland have been lobbying for Saturday voting. Tens of thousands of young voters are disenfranchised because they cannot get home to vote or because they are studying and working such long hours that time off to vote is a pipe dream.
- Ógra Shinn Féin is calling for all future elections and referendums to be held at weekends.
Despite promises fromFianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, housing waiting list and homelessness has increased and young people make up a substantial proportion of those on the streets.
- Ógra Shinn Féin is demanding a statutory agency to identify public building that are underutilised and make them available as temporary accommodation for people currently sleeping rough.
Young people are working in ever greater numbers and making a significant contribution to the Irish economy's growing wealth. However they are often working in difficult conditions, on low wages, with no sick or holiday pay and little real recognition of the anti-social hours or long shifts they put in.
We need to protect our young workers and ensure that their first employment experiences are not exploitative ones. The minimum wage needs a huge upward rise and the rights of young people in the workplace need urgent protection.
- Ógra Shinn Féin is calling for the minimum wage to be increased substantially.
Young motorists are charged premiums that are not remotely reflective of the costs of actually insuring them but little has been done by government except to allow the continued exploitation of young drivers.
- Ogra Shinn Féin is calling for the establishment of a state-sponsored body to provide third party motor insurance and put an end to the rip-off of drivers based on their age.