Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Bairbre de Brún addresses students in Belfast

9 December, 2004


Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has this afternoon commended the role played by young republicans in advancing the republican cause. Ms de Brún delivered a talk to students at St Mary‚s University College, Belfast on the theme of "Sinn Féin and Young People".

Ms de Brún addressed the students on a wide range of issues and commented that today's event reflected the "energy and determination that is emerging within republican youth activism in Ireland today".

Speaking at the event, Ms de Brún said:

It is Sinn Fein's vision, the Sinn Féin peace strategy and the hard work and campaigning that creates a vibrant and dynamic political agenda that in turn draws young people to the ranks of our party in ever greater numbers. Sinn Féin remains committed to securing a better life for all on this island. Young people are not just the future in this. You are the present also and I am proud and honoured to be part of this historic endeavour with you." ENDS

Full text of speech:

It's a great honour for me to be asked to address the students at St. Mary's University College on the theme of Sinn Féin and Young People

Sinn Féin and Young People

Sinn Féin activists, both young and old 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.

As always throughout our history, young people continue to play a very active and important role in republican politics. In the late 1960s and in the 1970's it was young people like Mairéad Farrell and Martin McGuinness who emerged and captured the revolutionary spirit of the time. Today, young people who have become involved with our youth section Ógra Shinn Féin, are playing a leading role in the advancement of the republican project.

Ógra Shinn Féin, is youth led, and provides a platform that can bring together young people from across Ireland in debate, discussion and vibrant campaigns such as the president for all campaign. We have also seen such examples of positive political activism in the anti-war movement, in campaigns against water tax and against the introduction of student fees, and in the continued quest for demilitarisation as part of Ógra's contribution to the ongoing peace process.

Ógra has provided a forum for open debate and discussion in a way that has led not only to a greater number of young people speaking at the annual Sinn Féin ard fheis but also to a very high quality in the contributions from young speakers, which has been commented on by supporters and media observers, and even by political opponents.

A vibrant political vision

The combination of high quality youth speakers and the live broadcasting of their participation in ard fheis debates has captured the imagination of young people across the country. But more than this, it is Sinn Fein's vision, the Sinn Féin peace strategy and the hard work and campaigning that creates a vibrant and dynamic political agenda that in turn draws young people to the ranks of our party in ever greater numbers.

Sinn Féin has consistently offered the analysis that national unity and independence are prerequisites for the future prosperity of all our people. We are involved in politics because we believe we can act as catalysts for change. We are involved in building electoral strength in order to bring the question of Irish unity and independence, the promotion of the peace process and issues of justice and equality to every elected forum in the country.

We just don't come to argue and protest. We come with alternatives. We have policies on education and health, on the environment, on defending public services, on tackling racism and promoting equality that offer radical alternatives to policies that fail to meet the needs of so many of our people.

Today's event and the establishment last year of a Sinn Féin cumann here in St. Mary's College University reflect the energy and determination that is emerging within republican youth activism in Ireland today. New generations of dynamic and politically conscious youth are generating radical politics in the universities and colleges of Limerick and Galway, in rural town lands across the island and in the streets of Belfast and Dublin.

We in the Sinn Féin leadership are immensely proud of this growing number of young activists who are participating in and taking ownership of the republican struggle for Irish freedom, equality and justice.

Participation in electoral politic

Sinn Féin has been expanding our structures to ensure that young people are given the necessary space and resources to achieve this. Young people like Pearse Doherty in Donegal and Cora Groogan in Mid-Ulster, have represented the party in key electoral contests while other young activists act as political advisors and campaign directors.

It is particularly pleasing to see that despite the negative consequences of gender inequality in our society, that growing numbers of young women see Sinn Féin's political activity as a vehicle for their work for emancipation and empowerment.

Sinn Féin and Europe

It would be remiss of me not to take this opportunity to say a few words about the work of Sinn Féin in Europe. When I spoke here in St Mary's College University earlier this year, I outlined some of the ways in which the European institutions impact on our lives. One issue I mentioned then was that of the inclusion of biometrics on passports. Since that time the Council of the European Union has brought forward measures to include biometric identifiers in identity documents without sufficient public debate and in spite of the huge risks to civil liberties, data protection and privacy.

This is just one of the issues dealt with recently and I would like to mention just one or two more by way of illustrating the range of issues that arise on an ongoing basis for our MEPs to discuss debate and vote on.

In recent days we have backed calls for EU leaders to take more practical steps to tackle HIV/AIDS and to recognise the relationship between poverty, discrimination and HIV/AIDS in the developing world, as well as the centrality of implementing the Millenium Development Goals to breaking the cycle of underdevelopment, poverty and disease.

We have supported the call for the EU to play a greater role in promoting safe use of the internet, protecting children and young people and combating racism and other forms of hate speech.

We have worked to strengthen proposals to tackle the environmental risks to health, particularly among vulnerable groups including children and young people, ethnic minorities and those with low income.

Having lobbied and worked on the issue for some time, we have supported proposals in the European Parliament to see continued European Union support for peace building and reconciliation in Ireland.

And just yesterday we facilitated the first ever visit by over fifty families affected by the policy of collusion to give testimony at a hearing organised in the European Parliament in Brussels.

These examples of work locally, nationally and internationally show how the republican project as articulated by Sinn Féin can be of relevance to a young person today. Freedom, equality and solidarity are words that embody the big idea that we call republicanism - words that inspire many people to believe that another world is possible.

100th anniversary of Sinn Féin

As we approach the 100th anniversary of our foundation in 1905, I appeal to those who are already active in our ranks to renew their efforts and to appeal to those who are not to join us in this great endeavour, either as members or as active participants of the many political activities and campaigns that are open to all.

If there is one issue that I would highlight particularly at this time it is the issue of racism. 2005 will mark another step closer to our republican goal of a United Ireland, a sovereign republic where in the words of the 1916 Proclamation, all the children of the nation are cherished equally. If this is to mean anything we must actively work on a daily basis to ensure that we stand by those in our communities that experience racism on a daily basis.

Finally, can I echo the words of Gerry Adams yesterday when he described the work to secure a deal which reflects accurately the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement, including its power-sharing, all-Ireland and equality provisions as "a mighty piece of work" which should not be lost because of the DUP's unrealisable demand for the humiliation of Irish republicans.

Sinn Féin remains committed to securing a better life for all on this island. Young people are not just the future in this. You are the present also and I am proud and honoured to be part of this historic endeavour with you.

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