BY NATHALIE CAMIER
BELFAST, Northern Ireland - "Crannlach means branch, like the branch growing on a tree," explained Tina Sherlock about the name she and other young members of Sinn Fein have chosen for their newly formed youth organization.
With their past experience of street demonstrations and electoral work, youth in Belfast, Derry, and Tyrone see the need for an organization to educate themselves in politics and the social issues arising from the situation in Northern Ireland. They also want to develop discussions with the youth organizations of other political parties in Ireland.
Two issues facing young people in Northern Ireland dominated our discussion - unemployment and sex education. Statistics issued by the Fair Employment Commission (FEC) show that if you are Catholic in Northern Ireland you are two and a half times more likely to be unemployed than if you are a Protestant. Established by the British government to tackle discrimination in employment, the FEC has proved inadequate to take on institutionalized discrimination. In fact, cases of discrimination have been taken out against the FEC itself.
In spite of a sharp rise in the number of teenage pregnancies, there is inadequate sex education in schools. Discussion on sexual questions, on abortion, or on contraception is taboo. Even today there are young women who are too frightened or too ashamed to admit to being pregnant.
In this city, the Brook Clinic, giving advice on contraception, has been picketed by forces linked with both the Catholic and Protestant churches. Tina spoke of a young woman she was at school with who had her first baby at 12 years, her second at 14 years, and was dead of a brain tumor by 16 years. This is clearly an issue of concern to all young people. "But," Tina said, "in a state [like Northern Ireland] founded on inequality, you have to get rid of that state to get rid of inequality."
Tina was interested to hear about a youth brigade to Cuba organized by the Union of Young Communists in Cuba last August, which this reporter took part in. We talked about the way in which young people in Cuba participate directly in the social and economic life of the country.
Seventy young people and others from 11 counties from both the north and south of Ireland attended the West Tyrone Sinn Fein Youth Conference October 21. Participants discussed the role of youth in the republican movement and a range of other political issues. The youth conference received a statement from republican political prisoners in Long Kesh prison.
Nathalie Camier, from Paris, France, participated in an October 17-19 Militant sales and reporting trip to Belfast.
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