Republican ex-prisoners’ group, Coiste na n-Iarchimí, held its annual summer school in Derry’s Tower Hotel at the weekend.
The conference examined a range of issues facing ex-prisoners, both republican and loyalist, as well as the economy and the political landscape of the Republic.
The summer school was launched on Friday afternoon with an address by prominent Belfast republican and event organiser, Seanna Walsh. Mr Walsh a former cellmate of hunger striker Bobby Sands was the IRA commander in the H-Blocks immediately after the hungerstrike in 1981. In 2005 he read out the statement from the IRA’s army council in which it called an end to its long campaign. The first session of the conference was entitled ‘The Celtic Tiger didn’t visit our street’ and involved a discussion on poverty and deprivation in the 26 Counties.
It was chaired by Kevin Mulgrew from Fáilte Abhaile and the panellists were Cathleen O’Neill, an anti-poverty activist from Kilbarrack; Eoin Ó Broin, a Dublin Sinn Féin activist, and Monina O’Prey, CFNI.
On Saturday the first panel discussion of the day looked at 40 years of deprivation in Derry, Strabane and north and west Belfast and how poverty levels can be addressed. It heard from academics Eilish Rooney from the University of Ulster and Mike Tomlinson from Queen’s University, Belfast, as well as PUP deputy leader John Kyle, Education Minister John O’Dowd, and Anne Cadwaller from the Pat Finucane Centre.
Donegal Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty also addressed the summer school on Saturday afternoon.
The next panel discussion looked at the issues facing former political prisoners and included presentations from Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson, loyalist ex-prisoner John Howcroft, and Féilim Ó hAdhmaill who is now a lecturer at University College Cork. The discussion was chaired by Eibhlin Glenholmes from Tar Anall.
Sinn Féin councillor Colly Kelly thanked the event organiser for bringing it to Derry.
“These events are very important to learn from and share experiences on issues such as poverty.
‘The Celtic Tiger didn’t visit our street’ session summed up for many the harrowing impact of poverty on working class communities across the island and how we can all help identify the factors preventing positive economic and social change,” he said.