Allister criticises youth camp


A YOUTH weekend camp commemorating the hunger strikers has been branded a “terror fest” by maverick unionist leader, Jim Allister.

The leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) party strongly criticised the National Hunger Strike Youth Weekend, which begins today in Co Armagh.

“[This] afternoon young republicans will arrive at Shane O’Neill’s GAA club, Camlough, where they will camp for the weekend’s terror fest,” he said.

In response, organisers of the event have said that Mr Allister’s opinion comes as no surprise to them.

“The TUV makes its political career from living in an alternate reality,” said David Collins, national secretary of Ógra Sinn Féin, which is co-ordinating the weekend.

“The purpose of the weekend is to educate young people on the hunger strike of 1981 and involve them in debate as to its effects on the political landscape of Ireland, as well as to commemorate our patriot dead,” he said.

Activities include debates about the legacy of the hunger strikes, exhibitions and historical tours of south Armagh. The camp ends with a national hunger strike commemoration at 2pm on Sunday.

Organisers have also promised a large social element to the weekend, with posters advertising “ceol agus craic”.

Mr Allister was particularly critical of the fact that a GAA club was hosting the event.

“It remains a deeply sectarian organisation willing to facilitate the celebration and glorification of terrorism,” he said.

He described as “sycophants” people who have compared the attendance of a Sinn Féin government minister at a recent match in Windsor Park, the home of Northern Ireland soccer, with that of a DUP politician attending a GAA match.

“This weekend will demonstrate the folly of trying to draw parallels between the Irish Football Association and the GAA,” he added.

On Wednesday, Carál Ní Chuilín, Minister for Culture in the Northern Ireland Executive, became the first senior republican politician to attend a Northern Ireland soccer game.

In 2008, Edwin Poots became the first DUP politician to attend a Gaelic football match in an official capacity when he travelled to Páirc Esler in Newry to view a McKenna Cup game between Down and Donegal.