12 January 2006

Noraid Set to Restructure

Irish Voice

By Sean O’Driscoll

THE Irish Republican fundraising group Noraid is to undergo a major restructuring following a meeting with Sinn Fein representatives in Belfast last month.

Noraid national chairman Paul Doris has sent a letter to members calling for ideas on how best to redevelop the organization, which has suffered a decline in influence since its height in the 1970s and ‘80s and has seen the closure of its newspaper, the Irish People.

The organization is to move from fundraising for Republican prisoners to a more direct political role, reflecting Sinn Fein’s post-Troubles political aspirations.

Noraid national coordinator Gerry Coleman said that the organization would be spending its fundraising money in the U.S. and would stop sending money back to Sinn Fein in Ireland.

“There may be further Holy Cross or Short Strand attacks in the future, in which case we can spend money in the U.S. to help,” he said, referring to Catholic areas of Belfast that have been attacked by Loyalists in recent years.

Coleman said that there was no heavy pressure coming from Sinn Fein and that Noraid agreed that the organization was outmoded and needed reform.

Coleman said he, Doris and other board members discussed the future of the organization with Sinn Fein when they traveled to Belfast for Sinn Fein’s 100th anniversary celebrations in December.

“We were in a situation where we had 600 or 700 political prisoners. Now we have 15,000 ex-prisoners. If that isn’t a cause for a reassessment, I don’t know what is,” he said.

Coleman said that very little had yet been decided, but Noraid is hoping to come up with a new plan at a meeting later this month.

He said that the cancellation of the group’s annual dinner, also set for later this month, was not connected to the restructuring.

“We’ve canceled two dinners in the last 10 years. There is a feeling that we should be having something to coordinate with the 25th anniversary of the hunger strikes, so the event has been moved,” he said.

Coleman said that Noraid was always “about a year or two” behind Sinn Fein and needed to catch up to speed. He strongly rejected rumors that Noraid was to disband.

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