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No alternative to dialogue and agreement , says McGuinness in major statement on 20th anniversary of IRA cessation

Delivering a keynote address in Derry on Sunday morning on the 20th anniversary of the IRA announcing “a complete cessation of military operations”, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness said there is a real threat to the political institutions in the North from political stagnation and the absence of progress.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD in a keynote statement today has warned that the “political process faces its greatest challenge since the Good Friday Agreement negotiations in 1998.”


Sinn Féin solidarity vigil with the Palestinian people as Israel continues its horrific bombardment of Gaza



Nuacht

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Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey was selected tonight to contest the West Belfast in next year’s Westminster election. Paul Maskey succeeded party leader Gerry Adams when he won the seat in a by election in 2011. 

Paul Maskey said tonight it was vital that his party stood firm against Tory plans to impose welfare cuts on the North.

Mr Maskey said:

“We are taking the lead in challenging the Tory welfare cuts, we are the party who will block the welfare cuts, we are the party who will protect working families, the working poor, we will protect the unemployed and those with disabilities.

“Next week I will be attending the British Labour party conference and I will be making it very clear to Labour MPs and party activists that we will oppose any effort to impose welfare cuts on the people of the North.”

This is the full text of Paul Maskey’s speech to Sinn Féin activists tonight in the Felon’s Club.

It’s a great honour and a privilege to be selected to contest the West Belfast Westminster seat on behalf of Sinn Féin for a second time.

It’s also a great privilege to be a member of the most vibrant and largest party on this island and standing this evening with the hardest party workers here in west Belfast.

Tonight we are embarking on another election campaign, for an election that will take place in May. I would rather be going door to door tonight asking people to make their way to the polling station to vote for Irish independence like so many people in Scotland today but that will only happen for us with electoral strength.

That’s what we in this room are about, building that strength and building Irish unity.

As the debate in Scotland has demonstrated there is a strong and convincing argument to be made for independence, an argument that even one-time opponents of the concept of independence find they can buy into.

Therefore our party will continue to demand a border poll to put the case for Irish unity and independence to the electorate. It’s a debate we can win and it’s clear that our enemies fear us putting our case about the benefits of Irish unity to the people.

Stability and equality are today the foremost threats to Britain’s claim to this part of Ireland. Stability, because it will remove all of the distractions that prevent people from focussing on the issues that matter. Equality, because it attacks the discriminatory culture that held this state together.

When Peter Robinson complains that the Executive is not fit for purpose he of course means that it isn’t fit for any useful unionist purpose. It has been structured to prevent unionist domination and misrule. It has been designed to ensure that unionist politicians can’t buy support with the modern-day equivalent of a job in the shipyard or a council house.

And so the unionist vote has fallen into decline.

We might have expected a fightback from the unionist leadership but nothing has materialised. Unionist people, who like us, find their living standards under daily attack from millionaire London-based Tory politicians might have expected their elected representatives to stand against the austerity programme. These people will have been frustrated by the readiness of unionist politicians to support a Tory agenda.

Almost daily you can pick up a newspaper and read of a crisis pertaining to one area of government or another. It can’t all be dismissed as inept ministerial management.

At some stage even the most stubborn unionist will have to consider the possibility that the so-called union is failing us all.

Here in West Belfast it is easy for republicans to become complacent ahead of a Westminster election. Retaining the seat simply isn’t enough. In order to move matters forward we have to win in resounding fashion. We have to do what it takes to win every possible vote and that work must start immediately.

Make no mistake; we can stand before the electorate in this constituency with confidence because we have delivered on past promises.

Sinn Féin has transformed West Belfast. Where once there was a shameful lack of investment we have ensured that this constituency is moving forward.

For those that say nothing changes we should urge them to take a drive around the constituency.

Take a look at the Falls Leisure Centre after a  £6m investment. Just look at the new Dunville Park after £2m in investment.

Look at the new social houses throughout the area.

Work has begun on the new Rapid Transit system, £100m being spent between west and east Belfast.

The Social Investment Fund of over £12m will be coming on line soon and part of that is creating 200 jobs over the next two years.

St Comgall’s will be redeveloped to the value of £7m.

Colaiste Feirste has received £12m for new school buildings starting this year.

There have been road realignments and environmental projects throughout west Belfast improving the infrastructure and creating a welcome environment costing over £8m in areas such as Falls, Upper Springfield, Upper Falls and Colin areas.

A new Irish school in Twinbrook cost £1.5m plus over £2m went to St Gerard’s new school.

The finance secured for a new leisure centre in Andersonstown for £19m and £10m for a new leisure centre at the Brooke Activity Centre.

There has been over £1m secured for the Colinglen Forest Park attracting more people to the park.

Take a look at the unemployment register, 974 fewer people claiming unemployment in the last 12 months.

We are the leading party challenging the Tory welfare cuts, we are the party who will block the welfare cuts, we are the party who will protect the working families, the working poor, we will protect the unemployed and will protect those with disabilities.

These are just a few of the issues we have worked and delivered on. There are far too many for me to cover here this evening but our councillors, MLAs, the MP’s office and our activists have changed the landscape of west Belfast over many years and we like no one else will continue to do so as there is a lot more to do.

It is up to all of us between now and Election Day to make sure that not a single voter is left in any doubt as to what we have done in this constituency on their behalf.

We will ignore the small number of negative voices that complain about change and will instead point up the many benefits - to all of the things we have delivered.

We will challenge political opponents who might be critical of aspects of our work to explain how they would have done things differently. Nobody gets off the hook. We are after every vote.

There is a lot to do but the prize has never been bigger. It has been an honour and privilege to serve as Sinn Féin MP in this constituency. It is an honour to have been selected by you to run again for Westminster. It is a much greater honour though to be a republican activist at this pivotal time in our country’s history. 

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said all avenues for cross-border co-operation must be explored. 

Speaking at a conference to launch a tool-kit for cross-border co-operation at the European Parliament, Ms Anderson said; 

"Following partition we went from a single unit to two jurisdictions, two currencies and three administrations in Belfast, Dublin and London. 

"Research shows that because Ireland's natural hinterland was divided, communities living along the border are twice as likely to suffer from poverty. 

"Despite having duplication of statutory departments and agencies across the island, our economies are interlinked and interdependent. 

"Huge amounts of money, time and energy are expended as a result of this duplication. This is not in the best interests of citizens whether they live in Derry or Cork. 

"There is no advantage for an island of 6.4 million people on the edge of Europe having separate tax regimes, legal and regulatory systems, different economic development agencies and competing investment policies. 

"Co-operation is an absolute necessity for businesses and communities across the island. 

"Europe can play a key role in building capacity to deliver cross-border co-operation across a range of sectors."

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed the figures released today which show stronger than expected economic growth describing them as very impressive.

Deputy Doherty said the government should now make a commitment not to bring in water charges.

Speaking today he said;

“Today’s figures are very impressive and very welcome news.

“They provide further opportunity for the government to do the right thing.

“The Government should make the tax system fair, protect our public services and reverse the most brutal cuts they have introduced.

“A commitment should now be given that water charges will not be introduced.

“The government cannot talk of a neutral budget if it is planning to charge people hundreds of euro on another austerity tax.”

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Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan has severely criticised fellow MEP Brian Hayes for publicly supporting EU Financial Services Commissioner-designate Jonathan Hill.

Speaking in Strasbourg, the Sinn Féin MEP said:

“Brian Hayes has decided to inform us all that former British lobbyist Jonathan Hill is the right choice for Ireland’s financial services and for the EU.

“It is simply laughable that Hayes can come out with such a statement after a brief, behind closed doors meeting with Hill.

“There is absolutely no indication whatsoever that this appointment will be good for Ireland’s financial services, as he suggests. The Commissioner-designate is still subject to a three hour public hearing, where he will be questioned prior to any appointment. No doubt those questions will include his links with the City of London and his activities as a lobbyist. It might have made sense for Brian Hayes to delay making his public announcement of support for Hill until after that hearing.

“For Hayes, and presumably the government, to decide that Hill is the right man for Ireland’s financial services after a brief meeting is reminiscent of the way financial regulatory appointments were made in Ireland, and we all know where that led.

“I and my fellow Sinn Féin MEPs will not be making any fawning announcements of support concerning this appointment. We will assess the former lobbyist’s suitability for the position of EU Financial Services Commissioner after the hearing into his appointment on October 1st.

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Sinn Féin MEP for Ireland South Liadh Ní Riada will meet with the Director General for the Environment at the European Commission next week in Brussels to outline her concerns regarding the draft submission put forward by the Irish government to the EU Commission on the LEADER programme.

Ní Riada said:

“I am very concerned that the new measures outlined in the submission mark a determined attempt to redefine the LEADER programme from being a genuine grassroots, community-based measure, to a programme completely subject to the political objectives of whatever Local Authority and Government happens to be in power at any given time.

“Flaws within the submission include plans that LEADER Groups will operate under the County Development Plans which have been responsible for many of the disastrous housing decision of the last 15 years.

“Also, LEADER Groups will have to adhere to new Local Economic and Community Plans which are not even developed yet and which will put projects at risk and thereby put jobs in jeopardy. There is also a danger that this delay will also increase the risk of projects not coming to fruition.

“I am extremely concerned about the financial capacity measures proposed. I believe this is a `double whammy’ for local LEADER groups. Some of them will find it difficult to get that type of backing, while facilitating private companies, state, and semi-state bodies.

"Furthermore it is worthwhile noting that the former Environment Minister, Phil Hogan who created this mess is likely to be the new Agriculture Commissioner. I am concerned that this will give him the opportunity to ´rubber-stamp´ this submission in his new position. 

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Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly today said that Sinn Féin is firmly opposed to the proposal for an inquiry into parading in north Belfast.

Gerry Kelly said:

“If Theresa Villiers wants to encourage dialogue on parading then the last thing she should do is to reward unionist, loyalist and Orange negativity and intransigence by giving in to their ultimatum for an inquiry into parading in north Belfast.

"The Parades Commission is the legally constituted body tasked with the work of adjudicating on contentious parades. Experience shows us that the only effective way to resolve these issues is through a process of meaningful dialogue.

"Sinn Féin is for dialogue, both at local and at political levels.

"But unionist leaders have rejected dialogue. They rejected the Haass/O'Sullivan proposals for dealing with parades and other contentious issues and they walked out of the party leaders’ process which was attempting to address these same vexed issues.

"Instead the pan-Unionist alliance emerged based on a negative and anti-agreement agenda and on the basis of a one-sided ultimatum which takes no account of nationalist and republican perspectives.

"It would be entirely counter-productive for the British government to reward this negativity.”

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Sinn Féin Leader and Louth TD Gerry Adams has expressed good wishes to Seamus Kirk, the Fianna Fáil TD and former Ceann Comhairle who has announced that he will step down from the Dáil ahead of the next General Election.

Gerry Adams said:

“Seamus Kirk has represented Louth in the Dáil since 1982. He served as Ceann Comhairle between 2009 and 2011 and as Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture from 1987 to 1992.

“Despite representing different political parties, I found Seamus to be a friendly and courteous constituency colleague who worked hard on behalf of the people of Louth.

“I wish Seamus and his family all the best for the future and thank him for all his work on behalf of our constituents for so many years.”

ENDS

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Sinn Féin councillor Mary Clarke has described an incident in which a 35 year-old man was stabbed in north Belfast as disturbing. 

Speaking after the attack in the early hours of Thursday morning, the Oldpark councillor said; 

"This stabbing in the early hours of Thursday mooring in the Brookhill area of north Belfast is disturbing. 

"The 35 year-old victim was also robbed during this violent incident. 

"Residents have raised concerns over street lighting in the area and we have written to the DRD minister urging prompt action to address the problem. 

"I'm appealing to anyone with information about this incident to come forward and for people in the area to be vigilant."

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Speaking today in the Seanad on the Freedom of Information Bill 2013 Second Stage, Senator Kathryn Reilly said that legislation falls far short of what was promised.

Senator Reilly said:

“Freedom of Information legislation gives people a right to access information about the way public institutions are governed, and the way taxpayers’ money is spent. Access to this should be based on need and public interest, not on an ability to pay. That’s why the scrapping of Freedom of Information fees is crucial for better governance.

“Much in the Bill is to be welcomed. The reduction of the period of exemption of cabinet papers and the extension of FOI to a new layer of public bodies significantly funded by the state were needed reversals. But the Minister originally committed to restore the FOI legislation to what it was prior to Fianna Fáil gutting out the FOI legislation in 2003. He hasn't done this. Instead of scrapping FOI fees, he has simply introduced a new fees regime.

“Open data advocate Gavin Sheridan has testified that this state is one of just three countries that charge upfront fees for access to information where FOI or similar legislation is in place. And amazingly, we are the only country in the whole of the EU to do so.

“The British Commons Justice Committee recognised that FOI fees set at a level high enough to recoup costs would deter requests with a strong public interest and would defeat the purposes of the legislation, whilst fees introduced for commercial and media organisations could be circumvented.

“TASC estimated in 2010 based on figures provided by the Government that the cost of FOIs to the state was 0.012 per cent of overall expenditure. This is hardly too a high price to pay for stronger democratic oversight. Freedom to information on how public institutions are governed, and how taxpayers’ money is spent, should be accessed easily by the people who pay those taxes.”

Videos

Peace and Reconciliation discussed at Féile


Photos

Mary Lou McDonald and Cathal King