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Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Sinn Féin North Antrim MLA, Philip McGuigan, has claimed government departments want to destroy the rural way of life by targeting single house developments in the countryside. Mr McGuigan has said that people 'must have the right to build a single dwelling in rural areas, provided they can meet with other planning and design criteria'.

The Department of Regional Development has released a consultation document about 'sustainable development in the countryside'.

According to Cllr McGuigan:

"We must certainly protect the rural environment and countryside. But, I don't think that killing off the rural way of life is the way to do this. Forcing people who have lived all their life in the countryside into towns will only undermine the long term stability of rural communities.

"Single houses are a feature in rural Ireland and have sustained very well for the past 800 years or more. It is this quality of life that must be protected. Single dwellings in many areas along with smaller towns provide the lifeblood of communities and parishes in Ireland and add greatly to society in general.

"The policy document, rather than an attempt to regulate building appears only to focus on restricting building in the country."

Cllr McGuigan said that the department should instead look closer at finding solutions to the growing problem of second or holiday home development.

"Along the coastal areas of North Antrim many young people are faced with an impossible situation. On the one hand they are refused permission to build on their own land by planning policy, and on the other can't afford the spiralling house prices in the towns and villages because of second or holiday homes. If not addressed this will become an ever greater problem and could forcibly tear apart rural families, rural communities and ultimately, the rural way of life." ENDS

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Sinn Féin representative for Dublin South East, Councillor Daithí Doolan, speaking ahead of tomorrow's National Waste Summit in Croke Park, has said he will be raising the issue of the proposed incinerator for the Poolbeg Peninsula with the Minister for Environment Martin Cullen. "I will be asking Mr Cullen for a firm commitment to not allow unelected City Management officials to overturn the recent vote taken by Dublin City Council against incineration".

Councillor Doolan said "Tomorrow's conference will give us the opportunity to engage with the stakeholders in industry. No one doubts that we face a waste crisis but the only rational approach is to pursue a Waste Management Strategy that respects the wishes of the majority and offers a sustainable, workable waste strategy. "

"Sinn Féin have provided such a strategy 'A Zero Waste Strategy' one that is based on reducing the demand to produce and consume waste, reuse where appropriate and the investment in our fledgling recycling industry. It is a strategy that goes to the source of our waste crisis rather than becoming dependant on landfill or incineration. Incineration will only force us to produce and consume more waste."

Cllr. Doolan concluded by calling on Minister Cullen to "listen to and uphold the vote cast by the vast majority of the elected representatives of the people. There is clearly cross party support now for our position. It is imperative that democracy is not burned or buried along with our waste". ENDS

Anti incineration Public meeting Thursday September 30th 8pm Ringsend Community Centre, Ringsend.

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Speaking at an Agreed Ireland Forum event at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton Sinn Féin Human Rights Spokesperson, Catriona Ruane said that the British government should not be allowed to administer or control any 'Truth' process that may emerge as part of the Peace Process.

At the debate, titled ' does the North need a Truth Commission', Ms Ruane said:

"I welcome the debate on whether the North of Ireland requires the establishment of a 'Truth Commission'. Sinn Féin has been to the fore in support of the relatives of victims seeking full disclosure of the circumstances of the deaths of loved ones.

"We believe that it is a part of healing and dealing with the hurt of the past. But if there is to be a statutory 'Truth Commission' then it needs to be totally independent and deal with the conflict in a comprehensive manner. There can be no hierarchy of victims and all of the protagonists need to be willing to co-operate with it fully and openly.

"Under no circumstances can the British government set the parameters of such a commission and it must also be willing to co-operate fully with it.

"The British government and its agencies were one of the main protagonists in the conflict and acted with impunity throughout the past thirty-five years. It therefore cannot set itself up as the arbiter in any Truth Commission."

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP speaking after a meeting in London has stated that 'Sinn Fein has consistently said that there can be no dilution of the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement and that the role of the British government must be defend the core principles of the Agreement'.

Speaking in Belfast today Mr McGuinness said:

"It is clear that the progress achieved at Leeds Castle is based upon a strong defence of the core principles of the Good Friday Agreement - power sharing, all Ireland Institutions and Equality. The two governments, and particularly the British government are in absolutely no doubt that there can be no comprehensive agreement if there is any attempt to dilute these fundamental principles.

"This week has not seen the progress that was made at the Leeds Castle talks built upon. We have not seen the resolute defence of these principles by the two governments. Sinn Fein has consistently said that there can be no dilution of the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement and that the role of the British government is to defend the core principles of the Agreement.

"Progress on achieving comprehensive agreement, involving the DUP, is only possible if the DUP move away from their anti-agreement position.

"The DUP want nationalists and republicans to trust them. Yet the track record of unionism in the Assembly, and tellingly in unionist dominated councils is one of exclusion, discrimination and refusal to share power. This is why any dilution of the principles of the all Ireland, power sharing and equality aspects of the agreement is totally unacceptable to nationalists and republicans.

"There is a particular responsibility on the two governments to spell out this reality to the DUP. Sinn Fein is the largest nationalist party, the largest pro-agreement party and we will not agree or sign up to anything that dilutes or undermines the core principles of the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP, speaking after meeting with the family of Pat Finucane, has said that there are 'serious concerns about the British governments approach to the demand for a full independent judicial public inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane'.

Speaking after meeting the Finucane family, Mr McGuinness said:

"The British governments record on the issue of collusion between its departments and agencies and unionist paramilitaries has been one of denial, concealment and cover up.

"The announcement yesterday from the British government has only served to reinforce the fear that this approach to the issue of collusion continues.

"It is vital that the terms of reference for this inquiry are published immediately in order to address the concerns of the Finucane family and all those who support their demand for a full independent judicial public inquiry into the killing.

"The British government has implicitly accepted that a public inquiry into Pat Finucane's killing is a threat to national security and that the issue of collusion goes to the heart of the British governments policy in Ireland.

"Sinn Féin reiterated at today's meeting that we will continue to be guided by the views of the Finucane family." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has welcomed the announcement by National Resources Minister Dermot Ahern that he has signed an agreement with the British Government to link the gas networks between the north and south of the island.

Ms McDonald commented that "there is a huge potential in the development of not just a single energy market throughout Ireland but in greater harmonisation across a number of areas".

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"Sinn Féin welcomes the announcement of this agreement which will see a new gas pipeline established by 2006, allowing gas to be pumped from the south of the country, into the six counties. There is a huge potential in the development of not just a single energy market throughout Ireland but in greater harmonisation across a number of areas, including health, agriculture and tourism.

"Sinn Féin has argued for the creation of an all Ireland energy market. The signing of this agreement should put in place the framework for the establishment of a single all Ireland energy market by 2007.

"We will continue to advance a common sense approach to the delivery of services on an all-Ireland basis. There is a growing consciousness that the well-being and in some cases the survival, of specific sectors will depend upon delivery on an All Ireland basis. There are also real savings that can be made by removing duplication, in pooling resources and in developing economies of scale." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Representative for Dublin South East, Councillor Daithí Doolan has today supported residents in the York Street area who are taking to the streets in a bid to make the streets safer for people who live there.

Councillor Doolan said:

"The last number of years have seen a huge increase in the level of traffic flow in the York Street area. This is a densely populated area and the sheer volume of traffic has put children at risk and has left the whole community under siege. This is simply not acceptable.

"Today's protest is an indication of how frustrated this community has become. The decision to block traffic was not taken easily but people here feel their voices will not be heard unless this action is taken.

"Residents in the York Street, Mercer Street area of Dublin have had to put up with unsafe streets for too long. It is time that Owen Keegan, Deputy City Manager, took the concerns of this community seriously and introduced a series of traffic calming measures for the area.

Cllr. Doolan concluded by urging "City Council's Traffic Department to deal with this as a matter of urgency before there is an accident or serious injury". ENDS

Protest will take place at 12:30pm today in Mercer Street Dublin 2 (off Stephen‚s green)

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson, Foyle MLA Mitchel McLaughlin speaking after the statement from the British government in relation to an inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane has said 'public interest demands full disclosure by the British government, its departments and agencies'.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"The track record of successive British governments in dealing with the issue of collusion, and specifically the killing of Pat Finucane has been one of denial, concealment and cover up.

"Any inquiry and the legislation it will be based on will be judged against its ability to uncover the full truth about collusion and the killing of Pat Finucane. Public interest demands full disclosure.

"Any effective inquiry requires that the British government, its departments and agencies co-operate fully.

"An informed judgement on the ability of this inquiry to delivery the truth can only be made when the legislation is published. In all of this Sinn Fein will continue to support the position of the family of Pat Finucane." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Leinster House Whip, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has accused the Government of treating the Dáil and members of the opposition with complete contempt after the publication of schedule for the resumption of the parliament next week. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said news that the Dáil would primarily only deal with the matter of the Cabinet Reshuffle on Wednesday next was completely unacceptable after over a two-month break for summer recess.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "There are many, many issues of national and international importance that need to be urgently addressed by members of the Dáil yet with only days to go before it resumes after over two-months of recess we have only now just received what amounts to a skeletal schedule. It is clear that the summer break has not diminished the capacity of this Government's arrogance or complete contempt for the elected representatives of the people.

"Yes, the Cabinet reshuffle is important but that is no excuse for not having a normal full day sitting on Wednesday and Thursday next week.

"This move by the Government will only add to the cynicism of the general public who can be left in no doubt that the only reason the Dáil is making a token return on September 29th and 30th is to take the bad look off the extensive summer recess it has just enjoyed." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD, has said the Government's health strategy is in disarray following revelations that essential investment in promised primary care and mental health facilities is to be deferred for up to three years.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The development of primary care is a cornerstone of the Government's Health Strategy yet little or no progress has been made since this Government was re-elected in 2002. Now we learn that essential investment is to be delayed for a further three years. The Minister must immediately clarify how he proposes to deliver the Primary Care commitments in the Health Strategy. Primary care is the first and most important point of contact with the health services. The Minister has staked his credibility on its delivery.

"It will be equally scandalous if essential investment in our disgracefully neglected mental health services is again postponed. This State has been condemned by the UN, the EU and Amnesty International for its neglect of the mentally ill.

"The Minister should tell us now if these reports are confirmed." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy has expressed anger at the revelation that spending on external advisors to the NIO ministers, their departments and agencies and for quangos has increased by almost £8 million to a staggering £43.5 million over the past 12 months.

Mr Molloy said:

"Sinn Féin was deeply concerned about the rising cost of advisors and the way that contracts were being awarded when the institutions were up and running. A recent Audit Office report highlighted serious failures to ensure value for money and even cases where there were failures to establish if external consultants were even required.

"The fact that the institutions have been suspended for almost two years now means that we have NIO direct rule Ministers juggling 3 or 4 portfolios as and when they are actually here. During that time the spending on external advisors has sky rocketed to £43.5 million, a jump of over £12 million.

"The biggest joke is that we are not getting better decisions for this money. We are getting worse decisions.

"In consultation after consultation direct rule ministers are simply refusing to listen to local politicians, trade unions, to the voluntary and community sector or to the business community. The suspicion is that the only people that British direct rule ministers are listening to are expensive consultants. This is unacceptable. This is public money that is lining the pockets of a few consultants when it should be going on essential public services and in increasing investment in our infrastructure." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Regional Development, Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney has said that excuses for delaying the removal of immunity from crown prosecution for water services , and other government agencies and departments, has run out.

Responding to reports that Water services may face massive daily fines if it refuses to scrap crown immunity Mr McCartney said:

"There is no case to be made for any government department or agency having crown immunity from prosecution.

"Crown immunity has provided a tool to protect water services and other government agencies from prosecutions resulting from damage caused by pollution.

"At present the removal of crown immunity is linked to the establishment of the GoCo proposed under the current plans to introduce water charging. There is almost total opposition to the moving in this direction that Sinn Féin and many others believe is just the first step on the road to privatisation.

"However, the fact remains that there is nothing to stop legislation being brought forward very quickly that would stop Water Services, or indeed all other agencies, from abusing crown immunity. The excuses for delaying the removal of immunity from crown prosecution for water services, and other government agencies and departments, have run out" ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has said that "concrete initiatives must be forthcoming if we are to address the crisis on our roads". Ms McDonald was speaking as a road safety conference was due to take place in Dublin today, attended by the Transport and Justice ministers, the Garda Commissioner and officials from both the National Roads Authority and National Safety Council.

Speaking today, Ms McDonald said:

"Today's conference on road safety whilst welcome is long overdue. So far this year, 292 people have died on our roads and the carnage shows no signs of easing. The most disturbing element of these statistics is that many of these deaths were preventable. That it has taken this long to organise a road safety summit is an absolute disgrace.

"Sinn Féin has long called for a multi agency approach to this epidemic and today‚s road safety summit must produce a practical way forward - concrete initiatives must be forthcoming if we are to address the crisis on our roads.

"That many of these accidents are happening during weekend nights shows where resources are needed. The Minister for Justice needs to make the funds available so that the Gardai can adequately tackle this unacceptable situation. The apparent over emphasis in placing speed cameras and patrols on motorways and dual carriageways, which are acknowledged as the safest roads in the country, makes no sense when the majority of accidents are happening on other national and secondary routes throughout the country.

"The fact so many young people are involved in these accidents also indicates that we need to address the problem from an educational point of view. All young people before leaving school should be fully versed in the rules of the road from the perspectives of a pedestrian, a cyclist and a motorist and where possible be given practical tuition.

"Sinn Féin also reiterates our call for the implementation of initiatives throughout Ireland to improve road safety, including the standardising across the island of road safety measures, road signs, speed limits and a one points system to cover the whole island." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly group leader, Newry Armagh MLA Conor Murphy and South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane speaking at a Press Conference in Belfast today after two days of talks at Stormont have said that a comprehensive agreement involving the DUP is only possible if they engage on a realistic basis and move away from their anti-agreement position.

Mr Murphy said:

"Over the last week we have made progress across a range of issues.

"But what is clear is that a comprehensive agreement involving the DUP is only possible if they engage on a realistic basis and move away from their anti-agreement position, and in particular their attempt to undermine the all Ireland, power sharing and equality aspects of the agreement.

"If they are unwilling to do so there is an onus on the pro-agreement parties and the two governments, particularly the British government to move on.

"We remain in detailed discussions with the two governments on a range of issues including policing and justice, Human Rights, Equality and Demilitarisation." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MP Martin McGuinness has warned the British government against any dilution or further delay in the initiation of a full independent international public inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane.

Mr McGuinness said:

"The issue of collusion has been on the agenda of every discussion with Mr Blair since we first met in 1997. The British government has been left in no doubt that the collusion cover up must end. The British government must not dilute or further delay a full independent international public inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane.

"Successive British governments have gone to extraordinary lengths to cover up the involvement of their military, intelligence and police agencies in the murder of citizens. Tony Blair and his colleagues know that Pat Finucane's killing is only the tip of the iceberg. Pat Finucane and hundreds of others died as a consequence of an administrative practice which oversaw British agencies arming, training, providing target lists and information for unionist paramilitaries who then carried out countless murders.

"Collusion and specifically the killing of Pat Finucane are serious matters about which the British government cannot continue to hide the truth." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has hit back at critics of the decision of the former Health Minster Bairbre de Brún to site the new maternity hospital at the RVH.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"British Direct rule Ministers had run away from this decision for seven years. No decision effectively meant no new hospital.

"Bairbre de Brún took the decision based on clinical evidence and the needs of mothers and babies.

"The decision to place the new maternity hospital on the Royal Victoria site was the right decision that was supported by the majority of health professionals and organisations. Bairbre also took the decision to site the new regional cancer centre on the City Hospital site - is anyone now saying that that this was the wrong decision?

"Bairbre de Brún took the advice based on sound medical advice. Others opposed that decision based on a clearly political and sectarian agenda, others for constituency concerns.

"The reality is that any introduction of a DUP veto into the workings of the Good Friday Agreement would mean that instead of sound decisions taken on the basis of sound evidence that we would get decisions taken on a political, or worse, a sectarian basis." ENDS

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Ballyfermot Sinn Fein Councillor Tony Smithers has achieved a significant victory in the battle to reform the City Council‚s plans for a major new development in Cherry Orchard. At a meeting of the City Council last night he successfully sought the inclusion of 10% social housing in the plan.

At the start of August the Dublin City Manager revealed details of the plan for 5,000 apartments and houses in Cherry Orchard with no provision whatsoever for any degree of social housing.

From the beginning Tony Smithers queried the detail and advisability of the plan, highlighting concerns as to whether the type of housing envisaged could provide sustainable community living.

Smithers pointed out that Cherry Orchard remained an area without basic amenities and community infrastructure. There are no shops, no post office, an inadequate bus service and the only public park remains unfinished. The Sinn Fein Councillor argued that these problems needed to be tackled immediately to improve the quality of lives for those people currently living in Cherry Orchard and that to proceed with such a large scale housing development without addressing such issues would be folly.

Last month the City Manger attempted, in public, to defend the lack of social housing provision in the Cherry Orchard plan by stating that the area already had enough social housing. This, despite the fact that, as Tony Smithers has pointed out, Ballyfermot is "bursting at the seams with local people seeking housing".

At a meeting of Dublin City Council on Tuesday, 21 September, held to discuss aspects of the Dublin Draft Development Plan, including the proposals for Cherry Orchard, Tony Smithers spoke vehemently to alter the proposals to include a percentage of social housing. "We have sat here for the past few weeks debating and arguing over rezoning issues and attempting to address in some way the chronic housing crisis afflicting this city. Here is an opportunity to do something practical and provide social housing for those who so badly need it."

Smithers argued for 15% the plans housing to be allocated to social housing. Following a debate on the issue and with support from councillors from all parties the Council agreed that 10% of housing in the plan should be for social housing. This amounts to 500 homes and is a significant victory for the people of Ballyfermot and indeed of Dublin, which still faces a huge housing crisis.

Councillor Smithers said: "This is great news and it is only the beginning. The Council have agreed that a charter be drawn up for Cherry Orchard which effectively means its back to the drawing board with this plan. There was no consultation involved in the process which led to the plan and this inevitably resulted in a deficient plan. With proper consultation I belive we can now get this right." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness speaking after meeting the two governments in Stormont today has said that the core principles of the Agreement including power sharing and the All Ireland architecture cannot be undermined.

Mr McGuinness said:

"All of the work and progress of Leeds Castle was clearly in the context of the core principles and safeguards contained in the Good Friday Agreement including the fundamentals of power sharing and the All Ireland architecture.

"The focus, therefore, should be on moving forward on the basis of these fundamental principles and on resisting any attempt to dilute them.

"There is a particular obligation on the two governments, along with all of the pro-agreement parties, to do this.

"Rigorous accountability mechanisms already exist. Sinn Fein is not opposed to improvements in the efficiency and transparency of the institutions. But, we will not accept or sign up to anything which undermines the core elements of the Agreement." ENDS

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Sinn Fein Health spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has said that the Human Rights Commission's discussion paper on investigating deaths in hospitals is a welcome contribution to the wider debate on health care.

Mr O'Dowd said,

"Deaths in hospitals are a very sensitive issue for relatives and medical staff alike. What this report highlights are a number of failings within the system which obviously need to be addressed, such as:

  • The absence of an automatic requirement for an investigation into a death in hospital
  • The need to review guidelines and regulations governing internal reviews by Health and Social Services Trusts including the ability to access completely all patient notes and records and
  • Coroners' powers in relation to the investigation of such deaths, and their ability to make binding recommendations as a result of the same.

"Any debate around this issue should have the prevention of avoidable hospital deaths as a result of negligence, individual error or systemic failure as its main focus. It is vital that pubic confidence in our health services is maintained." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEPs Bairbre de Brún (6 counties) and Mary Lou McDonald (Dublin) have this morning said that the "EU Working Time Directive must be implemented in full throughout the EU if workers rights are to be protected".

Ms de Brún and Ms McDonald were speaking after the European Commission decided to impose limitations on those member states that have refused to implement the Working Time Directive, which states that employees should not work longer than a 48-hour week.

Speaking today, the Sinn Féin MEPs said:

"We are disappointed that the European Commission has merely tweaked the EU Working Time Directive and has refused to remove the opt-out clause. This clause has allowed certain member states exemption from the Working Time Directive.

"Sinn Féin also echoes the concerns of a number of trade unions who had criticised the proposals as not being strong enough in the protection of workers‚ rights.

"Sinn Féin also expresses concern that time spent on call that is not worked would not be counted as working time. The restrictions placed upon Œon call‚ workers means that they are often restricted to one particular place in case they are required by their employer at short notice.

"Sinn Féin supports the revision of the EU Working Time Directive to remove the individual opt-out.

"Sinn Féin is in support of the protection of workers rights throughout the EU. It is our view that any directive, which caps the amount of hours in a working week, is a forward thinking and sensible measure. However, governments must ensure that adequate resources are provided to meet the effects of the EU Working Time Directive." ENDS

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