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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this afternoon congratulated Cllr. Sean MacManus on his election as Mayor of Sligo for the second time in three years and said that it reflected the ongoing rise of the party across the island. This follows the election earlier today of Cllr. Pat O'Rawe as Chair of Armagh Council.

Mr. Adams said:

"The election this afternoon of Councillor Sean MacManus as Mayor of Sligo for the second time in three years is an endorsement of his last term in office and reflects the growth of Sinn Féin as a radical, campaigning alternative in politics.

"When last in office Seán MacManus led the way in highlighting the need for an all-Ireland solution to the structural discrimination of the West and North West. The need to develop an integrated regional development strategy to redress the legacy of neglect and under investment remains a key priority.

"Sinn Féin is the only all-Ireland party. Our commitment is to equality and inclusiveness and we are ready to work with others who share that commitment right across Ireland in our communities, on the streets and in elected office.

"All those within our party who have been elected as Mayors and Chairs will work on behalf of all of the people of their respective towns and cities. They will also lead the way in bringing about real social and economic change and to build for Irish unity."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Rural development Spokesperson, Armagh Councillor Pat O'Rawe added that the new emphasis must be put on making rural development policy work.

Cllr O'Rawe said:

"Rural development policy must become more open and accessible. Post 2006 there will be a vastly reduced budget for rural development. Modulation money top sliced from the overall agriculture budgets will be the main source of money for rural development. While modulation will increase from 3% to over 6%, Sinn Féin believe that this money must remain in the member state, and be match funded by the member state.

"In Europe we told Corrado Pirozi - Biroli that Rural development must be simplified and have local delivery mechanisms. Rural development must work for local people and by local people. The only way this will work is in adopting the LEADER model across Europe. This would take Rural Development away from the departments and reduce the money wasted in administration and mismanagement.

"We urge both governments to fully engage with the commission during any mid term review of Structural Funds, so they are focused upon rural communities who are going to be impacted by the economic effects of the CAP proposals." END

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Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, former Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Gerry McHugh has said that what ever the final outcome of the negotiations around CAP reform this week that decoupling demands a radical shake up of how the agriculture departments - north and south - engage with the farming industry and rural communities.

Mr McHugh said:

"The key to successful CAP reform must be that the agriculture departments - North and South - commit themselves to eradicating red tape. The introduction of decoupling from 2006 will itself have an immediate impact in reducing red tape.

"We also need to see both departments working to maintain farming and rural communities. This means that they must listen. This means that from today we need a new culture of openness, accountability and accessibility. It means engaging not just at European level but also on the ground with farming and rural communities.

"Particularly in the South, the failure of Joe Walsh and the IFA to engage with Europe left our agriculture industry dangerously exposed. Thankfully the IFA has reassessed its' position and collectively we have forced Joe Walsh to wake up to the reality of decoupling. We need to build on that responsiveness."ENDS

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West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty, head of the party's national department of agriculture and rural development has urged Irish Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh and British direct rule agriculture Minster Ian Pearson to ensure that talks on CAP reform are concluded this week.

The Sinn Féin Vice President said:

"With the WTO talks in September and the 10 new countries joining the EU in October it is vital that the CAP talks are concluded this week. The uncertainty is not helping anyone in the farming industry - North or South - to start planning for the wholesale changes that will be brought about by the decoupling of farm payments from production.

"If we fail to break this link then there is a real danger that the USA together with South America and the Asia Pacific would create a trade barrier against the EU. However we have to recognise the need for the EU and all developed countries to deal on a fair basis with developing countries in the forthcoming WTO talks.

"The compromise towards partial decoupling is ill conceived. This means keeping large numbers of animals to maintain incomes through subsidies. This will result in maintaining current levels of production, prices being pushed down and no one earning a living, particularly on the smaller farms we have in Ireland.

"We need to wake up to the potential of decoupling. It will guarantee farmers a certain level of income, not fixed to levels of production and allow farmers to move to a more quality orientated product, involving less stock numbers, which in turn will reduce environmental impacts.

Here in Ireland, Joe Walsh is sitting on the fence. The Irish government was totally opposed to decoupling and everything in the proposals. Walsh maintained that decoupling would create an exodus. The IFA were totally opposed to decoupling. Both criticised Fischler and everything he proposed, crucially they never engaged with the EU or put their counter positions to the Commission until recently."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle member and former Mayor of Belfast Alex Maskey this afternoon delivered a keynote address to the annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration in Bodenstown, Co. Kildare. Cllr. Maskey said:

Ireland's struggle for freedom has produced many heroes, men and women of enormous courage and self-sacrifice who were and are prepared to give everything in the cause of Irish freedom. Two hundred years ago in the late 18th century, fired by the example of the American and French revolutions, Irish Presbyterians and members of the Church of Ireland, stood side by side with their catholic neighbours seeking redress for the discrimination and injustices they endured. They included Wolfe Tone, Henry Joy McCracken, Mary Anne McCracken, and Robert Emmet - men and women, who embraced the concept of Irish independence and freedom from Britain, formed the Society of United Irishmen.

As we honour the men and women of 1798, let us also remember all of those republicans who in this and previous generations gave their lives for Irish freedom. They were ordinary men and women who in extraordinary and difficult circumstances found the inner strength, determination and courage to stand against injustice and oppression, and to demand the rights and entitlements of the Irish people. They had the vision to see beyond the conflict, beyond the centuries of occupation, and to embrace the republican spirit of Tone, of Emmet and Connolly, and to stand up for justice and equality. I also want to salute their families and to particularly welcome those who are with us here today.

There will be a united Ireland

Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party. Our strategy is to achieve a united, independent Ireland and I am certain that we will succeed. Republicanism is about the people. It's about self-determination and democracy. Two concepts denied to the Irish people for many centuries by Britain's involvement in our affairs. Irish republicanism has a vision of a new society that is democratic. That is economic as well as political. A society, which is inclusive of all citizens. Our republicanism is about change and it's about empowering people to make that change.

That means each of us have to be agents of change. This is an enormous responsibility and challenge but it is a challenge that I believe this generation of Irish republicans will achieve. The people of this island have the right to be free, to live free from discrimination and inequality, without violence and conflict. Free to shape our own destiny - our own sovereignty. We have the right to be free from division, foreign occupation, and injustice.

Equality was my guiding principle as Mayor

The city of Belfast, the city where I was born and grew up, was the cradle of Irish republicanism in the eighteenth century. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the labour movement battled against the religious bigotry, which was used to divide workers and communities.

Today Belfast is better known for images of sectarianism. Interface violence and a concerted campaign against vulnerable nationalist communities was the context in which I became the first Sinn Féin Mayor in the history of my city and I was determined to tackle directly the sectarianism which divides our city.

Being Mayor of Belfast was both challenging and rewarding. During my tenure as Mayor I reached out to the Unionist section of our community and tried to show them that they have a place in the Ireland we are trying to build, a place that we want them to embrace and to shape. I also tried to show by example that the Republican ethos and ideals which Wolfe Tone fought for have a place in the new Ireland.

In this spirit I was proud to host an event in City Hall for the families of Belfast Sinn Féin activists and IRA Volunteers who lost their lives in the conflict. In doing this, I was able as the Mayor of Ireland's second city, to recognise the contribution and courage of these men and women and their families.

The unionist people of Belfast also opened their doors to me in a way many would have found unimaginable only a short time ago. I have to say I encountered little hostility. Indeed the contrary was the case, particularly when I made it clear that I wanted to confront the alienation and discrimination, which are still a part of daily life there, including in unionist and loyalist working class areas. The establishment has abandoned many of these areas to drug dealers and pushers and the criminal gangs.

Republicans are about changing all of that.

I believe that last year we made a difference in Belfast. I believe that Sinn Féin has set a standard that other parties will have to work hard to match. And I want to wish Anne Brolly, who is the new Chair of Limavady Council and the other incoming Sinn Féin Chairs and Mayors all the best for the coming year.

But for me and for Sinn Féin our efforts to reach out to unionists now enter a new phase, a new period of intensive activity. I have been given the responsibility within the party of organising this outreach work to the protestant and unionist people.

In recent years we have made significant progress in this area. Jim Gibney and Tom Hartley and others have been quietly engaging with Protestant Church leaders, meeting civic and business unionism, and seeking to break down the barriers that generations of institutionalised sectarianism and conflict have erected.

But now is the time to move up a gear. We have to build on the foundation already laid and we have to intensify this engagement to consolidate and build on the opportunities created by the peace process.

Let me be also clear building confidence and trust is a two way street. We cannot do this alone

I have to say that to date David Trimble‚s stewardship of the peace process has been a cause for concern. He has shown himself to be an increasingly reluctant participant in it. His victory over Jeffrey Donaldson last Monday night will only be a victory if it moves the peace process forward.

Peace Process can deliver real change

There is real concern and indeed fear that the political vacuum created by the British government‚s cancellation of the election and the indulgence of unionist intransigence will degenerate further over the summer. There is a strong feeling that republicans are being taken for granted and the heaviest burden put on our shoulders. But if we can look at all this as objectively as possible in the current circumstance we can see that we did anticipate the obstacles to freedom and justice and peace that would have to be overcome. And that it would be us who would have the most work to do in keeping it going.

For it is republicans who see what the success of the peace process can bring. It is us who want the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement because we have a vision for the future, of real peace, reconciliation, justice and equality. And it is we who see that the denial of these is what keeps the Six County state in existence. It is we who ensured that the all Ireland dimension was firmly entrenched in the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement. We want it to work because we want to progress to a united, independent country.

Republicans will not settle only for what Britain is prepared to give, be it in policing, equality, cultural rights, identity. That is why people all over Ireland see Sinn Féin as an alternative and are voting Sinn Féin.

People know we will fight for their rights. And there will always be a heavy price for us to pay for that, not only in terms of the political work we must be prepared to do but also in the initiatives and risks we need to take to ensure that this process does not stagnate or unravel into failure.

Yeats, in his poem 1916 said „for the British may keep faith after all‰ knowing that they would not and that the republic had to be fought for. But knowing what history tells us, has to be seen as a strength in our negotiations. This peace process is our agenda. We were the architects of it. We initiated it. We have pushed it on. We must not now lose ownership of it. And we must not lose sight of the gains we have made and the benefits that the majority of people have got from it.

I know this is little comfort to the people of Larne or Ardoyne or the Short Strand. It‚s hard to see the big picture when bombs and stones are raining down on you and your children can‚t play in their own street.

But through the peace process we have exposed the poison of sectarianiam and more than that, courageously set about removing it. We have exposed collusion. We made Ireland an international concern. In spite of its problems, the Irish peace process is held up as an example to the world. We have done well. But it‚s not over yet.

The question is what next. Well for a start the British government has to stop allowing unionism to dictate the pace of change and stop encouraging rejectionism. I want to say to the British government here today in clear and unambiguous terms:

We demand the right to vote.

We demand that the elections are held immediately.

We demand our equality and human rights.

We demand that the Agreement is implemented.

And to the Irish government I want to say ˆ you must stand up and be counted. You must act on behalf of the Irish people and not allow yourself to be treated as a junior partner or as secondary in this.

You have a responsibility to defend the fundamental rights of all citizens in the north and to persuade the British government to normalise relationships between these islands on a basis of national sovereignty and international co-operation. Among the issues the Irish government must confront is the need for the truth about the involvement of the British state in the murder of its citizens.

Time for the Truth about State sanctioned murder

People here today didn‚t need a Stevens Report to tell you there is collusion. Many of you, like me, experienced it at first hand.

You know that for thirty years, British military intelligence and RUC Special Branch organised and directed loyalist paramilitary death squads, most notably the UDA, who were effectively given license to murder with impunity. And this was not the action of a few rogue officers passing on information, this was institutionalised collaboration and it led directly to the deaths of many people.

There is a paper trail of murder, and conspiracy to murder, from the streets of Belfast and Derry, Dublin and Monaghan, from the roads and lanes of Armagh, Tyrone and elsewhere, to 10 Downing Street.

Sinn Féin fully supports the inquiry demands of the Finucane, Nelson and Hamill families. We also support public inquiries into the bombings in Dublin and Monaghan and the killing of Seamas Ludlow and Cllr. Eddie Fullerton.

There needs to be full and proper disclosure on the British state‚s involvement in the killing and attempted killing of hundreds of citizens through collusion with their proxy groups in loyalist paramilitaries; collusion which continues to this day and must be ended.

Building an Ireland of equals

As we work to advance the peace process we also need to be conscious that the struggle to win a united Ireland cannot be separate from the struggle for the kind of united Ireland we want.

In the 26 counties today, 250,000 of our children are living in poverty. 54,000 of our families are on the housing waiting list. Over 35,000 of our people are on the hospital waiting list. Throughout Ireland 8,000 people die prematurely each year due to poverty and inequality and rural communities are suffering increasing neglect. Uniting this country without addressing the fundamental economic and social problems that cause such inequality and poverty is a completely futile exercise.

The United Irishmen wanted a free and independent Ireland, but they also wanted one where the Rights of Man could be vindicated and a country established based on what Tone called „the rock of this principle, the greatest happiness of the greatest number‰. The truth is that in Ireland today the greatest number are exploited, creating wealth for big business and foreign multinationals. Republicanism is about changing that, about empowering the people of Ireland to decide our own destiny.

This weekend European Union heads of government have been meeting in Greece where they were presented with a proposed draft Constitution for the EU. That draft, if adopted, would be a giant step in the ongoing project to transform the EU from a partnership of states into a single state. That is not a people's project. The demand for a single EU state, which would be another world power, does not come from the peoples of Europe.

Like Wolfe Tone, we are Europeans and we are internationalists. But like Tone we also value Irish sovereignty and independence and we say that the basis for democracy and the basis for peaceful co-operation and mutual respect between nations is the democratic nation-state. Sinn Féin believes that too much of our sovereignty has already been ceded to EU institutions.

These are the principles we will bring to the debate on the proposed new EU Constitution.

We value Irish neutrality and we want to deepen and develop positive neutrality and progressive foreign policy. Independent foreign policy and military neutrality were grossly violated by the Fianna Fáil/PD government when they facilitated the war on Iraq through allowing the US military to use Shannon Airport. To the FF/PD government and to the Fine Gael party, which wants to abandon Irish neutrality completely, we say "Not in our name." That was the

slogan also of the mass movement of Irish people, and the mass movement of people around the world, which we in Sinn Féin were proud to be a part of, and which opposed the war on Iraq. The people who came out on the streets in such numbers throughout the 32 Counties have pointed the way forward for Irish foreign policy.

We do not want to see another power bloc or another empire. Sinn Féin believes that the way to build international peace and security is through the United Nations, strengthened and reformed, and freed of the total domination of the big military and economic powers.

The Challenges we now face

We have much work to do in the year ahead. We have to build our political strength in the Assembly, Local Government and European elections and I know that the excellent all-Ireland co-operation within Sinn Féin, which demonstrated itself during the General Election will be repeated in the year ahead.

We need to forge alliances with like-minded people in Trade Unions, in the Community & Voluntary sector, in the streets and neighbourhoods of our towns and cities.

We have to increase our membership

We have to lead the campaign for radical social and economic change

We have to advance our strategy for Irish unity

For all this to happen we need to remain active. We have already made a good start. Sinn Féin is the engine for change in Ireland. Every day we grow stronger, each week sees new people joining the struggle. The struggle begun by Tone and Emmet continues today and the responsibility for carrying it on lies with you, with me, with all of us. It is a responsibility we will not shirk, a legacy we will fulfil. As Irish Republicans let us go forward to Irish unity and independence and to freedom, justice and peace for all our people.

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Sinn Féin Waterford Representative David Cullinane has labelled the decision of Health Minister Martin to overlook the Southeast Region for the location of a Radiotherapy Unit as a national scandal. He said it showed a complete lack of commitment from this government to advance and improve provision of health treatment in this state.

Mr. Cullinane said:

"This decision to overlook Waterford and the Southeast on Radiotherapy is a scandal. This week we saw the launch of a new health strategy which was nothing but a public relations stunt. It had nothing to do with abolishing the two-tier health system and offered nothing to people who are demanding provision of better health services. Minister Martin‚s health proposals are like Œrearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic‚ while at the same time sinking the hopes of so many people in Waterford on the issue of Radiotherapy.

"While people are not surprised at the latest announcement from this Minister, they are understandably angry and frustrated. It is my view that the people of Waterford must now unite behind a campaign to reverse this decision. The Waterford Trades Council has already led the way on this issue and I call on everybody in Waterford to fully support this important campaign. There is not a family in Waterford who is not affected by the scourge of Cancer. If we stand united and remain determined then we will succeed in forcing this Minister to reverse his decision and provide a Radiotherapy Unit at W.R.H.

"That this admission from Minister Martin on Radiotherapy came in the same week where the Waterford Port Authority confirmed that a private incinerator is being planed for the Southeast shows clearly the priorities of this government. The people of the Southeast are against incinerators yet are having one forced upon them and are demanding a Radiotherapy Unit yet are being ignored and treated with contempt. It is high time the people of Waterford treated this government and its representatives with the same contempt at the Ballot Box.

"Minister Martin Cullen said and I quote 'I stake my political reputation on the provision of a Radiotherapy Unit for Waterford.' Where does this now leave Minister Cullen. He must now speak out and deliver for Waterford but instead he has deserted his constituents and has remained silent. The people of Waterford deserve so much better then this. "ENDS

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Sinn Féin Press Office

44 Parnell Square

Dublin 1.

Tel: 353 1 8722609

Email: [email protected]

Limavady Mayor Anne Brolly today announced details of two events she intends to take part in to commemorate the Battle of the Somme.

Cllr. Brolly said:

"I would like to outline what I, as Mayor of Limavady, intend doing with respect to the forthcoming commemoration of the battle of the Somme.

Before doing so let me say that in my term as Mayor I will try my best to represent all the people irrespective of their political allegiance.

My approach to all my official duties will be to include people rather than exclude and to be respectful to the beliefs and feelings of others. I have a responsibility as Mayor to try and bridge the divisions which exist in our society.

I intend to hold a reception for the British Legion in the Mayors parlour on Saturday afternoon. I am pleased to accept an invitation from the British Legion to attend their church service of remembrance on Sunday.

This I hope will be the start of an ongoing engagement and dialogue with the Legion. I would like to establish common ground with them about the nature of how we remember those killed, with particular reference to the remembrance day events in November.

This is a difficult issue for nationalists and republicans, a difficulty added to by the conflict here over the last thirty years in which the British forces have been involved.

I do not want any events which I am involved in to be marred by controversy or reduced to political point scoring exercises." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice-President and West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has hit out at the double standards of the British military and Policing establishment after the DUP's Peter Robinson was able to produce confidential PSNI reports in public without any fear of prosecution.

The West Tyrone MP said:

"On occasion after occasion members of the DUP are able to produce PSNI and British intelligence reports in public. The latest incident occurred only yesterday when Peter Robinson was able to produce a confidential PSNI report in relation to the killing of Billy Wright.

"Despite this repeated activity none of these people have ever been brought to book or challenged about their sources. If we compare this with the actions of the PSNI when they raided the Sinn Féin offices at Stormont with dozens of armoured Landrovers and armed PSNI officers, raids which I might add produced nothing.

"What is particularly worrying is that there are those within the DUP who have had links with members of Unionist death squads and have threatened the use of violence and yet there are able to obtain confidential PSNI and British army documents and use them without fear of prosecution."ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for Louth Arthur Morgan will facilitate a press conference in Buswell's Hotel on Tuesday next (June 24th) for the Survivors of Symphysiotomy at 11am. Symphysiotomy was a procedure carried out on women instead of Caesarean sections in a number of hospitals throughout the State between the 1950s and 1980s. The procedure is no longer practiced in Ireland. It has led to a growing number of women suffering a range of disabilities including acute back-pain, difficulty walking, incontinence and depression.

Survivors of Symphysiotomy (S.O.S.) is a newly formed organisation representing victims of Symphysiotomy who have come together to demand answers to why they were subjected to this procedure without their consent and in many cases without their knowledge.

In Leinster House this week Sinn Féin called the practice "barbaric" and called on the Minister for Health to meet with the women and to agree to an inquiry into the practice. Deputy Morgan is also attempting to facilitate meetings between the women and the Health spokespersons of all the political parties in Leinster House.

What were Symphysiotomies:

A surgical procedure to effect an immediate dramatic increase in the size of the pelvic outlet to permit delivery of a baby. The cartilage of the symphysis pubis (where the pubic bones come together) is surgically divided in the procedure. Symphysiotomy was used to permanently widen the pelvis of women who might normally have required repeated Caesarean sections.

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Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Tom Hartley speaking after, this afternoon's meeting with the Parades Commission to discuss this years proposed Springfield Road Orange march said:

"In recent years this parade has been forced through the local nationalist community. This has seen an oppressive British military presence in the area and serious violence has erupted. It is in this context that the local residents presented the Springfield Community Initiative to the Parades Commission.

" I relayed to the Parades Commission my belief that this is a hugely significant initiative which provides the basis for the parade to proceed this year with nationalist support. The residents have produced an imaginative five-point plan, which deserves a positive response from the Orange Order.

" There is an onus on all of us to make every effort to ensure a quiet summer this year. It is important we give encouragement to those working to achieve this." ENDS

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Speaking during the Private Members Business debate on Public Services Sinn Féin's Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said "The Government cannot disguise the broken pledges and flawed policy decisions of the past year." "The reality is that the PDs and Fianna Fáil secured their mandate for what they promised to do and those promises have been broken," he said.

The Cavan Monaghan Deputy also accused the PDs of assuming control of the Governments ideological direction saying "they began as the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats coalition but they rapidly evolved into the PD/FF government with the PDs as the dominant element.

Referring to the Health reform package announced by the Government today Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"Fundamental reform of the health services is needed and in six years in office this Government has failed to even recognise that fact. Today's announced so-called Health Service Reform Programme represents administrative change not fundamental reform. While new bureaucratic structures are being set up, publicpatients will continue to suffer and die on waiting lists, hospital beds will remain closed and 200,000 people will be left without the medical card cover promised them by the Government before the last General Election. The Fianna Fáil promise to end hospital waiting lists within two years has now been consigned to history.

"Neither the package announced today nor the National Health Strategy recognised the need to end the two-tier system, the health apartheid which ensures that private patients receive privileged access while public patients wait. The real test will come when the Hanly Report is published and the Government has to confront the disgraceful abuse of the public health system by the consultants. I see no sign that the Government is determined to do that.

"Fianna Fáil was once a party with a commitment to

the central role of the State sector in the economy

the provision of social housing

Irish neutrality.

"Those values have been shredded by the PDs and their allies in the right wing of the Fianna Fáil leadership, chief among them Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy. We now have:

ideologically-driven privatisation

housing provision totally reliant on the developers' drive for profit

regardless of social need

the destruction of Irish neutrality.

"The right-wing agenda of this Government has widened the gap between rich and poor in Irish society. The ideological and policy direction is set by the PDs." ENDS

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Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Criminal Justice, has welcomed the publication of a new and significantly revised Criminal justice Implementation Plan but has said that much work still needs to be done to achieve a representative, fair and human rights based justice system.

Mr. Kelly said:

"Criminal Justice was one of the key areas Sinn Fein raised in the recent negotiation with the British and Irish governments. We pointed out that the new Act and the accompanying Implementation Plan would not produce the changes necessary in the Criminal Justice system.

"The British government agreed to produce a new Implementation plan and new legislation which will place a much greater emphasis on all-Ireland co-operation, on human rights, on achieving representatives and on accountability. These developments were hard won. But much work is still to be done, including the transfer of justice powers to a local Assembly, if we are to achieve a criminal justice system which is fair, representative and which commands the confidence of the entire community".ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said the Government plan was for "bureaucratic change not fundamental reform of the health services with real delivery for patients". He said the plan could not succeed in delivering improvements for patients unless the two-tier public-private system was ended.

Deputy Ó Caoláin has been a member of the North Eastern Health Board since 1999 and said the removal of all elected representatives would mean "less accountability and more centralisation". Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"This is not a plan for real and fundamental reform because it fails to end the two-tier public-private system which creates virtual apartheid in our health services. While new bureaucratic structures are being set up, public patients will continue to suffer and die on waiting lists, hospital beds will remain closed and 200,000 people will be left without the medical card cover promised them by the Government before the last General Election. The Fianna Fáil promise to end hospital waiting lists within two years has now been consigned to history.

"This is a plan for bureaucratic change but it is being done at the expense of accountability. Elected representatives on health boards had a very minor role but they could scrutinise the delivery of health services on behalf of ordinary citizens. That role of accountability is now going. The planned centralisation is especially bad for areas outside the large urban centres.

"The proposed creation of a National Health Services Executive is an exercise inpolitical expediency. The Government wants to shift responsibility from the Minister for Health and Children and his Department to such an Executive which would not be directly answerable to the Dáil for its decisions. Combined with the exclusion of elected representatives from the new structures, this is a blow to democracy.

"A key reform needed is the renegotiation of consultants contracts - this was supposed to be delivered by end of last year under the Government's so-called Health Strategy but the Government has failed to meet this commitment. We are told that this will be addressed in the yet unpublished Hanly Report but it is ominous that the Report was not launched with today's reports. There is no sign that this Government wants to challenge the power without accountability wielded by the consultants' representative bodies. On the contrary, it appears that their power will be enhanced in the new structures.

"The Government has had six years to come up with health service reform. If this is the best they can do after all that time, and after the ongoing delays in the implementation of the 'National' Health Strategy, then the problems of our health services are set to continue and worsen in the time ahead." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP today visited the offices of Limavady District Council and was received by the Mayor Anne Brolly. Sinn Féin Councillor Anne Brolly is the first woman and the first republican to hold this post in Limavady. Speaking at the event the Sinn Féin President said:

" Last year Alex Maskey made history when he became the first Sinn Féin Mayor of the City of Belfast. A few short weeks ago Anne Brolly in an equally historic move became the first woman and the first republican to hold the Mayoralty in 0 this borough. But as Alex Maskey demonstrated, achieving these positions, historic as they are, is not enough. It is about what you do when in office. It is about the contribution you can make. Sinn Féin Councillors in these positions have a number of very basic guiding principles:

* Equality

* Reconciliation

* Fair Play

* Openness

* Inclusivity

Sinn Féin will seek to use these positions to advance the work already being done to bring the different and diverse sections of our community closer together. Our Councillors, our Mayors and our Chairs wish to build bridges across which people can walk towards each other. Despite the recent difficulties in the peace process, we are in a new era as a result of the Good Friday Agreement. We are now in a new era here in Limavady where for the first time a Sinn Féin member holds the top civic position.

"Anne Brolly's family is rooted in this area, in this community. She has invested a lot in trying to make this area a better place to live. Anne and her family like countless other republican families across the six counties have also suffered from inequality and from the injustice of internment without trial. But we are not bitter people. Anne and her Sinn Féin colleagues on the councils across the north demonstrate that each day. Anne in a few short weeks has already demonstrated by her actions that she is prepared to take risks for peace. That she is prepared to reach out to political opponents and enemies and to show by deeds as well as words that she genuinely and sincerely wants to be a Mayor for all the people of this borough.

"Equality will be the pivot upon which the offices of Sinn Féin Mayors and Chairs rotate. No one here in Limavady or anywhere else should fear equality. Nationalists and Republicans were excluded from civic positions here for years. Everyone is a winner as far as equality is concerned.

"Implementing equality is not easy. It present political challenges. But it is a indispensable part of the Agreement and the changes which flow from it. We as Irish republicans have to come to terms with the cultural identity of the unionist and protestant people and the manner in which they express their identity. Equality is indivisible. We need to seek as much agreement as possible and where that is not achievable then peaceful co-exsistence in disagreement.

"Recently I announced that Alex Maskey would head up our ongoing engagement with the unionist community. The Sinn Féin Mayors, Chairs and Vice-Chairs across the north will play a crucial role in this. We are serious about this project. We are individually and together going through a period of change in our society. It is important that unionism joins with the rest of us in managing that process." ENDS

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Speaking during the course of the debate on the Residential Tenancies Bill currently before the Dáil Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Arthur Morgan TD said the Bill did not "tackle the fundamental issue of affordability" and would ultimately fail in "its own admirable intentions of addressing security of tenure".

Deputy Morgan said: "People in private rented accommodation will have gasped in disbelief that a piece of legislation brought forward to reform the private rented sector, does not tackle the fundamental issue of affordability.

"This is symptomatic of the Government's failure to tackle the crucial issues in relation to the housing crisis. We had a previous example of this when the Coalition Government buckled to pressure from developers in relation to Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Minister Cullen has now shown he has no backbone in tackling rack-renting landlords.

"Rent increases should be index linked and not market driven where demand far exceeds supply.

"This Bill will, by its failure to address rent regulation, defeat its own admirable intentions of addressing security of tenure. The limited security of tenure offered by this Bill will mean very little to a tenant who is faced with a succession of substantial annual rent increases."

Deputy Morgan also questioned the Government's commitment to tackling tax evasion when it became clear in the Bill that the landlord registration would not be made available to the revenue commissioners. He said: "One of the most striking disclosures in this Bill is the fact that it specifically states that the landlord register will not be made available to the revenue commissioners. This makes an absolute mockery of any claim by the Government that they are committed to tackling tax evasion."

"To include in a piece of legislation, an element that is specifically designed to facilitate tax evasion is a disgrace," ENDS

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Commenting on recent developments within unionism Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said:

" The real test for the leadership of the UUP is not how it manages its party, but whether it is prepared to work the Good Friday Agreement, and in particular the institutions in a sustainable and committed way.

"The up-down existence of the Assembly and the Executive has done more to erode confidence in the Agreement than anything else,

"The British government's dismissive attitude to republican initiatives, it's pandering to unionism and its cancellation of the election, has been central to creating the current political crisis.

"The first step needed to inject momentum and hope back into the process is for Mr Blair to set a firm date for the elections.

"Assertions by the British government that it is committed to implementing the Good Friday Agreement have no credibility at all. Talk from Downing Street about upholding citizens rights is contradicted by the denial of our right to vote." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin during Leaders Questions in Leinster House today called on the Taoiseach to support an inquiry in to the medical practice of symphysiotomy that was carried out in hospitals from the 1950s to the 1980s. The Cavan Monaghan deputy described it as a 'barbaric practice' that 'destroyed the health of many women'.

Deputy Ó Caoláin asked: "Is the Taoiseach aware of the growing numbers of women now coming forward who are survivors of a barbaric practice carried out in Irish hospitals up until the early 1980s? This procedure, known as symphysiotomy, was inflicted on some 348 women in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, from the early '50s up to 1982. It was also carried out in the National Maternity and Coombe Hospitals in Dublin. My words are grossly inadequate to convey the true sense of the hurt and suffering of these women whose pelvises were sawn through during or after labour.

Is the Taoiseach aware that this procedure, while ostensibly done to deal with obstructed births, was inflicted on women primarily because the hospitals operated under a so-called Catholic ethos whereby surgeons deemed such operations preferable to caesarean sections, after which it was thought women would use contraception or be sterilised to avoid further sections? Is the Taoiseach aware that symphysiotomy was a crippling operation which destroyed the health of many women? Is he aware that such operations were carried out without the knowledge or consent of women, and in some cases, even after the birth of their babies, and will he therefore accede to the request of the survivors for an inquiry and resources to research and fund corrective procedures?"

Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said: "When my colleague Deputy Morgan last raised this issue in the House, Minister of State Lenihan simply repeated the statement made by the Institute of Obstericians and Gynaecologists of May 2001. They actually praised the procedure and acknowledged no questions or doubts about its use over a very long period with devastating health consequences for hundreds of women. The Taoiseach has done the same again and offered no independent government view.

"Will the Government at the very least acknowledge the suffering of these women and take into account their pain and their rights, as well as the views of the medical profession? Are we not gone past the days when members of that profession were never to be questioned or challenged? Will the Taoiseach ask the Minister for Health and Children to accede to the request of Survivors of Sympysiotomy for a meeting and will he support an inquiry?" ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality, and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called for the Minister for Justice to end his practice of introducing "stealth bills" that bypass second stage debate. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Last week the Minister tried to introduce controversial extradition measures as amendments to an entirely unrelated bill that had already been fully debated in the Dáil. Now I have just received a package of 32 pages of mostly unrelated proposed amendments to the controversial Immigration (Carrier Liability) Bill. These amendments look set to be even more problematic, including enhanced Garda powers of search and entry and powers of extended detention and fingerprinting of asylum applicants. These proposals have nothing to do with carrier liability and cannot be construed as mere amendments to that bill. They are substantive proposals with implications for human rights and civil liberties in this state as well as Ireland's international obligations and - much as this Minister scorns what he calls 'rights culture' - these proposals deserve full and open debate as they would receive if he introduced them as a separate bill.

"This Minister has now established a modus operandi whereby he attempts to stifle public debate by bypassing second stage debate in the Dáil on controversial legislative proposals. This practice is undemocratic and unacceptable and it must end immediately." ENDS

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Speaking at the launch of the new Sinn Féin Education Policy, entitled 'Educate that you may be free' former Education Minster Martin McGuinness MP said:

"This document links our vision for Education to a practical approach for the transformation of our society.

"Sinn Féin believe that a progressive and radical education system is fundamental to the creation of an Ireland of Equals, to stronger communities and a society that can truly embrace our diversity."

"Education is the key to Equality; Equality of opportunity, access and provision are basic entitlements. The ability for learners to achieve their full potential is a fundamental right. Tackling disadvantage is an essential responsibility of government."

The new policy document comprehensively covers key areas including:

  • Early Years
  • Primary Level
  • The 11+
  • Post Primary Level
  • Third Level/Further and Higher Education
  • Adult and Community Education
  • Adult illiteracy & Second Chance initiatives
  • Youth Provision
  • Irish Language and Irish medium Education
  • Curriculum
  • Special Education Needs
  • Tackling Disadvantage
  • Teachers
  • Systemic and Organisational Issues

Underpinning policy initiatives across all these areas is a commitment to an education system that will liberate the potential of all, address and redress educational and generational disadvantage, deploy resources to promote access, effect meaningful partnership, put learners and teachers at the heart of neighbourhood networks of learning, promote achievement through quality of delivery and resources rather than narrow measurements of performance and intervene at the earliest possible stage to include people and groups hitherto excluded, disempowered or alienated.

An important new concept in Sinn Féin's education policy is that of Learning Neighbourhoods - a meaningful and effective partnership between all local education providers - including formal and informal settings, schools, libraries, youth clubs, local employers and community groups - and the community to develop 'learning neighbourhoods' that deliver education and support across a range of areas including both accredited and non accredited courses that meet the many and varied needs of the community.ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for Kerry North and spokesperson on Sport Martin Ferris described the decision of Kilmacud Crokes GFC to facilitate this evening's match between members of the Oireachtas and the PSNI as "regrettable and shortsighted". "This match sends all the wrong signals and reinforces the lie that the PSNI was the new beginning to policing we had all been promised under the Good Friday Agreement."

Deputy Ferris was speaking in advance of a protest being staged by members of Dublin Sinn Féin at the Clubs ground in Stillorgan. Mr. Ferris said it was his intention to join this evening's protest.

The Kerry North TD said: "I understand that very many members of Kilmacud Crokes were unaware that the PSNI were to play a match there this evening. I also understand there is a feeling amongst some at the Club that they were duped in to allowing the match to take place, believing that it only involved members of the Oireachtas. And while it is unfair to expect any GAA Club to adjudicate over what is a political problem I believe it is a regrettable and shortsighted decision that should be reversed even at this stage.

"This match sends all the wrong signals and reinforces the lie that the PSNI is the new beginning to policing we had all been promised under the Good Friday Agreement. The simple fact of the matter is that the PSNI is not the new beginning to policing promised. We still don't have the accountability and democratic control over the PSNI to ensure that it is a police service to which nationalists can give their allegiance. We still have in place the Special Branch, which was responsible for controlling and directing unionist death squads as they went about their business of murdering nationalists unhindered.

"Sinn Féin wants a policing service for all the people of the Six Counties. The Patten proposals were the blueprint for that service. Patten itself was a compromise - it represented the very minimum required to get a truly representative and accountable policing service. No amount of spin or PR exercises can change that fact.

"Jimmy Deenihan and the other members of the Oireachtas who plan to take part in this game need to reflect long and hard on the damage they are doing, to getting the full implementation of Patten, by engaging in this sham." ENDS

itself was a compromise - it represented the very minimum required to get a truly representative and accountable policing service. No amount of spin or PR exercises can change that fact.

"Jimmy Deenihan and the other members of the Oireachtas who plan to take part in this game need to reflect long and hard on the damage they are doing, to getting the full implementation of Patten, by engaging in this sham." ENDS

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