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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 health spokesperson Cllr John O'Dowd MLA has welcomed new guidelines issued by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in relation to the prescription of anti-depressant drugs, particularly Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI's).

Cllr O'Dowd said:

"These new guidelines, issued by NICE, governing the use and prescription of anti-depressant drugs are to be welcomed. There is widespread concern about the increased use of SSRI's and in particular the widespread of practice of issuing repeat prescriptions. The addictive nature of these drugs is demonstrated by the immense difficulties experienced by many people trying to stop using the drugs.

"However, new clinical guidelines on their own will be of little use unless the government demonstrates a willingness to increase the levels of funding for the provision of additional mental health practitioners and counselling services to assist those people suffering from clinical depression.

"The need for this additional funding is extremely urgent given that a number of health boards and trusts across the North are already under pressure to review their service planning due to the inadequate levels of funding being made available for new service development under the proposed the governments proposed Priorities and Budget 2005-2008." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEPs Bairbre de Brún and Mary Lou McDonald's speeches when they addressed representatives of the Business, Community, Trades Union and Civic sectors of society throughout Derry and Donegal at Da Vinci's Hotel Derry. The two Sinn Féin MEP's were in the North West Region on a fact finding visit as the guest of Foyle MLA Mitchel Mc Laughlin. The visit was a resounding success with a noticeable cross-community attendance.

Bairbre de Brún MEP

I would like to thank the Mayor, Gearóid O hÉara for his opening remarks and Mitchel Mc Laughlin MLA for hosting this visit to the North West Region. It will allow me and my colleague Mary Lou Mc Donald MEP for Dublin, the opportunity to listen to those organisations and individuals that are concerned with the lack of investment in this region and to assess how best we can use our presence in the European Parliament to help alleviate the problems being experienced. 

Mary Lou and I intend to work with each other and with our fellow MEPs to further the needs of the North West in Brussels and Strasbourg. It is already recognised through existing EU programmes that the border presents specific disadvantages to infrastructural, economic and social development. We know that the border has significantly hampered development in the Derry Donegal area, as with the other border corridors, and that it continues to do so.

The European Commission and Parliament are presently working on ways of making cross border working between local and regional bodies much easier, and you all know of course that as Sinn Fein MEPs our intention is to go much further than that.

Sinn Féin recognises the need for targeted investment in the North West in terms of infrastructure, arterial routes and networks, indigenous business development, rural diversification and initiatives to tackle outward migration. We know that developing the competitiveness of this whole area will be all important in the time ahead.

Modern telecommunications and infrastructure are essential to develop the ability to compete with the other regions of Europe and the wider world in attracting inward investment. This is an area where we believe there could still be scope for EU intervention and assistance

There is a fresh urgency to this issue, because the present EU structural funding programme ends in 2006, and the Commission has announced a sharp reduction in regional funding to Ireland from 2007-2013.

As a member of the Regional Development Committee within the European Parliament, I have the opportunity to discuss these and other issues with colleagues from across the EU political spectrum. Work for the regeneration of the North West was a key part of Sinn Féin's EU election manifesto and this visit is part of a programme of work to find new and innovative ways to achieve this end.

Mary Lou and I will listen carefully to those in local government, business and the community who are working together to bring an integrated focus to the way forward. We understand the crucial importance of integrated planning for the future of this region and will add our voice at European level to those advocating such an approach locally, regionally and nationally.

In terms of Derry City's place in the wider region, I know that Mitchel McLaughlin has long advocated the development of the sea port here as a major freight facility and has highlighted the importance of the City of Derry Airport, as well as stressing the need for major road upgrades.  The local representatives have with one voice decried the threat to the Derry to Belfast rail service and Mitchel has argued strongly for imaginative innovative planning for the airport, sea port and rail service.  We are aware of the discussions that Derry City Council has had with INI and others with respect to the regeneration of the region and we know of the ongoing work on energy initiatives.

We will take on board the concerns and suggestions expressed by the groups that we have met today and we will be listening carefully this afternoon when we meet with Professor Bernie Hannigan at the Magee campus to discuss ways in which we can assist the University.  We are aware of the issue of locating a Medical School at Magee that could be developed in co-operation with third level educational facilities in Letterkenny, and will give this issue our consideration.

Of course, I take a personal pride in watching the progress of development at Altnagelvin Hospital which I saw at the outset when I was Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety in an Executive we all seek to see re-established without further delay.

And as the British government confirms in writing that they will deliver a peace dividend as part of any deal, Sinn Fein will meet with them to ensure that any peace dividend is significant enough to make a real impact, particularly on the human rights and equality agendas.

Working together and with the back-up of a party with an all-Ireland approach to development Mary Lou and I will be approaching your problems from a regional rather than a jurisdictional viewpoint. Both of us intend to be accessible to any and all interested parties that require assistance in areas that come under EU programmes or influence.

Mary Lou McDonald MEP

As Bairbre just said as Sinn Féin MEP's we will be approaching the root causes of the infrastructural and economic deficit afflicting this area from a Regional perspective and not from a jurisdictional one. And I don't just make that comment as a political statement. It is a fact that for too long we have had two political systems on this island whose vision ended at an artificially imposed border.

Everything gravitated towards Dublin or Belfast and the closer to the border the further you were from the minds of Dublin and Belfast centrist planners. But it was not just the infrastructure in the North West that was ignored by the powers that be in Dublin and Belfast the special relationship and the interdependency that exists between the people of the border corridor received no governmental attention or assistance. The border communities experience specific difficulties that need specific measures to address them.

It is clear that this presents unique difficulties not experienced in other regions. For years we had people from the Southern counties crossing into the North for education and employment. But times have changed and we are now experiencing an exodus of people from Derry and other northern Cities and Towns swelling the population of once small towns and villages along the southern side of the border. This has exacerbated the historical problems faced by those working in one jurisdiction and living in the other.

If these problems are not addressed now they will continue to grow until they will be unmanageable. Obviously we are keen to learn how such issues are address in other areas of Europe experiencing similar problems and what if any models of best practice, and indeed poor practice we can learn from.

However I believe that until we achieve full integration of services  across the border and adequately harmonise the tax regimes much of this work will be very difficult. Such macro economic measures are part of the solution and we are committeed to raising these issues in Europe.

The tourism potential of this region is not being developed to the full. With the areas of natural beauty and places of historical significance that exist throughout the NorthWest Region it is gross negligence by the two governments that not only have they not provided the resources to develop the infrastructure but they have failed miserably to market the region as a tourist destination of special interest. I am sure that there are EU programmes that can be targeted to assist in developing this potential and we intend to explore all possibilities as a matter of urgency. For decades this region has not received its fair share of EU development funds. We intend to do what we can to see this practice reversed. Other funding streams available to groups and businesses such as RETEX 3 and the PEACE II extension as well as any possible PEACE III need to be targeted and accessed.

On this small island of just over 5 million people it is sheer folly that we have two competing bureaucracies, two political and economic administrations and two sets of legal and financial frameworks for business, agriculture and other areas of economic life. The border has separated and damaged communities and it is time that we build the momentum for greater harmonisation and co-operation to repair that damage. Greater harmonisation and co-operation can release more money for frontline services and for investment in our infrastructure. It is important not just to Sinn Féin but to everyone in this Region that we see the fullest development possible of the all-Ireland bodies and institutions.

There is a growing recognition among business leaders that balanced development demands the strengthening of economic and social cohesion through integrated planning and development by the administrations North and South. The reality is that every aspect of economic activity in the private sector is developing on an all-Ireland basis very efficiently and profitably. The northern economy is benefiting to the tune of £1Billion annually from doing business with the rest of the island. Southern businesses have also been expanding and operating on an all-Ireland basis. This can only lead to job creation and job security. It is time that the two governments adopted similar strategies and increased co-operation in developing integrated planning that would eliminate the infrastructural and economic deficits of regions like the North West. I have no doubt that if they adopted such an approach that a case could be made for EU assistance.

As a member of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee in the European Parliament I have a particular interest in working for greater levels of employment, protecting and expanding public services and working to assist the social and business sectors to the full.

For our part, Bairbre and myself will be bringing your case to Europe not as two entities separated by a border but as one integrated Region. Go raibh maith agaibh.

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North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA, Philip McGuigan, has expressed serious concerns with the continuing funding crisis within the Education sector. His comments come after the NEELB became the latest board to announce a shortfall in funding over the next 3 years.

Mr McGuigan said:

"I am very concerned that services currently in existence within schools may have to be cut. We cannot allow central government underfunding to affect any aspect of our children's education.

"At present the boards are being asked to make cuts, as are our local schools which can only have a detrimental impact on our children. Just today a number of Local Boards of Governors received letters from Barry Gardiner asking them to produce savings to their budgets.

"Mr Gardiner, like his Direct Rule partners, should not be allowed to carry on making bad decisions that will have grave detrimental economic and social consequences for the people of the Six Counties.

"These local decisions should be made by locally elected representatives and they should be made on the basis of the British government producing a peace dividend to make up for the 30 years of underfunding of services in the North."

Mr McGuigan is to meet the Chief Executive of NEELB in Ballymena this week to discuss the funding crisis and a number of other local educational issues. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Representative for Dublin South East Councillor Daithí Doolan tonight welcomed Dublin City Council's, "unanimous support for keeping Bewleys Cafes Open and for the establishment of a National Heritage Trust to protect and preserve our heritage."

Speaking during the debate, Cllr. Doolan said: "this motion is an important motion with far reaching implications for our city. While the focus tonight is on Bewleys this motion sends out a clear message that our heritage and culture is not for sale to the highest bidder.

"Economic development cannot be allowed to become a steamroller whereby heritage and culture are simply steamrolled out of existence in the name of so called progress.

"The establishment of a National Heritage Trust will ensure that our heritage and indeed culture can be protected in the future. Without such a Trust we will simply be held to ransom by developers. The challenge is now at the feet of the Minister of Environment, Heritage & Local Government to ensure that the Trust is established as a matter of urgency."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan congratulated, "the Save Bewleys Campaign for winning such widespread public support and continuing the fight to keep Bewleys open." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Employment and Learning Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Cllr Michael Ferguson has warned that ten training organisations across West and South Belfast are to set to lose as many as 220 jobs (not including Trainers) as a direct consequence of the DEL Minister Barry Gardiner's 'Slash & Save Strategy', which is not about the "Redirection of resources in to priority frontline services".

The job losses will happed due to the budget cuts to the New Deal, LearnDirect & Worktrack Programmes with Organisations such as the Springfield Charitable Association and Springvale Hundreds more jobs provided Training Consortium organisations across the Six Counties will also go and representatives from the WorkTrack Forum will brief MLAs at the Assembly on Monday. (6.11.04 at 11am)

Commenting upon the Minister's Strategy Cllr Ferguson said:

"The decisions by DEL can only be described as Ministerial Mayhem. The cuts to Worktrack, LearnDirect, New Deal and now Bridge to Employment will result in the loss of hundreds of jobs across Belfast and hundreds more across the Six Counties with a knock-on impact on Training Providers themselves.

"The situation has been worsened this week with news that there is no money left this year of next for the Bridge-To-Employment Programme and the 100 jobs ring fenced with employers such as Northbrook and Phoenix.

"This latter programme was a targeted initiative that resulted from the Jobs Task Force Report and will mean that 100 jobs for the Shankill and Falls will be lost.

"DEL does not have a Skills Strategy but a Slash and Save Strategy, which can only be described as Ministerial Mayhem.

"Those Training Organisations best placed to address the numeracy and literacy difficulties identified by DEL as responsible for unemployment and Skills Gaps are having their budgets slashed and given to the FE sector who have never been able to resolve the problems." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has welcomed the publication of the Mintel Ireland report on the Food Services market which highlights the potential of the food services industry to "expand rapidly" if food suppliers and catering contractors use the "Irishness" of their products to their advantage.

Ms Gildernew said:

"This report sets down a clear challenge for the not just food services industry but also for the agri-industry in the north.

"Sinn Féin have consistently argued that there is already a well-established internationally recognised Irish brand that we should be building on.

"There is a worldwide reputation for the quality of Irish meat and dairy produce that we should be rightly proud of. It is vital for the future of the industry that we use every available tool to build on that reputation. This demands that the potential of the all-Ireland agenda is realised. If we are serious about the future of the agri-industry we must not miss out on the potential of building on the clean green image of the Ireland brand that is instantly recognisable throughout the world.

"The agri-industry is vital to our rural communities which play and should continue to play an important role in our economy. Any missed opportunity now is an opportunity denied to the industry, to our rural communities and to our economy." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's North Antrim MLA, Philip McGuigan, has responded to comments made by both Bill Lowry and Ian Paisley at the recent DUP Fundraising Dinner in Kells.

Mr McGuigan said:

"The comments made by Bill Lowry last week are obviously those of a bitter and twisted man, prejudiced in the extreme, and he has no qualms about not hiding these bigoted views - which should be seen in the context of a man who headed up both the RUC and PSNI Special Branch for many years.

„Nationalists/Republicans are all too acutely aware of the activities of this ŒForce within a force‚. They are all too aware of collusion with loyalist death squads that led to the deaths of many people in the north.

"It will not be lost on people either the fact that Mr Lowry‚s remarks were made at a DUP gathering. This was the man who was responsible for the politically motivated media-inspired raid on the Sinn Féin Offices in Stormont that has been exposed for the PSNI PR stunt that it was.

"Mr Lowry in fact, was the epitome of all that was and remains wrong with policing in the north. We can still see politically motivated policing decisions being taken in places like Ballymena, where they campaign to demonise Sinn Féin and republicans continuously. We need a police service that is accountable, free from partisan political control and free from the likes of Bill Lowry."

Mr McGuigan continued, saying that "this dinner seemed to be a competition between Mr Paisley and Mr Lowry to see who could make the most outlandish and bitter comments".

"Whether a deal is done or not done this week it is obvious how far the DUP and Ian Paisley in particular have come in from the political wilderness.

"The man who for 30 years has continually said ŒNo‚ now has to contemplate saying 'Yes'. We all remember Paisley's claim that he was going to smash Sinn Féin. He even said recently that Sinn Féin needed to be disbanded!

"The reality is an altogether different scenario. Any deal will be within the template of the Good Friday Agreement. It will include power-sharing with Sinn Féin and include working the all-Ireland institutions. The DUP leader, his party and his supporters have big decisions to make. If Mr Paisley cannot countenance such a scenario then the two governments need to push on and implement their part of the Agreement in terms of policing, demilitarisation and the Equality and Human Rights agenda. They must also ensure that the all Ireland nature of the Agreement is protected and built upon." ENDS

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Speaking after DUP MEP Jim Allister today released a document concerning the allocation of EU Peace funds when he once again criticised the allocation of funding received by the Catholic community as being disproportionate, Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún said:

" Peace funding cannot be allocated on the basis of religion or political affiliation. It must be and can only be allocated on the basis of need. The catholic, nationalist and republican community having suffered from decades of institutional and political discrimination obviously qualifies for such attention. Many working class loyalist communities qualify likewise.

" However many people are getting tired of the constant politicking about the supposed raw deal unionist communities are getting from EU Peace funding from Jim Allister and others. Deprivation and poverty exist across our diverse community and the reality is that these issues can only be tackled by ensuring that people receive resources commensurate with their need. That is what was decided in the last Assembly and agreed by the two governments and by the European Commission. Sinn Féin will fight to ensure that fairness and need underpin allocation during the extension of the funds. If some needy unionist communities have not made applications for funding in the past then the question must be asked about the encouragement they received from their own political representatives.

"Mr Allister has already welcomed the prospect of PEACE II extension in the European Parliament. He would be better served encouraging those he feels could make use of such grants to apply, as they cannot receive funds if they do not submit an application, instead of spending time producing a partisan and disingenuous analysis of Peace funding to date. Working class communities should not be pitted against one another in this way. This runs counter to the basis of peace building and reconciliation.

" Working class loyalist areas have been let down. They have been let down by the woeful political leadership which has been provided by the unionist parties including the DUP over the years. The very obvious social and economic problems which exist within some loyalist communities will not end until these communities are given real political leadership and they will not be cured by trying to use their problems as a further weapon against impoverished nationalist communities." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey has said that he is disgusted and angered at reports that the PSNI racially abused and assaulted a Turkish born street trader in Belfast over the weekend.

Mr Maskey said:

" At the weekend PSNI members forcibly removed a Turkish born street trader called Musa Gulusen from the city centre. The man was subsequently hospitalised and has been treated for a broken arm and bruising to his face and back. The man was racially abused by the PSNI members present both inside the land rover and in front of witnesses on the street. In anyone's terms this was a vicious racist attack.

" Given the statistics which show a complete failure by the PSNI to tackle ongoing racist attacks in the city the news of the weekend assault in the city centre may provide some rational for this. How can ethnic minority communities or indeed any of the rest of us have confidence in a force tackling racist attacks when its own members have no problem engaging in similar behaviour in the broad light of day in the middle of Belfast City Centre.

" In any other job or profession if these sort of allegations were made the individuals involved would be suspended immediately. Instead the PSNI refuse to comment and hide behind the office of the Police Ombudsman." ENDS

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Commenting on reports that Six County MPs are to secure rights to represent their electorate in the Dail, Sinn Féin TD for Louth Arthur Morgan said that this had long been a key demand for his party.

Deputy Morgan said:

"Sinn Féin has been campaigning for Northern representation in the Daíl and Senand as a matter of right for many years. If provisions are made for unionist MPs to attend and speak at Westminster then similar measures should be put in place for nationalist and republican representatives in the Daíl.

"Sinn Féin has presented detailed proposals on this issue to both the Oireachtas committee tasked to deal with this matter and in various negotiations with the Irish government including the latest one. I believe that the case for Northern Representation is compelling and our representations have received a positive hearing. I am hopeful that early progress can now be made on this important issue of equality and democratic rights in the time ahead."ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP, speaking in Belfast this morning said "the Question which must be asked and answered by Ian Paisley is - is he prepared to sign up to a comprehensive agreement which will have his party share power with Sinn Féin? Is it Yes or is it No?

In the next 48 hours we have the opportunity to make a quantum leap forward in the process.

Is all of this going to be thrown away because Ian Paisley does not get the process of humiliation he wants?"

The Sinn Féin President added:

"After the Leeds Castle talks, it was publicly acknowledged by the two governments that substantial progress had been made. The two governments need to follow through on the logic of this.

"Republicans are up for a deal. We want the institutions back up and running, we want the Agreement implemented and we want the agenda for change to continue. That is why we have gone the extra mile.

"But with 48 hours left Ian Paisley has to start saying Yes. The DUP refusal to embrace power sharing and equality can no longer be used as an excuse to paralyse the process of change." ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has revealed that the British government have confirmed in writing to Sinn Féin that they will deliver a peace dividend as part of any deal.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"Sinn Féin have been arguing strongly within the negotiations for the British Government to deliver a substantial peace dividend as part of any overall deal. I believe that the case we put to them was irrefutable.

" The British government have now agreed that a significant peace dividend is necessary. I obviously welcome that. But the content and terms suggested to us by Paul Murphy fall very short of what is required. Sinn Fein will now meet with the British Government to ensure that any peace dividend is significant enough to make a real impact, particularly on the human rights and equality agendas.

"Having brought the British government to this position, we will continue to press them to ensure that any financial package is significant and that it is used to the benefit of those communities which have suffer most from the conflict". ENDS

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Sinn Féin Representative for Dublin South East, Councillor Daithí Doolan, speaking ahead of tonight's City Council meeting, has urged fellow Councillors to support a motion calling on, "the Minister for Environment to establish a National Trust to protect and preserve our heritage."

Councillor Doolan said:

"Tonight's motion is calling for the establishment of a National Trust and to urge any newly established Trust to investigate the long term protection of Bewley's Cafes here in Dublin.

"Any economic development in Dublin must not be carried out at the expense of our social and cultural heritage. Development must not mean creating English high-streets in our cities. It must mean developing indigenous industry unique to our own cities in Ireland. Bewleys provides Dublin with exactly that, Bewleys is synonymous with Dublin and must be protected to preserve the character of Dublin. Tonight's motion, if passed, will ensure that future developments will compliment and not destroy our city centre."

Cllr. Doolan concluded by calling on all parties to support tonight's motion, "and thereby preserve the unique role of the social, cultural, economic and architectural fabric of our city." ENDS

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Ballycastle Sinn Féin representative, Cathal Newcombe, has criticised recent comments made by PSNI head, Hugh Orde, at last weeks opening of the refurbished Ballycastle Police Station.

Mr Newcombe said:

'Last Week the P.S.N.I Chief Constable Hugh Orde officially opened the new police station in Ballycastle. £600,000 was spent manufacturing the station to look more 'user-friendly'. Hugh Orde commented at the opening ceremony, "The work re-enforced the police service's commitment to provide the people of Moyle district with professional, progressive and locally focused policing".

'Mr Orde obviously hasn't spent much time with police personnel in Ballycastle or he would acknowledge that policing in the Moyle District is a disgrace. Each weekend the police observe fights breaking out at the sea-front and around the Diamond area of the town. The police make no attempt to intercept these incidents; instead they watch from the safety of their cars while bystanders often get seriously assaulted or abused and property is quite often damaged.

'They may have spent over £ ∏ million giving Ballycastle police station a makeover, but it is the police structures and attitudes that need the makeover. The police's attitude in Moyle must change. Moyle like many other areas in the Six Counties have not yet seen the benefits of the diluted Patten reforms.

'Just last week Bill Lowry, the man who spearheaded the raid on Sinn Féin offices in Stormont and brought down the Assembly, showed his true colours by joining Ian Paisley on a platform at a DUP fundraiser. Another former RUC man has released a book that uncovers the sectarian sub-culture that permeates throughout every level of the force, thus reinforcing the argument that Sinn Féin has been putting forward for years.

'Police in Moyle must tackle issues such as drugs, burglary, violence, car crime and criminal damage. Sadly, citizens here feel let down when it comes to effective policing, as the PSNI seem more interested in a local charm offensive and spending thousands on publicity campaigns. And no matter what Mr Orde says, I can assure him that Ballycastle police are far from professional, progressive and locally focused.

"When Mr Orde took up his post he assured the public that he would steer clear of making political statements and focus on providing an adequate police service. Instead he has taken every opportunity to criticise republicans and has yet to break his silence on actions like the sinister early-morning raids that the PSNI made on nationalist homes in Ballymena. We're a long way off getting a fair and adequate police service if Mr Orde refuses to stand up to the sectarian sub-culture that has permeated through the police here for so many years. It'll take more than a dab of paint and a fancy police station to convince nationalists that the police have radically changed."ENDS

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Local nationalists gathered at Ballymena‚s PSNI station over the weekend to protest at the ongoing harassment of young members of the nationalist community. The event was attended by 20-30 people, some of whom have been personally affected by the ongoing police campaign.

Speaking after the event, Ballymena Sinn Féin representative Michael Agnew said:

"In recent months the PSNI in North Antrim and Ballymena in particular have been engaged in a campaign of harassment against nationalists. This has included early morning raids on homes and general disruption being caused to local nationalists‚ everyday lives.

"The attendance of so many young people here today is an indication of who is suffering the brunt of this PSNI campaign. To actively recruit young people to spy on members of their own community and put them under such enormous stress is appallingly cruel.

"Because Sinn Féin gave support and guidance to these young people the police have stepped up their actions against republicans in the town as well. The mysterious Œdissident‚ threat to Ballymena has yet to materialise and was used as an excuse to raid ordinary nationalists‚ homes in Dunfane and Fisherwick. They have also concentrated their resources on demonising Sinn Féin and myself in recent weeks but none of this will not succeed. Nationalists in the town are not stupid and can see through their charades.

"If the PSNI were to concentrate as much time on tackling drug-dealers in this town as they do on their anti-republican PR campaign we wouldn't have such a big drugs problem on our hands. Its time that police members made in the mould of Bill Lowry and Ronnie Flanaghan did the honourable thing and retired. Political policing must come to an end if we are to properly address the problems that it has created in our society."ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP's Bairbre de Brún and Mary Lou Mc Donald will visit the North West tomorrow, Monday, at the invitation of Foyle MLA Mitchel Mc Laughlin.

The two MEP's will meet with community Groups and Businness leaders during the daylong fact finding visit.

Following separate meetings with RAPID and ILEX they will attend a lunch with invited business, community and civic leaders at Da Vinci's Hotel, Derry, hosted by Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel Mc Laughlin MLA.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Bairbre de Brún MEP and Mary Lou Mc Donald MEP accompanied by Sinn Féin National Chairperson, Mitchel Mc Laughlin MLA will hold a Press Conference in Da Vinci's Hotel, Culmore Road, Derry on Monday 6th December at 2-15 pm.

The two Sinn Féin MEP's will be in the North West to meet with business, community and Civic Leaders to see how best they can use their presence in Europe to help address the infrastructural and economic deficit in this Region.

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin today said that nationalists would be 'puzzled, dismayed and indeed angered by the SDLP after Alex Attwood became an amplifier for the demands of the DUP'.

Mr McLaughlin's remarks came after Mr Attwood repeated DUP demands on the issue of weapons.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"Not for the first time the SDLP have departed completely from the terms of Good Friday Agreement on a crucial issue. One of our tasks in this negotiation has been to protect and defend the fundamentals and principles of the Agreement from attack by the DUP. We will continue to do this despite the positions adopted by the SDLP on a range of important areas.

"The decision of the SDLP and Alex Attwood to become the amplifier for the demands of Ian Paisley and the DUP will puzzle, dismay and indeed anger many nationalists at this time."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has this evening revealed that the British government have confirmed in writing to Sinn Féin that they will deliver a peace dividend as part of any deal.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"Sinn Féin has been arguing strongly within the negotiations for the British Government to deliver a substantial peace dividend as part of any overall deal. I believe that the case we put to them was irrefutable.

"Tonight the British government have agreed that a significant peace dividend is necessary. I obviously welcome that. But the content and terms suggested to us this evening by Paul Murphy fall very short of what is required. Sinn Fein will now meet with the British Government to ensure that any peace dividend is significant enough to make a real impact, particularly on the human rights and equality agendas.

"Having brought the British government to this position, we will continue to press them to ensure that any financial package is significant and that it is used to the benefit of those communities which have suffer most from the conflict".ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty briefed the party leadership in Belfast on the prospects for a comprehensive agreement involving the DUP.

Pat Doherty said,

" On Wednesday our party negotiating team made our final representation to the two governments on their proposals.

" Despite our obvious scepticism about the DUPs approach, and particularly our scepticism about their willingness to buy into the core principles of the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Fein approached all of these discussions positively.

" We have spent months in detailed and thorough-going discussions with the two governments across all of the issues. I think we have all been patient over the past months. But this phase of discussions cannot be drawn out interminably.

" A comprehensive deal is possible. But it can only be done on the basis of the Good Friday Agreement. The DUP must move away from the failed approaches of the past. The days of second-class citizenship, domination and humiliation are over. The British Prime Minister has a particular responsibility to impress this on the DUP leader." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Representative for Dublin South East Councillor Daithí Doolan speaking today following a disabilities conference hosted by "People with Disabilities in Ireland" to mark The International Day of Disabled Persons said, "The adoption of the Barcelona Declaration was a major step forward but is only a stepping stone to ensuring that we make our towns, cities and society more open and accessible to those with disabilities."

"To ensure this progress is built on, the government must redouble their efforts to make sure that the disabilities bill currently going through the Oireachtas is a rights based bill that can receive the endorsement of all those with disabilities in this state.

"To make the Barcelona Declaration a reality in Dublin we must:

  • ensure proper consultations with the disability groups
  • get Dublin City Council in tune with the principles of the Barcelona Declaration
  • agree on an action plan with timelines for the implementation for agreed action
  • ringfence resources to tackle priority actions.

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