Sinn Féin - On Your Side

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


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Donegal Sinn Féin Councillor Pearse Doherty has today called upon Iarnród Éireann to "extend its current travel promotion to all of Ireland." Mr Doherty made his comments after he contacted Iarnród Éireann's Marketing Department today to enquire why its travel promotion, which offers travel to a "choice of 87 destinations - selling for only 10 Euro, excludes the Six Counties."

Speaking today, Councillor Doherty said:

"I received a number of calls this morning from members of the public who had spotted advertising banners at Connolly Station in Dublin over the weekend stating that Iarnród Eireann had launced a travel promotion of 10 Euro a ticket for destinations throughout the country. When I contacted Iarnród Éireann‚s Marketing Department I was informed that the travel promotion does not apply to cross border routes. I believe that this promotion is disenfranchising citizens from the Six Counties and those who make daily trips between Belfast and Dublin.

"Sinn Féin is calling for the extension of this promotion to include all of Ireland. We are also actively campaigning for an all Ireland approach to travel, ensuring equality for those using public transport wherever they live in Ireland." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has called on DUP politician, William Hay MLA to apologise to the families of those nationalists and republicans murdered and injured by UDA and UVF death squads.

Mr McCartney stated:

"It seems that the criteria that William Hay and the DUP apply to enter into dialogue depends not on whether or not a party adhers to democratic principles and receives a mandate from the electorate but whether that organisation supports the British link.

"William Hay's response to an invitation from Derry Mayor, Gerry O hEára for all elected representatives to co-operate for the good of the region was an absolute disgrace. The DUP representative's comment that the reason his party can align itself with the UDA and the UVF is because - ' the UDA don't have a political party and pose no threat to the future of Northern Ireland, and the UVF are the same' - exposes the hypocrisy and double standards of Unionist politicians. Implicit in Mr Hay's comments is that they have no problem talking to the spokespersons of sectarian murder gangs, drug dealers and pimps so long as they 'pose no threat to the political future of Northern Ireland'. But if - as is Sinn Féin's political aspirations and objectives - you work peacefully for the ending British governmental interference in Ireland then the DUP will not engage in dialogue.

"The UDA and the UVF are still involved in both sectarian and racist attacks day and daily as well as polluting Willie Hay's own constituency through drugs and prostitution".

"Willie Hay and the DUP may bury their heads in the sand when it comes to the activity of the UDA and UVF by claiming they do not pose a threat to the 'future of Northern Ireland' but sooner rather than later they will have to sit down and deal with parties with legitimate mandates if we are all to move forward.

"I would call on Willie Hay to stop his hypocritical comments and encourage engagement with Sinn Féin, the democratic representatives of the majority of the nationalist people so that the issues that divide us can be resolved". ENDS

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Sinn Féin's spokesperson on Transport, Séan Crowe TD, has expressed alarm at the reports that Aer Lingus chief, Willie Walsh, will seek to reduce the airlines workforce by up to a quarter at a board meeting today. He said it appeared that Mr. Walsh was bent on adopting a smash and grab economic strategy in which Aer Lingus staff and the Irish nation would be the victims.

Deputy Crowe said:

"News that Aer Lingus‚ Chief Executive Willie Walsh plans to put forward proposals which would result in the loss of almost a quarter of the airlines workforce is very alarming.

"It is difficult not to link Mr. Walsh‚s recent proposals to take over the profit-making and successful airline with this latest leaked business plan. However, the personal ambitions of Willie Walsh and his friends must not be allowed to dictate the future of this valuable state asset.

"This business plan appears to amount to nothing more than a smash and grab economic strategy in which staff and ultimately the Irish nation will be the victims and biggest losers.

"Sinn Féin is opposed to any attempts by individuals or groups to line their pockets and enrich themselves on the back of valuable state owned companies and the workforces who made them what they are."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey has said that weekend revelations that the UDA are claiming to be in possession of the missing Castlereagh dossier 'will reinforce the belief amongst nationalists and republicans that the British government are actively trying to cover-up a collusion scandal'.

Mr Maskey said:

"For sometime now Sinn Féin have been attempting to get the British government to come clean over the Castlereagh collusion scandal. Instead they have repeatedly refused to do so. Ian Pearson lamely claimed not to know where the missing dossier was but in the same breath claimed to know that it was not in the hands of unionist paramilitaries. His position has no credibility.

"As the media leaks continued it was established that the collusion scandal centres on the RIR, a regiment with a long history of links to unionist paramilitaries and it goes beyond Castlereagh and also centres on their role in staffing spy posts in nationalist areas.

"The British government has refused to inform those people named in the missing dossier that their details are missing. In their attempt to suppress this story the British government are deliberately endangering people's lives.

"Over the weekend the UDA have claimed to be in possession of the missing document. This revelation will reinforce the belief amongst nationalists and republicans that the British government are actively trying to cover-up a collusion scandal which if fully uncovered could be as damaging as the Brian Nelson affair." ENDS

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Irish republican Joe Cahill died in Belfast last night after a short illness. Joe was 84 years of age and was Vice President of Sinn Féin at the time of his death. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams paid tribute to Joe and extended his sympathy and solidarity to Annie and the Cahill family - Tom, Maria, Stephanie, Nuala, Aine, Patricia and Deirdre.

Mr. Adams said:

"Joe Cahill spent a life time in struggle. He was both a leader and a servant of the republican cause. In the difficult years of the 1930s and 1940s he and his contemporaries stood against the partition of Ireland and for Irish unity and he was imprisoned on many occasions for his beliefs.

"He was an unapologetic physical force republican who fought when he felt that was the only option but he also significantly stood for peace and was a champion of the Sinn Féin peace strategy, traveling to the US on many occasions on behalf of the party.

"In many ways Joe was the father of this generation of republicans and he had the capacity to relate both to young people and his contemporaries. His contribution to Irish republicanism will ensure that he will be remembered for many generations to come.

"Joe Cahill will be deeply missed by all those who knew him. I measc laochra na nGael a raibh sé."ENDS

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Irish republican Joe Cahill died in Belfast tonight after a short illness. Joe was 84 years of age and was Vice President of Sinn Féin at the time of his death. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams paid tribute to Joe and extended his sympathy and solidarity to Annie and the Cahill family - Tom, Maria, Stephanie, Nuala, Aine, Patricia and Deirdre.

Mr. Adams said:

"Joe Cahill spent a life time in struggle. He was both a leader and a servant of the republican cause. In the difficult years of the 1930s and 1940s he and his contemporaries stood against the partition of Ireland and for Irish unity and he was imprisoned on many occasions for his beliefs.

"He was an unapologetic physical force republican who fought when he felt that was the only option but he also significantly stood for peace and was a champion of the Sinn Féin peace strategy, traveling to the US on many occasions on behalf of the party.

"In many ways Joe was the father of this generation of republicans and he had the capacity to relate both to young people and his contemporaries. His contribution to Irish republicanism will ensure that he will be remembered for many generations to come.

"Joe Cahill will be deeply missed by all those who knew him. I measc laochra na nGael a raibh sé."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly speaking at a protest beneath Divis Tower spypost this morning to highlight the role of the RIR in the Castlereagh collusion scandal said that 'as the days passed and the information leaked out the British government position of remaining silent on the matter was untenable'.

Mr Kelly said:

"It has been leaked to the media that a number if the RIR members removed from duty as part of the investigation into the Castlereagh collusion scandal were based in the Divis Tower spy post. The RIR are a regiment with a long history of collusion with unionist paramilitaries. There is a real fear that the events unfolding in Castlereagh and at Divis Tower spy post are another chapter in the collusion scandal.

"We have a dossier missing from Castlereagh and the potential for intelligence gathering on the nationalist community from Divis Tower is very obvious. As the days pass and the information continues to leak out the British government position of remaining silent on this very serious matter is untenable.

"Paul Murphy is now back in Ireland and I am demanding that he makes a statement on this scandal. In addition to this all of the people listed in the missing dossier need to be informed. Nobody in the nationalist community has any faith in a PSNI assessment that people's lives are not at risk.

"I raised this matter yesterday with the Irish government and before this with the British government. Sinn Féin will continue to raise this matter until the full details surrounding this collusion scandal are exposed." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson, Raymond Mc Cartney said that the bomb and letter hoaxes being sent to SDLP members of the Policing Board must stop.

Mr Mc Cartney said:

"Sinn Féin sympathises with those members of the SDLP that are subject to a series of hoax bomb and suspicious letters from unknown sources. I call on whoever is responsible for these actions to desist immediately and reflect on the effect of these vile and reprehensible incidents.

The politicians targeted are at one in their resolve not to be intimidated but those that suffer from these futile attacks are the uninvolved family members and neighbours who suffer the inconvenience and trauma that accompanies these activities.

If it is individuals that are carrying out these activities I call on them to reflect on the possible consequences of their actions and to cease immediately. If they are being carried out by any group then not only would I point out the futility of their actions and call on them to desist but I would call on them to have the courage of their convictions, admit responsibility and explain the rationale behind their actions."ENDS

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Speaking after a meeting with the Parades Commission in Belfast, Upper Bann Sinn Féin Assembly member John O'Dowd said that the Commission had confirmed to him that the PSNI had significantly breached their determination in Lurgan on July 13th.

Mr O'Dowd said:

" The Parades Commission confirmed to our delegation today that the route which the RBP march in Lurgan on July 13th was to take was from Carnegie Street, Market Street junction turning right along High Street. It was not at any time to turn left into Market Street. The Parades Commission confirmed that the area which the PSNI claimed was blocked by a parked car in Market Street was not on the approved route. They further informed us that they made this clear to the PSNI on July 13th.

" The confirmation from the Parades Commission today proves what Sinn Féin have been saying all along. The PSNI deliberately took the RBP Parade along a banned route and when that was apparently blocked by a parked car, they proceeded to breach the determination further. Then the PSNI Chief in Lurgan Alan McCrum told blatant lies to the Irish News to try and cover up this fact. His parked car story has been exposed as a red herring.

" This confirmation from the Parades Commission must raise significant questions over the future of Alan McCrum. He has been exposed as a liar. He also very deliberately breached a Parades Commission determination and forced a RBP parade through a Catholic area of Lurgan. That was without doubt the intention of his operation from the start. This cannot now be questioned.

" How can any nationalist or republican in North Armagh have any confidence in a police force controlled by an individual like this. He deliberately planned to trample over the rights of the nationalist and republican community in order to facilitate an anti-Catholic parade through a Catholic part of the town." ENDS

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Dublin Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan has lashed out at the Government for its continuous failure to curtail spiralling housing prices, in the wake of leading economist's Jim Power's prediction that costs will rise by a further 10% this year. Cllr. Doolan said the situation had "gone beyond critical and is now in the stages of lunacy. People on an average wage of roughly €27,000 are expected to come up with €311,000 for a new house, or €362,000 for a second-hand house (Government figures). When will this madness end?"

Cllr. Doolan said:

"Just recently it was revealed that 40% of borrowing last year (€80 billion) could be put down to mortgages. Irish people are already up to their eyeballs in debt. If house prices rise by a further 10%, as this economist has predicted, I can't imagine who will be able to afford a house in Ireland.

"The government needs to get a handle on the housing market. The situation has gone beyond critical and is now in the stages of lunacy. People in Dublin on an average wage of roughly €27,000 euro are expected to come up with €311,000 for a new house, or €362,000 for a second-hand house (Government figures). Buying a house in Ireland nowadays is like trying to purchase a home in Monte Carlo. When will this madness end?

"This week, Charlie McCreevy is being lauded by his colleagues for his time as Minister for Finance. But the public hasn't forget that this is the man who presided over the loss of the First-Time Buyers Grant, nor his record for putting his friends in the horse-racing industry at the top of his priority list when it came to allocating money. I wonder if he'll spare a thought for the people he has left languishing on housing lists, or worse, on the streets, when he starts his €250,000 a year job in Europe.

"I call on whoever is chosen as his successor to reinstate that grant immediately. Then the government should tackle land speculators and rip-off property developers. Local authorities must receive increased and sustained funding to provide housing with a target of supplying suitable accommodation within two years for 70 per cent of applicants on the waiting lists.Compulsory Purchase Orders should be used, with the City Council receiving a cheque to avail of them. And finally the Government must enshrine the right to housing in the Constitution. Dublin Sinn Féin is committed to leading the charge against this Government's inadequate and incompetent policies on houses." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O Dowd has described the recent lobby letter to local elected representatives from the Tobacco Manufacturers Association opposing a Smoking Ban as having an 'uncanny resemblance to recent comments from John Reid, the British Health minister'.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"This lobby letter from the Tobacco Manufacturers Association opposing a Smoking Ban has an uncanny resemblance to recent comments from John Reid, the British Health minister.

"The TMA attempts to argue that people do not mind socialising or working within a smoking environment that can have lethal consequences and adds that there are more important things bothering communities than smoking. Such arguments bear a striking resemblance to Mr Reid's position.

"The most alarming comments within the TMA letter is that employers should only be expected to look after the health and welfare of their employees as far as 'reasonably practicable'.

"Why should we expect those who serve us food and drink in hotels and restaurants to have any less protection for their health than any other worker?

"The TMA and the British Government will have to listen to the biggest opinion poll of them all, the election process. All the local political parties support the right of all the workers in our society to work in a smoke free environment. It is time that British direct rule ministers started to actually take note of what is required here."ENDS

Note to editors

The TMA document can be viewed on, publicsmoking.the-tma.org.uk.

The letter to local elected representatives from the TMA can be forwarded by

fax on request by contacting John O Dowd on 07880961276

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Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Fra McCann has called for a wide-ranging survey of differences between Catholic and Protestant housing conditions and called for a rating system based on the ability to pay and not property values.

Mr McCann said:

"Pressure for housing within nationalist areas is far greater, in comparison, to the demand for housing with unionist areas. A quick comparison of the waiting lists for Housing Executive property within North Belfast for example highlights the fact that the overwhelming majority of A1 status applicants on the waiting list are Catholic. This is predominantly because of the huge demand.

"This is also reflected in house prices in comparable nationalist areas. My great fear is that because demand for housing in nationalists areas in far greater than in unionist areas that this is reflected in higher property values that will then result in higher rates under a property based system. Any such system will discriminate against Catholics and particularly in areas where unionist dominated councils continue to operate policies of exclusion and discrimination will hit nationalists with a double whammy. They will be paying higher rates for poorer services.

"Sinn Féin believe that the rates proposals are a regressive form of taxation as they are not based on the ability of someone to pay. I believe that we need a wide-ranging survey of the differences between Catholic and Protestant housing conditions and house values in particular." ENDS

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Sinn Fein MEPs Bairbre de Brun (Six Counties) and Mary Lou McDonald (Dublin) today said they were 'committed to helping create an EU based upon inclusiveness and equality'. Both MEPs were speaking in advance of the vote for EU Commission President today.

In a joint statement, the MEPs said:

"Sinn Fein stand for change in the European Union. We are committed to helping create an EU based upon inclusiveness and equality. As Irish Republicans, we are committed to bringing about an EU that works toward equality, the elimination of poverty, the protection of public services.

"In our first week at the European Parliament we have met with a number of people who share our vision for change in the EU. We will continue to work towards a broad alliance for an EU of equals and the advancement of the Peace Process in Ireland.

"As Sinn Fein MEPs we have committed ourselves to challenge inequalities within the EU - and this includes inequalities within the structures and institutions of the EU itself. Sinn Fein is therefore making the underrespresentation of women in EU decision-making positions an issue in relation to the incoming Commission.

"Women were drastically underrespresented in the last EU Commission as 23 out of the 30 Commissioners were men. No women were actively considered for the post of Commission President. This must change. Appointments to the incoming Commission represent an opportunity for affirmative action which must not be squandered. Sinn Fein have therefore called for the nomination of a woman candidate for the position of Commission President, and also called on the Taoiseach to nominate a woman Commissioner for Ireland.

"But bringing more women into the field is not sufficient in and of itself. We need people on the Commission who share our vision of an EU of Equals. We do not share Mr Jose Durao Barroso's vision and priorities for the EU. On this basis, we will not be supporting his nomination as EU Commission President.

"Sinn Fein believe that the EU should lead by example by promoting equality and we would look forward to supporting a more appropriate and progressive nomination for this very important position within the EU." ENDS

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The Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD, has written to a number of Ministers regarding the import of grain from the Ukraine into ports in the Six Counties. Deputy Ferris was responding to concerns on behalf of farmers on both sides of the border regarding several aspects of this trade, and the potential affects which it may be having.

Deputy Ferris said: "It would appear that massive quantities of grain are coming into this country via Belfast and Warrenpoint from the Ukraine. This grain is being imported by meal merchants and it is being bought by farmers for use as feed. This is despite the fact that the grain is not quality assured and therefore we have no idea as to what chemicals may have been used during its production. There is also the issue that the imported grain is having a depressing effect on the prices which merchants will pay for home produced grain, while they are not passing on the lower costs to the farmers who buy it as meal. I am writing to the Ministers for Agriculture and to the Minister forTrade in relation to how these imports may be impacting on farmers on this side of the border, and in particular in relation to the quality of the grain concerned." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP has accused the SDLP leader Mark Durkan of 'attempting to shift the focus away from the disgraceful PSNI policing operations in Lurgan and Ardoyne last week, onto the role and remit of the Parades Commission'.

Mr Doherty said:

" Over the 12th and 13th July in both Lurgan and Ardoyne the PSNI deliberately overturned determinations made by the Parades Commission. This was nothing to do with the powers or lack or powers the Parades Commission had. It was to do with unionists within the NIO and unionists within the PSNI deciding that Orange Order demands would always triumph over the human rights of nationalist residents.

" It is clear that the actions of the PSNI in Ardoyne and Lurgan have thrown the SDLP policing policy which supports that force into considerable disarray. Senior members of the SDLP have called for a rethink of their policing position.

" The SDLP have consistently claimed that accountability would be derived through the Policing Board. Yet the response of the Chair of the Policing Board Des Rea was to request a report from the PSNI to discuss in September while at the same time praising the PSNI operation and absolving the force of any blame.

" With it blatantly obvious that the Policing Board and the local DPPs were unable to hold the PSNI to account the SDLP then followed the Sinn Féin lead by making representations to the Irish government, British ministers and the Police Ombudsman to seek answers around the actions of the PSNI in Ardoyne and Lurgan.

" It is obvious that Mark Durkan conscious of the contradictions in the SDLP policing position in the wake of Ardoyne and Lurgan is simply attempting to shift the focus away from the disgraceful PSNI policing operations last week and onto the role and remit of the Parades Commission." ENDS

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Derry City Sinn Féin Mayor Gearoid Ó hEára has confirmed that the Council may challenge the legality of the current threat to the Derry- Belfast rail link.

Mayor Ó hEára stated:

"I recently met with senior Officers with a view to the Council challenging on a legal basis any attempt to close this line. Although any decision may be challenged on the grounds of equality, the Council is determined that if necessary the decision making process is examined by way of a judicial review."

"As Mayor, I will continue to put pressure on Minister Spellar for the retention and improvement of the rail network between Derry and Belfast. It is vitally important that every effort is made to improve our current transport infrastructure of which rail is a core element." Ends

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Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly has said that the Castlereagh collusion scandal will not simply go away and disappear as the British Minister Ian Pearson seems to expect.

Mr Kelly said:

" Yesterday Ian Pearson informed me at the beginning of our meeting that the discussions would be brief as there was 'no story' in the allegations about a security breach in Castlereagh. It seems that the British have adopted the classic say nothing and hope that it will disappear attitude to this affair.

" When people's lives are in danger and being put at risk this is simply not acceptable. It is long past the time for Ian Pearson to come clean.

" After much effort what we do now know is the following:

  • a dossier is missing from Castereagh
  • the British do not know where it is - yet they are assured by the PSNI that nobody is at risk
  • we are led to believe that it contains the details of up to 400 people
  • nobody on the list has been informed
  • an RIR member was questioned about missing document after being discovered in a classified area of the Castlereagh complex
  • homes were raided in relation to this matter
  • the RIR is a regiment with a long history of collusion with unionist paramilitaries
  • 28 members of the RIR are currently withdrawn from duty as a result of this ongoing inquiry
  • many of these operated from spy posts in nationalist areas including Divis Tower where they could have gathered additional information not contained in the Castlereagh dossier
  • the British government through the NIO has attempted to suppress this story emerging a cover-up is undoubtedly under way

" Sinn Féin will not let this matter rest. We will be raising it with Brian Cowen this evening and we will continue to press the British government to end the pretence that nothing is wrong and face up to the reality and gravity of the situation.

" The silence and attempts at cover-up from the British government, the NIO, the PSNI and the British Army only add to the view held by nationalists and republicans that we are witnessing the emergence of yet another collusion scandal." ENDS

Editors Note: Mr Kelly is available to speak to the media outside the gates of Leinster House at 4.30pm this afternoon (Thursday 22nd July) before he meets Brian Cowen to discuss this and other matters

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for South Belfast, Alex Maskey, has called on unionist political and community leaders to do more to stop racist attacks in their community. Mr Maskey's call comes after an Asian family were petrol bombed from their home in the Tates Avenue area overnight.

Mr Maskey said:

" Last night an Asian family whose home had been repeatedly attacked since the Twelfth period were petrol bombed from their home in the Tates Avenue area. This is yet another disgraceful racist attack against a completely innocent family attempting to get on with building a life here.

" Unfortunately it is not the first such attack in South Belfast over the past 18 months. We have already witnessed a sustained campaign by unionist paramilitaries to drive ethnic minorities out of the Donegal Road/Sandy Row area. A campaign which when halted in the face of massive public pressure was replaced by an anti-Catholic campaign aimed at an apartment block in the same area, a campaign unfortunately endorsed by mainstream unionist politicians.

" A toleration by unionist politicians of blatant sectarianism and of sectarian intimidation in South Belfast gives the green light to those elements within their community who wish to carry out racist attacks. Sectarianism and racism are the two sides of the same coin and must be confronted with equal vigour if we are to build a truly inclusive city. That is a challenge for all of us, but I have to say particularly for many unionist political leaders at this time." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing and Justice issues Gerry Kelly will, along with a delegation of Ardoyne residents, meet with the Irish Minster for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen this afternoon (Thursday 22nd) in Dublin where they will discuss the situation in that area on July 12th.

Mr Kelly will also take the opportunity to raise with Mr Cowen the rapidly developing Castlereagh collusion scandal.

Mr Kelly will be available to speak to the media outside the gates of Leinster House at 4.30pm before the meeting.

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After Ardoyne: Securocrats must be reined in

On Monday 12 July, in defiance of the Parades Commission's determination, the PSNI forced a crowd of Orange Order supporters, including some known unionist paramilitaries, through nationalist areas of Ardoyne, Mountainview and the Dales in North Belfast.

To facilitate this banned parade, hundreds of heavily-armed British soldiers were deployed. Local residents were corralled behind a wall of steel and faced with lines of baton and riot shield wielding members of the notorious British Parachute Regiment and the PSNI.

In sharp contrast, PSNI officers chatted with Orange spectators, some of whom engaged in highly provocative displays of anti-Catholic bigotry and whose threats of disruption and intimidation preceded the parade. The low-key PSNI operation here involved waist-high fencing and a handful of PSNI officers.

Gerry Kelly, Kathy Stanton, also a Sinn Fein MLA for North Belfast, and other Sinn Fein councillors were present throughout the events in Ardoyne.

This week, Gerry Kelly spoke to An Phoblacht's LAURA FRIEL about the events of last week.

Gerry Kelly: To begin to appreciate the anger and hurt of the nationalist community in Ardoyne you have to understand that this is the area of Holy Cross. This is the area where Catholic schoolchildren, some as young as four years of age, and their parents, were forced to run the gauntlet of unionist bigotry and violence for months as they walked to Holy Cross school. The area has also endured ongoing sectarian attacks against Catholic homes.

So this isn't just any nationalist area objecting to an Orange march; this is an area that has endured not only provocation, but sustained violent attack, some of which has been perpetrated by Orangemen and their unionist paramilitary supporters. In a nutshell, we have a population already traumatised by anti-Catholic violence and bigotry forced to witness some of the very same people engage in a coat trailing exercise through the heart of their community, against the Parades Commission's ruling and facilitated by British crown forces.

An Phoblacht: Who do you think was responsible for the decision to force this banned parade through the Ardoyne district?

The buck stops with the British Government. Clearly, the British Secretary of State, Paul Murphy, is still listening to the securocrats who have been manipulating the system here for the last 30 years and indeed, many years before that. The securocrats are still operating to a pro-unionist, anti-nationalist agenda and are attempting to hold onto the old ways of the discredited Orange state.

The NIO securocrats are a malign influence over this entire process. The process will not succeed if they are not reined in, because what we are talking about here is the same ethos, the same objectives and in many cases the same people who forced the Orange Order march down Garvaghy Road in 1997 (Indeed, the names of some of those currently involved are to be found on an NIO internal memo which found its way into the public domain at that time).

This decision was made at a political level. It is Sinn Fein's belief that the decision to force this parade through Ardoyne had already been made when unionist politicians emerged from meetings with British officials at Hillsborough some days earlier. Rather than uphold the rights of nationalist residents, the decision makers caved in to, or were complicit in, threats of intimidation and disruption by unionist politicians and paramilitaries.

This policy of appeasing those who will not engage in dialogue with nationalist residents, whose supporters indulge in blatant displays of anti-Catholic bigotry and anti-Irish racism during Orange marches, and who threaten widespread disruption and intimidation if they are not allowed to flaunt their outrageous behaviour in the faces of those they despise, goes to the heart of the political project facing us all.

That is building a society based on equality, understanding and respect; an Ireland of Equals.

The British Government's failure to implement the Good Friday Agreement and instead their policy of giving in to unionist intransigence in whatever form, the DUP, the Orange Order and unionist paramilitaries, is undermining the peace process.

How do you view the PSNI's role in the events in Ardoyne?

On 12 July the PSNI implemented the British Government's political decision. In addition to the political provocation of effectively overturning the Parades Commission's ruling, the PSNI's decision to deploy one of the most hated sections of the British Army, the paratroopers, into nationalist Ardoyne further fuelled an already volatile situation.

And let me tell you this, all the ingredients for another Bloody Sunday were in place in Ardoyne that day. That this was avoided, and it was avoided by a hair's breadth, was entirely down to a few dozen republican activists.

"The PSNI's decision to deploy British paratroopers was a recipe for disaster. The NIO had created the situation. But once given the opportunity, the PSNI reverted to the old discredited RUC style of anti-nationalist policing.

What then the future for policing?

Without the full implementation of the Patten recommendations and the introduction of real mechanisms of democratic control, the PSNI will remain unaccountable to the communities they are policing. That unaccountability is at the heart of policing. The continuing anti-nationalist ethos of Special Branch inevitably has the PSNI operating like the RUC.

Democratic accountability would make the kind of policing and military tactics deployed against the people of Ardoyne last week impossible. In that context, political solutions would have to be sought through dialogue and engagement. In circumstances where physical repression has traditionally been deployed to support and bolster unionism, the removal of repression as an option can transform the political landscape. Sinn Fein has been particularly clear sighted on the importance of getting policing right.

What about the wider political fallout on the policing issue?

In recent weeks a number of senior members of the SDLP have begun to publicly question their party's current position on policing in the North. Dolores Kelly, Danny O'Connor and Martin Morgan have all suggested that the SDLP might consider withdrawing from the policing boards. Such a move would be welcomed within the nationalist community.

But the important thing is that these realities - unacceptable policing - are grasped now and dealt with or the momentum will be lost and perhaps even reversed.

Some media commentators have tried to portray republican intervention in Ardoyne as somehow defending the British Army. How do you reply to your critics?

Some journalists enjoyed this opportunity to trivialise what was a very dangerous and volatile situation which, without the timely intervention of republicans, could have escalated into a bloodbath.

The situation was this. A crowd of unarmed civilians, many of them teenagers were facing a heavily-armed and increasingly agitated British Army unit. When a handful of soldiers became isolated within the crowd, one soldier cocked his weapon in readiness to open fire. We all know what can happen when British soldiers start firing into a civilian crowd. We can all remember Bloody Sunday.

The presence of mind and timely action of republicans in defusing the situation narrowly prevented that. This has nothing to do with how we view the British Army or for that matter the PSNI and most thinking people know that.

What consequences do you think events in Ardoyne have had on the Parades Commission?

Unionists have been trying to undermine the Parades Commission for some time. The political decision by the British Government to undermine the authority of the commission will only encourage further unionist and Orange Order intransigence.

That decision was a slap in the face to the nationalist community. It was a decision that could only have been made at a political level. That decision could have disastrous consequences for the Parades Commission.

The commission was set up precisely to ensure an independent decision making mechanism operating in accordance with its stated remit, rather than decisions made at the whim of political manipulation and unionist paramilitary intimidation. Sinn Fein will, of course, be pursuing this matter with the British and Irish Governments.

Before ending this interview, I would like to extend my sympathies, and the sympathy of all republicans to the family of Tommy Clarke".

Tommy died of a heart attack in Ardoyne on 12 July during the events described.

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