Sinn Féin EU candidate for the Dublin Constituency Mary Lou McDonald, has today challenged the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Brian Cowen to 'prove his commitment to the UN.' Ms McDonald was responding to an address made by the Minister to mark EU enlargement at the United Nations Headquarters in New York yesterday (03.05.04).
In his address, Mr Cowen remarked: "Strengthening the United Nations, equipping it to fulfil its responsibilities is a priority of the European Union."
Speaking today, Ms McDonald said:
"The comments made by the Foreign Minister Brian Cowen at the United Nations Headquarters, are astounding. The EU is busy pursuing and paying for its own security agenda. The true effect of the development of EU defence capacity, according to a report in 2000 of the panel on United Nations Peace Operations (Brahimi Report) has been the depletion, not enhancement, of UN peacekeeping capacity.
"The Minister, and the EU as a whole need to prove their commitment to the United Nations. Where is the evidence of this? This government cannot continue its complicit support for the militarisation of the EU, whilst paying lip service to the primacy of the United Nations, as the only global multinational and multilateral body.
"Therefore, I challenge the Minister to provide the evidence that the United Nations is an EU priority. I also challenge him to accept the fact that the EU is undermining the role of the UN, rather than complementing it." ENDS
Sinn Féin EU candidate for the North West constituency, Pearse Doherty has today said that May 1st presented "another missed opportunity to secure official recognition for the Irish language in the EU".
Speaking during a tour to local radio stations in Donegal today with Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty, Mr Pearse Doherty said:
"Irish language enthusiasts have once again been left angered and dismayed. The celebrations that marked the accession ceremony provided the perfect backdrop to officially recognise the Irish language as an official and working language of the EU. Mayday is another missed opportunity for official recognition.
"On May 1st, there were nine other languages officially recognised in the EU, once again Irish has been relegated to the status of a second class language. The Government has failed Irish language enthusiasts and ultimately the Irish people. People are beginning to wonder if this Government, which holds the EU Presidency, has the political will to address this issue.
"Once again, Sinn Féin calls for the full official recognition of the Irish language, nothing more, nothing less." ENDS
Reacting to SDLP proposals to restore the political institutions Sinn Féin Assembly member Bairbre de Brún said that the plan 'was clearly outside the terms of the Agreement and would provide succour for the rejectionists who were seeking to renegotiate'.
Ms de Brun said:
" The SDLP need to hold their nerve. This proposition is wholly outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and will encourage those rejectionists who wish to renegotiate it and prevent its implementation.
" In particular the plan to allow the British Secretary of State to hand pick Ministers runs entirely against any democratic norm and runs entirely against the expressed wishes of the electorate.
" The focus gained over the past number of weeks is the way to proceed. It is in the interests of all of the pro Agreement parties to bring about an inclusive talks process aimed at achieving the full implementation of the Agreement. That needs to be the focus, not providing opportunities for those who wish to prevent the sort of fundamental changes which the Good Friday Agreement demands." ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President and the party's Director of Elections Pat Doherty MP has said that the publication today of the electoral register showing another drop of around 20,000 people 'should act as a wake up call the British government that they cannot continue to allow the register to be shredded year on year and that the current legislation needs to be amended'.
Mr Doherty said:
" The publication today of the electoral register under which the forthcoming six county EU election will be fought confirms what Sinn Féin have been saying for sometime. The current legislation will ensure that the register will be shredded year upon year and public confidence in the electoral process will continue to fall. On this occasion we are witnessing a drop of around another 20,000 voters.
" This situation cannot be allowed to continue. The legislation which was passed at the behest of the SDLP and the unionists is discriminatory and it must be amended. None of the parties who supported this legislation nor the British government have yet given an explanation of the massive and growing discrepancy which exists between the census returns and the electoral register.
" Sinn Féin will continue to campaign for the restoration of the basic right to vote. We will continue to lobby a wide section of opinion both here and abroad in our efforts to get this legislation amended. What we are witnessing is in effect electoral fraud on a massive scale." ENDS
Sinn Féin has tabled a motion in the Dáil calling on the Government to reject the recommendations of the Constituency Commission to divide County Leitrim between the two proposed new constituencies of Sligo/North Leitrim and Roscommon/South Leitrim.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government Arthur Morgan T.D. said:
"Sinn Féin is calling on the Government to reject the Constituency Commission's recommendations to split Leitrim between 2 constituencies. The Commission should have paid greater attention to Section 6(2)(c) of the Electoral Act 1997 which states "the breaching of County boundaries shall be avoided as far as practicable." Sinn Féin does not believe the best interest of the people of Leitrim would be served by the implementation of the Commissions recommendations. Sinn Féin tabled this motion at the request of SF Leitrim County Councillor Martin Kenny who has been to the fore in articulating the widespread opposition to the proposals from the people of Leitrim.
"The steady growth in the number of three seat constituencies at both Dáil and EU level is in contradiction to the original intention and the main purpose of PRSTV system. When originally developed the PR system with multi-seat constituencies was envisaged as a positive system of accommodating minorities.
The PRSTV system has been diluted substantially through the selective redrawing of constituency boundaries and the reduction in constituency size in terms of members elected from nine and seven seat constituencies to five, four and three seat constituencies. Sinn Féin is advocating a return to larger constituencies, believing that six, seven, nine and even ten-seat constituencies are feasible for our electoral system. This motion which has been tabled by Sinn Féin also calls for the amendment of Section 6(2)(b) of the Electoral Act of 1997 to allow for the formation of six and seven seat constituencies." ENDS
"That Dáil Éireann
- Notes the recommendations of the Constituency Commission published in January 2004 to divide County Leitrim between the two proposed new constituencies of Sligo/North Leitrim and Roscommon/South Leitrim.
- Notes Section 6(2)(c) of the Electoral Act 1997 which states "the breaching of County boundaries shall be avoided as far as practicable".
- Recognises that larger constituency size adds the quality of extra proportionality to the electoral system as a whole.
Calls on the Government to:
- reject the findings of the Constituency Commission in relation to County Leitrim
- amend Section 6(2)(b) of the Electoral Act of 1997 to allow for the formation of six and seven seat constituencies
- reconvene the Constituency Commission to consider the possibility of establishing one six seat constituency comprising the three counties of Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon." - Arthur Morgan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Sean Crowe, Martin Ferris, Aengus Ó Snodaigh
Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Representative Councillor Paul Butler has reacted angrily to an attack last night on the Poleglass home of his party colleague and fellow Lisburn Councillor Veronica Willis.
Cllr. Butler said:
" Last night the Poleglass home of my council colleague Veronica Willis was attacked with ball bearings. The windows in the house were broken and it was only through good fortune that nobody was seriously injured.
" In the past two weeks alone there have been similar attacks on my own home and on the homes of Belfast Sinn Féin councillors Chrissie McAuley and Fra McCann. Those carrying out these attacks are operating across greater West Belfast and have accurate and up to date information about the addresses of Sinn Féin Representatives. One obvious source of such information is the PSNI.
" It is now very clear that there is an ongoing and orchestrated campaign of intimidation being carried out against Sinn Féin. If this was happening to any other political party there would be a media and political outcry. But as with the campaign of British state sponsored murder carried out against our party in the late 1980s and early 1990s these attacks are being largely ignored.
" This sort of intimidation will not deter Sinn Féin from representing the electorate. We will not be intimidated from continuing to provide a much needed service for the communities we represent. Those responsible for these attacks and those providing the information for them to take place need to reflect upon that reality." ENDS
Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe, who attended the trial of the Colombia 3 as an observer said "it is now exactly one week since Martin McCauley, Jim Monaghan and Niall Connolly were found not guilty of serious charges in Colombia yet they continue to be held in one of the most dangerous jails in the world because the Colombian Government refuses to provide suitable security for them on their release." Deputy Crowe said "I would call on people throughout Ireland to keep up the campaign until the three men are brought home safely."
Deputy Crowe said:
"A week has now passed since Judge Acosta returned his verdict and found Martin McCauley, Jim Monaghan and Niall Connolly not guilty of the serious charges that they faced in Colombia. But one week on, the three men remain in La Modelo - one of the most dangerous prisons in the world - because the Colombian authorities refuse to provide adequate security for them and the two representatives of the Bring them Home campaign who are in Bogota awaiting the mens release.
"Given the grave concerns for their safety, it is vital that international attention remain on this case until the men come home. I would call on all those who worked so hard to highlight this case over the last three years to stay involved in the campaign until the three men are brought home safely."ENDS
Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator, Mid Ulster MP Martin McGuinness has welcomed today's meeting between Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minster Tony Blair and their renewed focus on the peace process.
Mr McGuinness said:
"Sinn Fein has remained engaged with the two governments.
"Our discussions intensified over recent days. and we urged them to adopt an urgent and focussed appraoch to ensure forward movement. I, therefore, welcome today's meeting between the two governments.
"We left the two governments in no doubt about the difficulties that recent developments have created nor should we underestimate the deep difficulties facing us. But despite these difficulties
"I am firmly of the view that, with political will, good faith and determination on all sides, early progress can be made." ENDS
Also in response to Sunday Times funding story
A SF spokesperson described the media cl
Sinn Féin Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald speaking at today's march organised by 'another Europe is possible' campaign called on parties and organisation on the left to campaign together, not just in Ireland, but with other people right across Europe for a different kind of Europe, an alternative Europe, a Europe for the people, and not for profit.
Ms McDonald said:
"It is good to see such a fine turnout despite the hysteria in the media and from security sources designed to scare people away from taking part in this event.
"We are here to welcome the new EU member states even if it is a welcome tinged with concern because they are entering the EU as second class states, as we predicted during the Nice campaign, with restrictions put in place by the member states. The European Union is one designed for the free movement of capital, but the restricted movement of people.
"I think it is worth remembering the origins of May Day lie as a day not just of protest, but of commemoration. May Day was first organised to remember five men, all trade unionists, and all anarchists as well, who were executed by the American Government during the campaign for a 40 hour week. And like today, the media and political establishment ridiculed and opposed those people who wanted social change.
"Like those men and the hundreds of thousands of others who campaigned for a shorter working week, we believe that change is possible, that another Europe is possible. One where 68 million people are not living in poverty, where our public services are not systematically privatised and where Irish neutrality is protected from those people in Europe, and in Ireland, who wish to do away with it.
"There are people here from every left wing political party and organisation in the state. If we are to defeat the big business driven agenda of European integration, we must focus on the 90% of issues on which we are united, and not the 10% where we disagree. If we are to defeat the EU Constitution, we must put aside our differences and campaign together, not just in Ireland, but with other people right across Europe for a different kind of Europe, an alternative Europe, a Europe for the people, and not for profit."ENDS
A young Sinn Féin local election candidate has challenged the Government to explain what it is doing to increase voter turn-out after a warning from the National Youth Council that up to 100,000 young people eligible to vote may not be able to cast their ballot on June 11th because they are not on the electoral register.
25-year-old Ciarán Mac Annraoi, a former student activist running in the Taoiseach's North Inner City constituency, asked: "Just what is the Government doing to increase voter turn-out?
"It's not apathy that stops young people voting - it's the awkward and time-consuming process of registration that puts them off. Voter registration drives could be carried out in colleges and shopping centres well in advance of elections. Even better would be for the Government to introduce automatic registration for people when they turn 18.
"It is no good Government ministers wringing their hands about low voter turn-outs when they refuse to make things easier for people to register and to cast their votes.‰
People who are 18 on or before June 11th are eligible to vote. Everyone who is ordinarily resident in Ireland can vote in the local elections. Irish and EU citizens can vote in the European elections. Only Irish citizens can vote in the referendum on citizenship.
Ciarán Mac Annraoi said that voters can still register by getting forms from any post office, Garda station, local authority office or website, courthouse, public library, or Sinn Féin. Applicants then need to present proof of identity at a Garda station and have the form signed by a Garda.
"If people want the Government to listen, they need to use their vote, however much the Government might try to put them off."ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil Group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD will today lead the party's delegation to attend the official ceremony to welcome the 10 new Accession states to the EU. Deputy Ó Caoláin will be joined by his colleagues, Arthur Morgan TD, Sean Crowe TD, and EU candidates Mary Lou McDonald' (Dublin) and Bairbre de Brún (Six Counties). Deputy Ó Caoláin today said that 'the newly enlarged EU must be built on a foundation of equality, cultural tolerance and social justice.'
Speaking before leading a Sinn Féin delegation to the official ceremony welcoming the 10 accession states to the EU, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"On behalf of Sinn Féin, I wish to take this opportunity to welcome the 10 Accession states to the EU. We extend a warm welcome to the states of the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
"The newly enlarged EU must be built on a foundation of equality, cultural tolerance and social justice. May 1st 2004 provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to reassess the current EU model.
"Unfortunately, the current direction of the EU reflects the will of big business and the large, wealthy and militaristic member states. Most European states have already begun to restrict access to workers from the accession states. This is not the type of EU that Sinn Féin wants to be involved in.
"Sinn Féin wants an EU that leads the way in the protection of civil liberties and protects the fundamental human rights of its citizens. We want an EU of equals. A globally responsible EU. An economically and socially just EU. We want to be part of an EU with institutions that promote national collective and individual rights. A Union that works towards full employment, housing, health and education for all its citizens. We want to build a Europe that leads the way in the cancellation of debt in the developing world, that is nuclear free, that protects the environment and that welcomes and trades fairly with other regions.
"Sinn Féin will continue to strive towards these goals."ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking in Belfast this morning extended a warm welcome to the ten accession states which become part of the European Union today. Mr Adams said "The EU is a rich and colourful tapestry of cultures and the new states will add to this. He said 'It is important that the good will which exists today continues into the future and these states have the same opportunities within the EU as current states and are not treated as second class states in Europe. The Irish government should recognise this in the upcoming Constitution talks and bring the process back to a Europe of equals and away from an EU superstate with its own army."
Mr Adams said:
"I want to extend a warm welcome to the ten accession states joining the EU today. They have much to offer the EU - a union which is already a rich and colourful tapestry of cultures. It is important that the good will which exists today continues into the future and these states have the same opportunities within the EU as the current states.
"When Ireland joined the EEC in 1973, it was considered a 'poor' country, one that might detract from the successful economic strides that the existing countries were making. But we joined the union with an equal voice at the table. The same is not true today. They are joining a two tier Europe. Whether it is in relation to unequal access to the CAP or how decisions are made, the accession states are not joining a Europe of equals. In the 26 Counties for example - while it is welcome that their citizens can come here to work freely - if they fall between jobs, the government has put a block on them claiming social welfare benefits. What sort of message does that send out?
"The current Draft EU Constitution reflects much of what is wrong with the European Union. Today, the EU represents and facilitates the agendas of big business and the powerful member states, to the detriment of the smaller nations, and particularly militarily neutral states. The Draft Constitution in its current form, will move us even closer towards an EU superstate with its own army.
"The current direction of the EU is not inevitable. It can and should be changed.Sinn Féin calls upon the Irish Presidency to use its influence to support an EU which protects its citizens and endorse a Constitution which places the sovereignty of member states at its core.
"I would like to say to the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia, from myself, and the Sinn Féin party and its supporters, Fáilte romhaibh go léir." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP and Chief negotiator Martin McGuinness this afternoon met the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen in Dublin. Speaking following the meeting Mr. Adams said:
"We had a good meeting. Sinn Féin's focus is on making progress and resolving the issues that have bedeviled the process for so long."ENDS
Ógra Shinn Féin will join tomorrow's May Day protests, organised by Another Europe is Possible, at 12 noon at the Central Bank on Dame Street. Members of OSF will have a float with street theatre and music - at the Carnival and March, which will proceed to Phoenix Park.
Speaking prior to the march Ógra Shinn Féin Chairperson Mickey Bravender said:
"There has been a lot of unfounded hysteria in the media about the protests planned for May Day but little attention as to what the protests are actually about. Ógra Shinn Féin welcome the 10 accession states into the European Union but we also believe that new member states and old, need to have a debate about the kind of EU that we are building. We are opposed to a Europe written on terms dictated by big business and corporate lobbyists.
"We believe another Europe is possible. One where 55 million men, women and children are not living in poverty, where vital public services are not open to privatisation and where the ongoing militarisation of the EU and erosion of Irish neutrality is halted, and reversed.
"Tomorrow we will be protesting at the failure of the Government to make the Irish language an official working language within the European Union. We will also be supporting people from the Basque Country who are calling for support for Basque Independence.
"I am calling on people to see through the hype and the spin and join the march and carnival in Dublin on May Day." ENDS
A Sinn Féin delegation led by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, will attend the official ceremony to welcome the 10 new Accession states to the EU. Deputy Ó Caoláin will be joined by his colleagues, Arthur Morgan TD, Sean Crowe TD, and EU candidates Mary Lou McDonald (Dublin) and Bairbre de Brún (Six Counties).
The ceremony will be held in Dublin Castle at 11.30am.
Speaking today Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
On behalf of Sinn Féin, I wish to take this opportunity to welcome the 10 Accession states to the EU. May 1st 2004 is a unique day, and should be used to celebrate cultural diversity and tolerance.
Sinn Féin extends a warm welcome to the states of the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. ENDS
Immediately after the official Accession ceremony, Sinn Féin Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald will be speaking at the Another Europe is Possible march on Dame Street, Dublin. The march is scheduled to commence at 12 noon.
The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Natural Resources Martin Ferris has expressed disappointment at the decision by Mayo County Council to allow Shell to proceed with its planned development at Bellanaboy Wood, County Mayo. The company plans to construct facilities there to cater for gas to be brought onshore from the Corrib Field.
Deputy Ferris said: "I share the disappointment of many over this decision. Not only are there grave doubts regarding the environmental impact of the facility, but there are also strong economic arguments against allowing this project to proceed under the current licensing terms which mean that there is no long term benefit to the Irish people. Until the oil and gas multinationals are subject to royalties and until the state reclaims a 50% stake in any find, it is better that the gas is left where it is.
"I am also deeply unhappy with the failure to address the safety of the actualpipeline which will bring the gas onshore. Part of its route brings it below Dooncarton Hill where the landslide took place last September. Despite what was said by Shell at the time, and repeated by Minister Ahern, had the pipeline been in place it would have been severed by the landslide. That risk will remain." ENDS
Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has accused the SDLP of 'defending discrimination'. Ms Gildernew's comments come after the SDLP MLA Tommy Gallagher praised the new voting legislation was has led to over 200,000 people being disenfranchised.
Ms Gildernew said:
" The legislation which governs elections in the six counties was passed at the behest of the SDLP in alliance with the unionist parties. It has resulted in over 200,000 people being disenfranchised. It directly discriminates against those living in working class areas, the young and those with disabilities or learning difficulties.
" Indeed only a matter of weeks ago the SDLP MLA John Dallat criticised the regulations, now we have Tommy Gallagher praising them. The SDLP cannot have it both ways.
" The SDLP promotion of this discriminatory legislation is disgraceful. They need to review their position and begin to support the principle of one person one vote. Any examination of the current electoral register with the census figures clearly shows that this is not the case in the six counties. The SDLP stance has the potential to undo much of the efforts of the Civil Rights movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The SDLP are in effect directly defending discrimination." ENDS
Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Kathy Stanton has expressed alarm after the attempted abduction of a 14-year old school boy on his way to school in North Belfast this morning. Ms Stanton said:
"The 14-year-old St Patrick's College School pupil was on his way to school this morning at about 8.30 when he was approached by two men driving a red car as he made his way from the Cliftonville Road to school on the Antrim Road past Brookfield. The schoolboy was asked if he was a Catholic and then the men attempted to abduct him.
"This is the second attempted abduction of a Catholic in this area within the past week. The earlier incident, that also involved a St Patrick's college schoolboy, occurred in the Newington area less than 100 yards away from this latest incident.
"I would urge nationalists throughout North Belfast to be extremely vigilant as there appears to be a concerted effort by a unionist paramilitary group to abduct a Catholic.
"This appear to be part of a pattern increasing unionist paramilitary activity throughout North Belfast which will only increase tensions in the run up to the Orange Order marching season." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government Arthur Morgan has welcomed the findings of the E-voting Commission that the e-voting system to be introduced in this State is not yet trustworthy or proved secure. He also welcomed the Government's decision not to go ahead with the introduction of e-voting.
Deputy Morgan said, "Sinn Fein welcomes the findings of the Commission on Electronic Voting. It vindicates the position we adopted at a very early stage. Minister Martin Cullen attempted to stifle the debate around the introduction of electronic voting and its potential dangers and implications from the very beginning. He arrogantly dismissed concerns raised by computer science experts, members of the public and opposition parties. The absence of a verifiable voter trail and the failure to publish the source code represented fatal flaws in the Government's plans for the introduction of e-voting.
"The findings of the Commission are a clear indictment of Minister Cullen's inability to perform his Ministerial duties. He was determined to go ahead with electronic voting regardless of the genuine concerns which existed regarding its reliability and accuracy. During the course of the debate on the Electoral Amendment Bill 2004 Minister Cullen said he would accept responsibility if the system was proved to be flawed or insecure. It is clear now that Minister Cullen's position is completely untenable and he must go.
"The Government's statement that they will not now go ahead with E-voting is the first sensible decision taken in relation to this matter. Through their arrogance and bullying millions of euro of taxpayers money has been wasted on this seriously flawed project, which was neither necessary nor required."ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Arthur Morgan T.D. today castigated Minister of State with responsibility for Housing Noel Ahern for the Government's inaction in the face of the alarming decline in the level of local authority housing stock. Deputy Morgan accused the Government of having no strategy to house the 130,000 people currently on housing waiting lists. He was questioning Minister of State Ahern on the findings contained in the recent report of the Central Statistics Office on the 2002 Census 'Volume 13 - Housing' which shows that the number of Local Authority Housing rented dwellings has declined in every census since 1961 and has now hit an all time low of 88,000 or 6.9% of all housing units.
Deputy Morgan said:
"Is the Minister of State and indeed the Government not alarmed that at a time when we have such a large number of people on local authority waiting lists that housing stock has fallen to an all time low? This is a clear indicator of the absolute failure of this government, which has been in office since 1997, to address the severe lack of social housing.
"The funding announced by the Minister last week was merely a typical Fianna Fáil election stunt and will only provide for the construction of 5,500 dwellings. This is pitiful when one considers that there are 48,000 or 130,000 families on the housing waiting lists. Ad hoc announcements of funding immediately prior to an election does not indicate that this Government has any real intention of providing for the housing needs of those people - many of whom have been waiting for years - on local authority waiting lists. It is scandalous that the Government does not have a strategy to tackle the housing crisis.
"Is the Minister aware that many Local Authorities are increasingly abandoning their responsibilities for housing? This is the case with Dublin City Council which has indicated its intention to get out of its responsibilities for housing altogether within the next ten years. Other local authorities are not replacing stock which is being sold to tenants, or they are handing over flat complexes to voluntary housing associations or are entering into Public Private Partnerships for regeneration projects which do not include any replacement social housing.
"This Government's record on housing is abysmal and it looks unlikely to improve as long as Minister of State Noel Ahern remains at the helm"ENDS