Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that a definitive date for elections must be the starting point for progress.
Ms Gildernew said:
"This weekend the focus is on the continuing tensions within the Ulster Unionist Party. The UUC appears to be the only issue that the British government, in particular, is treating with any urgency. Yet there is no sense of urgency around the stagnation of the peace process and Good Friday Agreement.
"All it appears that the British government are intent on doing is undermining the integrity of the Agreement by stepping outside its‚ terms to meet the needs of factions within unionism.
"The British government must stop pandering to Unionism. The rights and entitlements of citizens cannot be held to ransom because Unionists refuse to accept change.
"Also, and crucially, Mr. Blair must set a firm date for the elections - without qualification or precondition. The fundamental right to vote cannot be withheld. It is a basic democratic right. A date for the elections will create a new political context, injecting a much needed dynamic back into a process that is stagnating." ENDS
Sinn Féin TD and Spokesperson on Education Seán Crowe has said that he is shocked and appalled at the Government's decision to remove childcare support from participants on the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme. Describing the cuts as 'an assault on the weakest and most vulnerable sections of society' he has called on Education Minister Dempsey to reverse his decision immediately. He said 'Once again we see the most disadvantaged sections of society being stripped of essential services so this governments disastrous budget can come in on target. It's short sighted and defies logic and will causes huge difficulties for 1,338 parents, forcing many of them off VTOS run courses concerns."
Deputy Crowe said:
"The Department of Education has contacted VTOS Centres and participants this week to inform them that, effective immediately, funds will no longer be made available for childcare support for those availing of their courses. Where will this decision leave the 1,338 parents and 1,672 children affected by this ultimatum?
"These funds were provided by the Department of Education and Science to VECs for childcare support to encourage parents to take part in Youthreach, Senior Traveller Training Centre programmes for early school leavers and the Vocational Training Opportunity Schemes for the unemployed
"This money - €63.50 benefit per week per child - allowed many VTOS participants to participate in these courses and help them back into the workforce. With crèches and childminders charging over €800 per month in Dublin, many of these students will be forced to withdraw from their courses.
"Yet again we see essential services being withdrawn from the most disadvantaged sections of society so that this governments disastrous budget can come in on target. It's short sighted and defies logic and I call on the Minister for Education to reverse the decision immediately. This new reality means that less pupils will be taking up educational courses and more and more families will be caught up in an endless cycle of poverty.
"Furthermore, the timing of the decision completely beggars belief. At this late stage, in many cases one week before new courses begin, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for parents to make alternative childcare arrangements."ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP and Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP this morning met the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Foreign Minister Brian Cowen in Government Buildings. The main focus of the meeting was the need for the date for the assembly elections to be set so that confidence can be restored in the process.
Mr. Adams said: 'Unless the process is given some urgency, unless there is some sense of acceleration in it then we will see all the progress we have made frittered away. The only way that this acceleration can be achieved is for a definite date to be set for the election.'
Speaking afterwards Mr. Adams said:
"This was a good meeting, our first since the summer break. We reviewed what happened over the last number of months and focused on what needs to happen now to get the political process back on track.
"It is now almost one year since the institutions were suspended and unless the process is given some urgency, unless there is some sense of acceleration in it then we will see all the progress which we have made frittered away. The only way that this acceleration can be achieved is for a definite date to be set for the Assembly elections. We need to see the right to vote restored and confidence put back into the process."
Commenting on today's announcement in relation to the Independent Monitoring Commission Mr. Adams said:
"Everyone knows that this Commission was established to appease unionism and since it was first put forward it has been tinkered with and diluted to meet the needs of factions within unionism.
"Our greatest difficulty with this particular Commission is that the Good Friday Agreement has been fundamentally changed to give authority to a British Minister that he did not previously have under the Agreement. They stepped outside the Agreement to give him this power.
"While we fully support people being held to account, we will not support a mechanism that is totally outside of the Agreement."ENDS
Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty reacting to today's announcement by British Direct Rule Minister Ian Pearson that he is setting up a special fund to encourage the development of direct new air routes has welcomed the move but has called for the development to have a degree of an All Ireland focus.
Mr Doherty said:
"This move which will see reduced landing charges for carriers on selected and targeted new routes will greatly benefit both the tourist economy and the business economy throughout Ireland and must be welcomed in this light.
"I would, however, hope that there will be an All-Ireland dimension to all of this. Given that in recent months we have seen air carriers cut back on a number of internal flights in Ireland I would hope that these moves, coupled with the ever developing All Ireland economy, would offer an opportunity to re-establish, and indeed build greater All-Ireland air transport links. It is also vital that regional airports outside of Belfast are also supported given the weakness in road and rail transport infrastructure, particularly West of the Bann." ENDS
Sinn Féin Upper Bann Representative Dr Dara O'Hagan has welcomed the publication of the independent report into the death of a Romanian baby and serious injury of his twin brother after they were adopted and called for urgent action to tackle the weaknesses in child protection and adoption regulations identified by the report.
Dr O'Hagan said:
"This report into this dreadful catalogue of events highlights serious weaknesses in monitoring, child protection and adoption regulations.
"The report highlights lack of communication, lack of team work and basic weak management in the Craigavon and Banbridge Community HSS Trust and the South Health Board.
"Since this incident there has been some progress with the introduction of the Inter-county Adoption Bill that will improve the protection of children adopted from countries such as Romanian by the former Minister for Health Bairbre de Brún.
"It makes specific provisions to regulate inter-county adoption and bring us in line with European standards and the 1993 Hague Convention which set out the minimum standards for the adoption process to operate in the best interests of the child. In this case neither the Board nor Trust properly monitored the inter-county adoption process or the well being of these Romanian twins after their arrival here.
"Urgent action is required to tackle these weaknesses in child protection and the implementation of adoption regulations that have been identified by this report. Fundamentally the failure of different parts of the Health and Social Services in the Craigavon Banbridge area to communicate effectively with each other must be addressed." ENDS
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Sue Ramsey has expressed her support for the industrial action taken by social workers.
Ms Ramsey said:
"The reality is that there is a significant shortfall in the number of social workers needed to deliver the levels of service that are required to meet the level of need in our communities and to fulfil the obligations of the department.
"This means that this vital service is over stretched and workers are under intense pressure and there are increased risks faced by the most vulnerable people in our society. It has also hit recruitment. Social workers are taking on additional responsibilities without additional pay.
"Sinn Féin support the argument that social work grades should be linked to the pay scales of other key health service staff such as community nurses and health visitors. Such developments could act as an incentive to tackle the problems in recruitment and staffing levels." ENDS
Commenting on the latest figures on waiting lists, Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Cllr Sue Ramsay welcomed the fact that there was continuing evidence that waiting list numbers were coming under control as a testament to the measures put in place by former Health Minister Bairbre de Brún
"The figures released today show that the enormous effort that Bairbre de Brún put in to bringing our waiting lists under control are beginning to show some signs of dividends. It is to Bairbre's credit that there now appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel.
"This is the third quarter in succession that there has been a drop in inpatient waiting lists. It‚s a small decrease but over the last 12 months there has been an almost 8% drop in total numbers of inpatients waiting lists and for the same period 2,000 more people received elective treatment. These figures are continuing evidence that waiting list numbers were coming under control and a testament to the measures put in place by former Health Minister Bairbre de Brún.
"However, sustained progress in tackling the long-term problem of waiting lists would benefit from the return of the institutions and a Minister who is in the position to give this problem their full attention. ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil Group leader Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called on Health Minister Micheál Martin to abolish Comhairle na nOspidéal without delay and for the role of all 'bodies of influence' who impact on health service provision in this State to be urgently reviewed. He was speaking following reports that Comhairle na nOspidéal are set to propose that midwifery services should not now come to Monaghan Hospital, as had been promised.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"The loss of our maternity services and the further crushing blow that even midwifery will not now come to Monaghan is something that will cause huge anger. The efforts of those, who have championed the hospital and health care needs of the people of this county are being brushed aside by faceless government appointees and the representative voices of health professionals - people who have enormous power over the direction of our health services but who are accountable to nobody.
"It is time that the Minister and this Government accept their responsibilities. They would have us believe that they are neither responsible for what has happened nor required to act in defence of our health care needs. Minister Martin's Macbeth-like washing of his hands of all responsibility is enough to make anyone sick.
"Comhairle na nOspidéal are a quango of self-interests who have no understanding whatsoever of the needs and fears of real people, real communities. Comhairle's proposals also expose the real reason for the delay in moving forward with the recommendations in the initial Kinder report. No one will convince me that those responsible for delaying the proposal to site midwifery units in Monaghan and Dundalk were not aware and awaiting this Comhairle report which well and truly buries any prospect of even a midwifery service coming to Monaghan General Hospital.
"I am infuriated by the gall of these people who expect us to believe that their opinions, which bear such influence on the shape of health care delivery in this State, were reached independently of the legion of other reports and recommendations regarding the future of services at Monaghan General Hospital.
"It is time for the Minister to stand up to these vested interests. I am calling on him to abolish Comhairle na nOspidéal and to immediately review the role of all of those bodies of influence, who are accountable to nobody, but who have such control over our health services." ENDS
Sinn Féin North Belfast representative Gerry Kelly has called on Unionists politicians and community leaders to end the campaign of intimidation and attack being orchestrated by Unionist paramilitaries against people living in the Deerpark Road area in North Belfast. Mr Kelly said:
"Thirty years ago unionist paramilitaries tried to burn people out their homes in exactly this same area. This week alone 2 families have been forced to leave the area because of attacks and intimidation.
"These attacks are clearly being orchestrated by the UDA. Today's attack is a concerted attack on this community. It is very serious.
"It is time that Unionist political leaders and community leaders used their energies to bring an end to this anti-nationalist pogrom." ENDS
Sinn Féin Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew speaking today at the re-opening of the inquest for Roseanne Mallon said:
"This inquest basically boils down to two issues. Firstly the British State colluded with those who carried out this killing and have acted to prevent the truth being established ever since. They engaged in state sponsored assassination of citizens.
"The second major issue is the continuing failure of the PSNI to co-operate with the Inquest into this killing and many others. The PSNI are actively attempting to subvert this inquest and prevent the truth being established in the same manner that they adopted with the inquest into the killing of Pearse Jordan. They have consistently failed to provide evidence demanded by the coroner. It is clear that the PSNI approach to these inquests mirrors that of the RUC. This approach is driven by a desire to prevent the truth emerging and to frustrate efforts to provide justice for bereaved families.
"The families of those people killed through collusion will not rest until the truth surrounding the murder of their loved ones is established. Sinn Féin will continue to support these families in their fight for truth and justice." ENDS
Former Executive Health Minister Bairbre de Brún, selected as Sinn Féin's candidate to fight the European elections in the Six Counties, has expressed confidence that Sinn Féin can win a seat in the Six Counties and return a strong All Ireland team of MEP's to the European Parliament in next years European Elections.
Ms de Brún said:
"I believe the story of the European elections will be the story of Sinn Féin when we secure our first ever representation in the European Parliament and it is here in the Six Counties and in our capital city Dublin that we will start the journey.
"This is an important election for Sinn Féin, probably the most important EU election that we have ever faced. Sinn Féin is contesting this election to win, to return a Sinn Féin MEP for the Six Counties and to be part of Sinn Féin's all Ireland team in Europe This is a realisable goal, given the almost 120,000 votes for Mitchel McLaughlin and the considerable rise in the Sinn Féin vote in the Westminster elections since then.
"We have been a leading voice in the debate on the future direction of the European Union. We are also putting forward a clear demand for an all-Ireland approach towards the European Union and its institutions. Whether it is in relation to funding, infrastructure, economic development and most recently agriculture it is clear that the Six Counties has suffered greatly by being linked to Britain rather than the rest of Ireland.
"The next twelve months will be dominated by events in Europe - Dublin taking over the Presidency of the European Union, negotiations on the draft new EU Constitution, World Trade talks, the reform of CAP and redrafting the Common Fisheries Policy.
"The EU of today is a changed entity from that which Ireland joined 30 years ago. The proposed changes in EU structures and institutions envisaged under the draft constitution pose a significant challenge for republicans. We must clearly explain why we don't want an EU that is a military or economic superpower, but we do want an EU that can be force for democracy and justice not just inside its borders but also throughout the world.
"We must ensure that we lead the debate and discussion about creating a democratic Europe that can be accountable and transparent in its policy making and decision taking.
"We must have the best possible EU that works towards full employment, housing and educating all its citizens and creating institutions that are really democratic promoting national and individual rights.
"Republicans want to be part of a Europe that is beacon to the rest of the world not just in terms of the high standards of living and democracy it creates for its own citizens but in how it treats the other states and regions in the world. We want to build a Europe leads the way on the cancellation of debt in the developing world, that is nuclear free, that protects the environment, and that doesn‚t create a fortress and lock its doors to other regions, but welcomes, aids and trades fairly.
"Sinn Féin politics are about democracy, equality, the rights of citizens and of nations. In the last decade we have gone from strength to strength as our agenda for change begins to have a real impact. We want to bring this agenda to the heart of Europe.
"Beginning today I will be going door to door in the Six Counties meeting ordinary people, community groups, women's groups, trade unions, business people and more seeking a mandate for change in Europe." ENDS
Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams MP has called on 'the Irish community in the Brent East constituency, and those others who are interested in human rights matters, to rally round and give their support and help to Kelly McBride, the sister of Peter McBride, who was murdered by two British soldiers.'
Mr Adams said:
"Sinn Féin supports this initiative. It provides the McBride family with an opportunity to raise their demand that the two Scots Guards convicted of murdering Peter McBride should be removed from the British Army." ENDS
Kelly McBride, a sister of Peter McBride who was murdered by two British soldiers, is to stand as a candidate in this month's Westminster by-election in the Brent East constituency of London. She is standing to highlight the campaign to have the two soldiers who killed her brother dismissed from the British Army.
Sinn Féin Dáil Group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that the Government, and in particular Minister Noel Dempsey, have serious questions to answer in relation to last night's shock resignation of Justice Mary Laffoy.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"The Cabinet is meeting today for the first time in six weeks. At their last meeting they took 60 decisions, many of which have been leaked in the intervening weeks to give the appearance of a government at work, including in recent days the proposed change of remit for the Laffoy Commission.
"It is clear that something serious has occurred to result in Justice Mary Laffoy resigning from her position on the Commission and that the government were surprised by the announcement. The government has serious questions to answer including when they took the decision to change the remit, who was consulted on this matter, their failure to properly resource the Commission's work and ultimately what occurred to result in Justice Mary Laffoy leaving her position in this manner.
"There are growing concerns about the government attitude of establishing tribunals and commissions as a panacea to serious problems which need to be addressed in our society. At this stage we need to question the route being taken, the broadening of remits which is resulting in tribunals running for years, the resources being spent and how effective this process has been in bringing to account those responsible.
"Throughout the work of the government bad planning and a lack of forward thinking is the common thread, whether it is the costs and timing of road and rail infrastructure such as the port tunnel, Luas, or the crisis in our so-called health service. Now the work and effectiveness of much needed tribunals is also victim to the bad planning quick fix mentality that pervades the work of government."ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this evening congratulated Bairbre De Brún on her selection as party candidate for the Six Counties in next years European Union elections. Mr. Adams said that building on the party's success in the Westminster elections we have for the first time a real opportunity to return a Sinn Féin MEP for the Six Counties as part of an all-Ireland team.
Mr. Adams said:
"Last May I predicted that the story of the General Election in the 26 Counties would be the rise of Sinn Féin. Next year, I believe the story of the European elections will again be Sinn Féin as we secure our first ever representation in the European Parliament. And it is here in the Six Counties and in our capital city Dublin that we will start the journey.
"Work on this campaign didn't start today or yesterday but with the last European election when Mitchel McLaughlin received almost 120,000 votes. Our success in the Westminster elections two years later, when we became the largest nationalist party in the Six Counties, combined with the overall increase in nationalist voting strength means that Sinn Féin has the potential to take a seat in Europe in 2004. It means there is a real chance that two nationalist MEPs will be returned."ENDS
Note to editor: Marylou McDonald was selected as the candidate for the Dublin constituency last March. The selection convention for Munster will take place on Saturday afternoon in Limerick City. Contesting the convention are Cork City Councillor Jonathan O'Brien, David Cullinane from Waterford and Nancy Irwin from Limerick.
Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle member Bairbre de Brún was this evening chosen as the party's candidate for the Six Counties in next year's European election. Speaking following her selection at the convention in Belfast Bairbre de Brún said that 'Sinn Féin is contesting this election to win, to return a Sinn Féin MEP for the Six Counties and to be part of Sinn Féin's all Ireland team in Europe.'
Ms de Brún said:
"The next twelve months will be dominated by events in Europe - Dublin taking over the Presidency of the European Union, negotiations on a new EU Constitution, World Trade talks, CAP reform and redrafting the Common Fisheries Policy.
"All this will have a profound effect of people living across Ireland. The EU of today is a changed entity from that which Ireland joined 30 years ago. Sinn Féin are the radical alternative to the failed politics of the establishment parties who have been invisible for so long in Europe.
"In the last decade Sinn Féin has gone from strength to strength as our agenda for change begins to have a real impact. We want to bring this agenda to the heart of Europe. We are contesting this election to win, to return a Sinn Féin MEP for the Six Counties. This is a realisable goal.
"Beginning today I will be going door to door in the Six Counties meeting ordinary people, community groups, women's groups, trade unions, business people and more seeking a mandate for change in Europe." ENDS
Profile of Bairbre de Brún - Sinn Féin EU candidate for Six Counties
Bairbre de Brún is the Sinn Féin spokesperson on equality and human rights. She was the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and was an Assembly member for West Belfast. She was born in Dublin and now lives in the Andersonstown area of Belfast. She is a teacher by profession and taught most recently in the growing sector of Irish medium education.
Bairbre began her political career as a member of the National Committee against the H-Blocks and Armagh Gaol in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She worked in the Women's Department and was head of both the Cultural and International Departments.
She is a fluent Irish speaker and an expert in human rights and equality issues. She is a member of the Ard Chomhairle and of the Sinn Féin negotiating team and has travelled extensively both in Ireland and abroad to promote the peace process. Elected as a Sinn Féin Assembly member for West Belfast in 1998, Bairbre was nominated by the party to the newly formed Executive as Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety.
Sinn Féin Dáil Leader and Cavan/ Monaghan Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has welcomed the move by the Attorney General to instruct the Dublin City Coroner to re-open the inquest into the Monaghan Bombing of 17th May 1974 which claimed the lives of seven people. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"The Dublin/ Monaghan bombings of 17th May 1974 continue to represent the single greatest loss of life in the recent conflict. The families of those killed have yet to receive the truth of what happened on that day and what role British forces played in the murder of their loved ones.
"I welcome the fact that the Dublin City Coroner Brian Farrell has been directed to re-open the inquest into the deaths of those killed in Monaghan following the decision in June to resume the inquest into the deaths of those killed in Dublin.
"The inquests alongside the report of Judge Barron may assist the families in their search for truth. However, I believe that an independent inquiry into the bombings will be necessary to finally determine who was behind the attacks and what role British military forces played on that day. The Dublin and British governments must accede to this reasonable and longstanding demand from the survivors and relatives of the victims."ENDS
Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson, North Belast representative Gerry Kelly, commenting on the meeting between the Finucane family and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said:
"The identies of those involved in the killing of Pat Finucane are well known. The fact that agencies of the British state used the UDA to carry out this killing is beyond doubt. What is required now is a full independent judicial inquiry to establish exactly who authorised and planned this killing - where the chain of command leads to.
"We are long past the time when the British government can continue to evade its responsibility. There can be no more excuses, no more barriers put in the path of the Finucane families demand for justice.
"Sinn Féin wlll continue to highlight this issue and will continue to support the Finucane family and others in their demand for full disclosure and for the lid to be lifted on the scandal of state collusion."ENDS
Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin this morning announced that the selection convention for the Sinn Féin Six County European election candidate will be held tonight at 7.30pm in West Belfast.
The two candidates are former health minister Bairbre de Brún and former chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committe Cllr Francie Molloy.
Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP MIchelle Gildernew will attend the Inquest into the murder of Roseann Mallon tomorrow, Wednesday 3rd September at 10.30am in Dungannon Court House. She will be available to talk to the media.
Murder of Roseanne Mallon
Roseanne Mallon, a 70 years old woman from Cullenrammer Road, near Dungannon, County Tyrone was shot dead in her sister's home by UVF, on 8 May 1994. The weapons used in the killing were part of the haul brought to Ireland from South Africa in 1988 with the help of British Intelligence Agents.
The day before the killing two young boys disturbed a number of armed men in an old house near the scene of the shooting. The boys parents informed the RUC soon after the incident. After the shooting the RUC said the men were a hunting party. Two of Miss Mallon's nephews, who lived in the house where she was shot, were regularly harassed by RUC members and threatened that their details would be sent to the UVF.
Residents living in the area where the gunmen's car was abandoned after the shooting said none of them were questioned about the incident. Cardinal Cahal Daly, calling for an inquiry, said many questions remained unanswered.
Two months after Roseanne's death, a neighbour accidentally stumbled across several sophisticated surveillance cameras that were trained on the Mallon home. When these cameras were discovered both the RUC and the British MoD denied that they belonged to them. However, when the cameras were shown on TV the MoD admitted that they belonged to them. Even more disturbing was the revelation, which was uncovered when the Mallon's took a civil case against the British Government for trespassing on private property, that the two cameras were in position and trained on the Mallon home at the time of Roseanne's murder.
It is believed that these cameras could actually send live pictures. On top of this it was also disclosed that there were two covert dugouts with three British soldiers in each dugout who actually reported the shooting but were told to stay where they were and not to apprehend the gunmen.
In June 2003 the family of Roseanne Mallon called upon the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Summary or Arbitrary Executions to visit the Six Counties on a preliminary fact-finding mission. Martin Mallon, the nephew of Roseanne Mallon explained, "This is the only avenue that we see open. We have basically exhausted the inquest system. We've been there nine times in ten years and now the PSNI and MoD are taking about introducing certificates of immunity to protect the very people that we're trying to uncover.
" For this to ever be laid to rest and for everybody to say we know what happened, the UN needs to come in and investigate from day one right through. We want to know at what level this was sanctioned within the British Government".
Sinn Féin TD and outgoing member of South Dublin County Council Sean Crowe has accused the government of crying crocodile tears in relation to the housing crisis. He called on them to stop selling off state land for short term gain and instead use it for affordable housing. Speaking following a consulation seminar for Local Authority County Councillors organised today by Focus Ireland, Threshold, SVP and Simon, Deputy Crowe said:
"Current government strategy if actually implemented will mean at least 14 years waiting before the lists are cleared under the best possible circumstances.
"In the last 18 months house prices have continued to increase as investors returned to the market driving up prices and pushing already expensive homes out of the reach of first time buyers. It is notable that the increases in construction costs have not been anything as pronounced as the increase in house prices. The average cost of a house in Dublin is now €300,000. The average price of a house in the 26 counties as a whole is over €220,000.
"Sinn Féin believes that government intervention is necessary to deal with rising house prices. This means taking measures to control the price of building land and using available state and semi state land for affordable and social housing. It also means increased and sustained funding for government to provide housing with a target of supplying suitable accommodation within two years for 70% of applicants on the waiting lists.
"Another critical issue which needs to be addressed is the increase in homelessness in the suburbs of Dublin. The absence of any services outside of Dublin City centre is a real problem. We need to see real plans to address homelessness, which are integrated to overall housing plans.
"It is not good enough that the government cry crocodile tears on the housing crisis. They need to lead by example."ENDS