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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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has described Michael McDowell's ongoing attacks on Sinn Féin as a blatant attempt to try and stop Sinn Féin implementing its agenda for change. He was speaking as the party published its accounts.

Mr. Adams said:

"Over the last week we have seen some quite disgraceful attacks on Sinn Féin by Michael McDowell. He has repeatedly abused his position as Minister of Justice to make unsubstantiated allegations against our party and has failed to produce even one scrap of evidence to back up his malicious claims.

"Recent remarks attributed to Minister McDowell include his claim that Sinn Féin has 'deep and ongoing links with criminality' that Sinn Féin is 'morally unclean' and that he believed that the party is being funded by the proceeds of crime.

"There is no substance to these allegations, whatsoever and they go beyond the normal cut and trust of acceptable political comment, not least because Michael McDowell is speaking in his capacity as Minister of Justice.

"He knows that Sinn Féin's accounts are all properly audited and adhere to all the guidelines set out in both the 6 and 26 Counties in relation to fund-raising and spending, and were recently confirmed as such by the Standards in Public Office Commission.

"Sinn Féin is not involved in politics for economic or personal gain. Indeed within our own party we operate on an egalitarian basis and all of our elected representatives - MPs, TDs and Assembly members - receive the same salary based on the average industrial wage. The rest of the money goes to the party and to our work in the peace process and the development of our constituency services.

"But it is quite clear that Minister McDowell's attacks are really about his concern about Sinn Féin's increased electoral support and our work in bringing about change in Irish society.

"I have no doubt that Minister McDowell will pay little heed to any request from me for him to put up or shut up. He is serving a political agenda, which has little affinity with republicanism or nationalism. But others in the government do represent republican and nationalist constituents who are appalled by Minister McDowell's behaviour.

"While I believe that Mr. McDowell's attacks on Sinn Féin will have as little impact now as they did in the early 1990s when he spoke out against the Hume Adams talks and the peace process I also believe that this crude posturing does reflect a worrying trend within the political establishment in the south.

"It is no accident that the recent Assembly elections saw all the southern parties campaigning against Sinn Féin. Minister McDowell's hysterical outbursts, which have been characteristic of the more rabid Conservative elements of the British political and military establishment over the last thirty years, are evidence of the panic among conservative parties here stunned by Sinn Féin's success.

"The reality is that the electorate in the Six Counties rejected them and mandated our party as the leading pro-agreement party and as the party best able to bring about change. Such a development is obviously a nightmare for Minister McDowell. His fear now is that the southern electorate will do likewise.

"It is time that Mr. McDowell behaved as a Minister of the Irish government instead of using his undoubtedly influential position for party political posturing. He needs to accept that Sinn Féin, as a growing political party on this island, is here to stay." ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Fisheries, Martin Ferris TD, has claimed that while parts of the deal agreed at Brussels today between EU fisheries Ministers must be welcomed, that looked at overall, it is flawed and short term and will not resolve the crisis facing Irish fishermen.

Deputy Ferris said: "While I welcome the 8% increase in the overall quota for 2004, this deal will not resolve the long-term crisis affecting Irish fishermen. The vast majority of fishermen will continue to work under stringent restrictions that are making it increasingly difficult for them to survive. It is unacceptable that a country like Ireland with so much of the EU fisheries must depend on these annual midnight bargains to earn a further stay of execution for the industry. And to make matters worse, we may be fully sure that the coming year will see further efforts to place new restrictions on the Irish fleet.

"My request to the Government on Wednesday that they use the Irish Presidency of the EU to negotiate a root and branch reform of the Common Fisheries Policy was dismissed. However, that is the only thing that will ever lead to a situation where we regain some kind of control over our fisheries and a rightful share of what lies within Irish waters." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dublin EU Candidate Mary Lou McDonald today expressed disappointment at the Irish government's plans for its Presidency of the European Union. She said that it was a minimalist approach based on maintaining EU business as usual rather than putting their own stamp on the Presidency.

Ms McDonald said:

"The Irish Presidency of the European Union is clearly going to be a tidying up exercise rather than using the opportunity to set out the Irish government‚s own agenda.

"The ongoing EU focus is on enlargement, the EU constitution, Lisbon Agenda and security matters and these are hugely important issues to be addressed but there was and remains an opportunity for the Irish government to also use the six months to set out a distinctly Dublin Agenda.

"The upcoming EU Presidency provides the Irish Government the opportunity to make a major impact on policies across a range of areas and sectors in Europe.

"Sinn Féin is calling on the government to use the Presidency to make the drive for social justice and poverty eradication the main focus of its Presidency and ultimately its legacy. I believe that the government should revisit their plans for the Presidency." ENDS

SINN FÉIN'S TOP 13 RECOMMENDED INITIATIVES FOR A POSITIVE PRESIDENCY

Prioritising Global Social Justice

• Initiate a Global Social Justice Agenda (Dublin Agenda)equivalent to the Lisbon Agenda whose priorities would include UN reform,fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals including DevelopingCountry Debt Cancellation

•Initiate a process of Human Rights/Equality/PovertyProofing of all EU policies

Economic Sovereignty

•Seriously address the problems caused for particularMember States by the fact that some States are in and some are out of theeuro-zone.

•Address the need for a renegotiation of the Stabilityand Growth Pact in order to allow member states to deal effectively withthe specific problems facing their economies.

Implementing CAP Reform and supporting rural regeneration

•Ensure that the CAP reform proposal agreed atLuxembourg in June is fully implemented including full decoupling; andensure that the accession states enter the CAP on an equal basis.

•To establish a full range of complementary rural developmentprogrammes to aid farmers and rural communities in adapting to the changesbrought about by the CAP reform.

•Put complete reform of the Common Fisheries Policy onthe EU agenda

Protecting the Environment

•Campaign to make the EU a GM-Free Zone

•Reduction of emissions on an EU wide basis

Social Protection

•Campaign against the privatisation agenda of theEuropean Union in the Lisbon Agenda and for the defence of public services

•Push for the EU-wide upwards harmonisation of workersrights, including trade union recognition, workers health and safety andprotections for temporary and migrant workers.

•Push for further EU equal rights instruments includinga specific Gender Equality Directive and a Disability Directive whileprioritizing commitments to eradicate poverty and homelessness within theEU

Irish Language

•Ensure that Irish is recognised as an official andworking language of the EU.

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Sinn Féin Spokespersons on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD and Gerry McHugh, have welcomed the adoption by the European Parliament of a report on Genetically Modified food and crops. The report, which was written by German Green MEP Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf, was adopted by the Parliament yesterday.

It proposes that the EU adopt much stricter guidelines on tolerance levels for GM and on potential contamination of conventional and organic crops. The report also supports the right of Member States to declare GM free zones.

Deputy Ferris and Councillor McHugh said: "While Sinn Féin remains convinced that the island of Ireland ought to be made GM free, we welcome this report as a significant advance on the proposals put by the Commission. We particularly support the idea that states ought to be able to designate GM free zones, and we will continue to argue that the island of Ireland as a whole should be declared as such.

"It is also right that the liability for any contamination of non-GM crops be placed firmly on the GM producers themselves. In a Dáil reply this week, the Irish Government has again stated that it will support the introduction of GM products when this comes back for decision after Christmas. We believe that this is a mistake and will continue to call for a reversal of the decision and for the exclusion of GM products from the North of Ireland." ENDS

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Commenting on the publication by the Irish government of their sections of the Cory Report, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice matters Gerry Kelly demanded that the British government now publish their sections of the report.

Mr. Kelly said:

"The British government must stop stalling on inquiries into the killings in which British state agencies were involved. Judge Cory has reported yet we are now witnessing further delays, excuses and stalling. The families involved are entitled to the truth.

"Neither the British government nor its agencies have accepted responsibility for collusion, the arming, organising, resourcing and direction of loyalist death squads, the killing of hundreds of people and the protection of those responsible. There have not been thorough investigations in these cases. On the contrary British state agencies have denied involvement and systematically concealed the truth. Even in the context of the Saville Tribunal, established by the British government, the British state has withheld, hidden and destroyed vital evidence.

"There is no denying that there was a brutal conflict in this part of Ireland for 30 years and that many, many people suffered as a result. But one of the key issues, so far unacknowledged, is that the British state was involved in a policy of systematic murder and violence against whole sections of the nationalist community." ENDS

Here you can download the sections of the Cory Report published by the Irish Government today.

Section 1

Section 2

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described the Independent Monitoring Commission and the Agreement signed by the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell and the British Ambassador Stewart Eldon as "undermining the Good Friday Agreement".

Deputy Ó Caoláin said the Monitoring Commission could not be independent. He stated:

"It will not and cannot be independent. Politically, it has been established as a sop to the Ulster Unionist Party dissidents - the very dissidents who have since been made politically irrelevant by the result of the Assembly election.

The Commission will, in effect, be a creature of the British government and will rely on information from British intelligence, the British army and the PSNI to fulfil its functions. This is the effect of the Bill and of the British legislation.

"If this Commission was composed entirely of Nelson Mandelas it could not be independent.

"This is a recipe for the continuation of the British and unionist serial collapsing of the institutions and postponement of democratic elections. As we speak, the Assembly remains in suspension by order of the British government, at the behest of unionism and despite the renewed democratic mandates secured at the recent Assembly elections." ENDS

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Sinn Féin is totally opposed to this Bill. It is completely outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. It is in fact an enabling Bill for a British Act of Parliament which is itself not only outside the Good Friday Agreement but which undermines that Agreement. The Northern Ireland (Monitoring Commission) Act 2003 was not even referred to by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he spoke on this Bill in the Seanad.

I would guess that very few Members in this House have ever heard of this British legislation or are aware of its very serious implications for the peace process. Yet the Bill effectively endorses the British legislation and ratifies the Agreement between the Irish and British governments signed by Minister McDowell and the British Ambassador Stewart Eldon in Dublin on 25 November.

The British Act is a disgraceful piece of legislation and the Agreement signed by the Minister is a disgraceful Agreement which should never have been entered into by an Irish government. This party for one, as the representatives of republican opinion in this State, and as the representatives of the largest body of nationalists and republicans in the Six Counties, will not be accepting it as so many others here so regrettably seem willing to do without question.

This Dáil is being asked to rubber stamp this very serious piece of legislation with profound implications for the peace process on the very last day of the session and under a guillotine of all stages.

The very name of this Bill and of this Commission is a falsehood. It will not and cannot be independent. Politically it has been established as a sop to the Ulster Unionist Party dissidents, the very dissidents who have since been made politically irrelevant by the result of the Assembly election. The Commission will, in effect, be a creature of the British government and will rely on information from British intelligence, the British army and the PSNI to fulfil its functions. This is the effect of the Bill and of the British legislation.

I believe the McDowell/Eldon Agreement, this legislation and the British legislation, will be open to constitutional challenge as being in clear breach of the Good Friday Agreement. It is often forgotten that as well as amending Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution in 1998 the people in this jurisdiction amended Article 29 to say that the State may be bound by the Good Friday Agreement. It goes on to state that any institution 'established by or under the Agreement may exercise the powers and functions thereby conferred on it in respect of all or any part of the island of Ireland' notwithstanding any other provision in the Constitution. That very important change in the Constitution was made on the basis of the Agreement as signed by the two governments and the institutions as set out in the Agreement. The McDowell/Eldon Agreement, as implemented by the British legislation and by this legislation, undermines the Good Friday Agreement on the basis of which the people voted to change Articles 2,3 and 29.

Strand One, Article 25 of the Good Friday Agreement provides that the Assembly voting on a cross-community basis may remove a minister from office. The Northern Ireland (Monitoring Commission) Act, the British equivalent of this legislation, allows the British Secretary of State unilaterally to remove a minister from office when a motion for exclusion cannot attract cross-community support. This is in clear breach of both the spirit and the letter of the Good Friday Agreement. The British act goes further and allows the British Secretary of State to exclude someone from office in 'exceptional circumstances'.

The so-called Independent Monitoring Commission is designed to facilitate this undermining of the Agreement by the British government. It is totally unacceptable that an Irish government should be party to this through the McDowell/Eldon Agreement. The so-called independence of this Commission is glaringly exposed in Article 6 of McDowell/Eldon where it is laid down that the mechanism by which the Commission considers claims of misconduct by Ministers only involves the members of the Commission appointed by the British government.

This is a recipe for the continuation of the British and unionist serial collapsing of the institutions and postponement of democratic elections. As we speak the Assembly remains in suspension by order of the British government, at the behest of unionism and despite the renewed democratic mandates secured at the recent Assembly elections.

I do not intend to waste time addressing the detail of the functions of this Commission except to say that they are a sham. There is not even the pretence that the activities of the British government and its armed forces will be monitored in any way. They will face no sanctions, nor indeed will the Irish Government for any failures on its part.

I will not address the personnel of the Commission as established in shadow form, although I could say much about some of their backgrounds. Suffice to say that if this Commission was comprised entirely of Nelson Mandelas it could not be independent.

Article 5 of the McDowell/Eldon Agreement purports to address the issue of demilitarisation or 'normalisation' as it calls it. It is a legislative trick because it is entirely negated by Section 15. The Commission shall monitor any programme undertaken by the British only after the British decide they are going to undertake such a programme once they are 'satisfied with commitments that have been given on an end to paramilitary activity'. Otherwise the Commission can only monitor 'normalisation' at the request of the British government. So much for its so-called independence.

This Bill and this shabby Agreement come before us the very day the Irish government publishes its section of the Cory Report as the British continue their refusal to publish theirs. It comes the week after the Barron Report exposed their refusal to co-operate with the inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Yet here we are being asked to establish a Commission which will rely on the same British military, police and intelligence services for information which it will supply to the British Secretary of State and which he may use to expel a minister without a cross-community vote in the Assembly.

The British refused to co-operate with Barron and cited national security interests. The McDowell/Eldon Agreement enshrines British national security interests in Article 13. It will not be the so-called Independent Monitoring Commission that will decide what those interests are. If the British say no to any request from the Commission on the basis of national security that will be the end of the matter.

The Irish Government has stated that it is against any renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. Yet this Bill and the British legislation rewrite the Agreement without any negotiation. I urge members to reject this Bill and the associated McDowell/Eldon Agreement.

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Speaking at a press conference in Belfast this morning, Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly accused the PSNI Special Branch of leaking the addresses of Republicans to loyalists.

Mr Kelly was joined at the press conference by Cllr. Paul Maskey, who like Gerry Kelly has recently had his home attacked.

Mr Kelly said:

"Over the past number of weeks at least 12 homes belonging to republicans have been attacked in West Belfast. These included the homes of four Sinn Féin elected representatives.

"In one of the other cases the home of an elderly woman was attacked and she has up to this point felt unable to return home.

"All of the homes have been singled out. These are not random attacks. It is our belief that those carrying out the attacks have been supplied with very accurate information about the addresses of republicans in Belfast. The agency which has this information and has a record of passing it on to loyalist paramilitaries is the Special Branch.

"There has also been an attempt by the PSNI to play down these attacks in the media. They have been described as 'ball bearing attacks'. In some of the cases, but not all, ball bearings have been recovered. But these ball bearings are being fired from high powered gas weapons. They have the potential to seriously injure or even kill.

"I am urging republicans in West Belfast and indeed elsewhere to remain vigilant in the period ahead." ENDS

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Former Education Minister, Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness in light of emerging evidence in the Soham cases has said that there must be effective protection of young people and vulnerable adults.

Mr McGuinness said:

"It is vital that there is effective vetting of people working in areas that brings them into contact with young people or vulnerable adults, particularly in instances were they might be in a position of authority or influence.

"This need to occur across the island of Ireland, throughout these islands and indeed throughout Europe and worldwide." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly group leader, Newry Armagh Assembly member Conor Murphy has written to the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy urging him to allocate offices to MLA's at Stormont to allow them to get on with job they were elected to do.

Mr Murphy said:

"Sinn Féin have consistently argued that the British government's suspension of the institutions should be lifted to allow MLA's to get on with the job for which they were elected. Gerry Adams raised the issue of office accommodation and facilities for Assembly members in the immediate aftermath of the Assembly election with Mr Murphy.

"I have also raised this with senior officials at Stormont and have been told that they are waiting for instruction from the British Secretary of State to allow MLA's access to individual offices and other facilities.

"The refusal to allocate offices suggests that the British government are not serious about lifting suspension.

"These are offices that are lying empty and unused - it would cost nothing to allocate office accommodation. It is unfair to restrict the ability of elected representatives to do business with other political parties, organisations and constituents. It is also important that MLA's are in a position to effectively scrutinise legislation and policy decisions being taken by direct rule ministers.

"Mr Murphy should act as soon as possible and allow MLA's to get on with the job and as much of the work as possible that the public so clearly want us to do." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin along with Dublin Ard Chomhairle member and EU candidate Marylou McDonald, today met the British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Downing Street and urged him to co-operate fully with the inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Deputy Ó Caoláin and Mary Lou McDonald were members of the Sinn Féin delegation led by Party President Gerry Adams which met the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in London. They raised the Dublin-Monaghan bombings with the Prime Minister in the presence of the Taoiseach.

Speaking after the meeting, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"We put it to the British Prime Minister that his Government had completely failed to co-operate with the Barron Inquiry and that the inquiry was hamstrung as a result. We urged him to co-operate now and to give access to the mass of documentation that was withheld.

"Judge Barron states in his Report that the British Government's representatives told the Inquiry, at a meeting in London, that there are some 68,000 files of possible relevance in the Northern Ireland Office alone. 'The number of files in the Ministry of Defence could be counted in millions', states the Report. Despite that mass of documentation the inquiry received only a ten-page letter from the British Secretary of State in February 2002 and a similar follow-up letter. Incredibly, no copies of original documents were supplied.

"Today we urged Tony Blair to ensure the release all relevant files and to allow the survivors and the bereaved of Dublin and Monaghan to make progress towards truth and justice. The British Prime Minister undertook to contact us further on the issue. We will continue to maintain the pressure which has now built up in the wake of the Barron Report." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Arthur Morgan T.D. has slammed what he has termed "the ground rents fiasco" following replies from the Department of Finance which show that the Government is paying ground rents on Arbor Hill, the National Library and on the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Kildare Street.

Deputy Morgan said

"I received a number of replies yesterday from the Minister of State at the Department of State Tom Parlon T.D. in relation to ground rents. The revelations that the State is paying ground rents on the National Library to the Duke of Leinster is astounding. 80 years after the establishment of the Free State this should be a cause of huge embarrassment to the Government, as should the fact that the State is also paying ground rents on historic Arbor Hill. It was also revealed that the State is paying ground rent on the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment, Kildare Street but Minister Parlon's reply did not reveal information in relation to who they were paying this ground rent to.

"The replies outlined the fact that this state will be paying ground rent on Arbor Hill and the National Library forever while the ground rents lease on the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment at 27 and 27 Kildare Street will run until 2174.

"It is absolutely outrageous that the Government is burying its head in the sand on this issue. We have been promised legislation to abolish ground rents by successive governments but nothing has been delivered. Those who are bearing the real brunt of this ongoing ground rents fiasco are those private home-owners who find that their ground rent leases are about to expire and that, legally, they are faced with the choice of buying out their ground rent lease - paying 1/8 of the value of their home to the ground rent landlord - or renewing the lease for a far higher rate than they had previously been paying. Given the escalation in house prices, people are faced with demands for huge sums from their ground rent landlords and this is causing severe hardship for many people.

"Legislation to abolish ground rents must be published immediately and its quick passage through the Dáil must be facilitated." ENDS

(Text of Questions follow)

* To ask the Minister for Finance if the State pays ground rent on the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Kildare Street; if so, the amount per year; and when that ground rent lease is due to expire. - Arthur Morgan TD

The Commissioners of Public Works pay ground rent on the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment Building at 23/28 Kildare Street as follows:

For 24 Kildare Street: E7.29 per annum

For 25 Kildare Street: E7.62 per annum

For 26 Kildare Street: E47.04 per annum

For 27 Kildare Street: E18.20 per annum

The ground rent leases on Numbers 26 and 27 Kildare Street expire on 28th September 2174. The information on the tenure of the ground rent leases for Numbers 24 and 25 Kildare Street is not readily available but will be supplied to the Deputy as soon as it comes to hand.

* To ask the Minister for Finance if the State pays ground rent on the National Library, Kildare Street; if so, the amount per year; and when that ground rent lease is due to expire. -Arthur Morgan TD

The Commissioners of Public Works pay ground rent of E14.44 per annum to the Duke of Leinster for the National Library premises in Kildare Street, Dublin 2. This payment will be made annually forever.

* To ask the Minister for Finance if the State pays ground rent on Arbor Hill; if so, the amount per year; and when that ground rent lease is due to expire. - Arthur Morgan TD

The State is liable for two fee farm rents of E139.99 and E38.09 per year in respect of Arbour Hill. These rents are payable forever.

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Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew MLA commenting on today's Labour Force Figures has said that employment figures hide the true cost of poverty.

Ms Gildernew said:

"The fact that unemployment remains unchanged over the 12 month period hides the fact that there continues to be very serious unemployment black spots.

"Particularly West of the Bann, in Derry, Strabane, parts of Fermanagh and in urban areas such as North and West Belfast high levels of unemployment remain static and are unacceptable. In these areas there are also serious levels of poverty that must be addressed.

"The hidden figure showing that the numbers of people classed as 'economically inactive' also distorts the figures. Overall these figures hide the true cost of poverty that exists not just in specific geographical areas but also within vulnerable groups such as senior citizens, young people, the long term unemployed and lone parent families.

"There also still remains a considerable gap between the earnings of men and women. The unemployment rate of nearly 10% for young people aged between 18-24 is also unacceptable and points to deficits in training and education provision for this groups and the longer-term failure of New Deal in particular. The issue of long-term unemployment also shows little sign of improving.

"The reality is that the manufacturing sector continues to be in freefall, an overall decrease of 3% in manufacturing output should send out a serious warning. While the majority of new jobs are part-time which are characterised by poor employment security and low income, particularly within the service sector where the majority of new jobs are coming on stream." ENDS

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Commenting on the appearance of Gina Adair in a Bolton Court on charges linked to drugs, North Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Cathy Stanton said:

"For years and years the Lower Shankill UDA were involved in the mass importation and supply of drugs. At the same time many of those in the leadership of the so called ŒC‚ company were paid agents of the Special Branch and their behaviour was tolerated and encouraged as they were killing Catholics and nationalists at the behest of the British State.

"Yet within months of the remnants of the Lower Shankill UDA arriving in Bolton the authorities there have taken action against their criminal activity.

"This contrasts sharply with the attitude of the PSNI to Johnny Adair and his gang when they operated in Belfast. It seems that the authorities in Britain where not prepared to tolerate criminal activity simply because many of those involved in it were also Special Branch agents." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing and Justice Gerry Kelly has said that the confirmation from Bertie Ahern yesterday that the British Government would not be publishing their sections of the Cory Report 'was yet another stalling tactic by the British to try and keep the lid on the collusion scandal'.

Mr Kelly said:

"Confirmation that the British government intend to delay the publication of the Cory Report is yet another stalling tactic by the British in their attempts to keep the lid on the collusion scandal.

"The facts are now well known and accepted that the British state was involved in the importation of weapons and the targeting and murder of citizens in the six counties. They have been attempting to hide the truth of collusion for decades.

"Sinn Féin will continue to support the families of those killed through collusion and we will raise the issue of the publication of the Cory Report with the British government in our discussions this afternoon."ENDS

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West Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Fra McCann has urged republicans to remain vigilant after another three republicans had their homes attacked overnight.

Cllr. McCann said:

"Last night the homes of three republicans were attacked in the St. James area. It appears that ball bearings were fired into the houses at around 11pm. In at least one of the cases the ball bearing passed through double glazing and entered the living room which was occupied at the time.

"It was only through good fortune that nobody was seriously injured or even killed as a result of these attacks. Let us make no mistake about this, these ball bearings are being fired from handgun type weapons and are lethal.

"Last nights attacks are the latest in a series of attacks on the homes of republicans in West Belfast in recent weeks. It is my belief that they are linked and that the information is coming directly from within the Crown Forces. I am urging republicans to remain vigilant in the time ahead." ENDS

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Last night in the Dáil, Kerry North Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris raised the need to hold a public inquiry into the issues highlighted by the Barron Report. Deputy Ferris also asked that such an inquiry would consider all allegations of British military and intelligence involvement in violent incidents within the state between 1969 and 1976. In his reply, Minister for State Brian Lenihan said that the Barron Commission would report on these in the New Year, and that the question of whether to hold a public inquiry would then be considered.

In his contribution, Deputy Ferris said: "According to the Barron Report many of the documents relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings have been "lost or destroyed". For example, the Inquiry was not able to see the security file on the Dublin bombings, and there are no files on the UVF and UDA for 1974 and 1975, while there are for all other years. According to the Report, the Commission was given no explanation for their disappearance.

"Nor are there files on the Dublin bombings of December 1 1972. They led to the introduction of the amended Offences Against the State Act, and are strongly suspected as having been carried out by British Intelligence agents. But even apart from the missing files, the Report states that "The Garda investigation failed to make full use of the information it obtained", and that " -- the Government of the day showed little interest in the bombings". Why this was so must also be the subject of an inquiry.

"It is vital that the Commission of Inquiry proceed immediately with an investigation not only into the events referred to in the Preface to the Report, but into all incidents that took place within this state from 1969 to 1976, where there is strong evidence of involvement by the British military and intelligence services. We have hints of this in the Report with references to British military personnel seen in Dublin at the time of the December 1972 bombs, and immediately prior to the May 1974 incidents. Another British officer was found in possession of weapons in Dublin on the very day of the bombings. Such an Inquiry should take place in public so that we can have a full account of what took place.

"Another issue touched on is the role of agents within the Garda Special Branch. John McCoy who was central to the Monaghan investigation is mentioned and there have been strong allegations over the years regarding his connections with the British security forces. It would also appear that former Garda Commissioner Ned Garvey was well aware of whatever contacts were taking place.

"The most damning aspect of the Report, however, is its verdict on the role of the Fine Gael Labour Coalition of the time. This was a Government that contained such upstanding defenders of law and order as Liam Cosgrave and Paddy Cooney and Paddy Donegan and of course Conor Cruise O'Brien.

"And what was their reaction to the bombings in 1974? According to the Report they made no effort to assist the investigation, and when they were told that some of those responsible had been interned they made no effort to follow up on this or to pursue those individuals after they were released a short time later. Not only that but serving members of the Gardai at the time were under the distinct impression that the Government of the day did not want the investigation to be continued. And indeed it was not.

"All of these matters require that they are made subject to a full public inquiry and some of the families have already called for this. It seems that everyone else who was party to the conflict of the past 30 years is expected to continuously apologise and explain themselves. Well, the very least that those who were responsible for ignoring the murder of dozens of people and indeed the subversion of the very institutions they claimed to cherish above all else, ought to be made do the same. It might, if nothing else, give them a break from writing nonsense in the Sunday newspapers. ENDS

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"Minister Ahern mentions the need to defend the Hague Preferences as a guarantee of extra quota, but he must surely recognise that the Preferences have not secured the Irish fisheries over the past three decades. They were never more than a compromise on the initial disastrous deal made in 1973 and until the very basis of that deal and of the Common Fisheries Policy is renegotiated, the future of Irish fishing is bleak.

"In the Dáil tomorrow I will be calling on the Government to make such a renegotiation a key issue in the Irish Presidency of the EU". ENDS

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Opposing the European Arrest Warrant Bill today, Sinn Féin's Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD echoed the warning of the Irish Human Rights Commission that the measures proposed diminish constitutional protections regarding extradition and could also violate human rights norms.

Ó Snodaigh said: "This Bill is unacceptable because it negates certain fundamental rights including the right not to be extradited for a political offence.

"The Irish Human Rights Commission have published their concerns, and have made them known to the Minister for Justice. They maintain that the EU Framework Decision giving rise to the European Arrest Warrant is based on a flawed presumption of effective and equivalent protections of accused persons' rights between EU member states. I agree with this assessment.

"The Human Rights Commission has further concluded that even with the safeguards now included, the Bill is likely to diminish constitutional protections in relation to extradition. What I find particularly disturbing is the fact that the Minister's response to their concerns has been far from adequate. What we need is proper, binding human rights-proofing of legislation in this state.

"This government should never have backed the Framework Decision in the first instance two years ago, but now it is attempting to fast-track flawed and unsupportable legislation through the Dáil with minimal debate.

"Sinn Féin has attempted to block passage of this Bill. We have submitted protest amendments, and we will also table further substantive amendments in an attempt to mitigate the Bill's worst effects.

"It is disgraceful that despite the history of controversy surrounding extradition provisions, the Government is fast-tracking this Bill in order to suppress debate and prevent any popular mobilisation against it." ENDS

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Commenting today as the DUP prepare to meet with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London, Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness said that there was 'a clear onus on the two governments to ensure that the process of change is not allowed to be stalled any further'.

Mr McGuinness said:

" Sinn Féin will meet with both the Irish and British governments tomorrow in London. We will once again be raising with them the outstanding commitments which they have yet to implement, including measures on policing, demilitarisation, criminal justice, human rights and equality. We will also make it clear to them that the continued suspension of the political institutions is both unacceptable and untenable.

" In the New Year there will be a clear onus on the two governments and the pro-Agreement parties to come together and ensure that the process of change is not allowed to be stalled any further. We need to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented and implemented in full. We want to see the entire Good Friday Agreement package delivered upon. This is our focus in the time ahead." ENDS

Editors Note: The Sinn Féin Delegation will be led by Party President Gerry Adams MP and will include Martin McGuinness MP, Mary Lou McDonald, Cavan Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and Sinn Féin London Representative Dodie McGuinness.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Fisheries, Martin Ferris TD has called on the Minister for the Marine Dermot Ahern to take a strong line in defence of Irish fishing interests at Wednesday's meeting of the Fisheries Council in Brussels. The EU is proposing severe cuts in quotas and allowable catches (TACs) along with further possible restrictions on fishing days. The proposals come only a short time after restrictions of 10 and 15 days were placed on Irish Sea fishermen and are a consequence of the Commission's rejection of Irish fishermen's own recovery plan.

Deputy Ferris said:

"The crisis facing Irish fishermen can hardly be underestimated. If the proposals mooted by the Commission are accepted, the situation will be further exacerbated. While I welcome the Minister's determination to oppose the proposals, I believe that he must take a far stronger line than he has done to date. Minister Ahern mentions the need to defend the Hague Preferences as a guarantee of extra quota, but he must surely recognise that the Preferences have not secured the Irish fisheries over the past three decades. They were never more than a compromise on the initial disastrous deal made in 1973 and until the very basis of that deal and of the Common Fisheries Policy is renegotiated, the future of Irish fishing is bleak. In the Dáil tomorrow I will be calling on the Government to make such a renegotiation a key issue in the Irish Presidency of the EU". ENDS

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