An scéal is deireanaí
June 18th, 2004
Sinn Féin will hold a series of meetings over the coming days. A meeting of the Sinn Féin Officer Board will take place in Dublin today (Friday 18th).
This will be followed by a meeting tomorrow of the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle in Dublin (Saturday 19th) A senior party figure will be available to speak to the media on Saturday at 12.30pm at the party offices 44 Parnell Square, Dublin 1
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will address the annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration at Bodenstown on Sunday afternoon. The parade will assemble at 2.30pm.
Speaking today in advance of this series of gatherings the Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty said:
"Today's meeting of the party Officer Board and tomorrows Ard Chomhairle will provide the party President and Chief Negotiator with the opportunity to brief the collective leadership on the current state of our discussions with the two governments.
"On Sunday the annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration will take place at Bodenstown and will be addressed by Gerry Adams. It will be the first major republican gathering since last weeks tremendous election results across the island. Both of our newly elected MEPs and other successful local government candidates from across Ireland will also be present." ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP has expressed his alarm that the Electoral Office is planning to scale down the annual registration canvass this year due to a shortage of resources.
Mr Doherty said:
"Reports from within the Electoral Office are suggesting that the annual canvass to compile the register will this year be dramatically scaled back and be in the main replaced by some sort of postal operation. The reason being given for this is a lack of resources, the effect will be disastrous.
"Currently there are well over 200,000 people disenfranchised in the six counties. The adoption of a postal system for registration will mean in effect that it will prove almost impossible to reverse the alarming decline in the register. The Electoral Office will only be contacting those currently on the register, ignoring new first time voters and those who have already lost their right to vote as a result of the current legislation.
"If this system is adopted then I can confidently predict that the numbers on the register will continue to nosedive at an even greater rate. Our focus needs to remain seeing the legislation amended and the Electoral Office conducting as rigorous a registration canvass as is humanly possible. Cut backs on this crucial public function are simply not an option." ENDS
Commenting on media reports of contacts between Sinn Féin negotiators and the British government, Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said:
" Sinn Féin are involved in intensive efforts to see a resolution to the outstanding matters but will not discuss the detail of these engagements in the public arena.
" However what I can say is that our negotiating team remained in contact with the two governments throughout the course of the election campaign and continue to do so.
" Sinn Féin are determined to play our part in overcoming the current crisis in the peace process. We have a mandate from the people to do this. However this is not simply a matter for Sinn Féin. The two governments and the other parties have to play their role also." ENDS
Speaking after winning the right to proceed with a case against the British government decision to sanction Sinn Féin on the back of the flawed IMC Report, Assembly Group Leader Conor Murphy said that the victory was 'the first hurdle in the legal challenge'.
Mr Murphy said:
" This legal case challenging the British Government decision to discriminate against Sinn Féin on the back of the flawed IMC Report is one part of our confrontation of this body which operates outside the terms of the Agreement and is little more than a securocrat smokescreen for the exclusion of Sinn Féin.
" I am happy today that we have overcome the first legal hurdle in challenging the decision of the British government to discriminate against Sinn Féin and our electorate. It is my hope that this case will now quickly proceed to a full hearing.
" The British government need to realise that Sinn Féin will not simply sit by and watch the rights and entitlements of our electorate being diminished and attacked on the back of a report from a body which has no credibility, democratic mandate or function under the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS
Newry & Armagh Sinn Féin Assembly member Davy Hyland has accused the PSNI and British Army of attempting to demonise and intimidate the South Armagh community after they have laid siege to the area.
Mr Hyland said,
" This morning the PSNI and British Army used the pretext of a suspected bomb to enter the South Armagh. They have since went on to lay siege to the area, a siege which is still ongoing.
" This entire operation which we are led to believe also involves 26 County State forces supporting the British Army and PSNI is seen as little more than an exercise in community intimidation and punishment. People are being stopped and searched all over South Armagh, our offices have been inundated with complaints from local residents who have been stopped, searched and abused by the Crown Forces.
" Those individuals and political parties who provide the political cover for these sorts of operations need now to publicly explain to the people of South Armagh their views on today's disgraceful activity.
" This sort of well planned attack on an entire community goes to show just how far removed the PSNI are from the sort of policing service demanded by the Good Friday Agreement. South Armagh is the most militarised area in the six counties, it does not take this sort of massive operation to deal with individuals who the PSNI suspect of engaging in illegal activity. This operation crosses that line and will be seen by local people as an attack not on individuals suspected of engaging in illegal activity but on the entire South Armagh community." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor Christy Burke speaking from the City Centre this morning said there are growing concerns that Carmichael House will shut in the next two weeks following the refusal of Minister Noel Ahern to provide the finance which is required to keep the project going.
Councillor Burke said:
"Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups plays an invaluable role in the life of the community and provides an invaluable service for 45 small voluntary groups concerned with illness, social care, sport, education, the environment and disability. It is disgraceful that the government have refused to provide long term secure funding for a project that plays such an important role in the daily lives of the community and that it is now struggling for its very survival.
"Over the last few days we have listened to backbench TDs line up and waffle about the need to listen to what ordinary people are saying. What people are saying in this area is that Carmichael House needs help and the government need to do something about it.
"When it comes down to it Carmichael House needs 300,000 Euro a year from the Government, this is outside of the money which they raise themselves, and by any stretch of the imagination the service they provide is value for money. Last night the Health Department said they would come forward with half of the funding but Minister Noel Ahern has refused to give any further assistance to them.
"If it does not receive 150,000 Euro from Minister Ahern's department in the next two weeks then it will have to close its doors for good, resulting in a large number of CE schemes being shut down and nine staff being made redundant.
"I have been in touch with both Carmichael House and Minister Ahern this morning and have called on the Minister to support this project. There has been a lot of talk about inequality in the last few days but if the government stands by and allows such a valuable service to go to the wall it will not be forgotten by the people of this area."ENDS
Sinn MEP for the Dublin constituency Mary Lou McDonald has today said that horse-trading over the appointment of a new EU Commission President, is diverting attention away from serious negotiations surrounding the signing off on an EU Constitution. Ms McDonald said that 'the Irish Presidency is obsessed with concluding a constitution, even if that meant a flawed constitution'.
Speaking today, Ms McDonald said:
"People should not allow themselves to be diverted away from the fact that EU leaders are meeting in Brussels today to finalise agreement on the draft EU Constitution. Much of the focus thus far, has been on who will take over as Commission President, yet fundamental and far reaching decisions will be made today, and in the short weeks ahead to agree a legally binding constitution for the EU.
"This is not a Charter for an EU of Equals. It does not redress the democratic deficit as we were promised it would. Regardless of what Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell has said in his election literature, it does not afford special recognition to the neutral states, nor protection for Irish neutrality. There is a lot wrong with this draft Constitution.
"The Government has failed to engage the Irish people in an informed discussion around it. The potential international prestige value of leading successful negotiations has eclipsed any sense on the Government's part that the Irish delegates are responsible to look out for and advance Irish interests during the negotiations process. What has the Government achieved for Ireland in the negotiations? What have they given away in the interests of not upsetting the more powerful states? These are the real relevant questions that we need to ask and to which we should demand answers from Bertie and his team."ENDS
Sinn Féin Councillor for north Belfast Eoin O'Broin has slammed today's determination by the Parades Commission that will allow the Tour of the North march to go ahead unrestricted.
Speaking today Cllr O'Broin said:
"This is clearly the wrong decision. The Parades Commission have taken the decision to force a provocative and sectarian parade through a sensitive interface area. This flies in the face of the hard work that has been going on both sides of the interface to help keep tensions down.
"The fact that there has been a series of security measures for houses on this interface and the installation of CCTV highlights the potential for serious disorder at this flashpoint. The Parades Commission has also ignored the attacks on nationalist homes on Duncairn Gardens at the same march two years ago.
"This is once again a reward for the continued intransigence of the Loyal Orders to engage in dialogue with nationalist residents.
"However, irrespective of the Parades Commissions determination Sinn Fein will be doing all in its power to ensure that things on the ground stay peaceful this weekend and that we have a quite summer." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking in advance of the annual Wolfe Tone Commemoration, which will take place in Bodenstown this weekend said: "When the people went to the polls last weekend they were demanding far reaching political change. That is why more than 342,000 people across Ireland voted for Sinn Féin, making us the third biggest party in the 26 Counties and on the island."
Mr. Adams said:
"When the people went to the polls last weekend they were demanding far reaching political change. That is why more than 342,000 people across Ireland voted for Sinn Féin, making us the third biggest party in the 26 Counties and on the island.
"For decades successive governments have pursued right wing policies with vigour -- they have failed to properly address the crisis in the health service or to tackle the vested interests that are forcing so many young people out of the housing market. Instead they rewarded big business and property developers. With the onset of the celtic tiger all of this came into sharp focus. At a time of great affluence, poverty and inequality increased and public services diminished. Instead of using the wealth to look after the disadvantaged, governments made up of all the main parties rewarded their cronies.
"The reality is, it wasn't that the establishment wasn't listening to the people, they were simply ignoring them.
"While Fine Gael had a good election, the fact is they were only stemming the tide. Their vote increase was only 1.6%. Labour is already signalling that it is once again looking to Fine Gael as partners in government -- a party whose policies are actually in line with the current government on social and economic issues.
"Labour should learn the lessons of the election. They should work with others to build a real left alternative, which would also have a progressive position on the national question. The history of Labour throughout its existence has been that it has taken the completely wrong position on this question. While undoubtedly there are sincere elements within the party who are committed to progressive policies there are also those who appear to be only interested in getting their bums on Ministerial seats.
"A radical agenda to end inequality and advance the peace process and Irish unity is urgently required. I believe that those who are committed to ending inequality need to come together in a broad alliance for change. This must include not merely political parties but community groups, voluntary organisations, trade unions, farmers' organisations, campaigning groups and human rights bodies.
"Sinn Féin's successes should not be judged merely by how many votes or seats we win. Our success has to be judged on the amount of change we bring about. Quite significantly we have the capacity to set the political agenda. So while other parties are bigger than us, already many Fianna Fáil representatives have realised that the Government's inability to tackle the issues of poverty, hospital waiting lists and the housing crisis needs to be rectified. If one of the outcomes of the election is that the government is forced to deal with these issues then that is a very positive development.
"Of course Sinn Féin doesn't have all the answers but we have a commitment to equality, to building the peace process and to pursuing the democratic objective of unity and independence. I would invite everyone whether they are in other political parties or not to join us in that endeavour. They can do so by joining Sinn Féin, and we will be launching a national recruitment drive in the near future, or they can do so by working with all of us fighting for equality through their own organizations or as individuals.
"Next year marks the 100th anniversary of Sinn Féin and we are going into that year determined to see our agenda for change implemented."ENDS
June 17th, 2004
Speaking at a Stop Bush press conference in Buswells Hotel, Dublin at 11:00 this morning, newly elected Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan said: "Our new team of councillors and our MEPs will be raising the issue of the occupation of Iraq on every council they are elected to and in every forum available to them throughout the island in the coming months. We will express our views to anyone we meet, any time, any place."
Mr Doolan said:
"On February 15 last year, one hundred thousand people came out in Dublin to protest against the occupation of Iraq. Ignoring their protest, the government proceeded to allow thousands of US troops to come through Shannon on their way to the war, effectively including Ireland in the war effort and supporting the occupation. It's important that this country stands as one on the issue. Last week's election was an indication that the Irish people will not put up with a government which does not listen to what they are telling them.
"Sinn Féin is fully committed to neutrality for Ireland and completely opposes the occupation of Iraq. Our new team of councillors will be raising the issue of the occupation on every council they are elected to and in every forum available to them throughout the island in the coming months. We will express our views to anyone we meet, any time, any place.
"Sinn Féin is supporting the Stop Bush campaign and we are calling on people to come out in large numbers again next week to once again show their feelings about the occupation of Iraq."ENDS
Speaking during the second stage debate on the National Monuments (Amendment) Bill 2004, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Arthur Morgan TD slammed the anti-heritage ethos behind the Bill and questioned Minister Martin Cullen's suitability for holding responsibility for the Heritage portfolio.
Deputy Morgan said:
"Unsurprisingly, Minister Martin Cullen has brought forward a Bill which seeks to put developers and the interests of the National Roads Authority before safeguarding our heritage.
"This is an anti-heritage piece of legislation designed to overcome conservationist's opposition to the Carrickmines interchange on the M50, the M3 Clonee to North of Kells motorway, the Waterford bypass and the construction of a 4 storey hotel 20 yards from Trim castle. The basic underlying theory of the Bill is to permit the destruction of national monuments to facilitate infrastuctural developments. The introduction of this Bill makes it absolutely clear that Martin Cullen is as unsuited to holding responsibility for Heritage as he is for holding responsibility for environmental protection.
"If the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government had any interest in Heritage protection what he should be doing is putting in place mechanisms to ensure that, prior to the commencement of developments such as the Carrickmines interchange, proper procedures and impact assessment studies are put in place. This would ensure that mistakes such as those which led to the Carrickmines debacle are not repeated again and would ensure that national monuments be detected early and avoided when building infrastructure. What the people of this State are seeking is that roads would be built legally and properly having followed proper planning processes including the early identification of heritage sites and national monuments so that they can be avoided rather than destroyed.
"Instead, we have provisions in this Bill allowing the Minister to grant a consent for the carrying out of works to a national monument which may result in the destruction of part or all of the monument after archaeological works have been carried out. We can expect that this legislation will result in a repeat of the destruction of Viking Dublin at Wood Quay, a situation which we hoped would never be seen again as Governments under pressure from the EU had since then put in place increased protection for our heritage which this Bill seeks to remove. Sinn Féin will be opposing this legislation." ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP has expressed his alarm that the Electoral Office is planning to scale down the annual registration canvass this year due to a shortage of resources.
Mr Doherty said:
" Reports from within the Electoral Office are suggesting that the annual canvass to compile the register will this year be dramatically scaled back and be in the main replaced by some sort of postal operation. The reason being given for this is a lack of resources, the effect will be disastrous.
" Currently there are well over 200,000 people disenfranchised in the six counties. The adoption of a postal system for registration will mean in effect that it will prove almost impossible to reverse the alarming decline in the register. The Electoral Office will only be contacting those currently on the register, ignoring new first time voters and those who have already lost their right to vote as a result of the current legislation.
" If this system is adopted then I can confidently predict that the numbers on the register will continue to nosedive at an even greater rate. Our focus needs to remain seeing the legislation amended and the Electoral Office conducting as rigorous a registration canvass as is humanly possible. Cut backs on this crucial public function are simply not an option." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD sought a Dáil debate today on the urgent issue of the 11,000 families of Irish citizen children who currently await a decision from the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell on the regularising of their status, since the Supreme court ruling on the non-automatic rights of parents to remain here with their Irish citizen children.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
"There is an urgent need for the Minister for Justice to keep the promise that he made to the parties at the first briefing on the citizenship referendum that he would move to regularise the situation of approximately 11,000 families of Irish citizen children who face either separation from their parents or effective exile as a result of Government policy. He cannot continue to leave these families in limbo and it is imperative that he bring Irish policy into line with our European partners with respect to the obligation to uphold children's rights to the care and company of their parents, enshrined in the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, as outlined by the Advocate General in the Chen case.
"He insisted on rushing through the recent referendum on citizenship within 3 months of the very first briefing on it, ignoring many groups and voices who advised that the electorate were not sufficiently informed on the issue. Now, the very least he can do is provide for those non-national families who had children born to them here and anxiously await a decision on their status, by allowing them to remain here under humanitarian grounds." ENDS
June 16th, 2004
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin southwest Seán Crowe has expressed concern at certain practices of the ESB today while speaking in the Dáil on legislation regarding the ESB.
Deputy Crowe said:
"I am very concerned about an issue in my own constituency in Tallaght, which the Company and Minister ought to investigate. That is the fact that in one Supermarket the machine where people purchase tokens for their meter is situated in an Off-Licence. Given that those who have a meter are people most likely to have had a tradition or difficulty paying bills in the past, this can often present a huge temptation for customers with alcohol-related problems and some understandably find it impossible to resist. Instead of buying units of electricity many are buying units of alcohol. I would appeal to the Minister to use his influence with the ESB to ensure that meter machines are not placed in such obviously unsuitable locations.
"Another issue that has arisen in relation to meters is the fact that the vast majority of the 20,000 meters have not been adjusted to take into account recent increases in charges. This means that people paying for their electricity through the meter are actually accumulating debts.
"There have already been cases where people have discovered this and it can have quite a disturbing effect on those who have been struggling for years to pay bills and who thought that they had overcome that problem through the meter system only to find out that they are once again in debt. This is something that the company should address as a matter of urgency to ensure that the meters are updated. I believe that there is also a case to be made where people whose meters have not been adjusted to register the increases should not have to pay debts, which they have accrued through no fault of their own.
"While the ESB has had increased levels of profits over the past number of years, it has also imposed quite severe increases on household consumers. While it is obviously a good thing that a state enterprise is able to generate such profits, this ought not to be at the expense of the consumer. I believe it should be the case that the customers of the ESB should benefit more directly through not having to pay increased electricity bills. This is particularly important for those many people on low incomes who find it increasingly difficult to meet their bills." ENDS
Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly speaking from Bogota this evening said he was astonished at the decision of Colombian Magistrates to refuse to allow Martin McCauley, Jim Monaghan and Niall Connolly to return to Ireland during the dangerous period between now and the appeal of their innocent verdict. He called on the Irish government to intervene immediately to ensure that the men are brought home safely to their families.
Mr. Kelly said:
"Martin McCauley, Jim Monaghan and Niall Connolly have spent almost three years in prison in Colombia and every day they have lived in danger. After a protracted legal process they were found innocent of serious charges but are being forced to remain in Colombia pending an appeal, which could be some time away.
"Due to the seriousness of the situation the three men sought leave to return to Ireland during the dangerous period between now and the appeal. It is astonishing given the imminent danger they face and given the intervention of the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, that the Colombian Magistrates have refused this request.
"I am now calling on the Irish government to make representations to the Colombian authorities to get this matter sorted out as soon as possible for the safety of the men."ENDS
Attending the EROSH Housing Conference in Belfast today, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Senior Citizens, Mary Nelis complimented the conference on raising the debate on the need to provide, - "a sustainable integrated and non-discriminatory sheltered housing strategy for our senior citizens and holistically incorporate it into an intergenerational approach to this social need". Mrs Nelis said:
"This is a problem facing all of society, it is our problem. What kind of political and social order do we belong to if we do not allow our elderly to have an active and lifelong contribution to the community in which they live?
We must work towards removing ageism in all areas of life and consult and afford access to fully meet the needs of our senior citizens, including the right to access affordable secure housing.
Mrs Nelis spoke of her lifelong efforts as a Community Activist, elected representative and an active senior citizen in trying to raise the issues surrounding sheltered and social housing provision.
"Our Senior Citizens must be allowed the opportunity to play an active role in their community. The discriminatory practices of the Common Selection Scheme, the range of issues surrounding the Adaptations process and the House Sales Policy are also blatantly ageist.
Sheltered housing provision should allow senior citizens to realise that following retirement they are but entering of a new stage of activity. Senior Citizens should be consulted and supported in making their own choices on remaining at home or entering sheltered housing. The provision, level and types of sheltered housing schemes should be designed to meet senior citizens needs in a community environment. I applaud today‚s conference which clearly outlined the continued need for all interested groups to re-engage in sustained efforts to provide sheltered senior citizen housing and remove all barriers.
Mrs Nelis condemned the comments of Mary Jarvis, Secretary to the British Deputy PM, John Prescott, who was quoted last week as having stated "there is no future for the funding of sheltered housing".
"I was also extremely disappointed that no representatives of the Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Social Development including the Minister accepted the invitation to attend this important conference on the future of Sheltered Housing."
Commenting on the dismissal of a court case taken against the PSNI over their policing of the Holy Cross School blockade, Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Kathy Stanton said the result was 'undoubtedly influenced by the disgraceful public commentary made by Human Rights Commission Chief Brice Dickson'.
Ms Stanton said:
"The blockade of Holy Cross school by unionist protesters was a shameful and disgraceful episode. Young children were threatened, abused and attacked by a violent mob. The PSNI did not act to protect either the children or the parents.
"The parent who took this case deserves our support and thanks for challenging in a very public way the complete failure by the PSNI to provide adequate protection for the children. The chances of the case succeeding were greatly diminished by the public intervention of the Human Rights Commission Chief Brice Dickson. His contribution in support of Ronnie Flanagan has without any doubt played a significant role in the failure of this case to proceed further.
"Brice Dickson should reflect upon this judgement and do the honourable thing and resign from the Commission rather than continuing to hang on to his post until next year and continuing to be an obstruction to the development of a rights based society here." ENDS
Sinn Féin North Belfast Councillor Eoin O'Broin has today called on the Parades Commission to re-route this Fridays controversial Tour of the North parade away from interfaces on Broughm Street, Duncairn Gardens and the Limestone Road. Cllr O'Broin, accompanied by Cllr Ni Chuilín, met with the Parades Commission today to urge them to reroute the parade away from these contentious areas.
Cllr O'Broin said:
'A large amount of good work from community workers and politicians in both the nationalist and unionist communities in North Belfast has resulted in a lengthy period of calm. Sinn Féin wants to see this good work built upon so that we can all enjoy a quiet and conflict free summer.
'However, the application currently with the Parades Commission for this Friday's Tour of the North includes a number of flash points including Broughm Street, Duncairn Gardens and the interface on Limestone Road.
'We urged the Commission to re-route the parade away from these interfaces. In doing so the Commission would be complementing the important work done in both communities to keep these interfaces calm.' ENDS
June 16th, 2004
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin south-west Séan Crowe has challenged the Minister for Health and Children to outline what measures, if any, he had taken to address the ongoing crisis at Tallaght Hospital Accident and Emergency ward, which was causing "utter bedlam" for staff and patients.
Deputy Crowe said:
"Since the Dáil last met, as many as 45 people have been left on trolleys in the hospital's A&E Department, 10 in the Observation ward, 12 in the day ward and 27 majors waiting to be seen ? an average of 93 patients left awaiting treatment. This crisis needs the Minister's intervention as the situation, rather than being addressed, appears to be getting worse. The first sight on entering the doors of the Accident and Emergency ward is seriously ill people on trolleys and the numbers are growing. A friend of mine who has a congenital heart problem was recently brought to the hospital where there were 18 people waiting on the corridor. He talked of the lack of dignity, the lack of privacy, the overcrowding and confusion that was evident during his long stay on a trolley. And this scene is being re-enacted every single day and night.
"Does the Minister not realise that this is the same corridor through which young children have to pass to attend the Children's Accident and Emergency Department? The sights and sounds of people in various states of pain and suffering must be terrifying for many of these children. Yet the Minister responsible doesn't see the need to directly intervene. A patient with a heart condition, who was wired to an ECG machine, told me that he left his trolley at one stage to use the bathroom. On his return, he found that the trolley bed was gone, that someone else was being treated on it. I believe this personal story reflects the utter bedlam and confusion for both staff and patients at the Tallaght A & E ward.
"I hear these stories all the time. People want to know if the core of the problem is a lack of investment, a lack of staff, bad management or some other fundamental difficulty. It is clear that conditions are getting worse. The Irish Nurses Organisation says it has never been so bad and the same applies to other hospitals in Dublin. People are looking for answers. I'm asking the Minister straight questions and I want him to give me straight answers and intervene directly in this crisis, now, without further delay." ENDS
North Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Kathy Stanton has hit out after unionist paramilitaries issued death threats to Ardoyne republican Eddie Copeland and his girlfriend.
Ms Stanton said:
" Last week Eddie Copeland was visited by the PSNI and told that he was under threat from unionist paramilitaries. Yesterday a Belfast newsroom received a call accompanied by a code word saying that a bomb had been left at Dunnes Stores on Flax Street and that the target was Eddie Copeland's girlfriend who works in the store. The store was evacuated and considerable disruption was caused to the local community. The woman in question has since felt unable to resume work.
" Eddie Copeland has long been the target of unionist paramilitary gangs and the Crown Forces and has in the past been seriously injured in a bomb attack carried out by unionists and a shooting carried out by a British soldier. The decision by the unionist paramilitaries to turn their attentions to Mr Copeland's girlfriend is a deeply worrying development.
" I am calling on unionist political leaders to begin showing some leadership on these sorts of issues. In recent weeks we have seen unionist paramilitaries returning to attacking nationalists and republicans with pipe bombs yet the response of political unionism has been very poor. Unionist politicians must act and act now to ensure that this sort of activity does not escalate even further as we enter the summer months." ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA for Upper Bann John O'Dowd has said that local people should sit up and take interest in the Scottish Government's efforts to curb Orange Order Parades.
Mr O'Dowd said:
" This week the Scottish Executive set out the remit of a proposed parades adviser whose role is aimed at increasing the power of local communities to decide where and when processions take place.
"Sinn Féin has repeatedly called for the involvement of the local community in decisions regarding contentious parades in their respective areas in the Six Counties, and hopes that local Orangemen will follow their brethren's example and 'speak to the local people'. Entrance into dialogue with local residents is a welcome step and I hope that the Irish Orange Order can take heed of this example.
"The Scottish Grandmaster has said that Orangemen should take a 'long hard look' at themselves when they are 'parading too much' and 'making (themselves) unwelcome.' Sinn Féin views these comments as a welcome step forward on behalf of the Order and hopes that such a stance can be reciprocated in the Six Counties. We believe that dialogue is key to resolving parades disputes in the North." ENDS
June 16th, 2004
Sinn Féin Assembly member for Newry & Armagh Conor Murphy has expressed his 'anger and outrage' after a British Army helicopter hit a tree in the garden of a family home in Crossmaglen this morning.
Mr Murphy said:
" At around 11.30 this morning a British Army helicopter arriving at the military base in Crossmaglen struck a large tree in the garden of a family home adjacent to the barracks. The tree fell into the garden. Thankfully nobody was in the garden at the time otherwise this incident would have resulted in serious injuries.
" The woman who lives in the house then rang the PSNI barracks to make an official complaint. The PSNI member hung up and refused to talk to her. Later a PSNI/British Army patrol in the area abused the woman when she asked to make a complaint about the earlier incident.
" I will be raising this matter with the British government today and I am demanding that these dangerous and unnecessary flights are stopped once and for all. It was only through good fortune that local people were not killed or seriously injured in this mornings incident which is the latest in a long line of such incidents involving British Army helicopters in this area.
" The attitude of the PSNI to this mornings event while not surprising is another illustration of just how far we have to travel before we reach the Good Friday Agreement goal of an accountable and acceptable policing service." ENDS
A Sinn Féin delegation led by Party Chairperson Mitchel Mc Laughlin and Sean Clarke the Six- County Director of Elections met with British Direct Rule Minister, John Spellar this morning to demand change in Electoral Registration Legislation.
Mr Mc Laughlin said: „ The delegation impressed on Mr Spellar that the right to vote is a basic democratic right and the objective should be to facilitate the exercise of that right and to remove deliberate and other impediments to exercise that fundamental right.
It is now accepted that this restrictive legislation has discouraged hundreds of thousands of legitimate eligible voters from registering to vote. It is also an indisputable fact that successive Electoral Registers are being incrementally reduced.
The changes that we insisted are required included:
- Voters staying on the Register for five years
- Expansion of acceptable I.D. documents for voting purposes.
- Registration forms available on-line, at Post Offices, Council Offices, Libraries, Advice Centres, schools, universities, colleges etc.
"Mr Spellar agreed that there is a problem that needs to be resolved, that he will consider our proposals and get back to us. " ENDS
Sinn Féin's TDs will tomorrow publish a bill to repeal the repressive Offences Against the State Acts 1939 - 1998. The party has timed its publication to coincide with the Government's annual motion to extend the provisions of the Offences Against the State Act 1998, which will be briefly debated in the Dáil tomorrow, 16th June.
Speaking in advance of the publication, Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh, spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights said "repressive legislation has no place in a democratic state in the 21st century ? and certainly not in Ireland 10 years into the peace process, 7 years into a continuous cessation by the Irish Republican Army, and 6 years after the conclusion of the Good Friday Agreement, which stipulates that these laws should be reviewed, reformed and dispensed with as circumstances permit."
Deputy Ó Snodaigh added:
"We consider the repeal of the Offences Against the State Acts to be an act of completion under Strand Three of the Good Friday Agreement. It would represent tangible progress in the peace process at this critical juncture, yet the Government has made no move on this since the publication of the Hederman Report two years ago. On the contrary, they have instead renewed the emergency provisions twice without providing any evidence of either necessity or effectiveness. This is not acceptable. People who voted for the Good Friday Agreement did so in the belief that the repressive emergency laws would end.
"With the review of the Good Friday Agreement now taking place, Sinn Féin has published this repeal Bill to remind the Government of its responsibility, and to urge members of the opposition to confront their own creeping complacency by which they have allowed repressive emergency legislation to become part of the ordinary law.
"It is my hope that the Government will ultimately support this Bill, and that it will also gain the support of all the other parties in the Dáil." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Community and Family Affairs Seán Crowe TD raised in the Dáil today the plight of those denied rent supplement although badly in need of this support. He expressed disbelief at Minister Mary Coughlan's reply that she was "unaware of any cases of hardship arising from the application of the new measures‚ pointing to the cases of those who he said „had to conspire with landlords" to ensure their rent could be paid.
Deputy Crowe said:
"The very worrying trend now is that increasing numbers of vulnerable people are being forced to stay in situations which are either dangerous or detrimental to their health and well-being. Young single mothers, women and children desperate to leave abusive homes or people simply stuck in grossly overcrowded homes are left in a constant cycle of despair at the impossibility of living somewhere safe and secure.
"Minister Coughlan says that her Department is not aware of increased hardship.She must be living in cloud cuckoo-land. She should inform herself by talking to the groups involved in the housing issue, for example, the Simon Community, Threshold and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The reality is that, in Dublin, the average cost of accommodation is €121 per week, which is above the cap allowed by Minister Coughlan. Social welfare tenants are now forced to conspire with their landlords in providing rent receipts. They then have to dip into their measly social welfare payments to pay the shortfall in rent. Surely she must be aware of this problem from her clinics? An increasing number of people who come to me and to other deputies are using their social welfare money, borrowing or being subsidised by their families to pay the full amount of rent, above and beyond what they are capable of paying.
"Maybe she will finally listen to their anguish and anger now that the electorate have spoken, or rather, have roared. In a time of plenty, it is high time for her to wake up and to reverse these callous cuts." ENDS