GLAC PÁIRT I GCUR CHUN TOSAIGH na hÉIREANN

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Ireland’s youngest Councillors Johnny McGibbon and Charlene O’Hara, the Assembly’s youngest MLA, Daithí McKay and Ógra Shinn Féin National Organiser Barry McColgan gathered at the Felons Club in Belfast today to promote the republican youth movement’s upcoming National Congress being held in the city in less than 2 weeks from the 13 – 15 November.

The national youth event will see over 100 delegates converge in Belfast, to discuss, and debate the most pressing political issues affecting Irish youth, and plan the upcoming year for Ireland’s fastest growing, most active youth wing.

The republican youth movement will also be celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the founding of Na Fianna Éireann, and remembering the young Fianna who died in Ireland’s freedom struggle by hosting a special dinner dance in the Holiday Inn on Ormeau Avenue in Belfast on Saturday 14th November. Limited tickets are still available priced at only £40.

Encouraging young people to come along to the weekend of activities and debate, Daithí McKay MLA said,

“The Ógra Shinn Féin National Congress presents an opportunity for young people to have a say on the future direction of the republican struggle, and to engage with the Sinn Féin leadership on the most challenging issues facing us and our communities today. It allows young republicans to come together and debate the most burning issues facing young people and how we can play a pro – active role in shaping a better society.”

“The National Congress is not merely a political event, but a social event, where friendships are forged and ideas and debate exchanged. It will be an excellent place for young people to find out more about republicanism, and the struggle today in a relaxed, comfortable and youthful environment. I for one will be there, and would encourage the maximum number of young republicans to come along and enjoy this weekend of debate, comradeship, craic agus ceol.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has said there is no point in Fine Gael touring the state ahead of the publication of its pre-budget submission when everybody already knows what it will contain.

Deputy Morgan said the only thing the public can expect from a Fine Gael led coalition is more attacks on the least well off and public services while maintaining the status quo for the wealthy.

Speaking today after Enda Kenny announced a whirlwind tour of the state by his economics team Deputy Morgan said:

“Who does Enda Kenny think he’s kidding? There is no point in sending an economics team to travel the state in preparation of Fine Gael’s pre-budget submission when everybody already knows what it will contain.

“The only thing that the public can expect from a Fine Gael led coalition is more attacks on the least well off and public services while maintaining the status quo for the wealthy. They are not an alternative to Fianna Fáil. They represent a continuation of the same Fianna Fáil style policies that got us into this economic mess.” ENDS

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Tar éis na comórtais, na leachtanna agus an tsiamsaíocht uile dúirt GA gur chóir bualadh bos mhór a dhul go dtí na heagraithe agus na rannpháirtithe ag Oireachtas na Samhna 2009 i Leitir Ceanainn.

Dúirt GA: “Bhí mé féin ag súil go mór leis an Oireachtas i mbliana agus socraithe déanta taistil ann agus sult a bhaint as an chraic ansin. Ach tharla an chonspóid is déanaí leis an DUP agus bhí orm freastal ar roinnt cruinnithe le déileáil leis sin.


Labhair mé le Pearse Doherty agus le Gráinne Mhic Ghéidigh áfach a bhí i láthair ann agus shíl siad beirt go raibh sé ar na cinn is fearr le blianta fada. Bhí an oiread sin tallainne le feiceáil idir óg is aosta go bhfuil todhchaí na teanga agus an chultúr slán sábháilte le tamall eile.

D’amharc mé féin ar chuid den fhéile ar TG4 agus tógann sé mo chroí na sluaite óga ag ceiliúradh an Ghaelachais gan chúthaileacht. Fuair mé tuairisc ar na díospóireachtaí go háirithe ar an fheachtas in aghaidh an Bord Snip agus Plean 20 Bliain agus tá mé ag súil le forbairtí ansin roimh dheireadh na bliana.

Idir an dá linn, guím gach rath ar Choiste an Oireachtais don bhliain seo chugainn, ‘sa Ríocht’ níl amhras ar bith ná go mbeidh fearadh na fáilte ag muintir Chiarraí ar lucht na Gaeltachta agus lucht na Gaeilge.

Tá mé ag súil nach mbeidh aon bheart gan choinne ag ár gcairde sa chomhrialtas anseo dúinn roimh an cheann sin." CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has called for people in the north to show their support for our public services by attending rallies organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in Armagh, Ballymena, Belfast, Derry, Magherafelt and Newry this Friday, November 6th.

Mr Adams said:

“The Irish Congress of Trade Unions National Day of Protest on Friday will give people from across Ireland the opportunity to demonstrate their opposition to cuts in public services.

“The focus in the north the will very much be on planned cuts to the health service, including job losses and the closure of hospital beds. The British Treasury is demanding ‘efficiency savings’ of £700 million over the next three years.

“The reality is that it will be the most disadvantaged, whose life expectancy is already significantly lower than others, who will be most adversely affected these cuts.

“Our priority is the defence of front-line public services and to tackle health inequalities and ensure that vulnerable people, people living with disadvantage and poverty, and those most at risk are protected.

“The Executive is facing very real challenges in meeting the efficiency targets demanded by the British Treasury.

“I believe that there are steps we can and must take to defend public services, and already Sinn Féin Ministers in the Executive have taken steps to ensure that key public services such as water and public transport remain under public control.

“Sinn Féin have led the demand for greater all-Ireland working across the Health Service and I believe this could deliver substantial savings that could be channelled into sustaining and developing front-line services. Ending duplication and maximising the scale of economies could release millions back into service delivery. I also believe that the proper implementation of the Investing for Health Strategy can deliver huge savings.

“It is time to mobilise, agitate, educate and politicise for real change. These rallies are an important part of the campaign to defend public services that must continue beyond Friday.” ENDS

Note to Editors

The rallies in the North are being held at 1pm in Armagh (Hospital); Ballymena (Diamond); Belfast (City Hall); Derry (Custom House Street, off Guildhall Square); Magherafelt (Diamond)l; and Newry (City Hall).

And in the 26 Counties in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford, Sligo, Tullamore, and Dundalk.

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Craigavon Sinn Féin Councillor Johnny McGibbon commented:

"There were two opportunities tonight for both the UUP and DUP to avoid a by-election. This squabble amongst Unionism is now going to cost the average person, for something which could have been resolved weeks ago.

"The reality of this situation is that the main parties of Unionism are at loggerheads, and the result is the rate payer having to pay for a by-election costing up to £30,000.

"You have to question the remarks made in Council by both parties, about saving the rate payer money and putting the money into proper services in the current economic climate. Last night's events show that Unionist in-fighting has took priority in this case."ENDS

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Any attack on a Bill of Rights for the North is an attack on the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Féin Equality and Human Rights spokesperson has Martina Anderson MLA has insisted.

The Foyle Assembly member was speaking ahead of an Assembly debate on Tuesday calling for the scrapping of the Bill of Rights Forum proposals.

“As a member of the Bill of Rights Forum, I welcomed the handover of the Human Rights Commission to the Secretary of State last December,” Ms. Anderson said.

“After many long years of waiting, that represented considerable progress and while I don’t necessarily agree with everything the Commission is saying, I do believe the advice constitutes a genuine and rigorous approach to the mandate they were given.

“They are to be commended for the work they have done and the onus is now on the British government to fulfil their part of the bargain by publishing the consultation without further delay.

“And that isn’t just my view, that is the view of the United Nations, Amnesty International – and many other respected, domestic and international human rights organisations - who have all called on the British Government to enact the Bill.

“Unfortunately, it seems there are still some who do not want to extend rights and protections to the most vulnerable and some who also want to remove some of the protections people already have.

“But to those members of the DUP and UUP who continue to oppose a Bill of Rights, I would ask them to explain to their electorate, why they reject key rights for the people that they represent.

“Within the Bill of Rights Forum, the DUP and UUP opposed the right to a decent standard of living, including adequate food, water, fuel and clothing.

“They rejected the right to the highest possible standard of health and social care.

“They opposed the right to a decent home that is safe and affordable.

“They opposed the inclusion of the right to work and to enjoy a fair wage and proper conditions.

“They rejected the right to a sustainable, healthy and safe environment or the right to adequate social security and pension.

“This issue is not about republican, nationalist, unionist or loyalist rights; it is about the rights of all.

“It is also a fundamental commitment of both the Good Friday and St. Andrew’s agreement. It represents an incredible opportunity to make a real and positive difference to the lives of our people, and to squander that opportunity would be the greatest human-rights abuse of all.” CRÍOCH


NOTES TO THE EDITOR

The motion proposed by Tom Elliott and Danny Kennedy of the UUP states:
That this Assembly considers the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s advice to the Secretary of State “A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland” as incompatible with the provisions of the Belfast Agreement; notes with concern that the proposals would undermine the democratic role and authority of this Assembly and the Parliament of the United kingdom; and urges the Secretary of State not to implement the report’s recommendations.

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Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Michelle Gildernew MP MLA will give evidence to the Joint Committee on the Constitution about the impact of the PR-STV electoral system on the representation of women in the Assembly.

The meeting will take place on Wednesday 4th November at 9.30am in Committee Room 4, Leinster House.

There are currently 18 women elected to the Assembly; representing just 16.7% of the 108 MLAs.

Sinn Féin has 8 of the 18 women MLA’s - Sue Ramsey (Chair of the Employment and Learning Committee), Jennifer McCann (Chair of the Finance and Personnel Committee), Caral Ní Chuilin (Chief Whip), Caitríona Ruane (Minister of Education), Michele Gildernew (Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development), Michelle O'Neill (Deputy Chair of the Health Committee), Claire McGill and Martina Anderson (Policing Board member).

The other female MLA’s are Carmel Hanna, Margaret Ritchie, Dolores Kelly & Mary Bradley (SDLP), Anna Lo & Naomi Long (Alliance), Dawn Purvis (PUP), Arlene Foster, Michelle McIlveen & Iris Robinson (DUP), while the UUP do not have a single woman elected to the Assembly.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Ms Gildernew said:

“Women have a unique contribution to make to political life. They have a different contribution and perspective than men. We must ensure that women play a full role in our democratic institutions and the political life of the nation.

“There is clear evidence that the STV system results in a greater proportion of women being elected. We must also recognise the importance of selection procedures to persuade parties to select women candidates and to run them in winnable seats.

“In the last Assembly election Sinn Fein ran 9 women candidates and brought 8 into the Assembly. For us it was about running strong candidates in winnable seats. Women play a huge role not just within the Assembly team and the Executive but at all levels within the party. But we can and must to more.

“We must also recognise the reality of life inside political parties and that many women may be put off by the confrontational nature of the current political debate.

“Another factor in determining whether women put themselves forward for election and whether once there they stay in politics, is the working hours, particularly for those with children or other caring responsibilities. Anti-social hours have long been a deterrent to women who might otherwise consider a political career.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle Martina Anderson has supported today’s call by victims of institutional abuse in the north for a full inquiry into what took place.

The call comes after many victims representatives submitted a petition calling for an inquiry to MLA’s at Stormont this morning.

Speaking ahead of a debate in the Assembly on this issue this afternoon Ms Anderson said;

“I fully support the call for an inquiry into the abuse that took place in State and Church run institutions.

I have had the very humbling privilege of working with many of the victims who’s dignity and strength continues to inspire us to plough ahead with this important task.

The Ryan Report in the 26 Counties exposed a regime of fear that ruled on the dark side of Irish society for most of the 20th century, it has been Ireland’s greatest shame.

Because of the courage of the survivors in speaking out we have known for a long time of the horror of what went on in these institutions. Victims in the North deserve to have their abuse and mistreatment acknowledged; there needs to be full accountability and restitution from the religious orders. They need to fully accept their moral obligation to the victims.

There needs to be a national approach taken between the Health Departments both north and south, in providing the necessary support services for victims, particularly in the border counties.” CRÍOCH

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Workers Rights, Martin Ferris TD has reiterated his party’s support for the trade union day of action on Tuesday November 24. He also questioned the motives behind the criticism of the one day strike made by Labour’s Sean Sherlock.

Deputy Ferris said: “Sinn Féin is fully behind the November 24th action, as are the vast majority of workers who share similar concerns to those in the public sector. Indeed November 24th is not a sectoral action but one that is part of an overall campaign by all trade union members to highlight the damage that will be inflicted if the Government implements the type of cutbacks suggested.

“I would also question the motives behind Deputy Sherlock’s statement and wonder whether he represents the overall view within his party. It is unfortunate and only serves to boost the carefully fostered notion that there is some diversion of interests between workers in the public and private sectors.

“Public sector workers are obviously protesting at proposals that will directly affect their own members but are also highlighting the fact that the proposed cuts will have a devastating impact across Irish society, affecting as they do key areas of public provision in health, education, policing and so on.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA for Upper Bann John O’Dowd has slammed as ‘totally irresponsible’ and reprehensible’ a photo published on the front page of today’s Sunday World showing a man who had taken his own life.

Speaking this evening Mr O’Dowd said;

“This is a totally irresponsible as well as reprehensible thing for this newspaper to do.

The family of this man will be suffering enough without having his dead body photographed and published on the front page of a newspaper.

The issue of suicide is one which has tragically affected many families across the north and undoubtedly the publication of this photo will cause great hurt.

Many Sinn Féin representatives, including myself, have today been contacted by relatives bereaved through suicide, expressing their horror and disgust at this thoughtless and careless move by a major Sunday newspaper.

I have also contacted the Press Complaints Commission to make a formal complaint regarding the decision on the part of the Sunday World to display this image.

I have no doubt that more people and groups will also express their concerns over the coming days. I would call on the Sunday World to recognise the massive amount of hurt they have caused and apologise for what was a crass and senseless decision.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has described the Finance Minister's decision to introduce a corporation tax surcharge over a levy on banks as a cop-out. Senator Doherty said the surcharge would allow banks to continue to pay CEOs and board members exorbitant salaries before they ever had to pay the state a cent for the NAMA debts.

Senator Doherty said:

“This tax surcharge is a cop-out. Before banks declare a profit, they have to meet their operating costs. Their operating costs could include a multi-million salary for their CEOs, board members and senior management; trips abroad, company Mercedes, so on and so on. After all this has been catered for, only then will this government ask the banks to pay something towards the huge risk the taxpayer is taking on through NAMA. And we do not even know exactly how much this tax on profits will be.

“The taxpayer has just taken on a gigantic risk for the banks. We have hung a €54 billion noose around our necks. The banks now have an insurance policy that they should have to pay for. A levy should be placed on their total turnover that they are obliged to meet in the same way ordinary citizens are obliged to meet their mortgage and other debt repayments. If they have to sacrifice large salaries and working lunches in Michelin starred restaurants to do this, so be it.

“The cosy relationship that exists between the banking heads and the Department of Finance can no longer be allowed to pollute public finance policy making decisions in this state. The Minister must set down a levy and set it down immediately.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLA and member of the Assembly’s Health, Social Services and Public Safety Committee Sue Ramsey has supported the calls from those victims of abuse in Catholic and State run institutions in the Six Counties, for a ‘Ryan Report’ style investigation into abuse here in the Six Counties.

Speaking this evening Ms Ramsey said;

“Hundreds of victims of child abuse in both Catholic and State run institutions in the North are calling for a full inquiry into the abuse and mistreatment that they suffered while in these institutions; our party fully supports that call.

The Ryan Report in the 26 Counties exposed a regime of fear that ruled on the dark side of Irish society for most of the 20th century. Because of the courage of the survivors in speaking out we have known for a long time of the horror of what went on in these institutions. Victims in the North deserve to have their abuse and mistreatment acknowledged; there needs to be full accountability and restitution from the religious orders. They need to fully accept their moral obligation to the victims.

There needs to be a national approach taken between the Health Departments bothqa north and south, in providing the necessary support services for victims, particularly in the border counties.”CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin MLA Foyle MLA Martina Anderson has said failure to reach a resolution in the dispute between Royal Mail and the CWU (Communication Workers Union) will cause serious financial burdens for postal workers and their families and could have devastating consequences for small businesses in Derry and across the North

Her call comes after meeting with Postal Workers and Union officials on the picket line at the Great James Street Sorting Office during Fridays protest

Martian Anderson said

"I spoke to Union officials and met staff on the picket line at the Sorting Office during Fridays protest and they were very angry that things had got to this stage and that some sort of interim resolution could not have been found at the last minute .Many are worried about what the next few weeks will hold if there is an escalation in the strike particularly leading up to Christmas and the financial burden this will place on them and their families. They are fearful of going behind in mortgage payments, HP on cars and not being able to keep up with the general costs of day to day living.

"There needs to be an immediate meeting between the CWU and Royal Mail .I understand CWU officials have written to Mark Higson, Royal Mail managing director and said they are available for meaningful negotiations to avoid further strike action which they believe would help restore customer confidence at a crucial time for the business while also addressing outstanding problems such as job security, work levels and other issues

"I fear that if this dispute is not resolved and there is an escalation in industrial action in the weeks leading up to Christmas , everyone will lose, Royal Mail will lose millions in revenue and contracts and postal workers in Derry will be losing wages which no worker can afford in this day and age .

The public and business community in Derry and across the North will also be severely hit with disruption to postal services, so it's of paramount importance that there is a resolution to this dispute and that both sides can come to an agreement around the issues of modernisation, protection of jobs and pay levels as soon as possible "

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Sinn Féin Councillor Maurice Quinlivan was this afternoon elected Vice-Chairperson of the Limerick City Joint Policing Committee. Councillor Quinlivan immediately took the opportunity to announce that he will be proposing that the Committee hold a series of public meetings in communities throughout Limerick to give local people an input into the fight against crime in those areas.

Councillor Quinlivan today got the agreement of the Committee to hold a public meeting to discuss the drugs problem in Limerick with a particular emphasis on the heroin problem.

Speaking this afternoon after his appointment Councillor Quinlivan said:

“I am honoured to have been appointed to the position of Vice-Chairperson of the Limerick City Joint Policing Committee today.

“My key priority on the Committee will be to use it as a tool in the fight against drugs, organised crime and anti-social behaviour. We have all seen the extent of the crime problem here in Limerick and I would hope that this committee can provide a platform for the communities most affected to have an input in the fight against crime.

“I am keen to ensure that the Limerick City JPC reaches out to the communities most affected by drugs and crime here in Limerick and I will be encouraging members of those communities to engage as fully as possible with the Committee.

“It is essential that the communities give their account of the problems in their areas and offer their views of the best way to address those problems. It is even more essential that the Joint Policing Committee listens to what they are being told and take it on board when developing plans to tackle these problems.

“As part of this approach I will be proposing that the Limerick City Joint Policing Committee holds a series of public meetings in communities throughout Limerick in order to ensure proper dialogue and engagement between the committee and those suffering the effects of crime.

“Today I got the agreement of the Committee to hold a public meeting on the drug problem in Limerick with a particular emphasis on the heroin problem. I look forward to a positive engagement with the public on this issue and hope to see the meeting take place at the earliest opportunity.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams speaking at a press conference said:

“The DUP appear to be putting up a pre-condition that Orange Order parades and the issues around them have to be resolved before the powers on Policing and Justice can be transferred.

This is totally and absolutely unacceptable.

Furthermore the Westminster grandstanding isn’t a genuine or sincere or serious attempt to resolve the issue of contentious orange parades seeking to march through catholic areas where they are unwelcome.

The deal is done on Policing and Justice.

There are a number of outstanding issues that have to be resolved by the Executive parties which is a four party coalition. But this can be done without a lot of angst.

Unionists need to ask what the DUP is playing at.

Peter Robinson in New York publicly said that if financial package was agreed that he would go out and sell it.

Well, the financial package has been agreed.

Citizens are concerned about safety in the home, about safety in public places, about safety for vulnerable members of society, about criminality and anti-social behaviour and about victims of crime.

They want their legislators to have the power to make laws to tackle these issues.

The Police are for Transfer now. So too are the judicial authorities and the Police Federation, and the DUP when you press them say they are for it too.

So, the DUP needs to get their act in order and obey the communal imperative on this issue.

Their play acting is eroding the confidence the DUP claims to be seeking. They need to get real." ENDS

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Need for harmonisation of labour laws, tax regimes and currency

Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has said differing tax regimes, currencies and labour laws across Ireland are hampering the development of a real all Ireland economy.

Speaking at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement today Senator Doherty said cross border shopping will continue to cause problems on either side of the border until such a time as an all Ireland economy is developed and expanded.

Speaking today Senator Doherty said:

“The development of a real all Ireland economy is being hampered by different labour laws, a widening tax differential and the different currencies on the Island.

“We have all seen and heard at this stage of the problems associated with price differentials on either side of the border. At the moment this differential is benefiting businesses on the Northern side of the border at the expense of Southern side. However, in time, as we have seen in the past, the benefit will shift and cause problems on the other side of the border.

“The price differential, and the problems associated with it, arise from both the different currencies and the different tax regimes operating on either side of the border. At a time when prices in the North were attracting shoppers from the South the Government here actually increased the rate of VAT increasing prices and decreasing consumers’ spending capabilities.

“We also have a situation which sees Enterprise Ireland and Invest NI on a competitive footing ignoring the benefits of joining together to lobby for jobs for the benefit of regions that share the border on both sides. Differing labour laws on either side of the border puts the different regions in competition with each other in a race to the bottom to attract investors.

“This should not be the case and nor does it have to be. In my view, in order to develop a real all Ireland economy, we must look at harmonising our tax regimes, our labour laws and our currencies. Only when we do this can the benefits and potential of the all Ireland economy be allowed to develop for the benefit of the whole island.” ENDS

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Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy has welcomed Roads Service’s progress on investment totalling £13.2million in the Belfast area this year.

Speaking ahead of this evening’s meeting between Roads Service and Belfast City Council, the Minister said: “Preliminary work is continuing on a strategic road proposal to widen a 2.5km stretch of the A2 Sydenham Bypass. This scheme will widen the existing dual two lane carriageway to a dual three lane carriageway. Following completion of the initial assessment and consultation processes, the scheme design is being taken forward through consideration of a number of design options. Roads Service is working closely with DOE Planning Service on the provision of a new junction to serve the Titanic Quarter.

“The M1/Westlink Improvement Scheme was officially opened on 4 March this year, some six months ahead of schedule.

"Significant improvements have also been completed on the M2 to provide three lanes in each direction between Sandyknowes and Greencastle junctions. Once again, major milestones were delivered ahead of programme and the overall scheme officially opened in June, some two and a half months ahead of programme. The increased carriageway capacity on the M2 has reduced congestion and improved journey times, particularly at peak times."

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP MLA has called on the ‘Orange Order to engage in dialogue with local residents to resolve the small number of remaining contentious parades’.

Mr. Adams was commenting on the DUP insistence that the resolution of the Parading issue become a pre-condition to the transfer of policing and justice powers.

He said:

“Many citizens will be concerned at the DUP’s insistence that the issue of contentious orange parades be resolved as a precondition to them agreeing to the transfer of policing and justice powers.

“It has always been Sinn Fein‘s position that the issue of parading can only be resolved through dialogue between the loyal Orders and local communities.


“Irish republicans accept and respect the rights of the Orange institutions to parade and promote their sense of Orangeism.


“But this has to be done on the basis of equality and mutual respect and tolerance.


“The Orange Order and Orangeism is part of who we are as a nation. Irish republicans want a dialogue with the loyal institutions in order that we can understand and appreciate each other’s position.

“As a society, we cannot afford the negative and unsustainable political, financial and social costs that flow from parading disputes.


“While the overwhelming majority of orange parades take place without rancour or dispute, there are a small number each year which give cause for concern.


“I am again asking the Orange Order to engage in dialogue with local residents to resolve these contentious parades.


“Let us together seek to resolve this issue in a common sense and respectful manner.


“Regardless of what structure is in place to mediate on contentious parades there can be no resolution or agreement without dialogue.


“Sinn Fein have no agenda other than to facilitate and help in whatever way we can to create a context and climate where local disputes can be resolved locally.


“All those in positions of leadership within our society have a responsibility to encourage this process.”

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South Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey, speaking after today’s reconvened Holyland stakeholders meeting, has welcomed the work done by the Employment and Learning Minister in trying to tackle the problems in the Holyland area but added that if the root causes are to be tackled then a cross-departmental approach is required to ensure that Assembly Ministers are not abdicating their responsibilities on this issue.

Alex Maskey MLA said,


“I, along with many residents of the Holyland that I have spoken to, welcome the interest that Employment and Learning Minister Reg Empey has shown in this issue. The work that he and his Department have carried out in organising the stakeholder forum and reconvening it today is to be welcomed.

“Today’s report shows that many of the key agencies which have a responsibility in tackling these problems are agreeing to work harder to help tackle the problems faced in this area. However, while this may offer some short-term respite for residents, the reality is that it falls short of what is required to get to the root causes of the problems experienced in the Holyland area.

“What is required is an overall policy plan for the Holyland area. This requires a cross-departmental approach on the Assembly Executive. Ministers need to work together to tackle the problems at their root cause. It also requires that there is satisfactory input into solving this problem from stakeholders such as the Universities and private landlords. At present this is missing and it only serves to allow both Ministers and some key stakeholders to abdicate their responsibility in all of this.”

He concluded,


“Minister Reg Empey is to be commended for working to tackle this issue. While other Ministers have attempted to evade responsibility he has faced up to the task at hand. The outcome of today’s meeting will provide some relief to residents in the Holyland area. However, I believe that much more needs to be done if we are to tackle the root causes of this problem. This cannot be left to one Department. A cross-departmental approach is required at Executive level; other Ministers cannot be allowed to abdicate their responsibility here. There is also a need for key stakeholders such as the Universities and private landlords to play a bigger role in tackling this problem. This is something which I believe we must continue to work towards.”
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Transport Minister Conor Murphy today said he wants to make public transport people’s first choice and not last resort.

He was delivering the keynote address at a transport seminar “Exploring the future of public transport”, in the Grand Opera House, Belfast.

The Minister said: “Public transport must be responsive to local travel needs, to regional needs and to the need for travel across the island of Ireland and beyond. I am committed to providing a modern, sustainable, safe public transportation system which benefits society, the economy and the environment, and which actively contributes to social inclusion and improving the quality of life.

“In recent times we have sought through the Regional Transportation Strategy to address years of underinvestment. The Regional Transportation Strategy is now under review. This will in future provide the strategic direction for transportation here, taking account of economic and environmental impacts and the impact on society more generally.

“Through continued investment in public transport services, NIR, Ulsterbus and Metro now deliver over 79 million passenger journeys each year across the bus and rail network – a rise of 7 million in the last four years and evidence that more people are choosing public transport.

“While there have been substantial improvements in public transport, I think we all recognise the need for this to be a continuous process. Whilst investment will be important in that process we also need to ensure that we have in place the best systems and structures to enable us to build on our achievements.

“For some time now officials from my Department have been working closely with key stakeholders in the public transport sector, many of whom are with us today. This work has focused on developing proposals which will enable changes to be made to existing structures to reflect good practice and the lessons learned in public transport delivery in other regions, while also meeting the requirements of new European Union legislation.

“Our public transport legislation is outdated – it is over 40 years since the last major revision. I am, therefore, proposing new arrangements to provide greater clarity about roles and responsibilities in the transport sector. As a result of the reforms there will also be a greater focus on identifying the needs of users and on service performance.

“My Department will shortly be entering into a three-month period of public consultation on proposals for the reform of public transport provision. I look forward to engaging with stakeholders and to put in place structures which will ensure the provision of a customer-focused, high quality integrated public transport system.”

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