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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described as “alarming” the Taoiseach’s failure to rule out a cut to the statutory minimum wage. Replying to Deputy Ó Caoláin in the Dáil today, the Taoiseach Brian Cowen also defended the Government’s decision to exempt some of the highest paid civil servants from the full effects of the public service pay cuts.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“I challenged the Taoiseach to rule out cuts to the statutory minimum wage and it is alarming that he failed to rule out such an attack on the lowest paid workers in our society. Instead the Taoiseach attempted to justify the decision to exempt top civil servants from the full effects of pay cuts while lower paid public servants are punished.

“Following the savage Budget cuts to wages, social welfare and public services, there were immediately calls from some representatives of business interests for a reduction in the minimum wage. That is exactly as trade unionists, Sinn Féin and others predicted – that an attack on the wages of lower paid public service workers would lead to similar attacks in the private sector. Now the Taoiseach has refused to rule out a further attack on the least well off.

“The Taoiseach also defended the Government’s intention to bring in amendments to industrial relations law to allow employers to apply to the Labour Court for an exemption from the requirements of the Employment Regulation Orders (ERO's) and Registered Employment Agreements (REA's). For decades these have protected workers from exploitation and ensured that there are agreed minimum rates of pay in industries across the economy.

“If these amendments are forced through then we will see pay rates across the economy driven down to the minimum wage level and below.

“Government policy is also encouraging profitable companies to lay off workers unnecessarily as in Rye Valley Foods in Monaghan or to impose unacceptable working conditions as in Kingspan in Co. Cavan.

“A reversal of pay cuts for lower paid public servants must be put on the table if there is to be any hope of a resumption of social partnership negotiations.

“In the talks before the Budget the public service unions were prepared to agree sweeping changes in work practices that would have had major implications for workers across the health sector in particular. This was thrown away by the Government which is clearly determined to drive forward with a low pay policy in the public and private sectors regardless of the consequences.” ENDS

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Dúirt sé:

"Cuirim fáilte roimh sheoladh na scéime thrialach 'Abair Leat' i 14 scoil ar fud an Stáit. Is fiúntach an tionscnamh é chun an teanga labhartha a chur chun cinn agus a fheabhsú i measc daltaí sna meánscoileanna, rud nach ráibh á dhéanamh go dtí seo. Ta súil agam go néireoidh leis an an scéim agus go gcuirfear i bhfeidhm é i ngach scoil sa Stát.

"Cé go gcuirim fáilte roimh scéim ar bith a thacaíonn leis an Ghaeilge mar teanga labhartha tá imní orm nach bhfuil canúint Dhún na nGall le cloisteáil sa chlár nua seo. Ba chóir go mbeadh an tionscnamh seo á chur i bhfeidhm in éineacht le siollabas an Roinn Oideachais a deir go dtugtar oilliúnt sa trí chanúint. Ní chóir idirdhealú a dhéanamh ar chanúint Dhún na nGall agus tá sé tabhachtach go mbeadh taithí ag mic léinn ar na trí chanúint agus iad ag ullmhú do Scúdú san Ard Teist.

"Chomh maith le sin iarraim ar an Aire Cumarsáide Eamonn Ryan a rá go soiléir an bhfuil sé de rún aige dóthair áiseanna banda leathan a chur ar fáil chun an scéim seo a chur i bhfiedhm go forleathan. Ní fiú an clár seo gan na háiseanna idirlíon chun é a chur ar fáil."

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As a Derry man, as someone who was on the march that fateful day 38 years ago I want to acknowledge and commend the dignity, resilience and courageous determination of the Bloody Sunday families who had loved ones murdered or wounded on that terrible day.

The dignified manner in which you have pursued the truth, to right the many wrongs that have been perpetrated against you has been an inspiration to all of us and especially others who also seek truth and justice. You have remained focused, determined and resolute despite the best efforts of the British political and military establishments to derail your campaign at every opportunity.

When Tony Blair, the then British Prime Minister, announced a new inquiry under Lord Saville, peoples’ expectations were understandably raised in the hope that the end of the campaign was imminent. But few believed that we would be met with the level of obstruction and destruction of evidence that took place during the Inquiry by those who fear truth.

Given that it is now over 12 years since the announcement of the Inquiry and almost 5 years since the inquiry concluded taking evidence – you the families have again displayed tremendous patience while awaiting the outcome.

The families realise that Saville had a large volume of evidence to consider but let him be mindful of the theme of today’s march – ‘Set the Truth Free’.
All of us and in particular the families of those killed or wounded, know that British paratroopers under the control of the British Government murdered 14 unarmed civil rights demonstrators and wounded and traumatised many others on their own streets in this city 38 years ago.

It is time that Saville ‘Set the Truth Free’ so that the world will know that after its soldiers murdered your loved ones – our people - the British establishment then set about a campaign of lies and deceit in order to cover up its murderous actions. He must take all measures to ensure that his report is published without further delay. And the British government must take action to ensure that the impending Westminster election is not used as another excuse to further delay its publication.

I fully support the families in their demand that they have sight of the
Report at the same time as the British Secretary of State. And I have told the British Prime Minister that.

While hopefully we are coming to the conclusion of the Bloody Sunday campaign for truth on the publication of the Saville Report, many others continue to search for truth about the circumstances of the deaths of their loved ones and they are entitled to it.

So let us send out a message of solidarity to those campaigns such as that in Ballymurphy where 11 people were murdered in a 24-hour period also by British Paratroopers in August 1971 and the Families of the Forgotten in the 26 Counties. It is time to ‘Set the Truth Free’ on those massacres also.

I have spent most of the past week in Hillsborough Castle. We have been engaged with the DUP directly. These talks were about equality. It was about rights. Your rights, my rights, our rights. These are not negotiable. They are entitlements.

The right to a proper policing service, the right to institutions which
deliver, the right to see poverty tackled. I am happy to say we have made significant progress. Institutions which don’t deliver are worthless and something I will not be involved in. I now hope we have a basis upon which nationalists, republicans, unionists and loyalists will move forward together on the basis of partnership and equality.

There is no other realistic or viable path available.

I thank the organisers of the Bloody Sunday Campaign for the tremendous work they have done through almost four decades to ensure that they get truth for their loved ones. Once again I pledge Sinn Féin’s continued support and solidarity until you achieve the conclusion which you have tirelessly campaigned for.

We conclude the march for the second year at the spot at which it was blocked 38 years ago. If the families decide that another march should take place next year let’s determine that it continues to the intended destination of the original march – Guildhall Square.

Set the Truth Free.

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin’s call for the introduction of a special emergency payment for recipients of Fuel Allowance to help them cope with continuing fuel costs in the wake of January’s freezing weather conditions, has been rejected by Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin.

In a letter to Deputy Ó Caoláin, Minister Hanafin directs people in need to the Community Welfare Service. She states that a supplementary payment to all fuel allowance recipients would “not necessarily represent a good targeting of resources”.

In response Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“I am disappointed at Minister Hanafin’s rejection of this proposal. To assist the least well-off to cope I called on the Government to make a special emergency payment to all fuel allowance recipients.

“Many of the least well-off families and individuals already have spent a large part of their small incomes in attempting to keep their homes heated during the January freeze. By now, in many cases, their entire winter budget for fuel will have been exhausted. Therefore they need assistance to continue to heat their homes.

“Directing people to the Community Welfare Service as the Minister does is not an adequate response. The Community Welfare system is daunting for most applicants and demeaning for some, with people feeling that they are begging for assistance.

“Surveys have shown that almost 10% of households in this State experience fuel poverty. Given the unjust and unnecessary social welfare cuts in Budget 2010, and the withholding of the 2009 Christmas bonus, the very least that the Government should do is take exceptional measures to assist people in the least well off households.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has welcomed the agreement between drugs manufacturers and Health & Children Minister Mary Harney which is expected to save the State up to €94 million in a full year on the cost of drugs.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said the extent of savings showed the profiteering that had gone on for years and he called on the Minister to scrap the proposed prescription charges for medical card patients.

Deputy Ó Caoláin:

“I welcome the agreement between the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) and the Minister for Health & Children Mary Harney. Action such as this from the Minister to reduce the grossly inflated cost of drugs was long overdue. The fact that up to €94 million is expected to be saved by the State in a full year shows clearly that there has been massive profiteering by the drugs manufacturers for many years.

“I believe that more savings can still be made in the cost of manufacture and distribution of drugs for our health services. The cost should be borne by the highly paid directors, executives and shareholders of the pharmaceutical companies, not by the patient or by the hard-pressed taxpayer. For that reason the Minister for Health & Children should scrap plans to impose prescription charges of up to €10 per month on all medical card holders.

“These charges will undermine the medical card system and add to the burden borne by the least well off who have already been hit hard by social welfare cuts. The charges are unfair and clearly unnecessary from a cost point of view and Sinn Féin will strongly oppose the Prescription Charges Bill when it is introduced by the Fianna Fáil/Green Government.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin’s Chief Negotiator and the North’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness addressed the annual Bloody Sunday Rally in Derry today.

The march and rally marks the anniversary when British soldiers killed 14 unarmed civilians in Derry in 1972.

 

 

Martin McGuinnes said:

 

“As a Derry man, as someone who was on the march that fateful day 38 years ago I want to acknowledge and commend the dignity, resilience and courageous determination of the Bloody Sunday families who had loved ones murdered or wounded on that terrible day.

 

“The dignified manner in which you have pursued the truth, to right the many wrongs that have been perpetrated against you has been an inspiration to all of us and especially others who also seek truth and justice. You have remained focused, determined and resolute despite the best efforts of the British political and military establishments to derail your campaign at every opportunity.

 

“When Tony Blair, the then British Prime Minister, announced a new inquiry under Lord Saville, peoples’ expectations were understandably raised in the hope that the end of the campaign was imminent. But few believed that we would be met with the level of obstruction and destruction of evidence that took place during the Inquiry by those who fear truth.

 

“Given that it is now over 12 years since the announcement of the Inquiry and almost 5 years since the inquiry concluded taking evidence – you the

families have again displayed tremendous patience while awaiting the

outcome.

 

“The families realise that Saville had a large volume of evidence to consider

but let him be mindful of the theme of today’s march – ‘Set the Truth Free’.

All of us and in particular the families of those killed or wounded, know

that British paratroopers under the control of the British Government

murdered 14 unarmed civil rights demonstrators and wounded and traumatized many others on their own streets in this city 38 years ago.

 

“It is time that Saville ‘Set the Truth Free’ so that the world will know

that after its soldiers murdered your loved ones – our people - the British

establishment then set about a campaign of lies and deceit in order to cover up its murderous actions. He must take all measures to ensure that his report is published without further delay. And the British government must take action to ensure that the impending Westminster election is not used as another excuse to further delay its publication.

 

“I fully support the families in their demand that they have sight of the

Report at the same time as the British Secretary of State. And I have told

the British Prime Minister that.

 

“While hopefully we are coming to the conclusion of the Bloody Sunday

campaign for truth on the publication of the Saville Report, many others

continue to search for truth about the circumstances of the deaths of their

loved ones and they are entitled to it.

 

“So let us send out a message of solidarity to those campaigns such as that in Ballymurphy where 11 people were murdered in a 24-hour period also by British Paratroopers in August 1971 and the Families of the Forgotten in the 26 Counties. It is time to ‘Set the Truth Free’ on those massacres also.

 

“I have spent most of the past week in Hillsborough Castle. We have been

engaged with the DUP directly. These talks were about equality. It was about rights. Your rights, my rights, our rights. These are not negotiable. They are entitlements.

 

“The right to a proper policing service, the right to institutions which

deliver, the right to see poverty tackled. I am happy to say we have made

significant progress. Institutions which don’t deliver are worthless and

something I will not be involved in. I now hope we have a basis upon which

nationalists, republicans, unionists and loyalists will move forward

together on the basis of partnership and equality.

 

“There is no other realistic or viable path available.

 

“I thank the organisers of the Bloody Sunday Campaign for the tremendous work they have done through almost four decades to ensure that they get truth for their loved ones. Once again I pledge Sinn Féin’s continued support and solidarity until you achieve the conclusion which you have tirelessly campaigned for.

 

“We conclude the march for the second year at the spot at which it was

blocked 38 years ago. If the families decide that another march should take place next year let’s determine that it continues to the intended

destination of the original march – Guildhall Square.”

 

ENDS

 

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Sinn Féin MLA for south Belfast Alex Maskey today joined hundreds of others taking part in the Belfast 4 Haiti fun run in Ormeau Park, Mr Maskey was joined by party colleague Jennifer McCann MLA.


Speaking after the event Mr Maskey commended all those involved;


“It is of little surprise to me that the citizens of Belfast are so ready to step up to the mark in terms of assisting the devastated people in Haiti.


Today’s run brought many people from different walks of life together for what is a very worthwhile cause. The fun won’t stop at the end of the run in Ormeau Park however; organisers have a day jam packed with music and craic in the city centre, all with the expressed purpose of raising funds for the people in Haiti.


I want to commend and congratulate the organisers and in particular the people of Belfast whose kindness and generosity, even in difficult times, is second to none!” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has criticised Senator Fiona O’Malley, formerly of the Progressive Democrats, for remarks in the Seanad in which she dismissed the Good Friday Agreement institutions. Senator Doherty said that Fiona O’Malley had rarely if ever had anything constructive to offer towards political progress in the North and that her latest comments displayed the political bankruptcy that had led to the welcome demise of her former political party.

Pearse Doherty said:

 

“At this sensitive time, while some of us are working hard to find a way to resolve the impasse over the transfer of policing and justice powers from Britain to the North and so move the entire political process forward, stone throwing from hurlers on the ditch such as Fiona O’Malley are neither helpful nor constructive.

 

“As a result of the peace process, which in its early days was fiercely criticized by Fiona O’Malley’s PD colleagues, huge progress has been made in this country. The North has been transformed in recent years. Maybe Fiona O’Malley should venture there sometime to see the changes for herself.

 

“The Good Friday Agreement and the power-sharing and all-Ireland institutions which it established have been central to the progress made. The full implementation of the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements, including the transfer of policing and justice powers are crucial to building a future based on partnership government and equality. That is in the interests of all sides of the community in the North and indeed throughout Ireland.

 

“The remarks of Fiona O’Malley in which she made clear her view that the Good Friday Agreement institutions are ‘dysfunctional’ and ‘will never work’ echo those of rejectionist unionists and other elements who are attempting to undermine political progress and drag us back to the past.

 

“Fiona O’Malley has rarely if ever had anything constructive to offer towards political progress in the North and her latest comments display the political bankruptcy that led to the welcome demise of her former political party.”

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Sinn Féin Councillor Seán Crowe has welcomed the decision to restore Dublin Bus services to West Tallaght. Deputy Crowe called on everybody in the West Tallaght Community to play a part in ensuring that attacks on buses in the area become a thing of the past.

Speaking today Councillor Crowe said:

“Attacks on buses and their drivers are attacks on our community. They are highly dangerous and they are disgraceful. Everybody in the community should play a part in ensuring that these attacks become a thing of the past.

“I welcome the decision to restore bus services to West Tallaght. These services are an essential part of everyday life for thousands of members of our community and the actions of a tiny minority should not be allowed disrupt them.

“The return of buses to West Tallaght is a result of much hard work by members of the community, by Dublin Bus, the Gardaí and Council reps and officials. The plan for their return involves a major leaflet drop by community members calling on people to desist from attacks on buses. It also involve a clean up of the routes by the council and extra Garda patrols on the routes.

“I would call on anybody who has in the past been involved in attacking buses to desist from these activities and on everybody in the community to be vigilant and to report anyone they know of engaging in these activities.” ENDS

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Carrickmacross Sinn Féin Councillor, Matt Carthy, has criticised the Town Mayor, Fine Gael’s Mary Kerr Conlon, for hosting a civic reception for the Israeli ambassador, Zion Evrony, this morning, Friday 29th January.

Councillor Carthy said that at least four of the nine town councillors had expressed their opposition to the visit and it should have been cancelled. Indeed no other member of the council, apart from the Mayor herself attended the proceedings.

The ambassador was met by a protest of over thirty locals and was confronted by local representatives including Cllr. Carthy and his colleague, Noel Keelan who is the Deputy Mayor of Carrickmacross. Also in attendance was the Mayor of Monaghan Town Council, Seán Conlon and the former Workers Party Mayor of Carrickmacross, Francie O’Donoghue.

Speaking after the protest Cllr. Carthy, who himself is a former Mayor of both Carrickmacross Town Council and Monaghan County Council, said that the current Fine Gael Mayor should be ashamed of herself for hosting a civic reception for someone who simply wasn’t welcome in Carrickmacross.

Cllr. Carthy said: “The Mayor’s actions in this regard are disgraceful. Carrickmacross does not want to be associated in any way with the Israeli government which has been condemned for engaging in war crimes by numerous international organisations and has repeatedly refused to abide by International Court and UN decisions.

“For Carrickmacross Town Council to be associated with this ‘rogue government’ is an affront to the Palestinian people who, only one year ago, were the subject of an unrelenting aerial and ground attack by Israeli forces in their Operation Cast Lead. That operation saw upwards of 1,400 Palestinians killed; more than 400,000 Gazans were left without running water; 4,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged and tens of thousands of people were left homeless.

“At the next meeting of Carrickmacross Town Council I will be proposing that any costs associated with this mornings civic reception are not paid by the council, that the page in our ‘distinguished visitors book’ signed by Zion Evrony this morning be removed and that the council write to the Israeli embassy stating that any further visit will not be welcome.

“The Israeli government, who Zion Evrony represents here in Ireland, have never accepted their responsibility in targeting schools, homes, hospitals and civilians in their attacks. Indeed they have tried to cover up the use of horrific and illegal white phosphorous shells in the attack.

“Even since then they have maintained their siege of the region ensuring that poverty, malnutrition and unemployment is endemic and that hospitals aren’t adequately equipped, that electricity blackouts occur regularly, that the sewerage system can’t operate, that schools have no supplies and that over 80% of the population are dependent on UN food aid to survive and that industry has ground to a halt with no access to markets and no supplies or replacement equipment. They have denied access to the market for Palestinian products from both the West Bank and Gaza regions.

“Mr. Evrony’s government continue the land grab and the building of their ‘apartheid wall’ around the Palestinian Territories and while these actions continue no council in Ireland should wish to be associated with them.

“Unfortunately Mayor Kerr Conlon decided to proceed with this morning’s civic reception despite being informed of the objections of at least four of her colleagues which I believe are shared by the majority of people in our town. She should apologise for her actions.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Transport, Senator Pearse Doherty has hit out at the proposed cuts by Bus Éireann which will axe around 250 jobs and will see cuts to services on 22 routes across the state with 8 to be discontinued.

Senator Doherty said today:

“From 28th February eight routes will be discontinued completely, 22 routes will be cut back and the process of sacking around 250 workers will begin. But that is not all, in total Bus Éireann plans to alter the frequency or route on around 70 of its services and discontinue another 30 routes in total.

“Today’s proposals from Bus Éireann’s are completely contrary to government’s supposed commitment to public transport.

“Rural areas in particular have been targeted for cuts, the fallout of which will have a direct impact on jobs and will make life even more difficult for those in isolated areas who are most at risk of social exclusion and who depend on public transport to get access to essential facilities and public services.

“Rural communities have been particularly hit by recession and to take such a severe step as to make almost 100 cuts in total to vital public transport will have a devastating impact on the quality of life in these areas.

“I am calling on the Minister for Transport and indeed Green Party leader John Gormley to intervene and to stop these cuts before they take hold. Our public transport system simply cannot take a hit like this.” ENDS

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Speaking ahead of attending negotiations at Hillsborough Castle today, Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty said an Orange march down the Garvaghy Road or Ardoyne will not be the price of the transfer of policing and justice powers from Britain to the North.

Senator Doherty said:

“Sinn Féin has been at Hillsborough all week and we are determined to see the implementation of the outstanding commitments of the St. Andrews and Good Friday Agreements.

“We have invested much attempting to ensure that the political institutions deliver for the people and we want to see them succeed.

“The decision by the DUP, at the behest of the Orange Order, to make the abolition of the Parades Commission a precondition for the transfer of policing and justice powers flies in the face of the St. Andrews agreement.

“Sinn Féin's record on parades is clear – we have sought and encouraged local agreement between residents and marching orders. Local accommodation and solutions must include the prospect that no parade is the eventual and agreed outcome.

“We recognise that support from all sides of the community has the potential to bring about solutions where there are difficulties. This has happened in some areas and there have been local solutions.

“No one local solution is automatically transferable to any other area but local dialogue and local leadership are the common factors where progress has been achieved. That is what offers the best prospect of a local solution.

“This requires respect for the rights of everyone – those who seek to march and those who live in areas through which they seek to march. And it must include the right to live free from sectarian harassment.

“An Orange march on Garvaghy Road or in Ardoyne will not be the price of the transfer of policing and justice powers and anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves. We will not allow citizens rights and entitlements to be made subject to a unionist veto or an Orange Order pre-condition.” ENDS

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"The Report published today has shown conclusively that the blatant disregard for the plan of internal control at FÁS effectively gave a two-fingered salute to taxpayers in respect of best value for money and the training services provided.

"Following on from the other two reports in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s series on FÁS, today’s report should be the nail in the coffin for corrupt and crony practises that only served to benefit the Directors, the Ministers and senior civil servants.

"The new Board at FÁS have inherited the worst unemployment pandemic this country has ever seen and they cannot afford to be complacent. The actions of their predecessors have left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouths and this report magnifies the extent to which FÁS has been corrupted.

"The fact that certification could not be carried out competently by the State’s training and employment authority is an indictment on the former Board of FÁS and the Minister, and reinforces the responsibility of the Board to carry out their functions diligently.

"At a time when there are 426,700 people on the Live Register, when FÁS is needed most, the agency cannot be consumed by anymore scandals. The Minister needs to be proactive rather than reactive and should be in constant dialogue with both the Board of FÁS and indeed the workforce."

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It has emerged this evening that the Fine Gael Mayor of Carrickmacross, Mary Kerr Conlon, has facilitated an official welcome to the Town Council offices tomorrow morning for the Israeli ambassador, Zion Evrony. Sinn Féin Councillor Matt Carthy has called for the reception to be cancelled and has said that should the ambassador attend the Carrickmacross Town Council offices that Sinn Féin will hold a protest at the event.

Cllr. Carthy said: “The Mayor’s actions in this regard are disgraceful. Carrickmacross does not want to be associated in any way with the Israeli government which has been condemned for engaging in war crimes by numerous international organisations and has repeatedly refused to abide by International Court and UN decisions.

“For Carrickmacross Town Council to be associated with this “rogue government” would be an affront to the Palestinian people who, only one year ago, were the subject of an unrelenting aerial and ground attack by Israeli forces in their Operation Cast Lead. That operation saw upwards of 1,400 Palestinians killed; more than 400,000 Gazans were left without running water; 4,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged and tens of thousands of people were left homeless.

“The Israeli government, who Zion Evrony represents here in Ireland, have never accepted their responsibility in targeting schools, homes, hospitals and civilians in their attacks. Indeed they have tried to cover up the use of horrific and illegal white phosporous shells in the attack.

“Even since then they have maintained their siege of the region ensuring that poverty, malnutrition and unemployment is endemic and that hospitals aren’t adequately equipped, that electricity blackouts occur regularly, that the sewerage system can’t operate, that schools have no supplies and that over 80% of the population are dependent on UN food aid to survive and that industry has ground to a halt with no access to markets and no supplies or replacement equipment. They have denied access to the market for Palestinian products from both the West Bank and Gaza regions.

“Mr. Evrony’s government continue the land grab and the building of their ‘apartheid wall around the Palestinian Territories and while these actions continue no council in Ireland should wish to be associated with them.

“Unfortunately Mayor Kerr Conlon has decided to proceed with this visit despite being informed of our objections which I believe are shared by the majority of people in our town. Even at this late stage I call on her to withdraw the welcome for the Israeli Ambassador”.
ENDS

Note: Sinn Féin will be holding a protest at the Carrickmacross Town Council offices at 9am tomorrow, Friday 29th January, to coincide with the visit of the Israeli ambassador. People of all political persuasions are welcome to attend.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has reiterated his party’s position that any precondition on parades ahead of the transfer of policing and justice powers simply will not work.

Speaking today at Hillsborough Mr Adams said;

"We came here at the beginning of the week determined to see the outstanding St Andrews and Good Friday Agreement commitments implemented; that remains our focus.

This morning we met with both governments and with the DUP, to establish if further progress can be made.”

Responding to a question on contentious parades Mr Adams concluded;

“Anybody who thinks that the price of policing and justice is a walk down the Garvaghy Road or Ardoyne is just ridiculous. We want to see a resolution to the issue of contentious parades. Aside from wanting to build relationships with those from the Orange tradition we also represent the vast majority of people in those communities who are directly effected by contentious parades. However, everybody knows that issues in the talks need to be dealt with in their own right – as outstanding elements of the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements. This does not include allowing Orange marches into areas without the invitation or consent of local people.” CRÍOCH

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Highlighting what he called a "flagrant breach of Ireland's neutrality and the Triple-Lock mechanism by Minister Willie O'Dea" with the continuing Irish army involvement in Afghanistan, Aengus Ó Snodaigh Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on International Affairs said this morning:

“During the last two EU referenda and re-run campaigns the government and in particular Minister Willie O'Dea placed great store in the fact that a Dáil approval would be required when sending more than twelve Irish soldiers abroad on military operations. It has now emerged that that the Dáil is being bypassed in the decision making regarding soldiers being sent to prop up the US/NATO led forces in Afghanistan.

“The Irish electorate were duped in the Lisbon and Nice Treaty debates when grave concerns over Irish army operations overseas were dismissed as exaggerated and untrue. Last year and every year since 2002 the government has given permission for 14 soldiers to serve in Afghanistan without seeking Dáil approval.

“In fact in a reply to a Dáil question the Minister for Defence admitted that he has sent 100 soldiers to serve in this Theatre of War, without any Dáil approval. This is in clear breach of the much-hyped Triple Lock mechanism which is supposed to ensure that Irish soldiers would ‘only participate in overseas operations, including those carried out under European policy, ESDP, subject to a Government decision and where there is UN authorisation.’

“I call on the Minister to clarify the position of the soldiers operating in Afghanistan and why was Dáil approval not sought when sending 14 soldiers annually.” ENDS

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Sinn Fein MLA for Newry/Armagh Cathal Boylan has said that he is stunned to hear that 22 cattle have died of starvation in a county Armagh farm. Mr Boylan said:

"I am stunned and horrified to hear of the conditions in which these animals died.

"I understand that the cattle died of starvation - this is a dreadful incident and will cause shock not only to the farming community but to the wider public.

"I commend the actions of DARD and Minister Michelle Gildernew as they have taken immediate actions to secure feed and water for the animals left alive"

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South Down Sinn Féin Assembly Member Caitríona Ruane has slammed the 'massive gulf' in child poverty spending between here in the Six Counties and Britain.

Ms Ruane was speaking as the Assembly committee of the First and Deputy First Minister prepared to hear evidence from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation regarding the levels of child poverty here.

She continued: "Some of the statistics provided by the foundation are shocking and they clearly expose the massive gulf in the levels of resources which are directed at this problem in Britain compared with the North of Ireland.

"For example, spending on Sure Start per child is £80 here compared to nearly £600 per child in England.

"This is despite the fact that the levels of persistent child poverty are much higher in the North - at least 21% compared to 9% in Britain.

"The difficulty in all of this is that financial responsibility and the benefits system have not been transferred to the Northern Assembly. That means the well-being of our children remains largely in the hands of British Ministers who, as these figures clearly show, have no intention or desire to seriously tackle child poverty in the Six Counties.

"So while much effort has rightly been focused on the transfer of policing and justice, the next step needs to be securing financial autonomy for the Assembly in order that local, accountable Ministers can begin taking
decisions that make a real difference to the lives of those in need."

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Sinn Féin President and west Belfast MP Gerry Adams has expressed his deepest sympathies to the family of Basil McLaughlin, one of the founders of the Andersontown News.

Speaking this evening Mr Adams said;

Basil was one of the founders of the Andersontown News and became the papers first editor; he was deeply committed to his community.

He was also a photographer with the Andersontown news and will no doubt be remembered for the countless photographs he took on behalf of the paper, often in very difficult and dangerous circumstances.

Basil stood for truth and justice and worked tirelessly on behalf of his community, he will be sorely missed.

My thoughts and prayers are with Basil’s family at this time.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness, commenting after discussions at Hillsborough today said;

“The two governments in their statement make it clear that what is required is implementation of the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements. We welcome this.

We went into these negotiations against the backdrop of the three years of default by the DUP in relation to their St Andrews Agreement commitments. However belated, this still requires an early date for the transfer of policing and justice powers and a situation where the institutions deliver and operate, into the future, on the basis of partnership and equality.

The reality is that the failure to resolve those problems does not lie with Sinn Féin. We have come at this phase in a problem solving mode, we have invested much in the success of these institutions and so we want them to succeed.

We have displayed extraordinary patience over the past 18 months. We sought to persuade the DUP to be partners on progress. In recent days the two governments have joined that effort.

The decision by the DUP, at the behest of the Orange Order, to make the abolition of the Parades Commission a precondition for the transfer of powers flies in the face of that. It made reaching agreement extremely difficult and many are speculating that this was the intention.

However I have to say that despite some progress being made on policing, we have not concluded a deal here today. I am deeply disappointed and I informed the plenary of that; Gerry Adams and myself in a meeting with the Taoiseach and British Prime Minister did likewise. We now intend to study the governments statement, but one thing is certain, that citizens rights and entitlements cannot and will not be subject to a unionist veto or an Orange Order precondition.” CRÍOCH

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