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Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, whose car was stolen and burned over the Christmas period, has said that contrary to misleading newspaper reports today, he did report the theft in person to the Gardai.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh said:

“Contrary to newspaper reports today, I did in fact report in person to Kilmainham Garda station the theft of my 14-year-old car over the Christmas period.

“I also visited Ballyfermot Garda station and spoke to Gardai there to check the extent of the damage to the car as it was found in their district.

“Furthermore I spoke to Gardai from Harcourt Terrace who called to my home to investigate the theft.

“I even spoke to the Garda Commissioner's office when they rang to inquire into the matter.

“This is now a Garda matter.

“The inaccurate and mischievous reporting by certain newspapers today does nothing to highlight the fact that car theft is a huge issue for communities and that the Gardai should be given all possible help and support to tackle this and the related issues of joyriding and the criminal damage and burning of cars.”

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Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has said that revelations in today’s Sunday Times newspaper of direct contacts between An Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Seán Fitzpatrick “raises further questions over the motivations behind Government banking policy in the run up to September 2008 and the introduction of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Bill commonly known as the Bank Guarantee.”

The passing of this bill has led to enormous financial loss for the Irish Taxpayer of over €34 billion to date.

Deputy Doherty said:

“The Taoiseach’s claims that he played a round of golf and had dinner with Mr Fitzpatrick but that the situation in Anglo Irish Bank was not discussed is severely lacking in credibility. Furthermore revelations that he spoke by phone to Mr Fitzpatrick in March 2008 while still Minister for Finance in relation to the share prices in Anglo Irish Bank raises further questions about the cosy consensus between the Fianna Fáil government and the bankers and speculators who have brought down the economy.

“The Taoiseach needs to come clean on the full extent of the Governments contacts with senior bankers in Anglo and other banks and how much they really knew when they introduced the Bank Guarantee in September 2008.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said the General Election offers an opportunity for the beginning of a real process of social and economic change.

Speaking in Meath on this evening, where the Sinn Féin leader was formally launching the start of the party’s election campaign and introducing the party’s two candidates Peadar Tóibin for Meath West and Michael Gallagher for Meath East, Mr Adams said that “a stark example of this Government’s failure is to be found in the disastrous state of the health service in County Meath and County Louth.

“The government can bankrupt the state to bail out private bankers. Yet it refuses to establish a public health service. Its policy is to privatise health provision. Sinn Féin has been at the forefront of campaigning for fundamental reform of the health service. The two-tier system must be ended. Healthcare should be available equally to all citizens and adequately funded through a just and equitable taxation system.”

Gerry Adams said:

“The next election is not just about a change of faces in Government. It offers an opportunity for real social and economic change.

“One of the starkest examples of how current Government policy is failing citizens is to be found in the state of the health service.

“This week revealed a record number of patients on trolleys and chairs in our hospitals.

“Savage cuts imposed in the Budget will further decimate an already crumbling health system.

“This Government has taken €765 million out of the public health budget for 2011 and its four-year plan would take a total of €1.4 billion by 2014.

“Thursday’s news of price increases for VHI premiums will further burden ordinary families who took out private health insurance because of a lack of faith in the underfunded health system. With unemployment rocketing many have now had to give up health insurance.

“Here in Meath and Louth, the Government’s disastrous health policy is seen in the ongoing threat to services at Navan hospital where the HSE has refused to guarantee that acute services have a future and in the stripping away of acute medical services, intensive care and A&E services from Louth County Hospital.

“Sinn Féin has been at the forefront of campaigning for fundamental reform of the health service. The two-tier system must be ended. Healthcare should be available equally to all citizens and adequately funded through a just and equitable taxation system.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has expressed his sincerest condolences to the family of Athy Town Councillor Paddy Wright who passed away last night.

Councillor Wright was one of Sinn Féin’s longest serving elected representatives having first being elected to both Kildare County Council and Athy Town Council in 1985.

Speaking after hearing of his death today Mr Adams said:

“It was with great sadness that I learned today of Paddy Wright’s death.

“Paddy was a dedicated and committed Irish republican and was one of Sinn Féin’s longest serving elected representatives working for the people of Athy and Kildare for more than 25 years as a Councillor.

“My thoughts and prayers are with his sister Annie and his brothers John, Noel and Brendan at this time.

“Suaimhneas síoraí dá anam.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will launch his party’s general election campaign in Meath tonight. The campaign will kick off the campaign at 7.30pm in the Ardboyne Hotel in Navan this evening.

The launch will be attended by over 200 party members and is open to the general public. The event will be a public endorsement of the party's two candidates – Councillor Peadar Tóibin in Meath West and Michael Gallagher in Meath East.

Speaking ahead of the launch today Director of Elections Councillor Joe Reilly said, “While our activists have been out for a number of months now knocking doors and spreading the message, this will be a good opportunity for party activists and the general public to hear Sinn Féin's alternative for getting this country back on its feet through job creation and progressive economics.

“Confidence levels are high, with a number of polls showing that the third seat in Meath West is a direct choice between Councillor Tóibin and Fianna Fáil. I would encourage all left-minded voters, particularly Labour supporters, to be strategic in the constituency and to lend us their vote to ensure that we keep Fianna Fáil out.

“Meath Sinn Féin has led the way locally in challenging cuts, offering alternatives and delivering locally. Councillor Tóibin is the founder and Chairperson of the Save Navan Hospital campaign, he is the chairperson of the Meath Schools Campaign and has successfully put forward an economic plan for the county that is promoting small businesses, creating small business units and most importantly creating jobs.

“The recent election of Pearse Doherty TD in Donegal shows that more and more people are in agreement with Sinn Féin's policy of making the banks pay for their mistakes. So I extend a warm welcome to anyone in Meath to come along, learn more about Sinn Féin's policies and take the opportunity to meet Gerry Adams.” ENDS

Meath SF PRO Felix Gallagher - 086 8974340

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Sinn Féin MLA and vice chair of the health committee Michelle O’Neill has accused the Health Minster Michael McGimpsey of ‘going missing on the job’ as the Health Service tries to tackle the re-emergence of Swine flu.

Speaking today Ms O’Neill said:

“At present there are 33 people in a critical condition as a result of swine flu in the north. Last month there were 185 people being treated for the virus. Yet the Health Minister went on his Christmas holidays and has remained silent. There has been no leadership from the top. It seems he has gone missing on the job.

“Last February the Minister assured the Assembly that there were still half a million swine flu jabs unused. What has the Minister and the Department been doing over the past year to ensure that these vaccines were used? It seems that once swine flu was out of the headlines any proactive course of action was simply placed on the long finger.

“There has been no public advertising campaign similar to the one in late 2009 and early 2010 to warn people of the dangers or indeed to consult with GP’s on how to access the vaccine and we are now seeing the result of this failure with significant extra pressures being put on a number of hospitals and a significant rise in trolley waits. This is unacceptable and the Minister needs to step forward and start giving answers to the many questions that are out there over his management of this situation.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson has cautiously welcomed assurances from the Housing Executive that they have plans in place to deal with another period adverse weather.
Speaking after Sinn Féin representatives met senior members of the Housing Executive staff including the Chief Executive and Chairman, Fra McCann MLA said;
“I welcome the fact that today’s meeting took place, Sinn Féin representatives from across Belfast were very eager to relay the concerns and issues facing their constituents, many of whom are still awaiting urgent repairs and unsure about compensation and reimbursement.
We are eager to see a review of what did and didn’t happen over the period of adverse weather; lessons must be learnt by both the Housing Executive and Department of Social Development.
As we emerge from this period many tenants are now unsure about where they stand in relation to compensation and reimbursement as a result of both damage to their properties and having to pay out of their own pockets for electric blow heaters left to heat their homes.
We will be consulting with our party colleagues on the Executive as well lobbying the Housing Minister, to ensure that effective measures are put in place to support those many citizens affected.
We also took the opportunity to raise the serious problems in relation to communication and the ‘brick wall’ faced by both members of the public and elected representatives. The Housing Executive has assured us that lessons in relation to this have indeed by learnt and it is something we will be monitoring closely.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey has said that SDLP representative Conal McDevitt needs ‘to get real if he thinks that nationalists in the north are about to stand by and watch him try and barter away hard fought gains in successive negotiations for his own narrow political ambitions’. He accused the SDLP representative of disgracefully aligning himself with unionist attempts to undermine the checks and balances at the Assembly.

Mr Maskey’s comments came after Mr McDevitt called for changes in the Stormont rules to allow the Assembly to remove a Minister from the Executive, thereby handing unionists a veto over nationalist Ministers.

Mr Maskey said:

“Conal McDevitt may not understand nor care about the past unionist abuse of power in the 6 Counties.  In pursuit of his own political ambitions he seeks to build a UUP/SDLP alliance.  His agenda is causing unease amongst many within the SDLP base, he is actively attempting to undermine the checks and balances contained within the Good Friday Agreement political institutions. 

“His recent call for a new provision within the Assembly to allow the removal of an Executive Minister on the basis of a simple majority vote is ill thought-out.  It is also a longstanding unionist demand. For an SDLP representative to propose what would in effect be a unionist veto over the operation of the political institutions is staggering.  Were it to be adopted his proposal would spell the end of power-sharing government.

“The only way that the political institutions can operate effectively and in the interests of all is on the basis of equality. Sinn Féin will not allow any attempts to undermine the power-sharing safeguards and guarantees built into the arrangements upon which the Institutions are required to operate.  That is the only way to ensure that the unionist abuses of the past never happen again and that the institutions serve all sections of society.

“Conal McDevitt needs to get real if he thinks that nationalists in the north are about to stand by and watch him try and barter away hard fought gains in successive negotiations for his own narrow political ambitions.” ENDS

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Belfast Sinn Féin Council group has welcomed the decision for the Ballymurphy campaigners to go ahead with a planned Exhibition in City Hall later this year to commemorate their loved ones.

Cllr Steven Corr welcomed the move saying;


"This has been brought back into Council tonight as a result of a deferment back to Committee at the last full Council meeting in December.


We welcome the fact that this exhibition will now take place with cross-party support at this evening’s full council meeting.


This is a City Hall for all the citizens of Belfast, and we hope that this decision sends out a clear message that all the citizens of Belfast are cherished and respected.


Our Council group will work with all sections of the community to ensure that this is achieved.


The reality of the Ballymurphy massacre is that the Parachute Regiment were engaged in armed actions against a civilian population in August 1971, in the same way that that Regiment were involved in the killings on Bloody Sunday in January 1972.
Sinn Féin will continue to support dignified campaigns to bring about Truth and Justice, currently being pursued by the Ballymurphy families." Críoch

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Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described the price increases for VHI premiums as a further burden on hard-pressed families. He said:

“These VHI rises could not have come at a worse time for hard-pressed families. Worst hit will be families with children, the same families who experience major mortgage debt and are being hit this month with increased Government levies on their incomes.

“The health insurance market expanded during the so-called Celtic Tiger years because many families with children, aware of the perils of relying totally on the public hospital system, took out personal health insurance. Now that market is shrinking again as unemployment has increased and people have had to give up their health insurance.

“All of this points to the need for fundamental health reform. Those who can afford to do so should be contributing to the provision of healthcare through fair taxation. In a new healthcare system there would no longer be a public-private divide and care would be available to all based on need alone. Sinn Féin has proposed the establishment of a Health Funding Commission to plan the transition to such a fairer and more equitable system.” ENDS.

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Sinn Féin deputy Chair of the Assembly Justice Committee Raymond McCartney MLA has this afternoon said he is ‘glad’ that this position has been filled in a speedy fashion.

Speaking this afternoon Mr McCartney said;

“I am glad that this position has been filled in such a speedy fashion; I am sure that Colin McConnell will be more than aware of the many difficult challenges facing the Prison Service here in the north.

We now need to see Mr McConnell get to work on the very serious issues of concern address in a professional manner.

For our part Sinn Féin will continue our work to ensure that the north achieves a Prison Service that is fit for purpose in the 21st Century.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Fra McCann MLA has said that figures released yesterday by the Chief Executive of the Housing Executive that the repair bill for Housing executive homes could be over £10 million are ‘staggering’ and ‘warrant urgent investigation’.

Speaking today Mr McCann said;

“Despite it not featuring very highly in the media, many people right across the north will be more than aware of the current difficulties facing Housing Executive tenants. Whether homes are still without heating or electricity from before Christmas or awaiting urgent repairs to pipes or ceilings, people need urgent clarity from the Minister about what measures are being put in place by the Housing Executive and Associations to ensure people are being kept up to date and aware of when work will take place.

The questions that apply to other government agencies also apply to the Housing Executive; what measures were put in place in advance of the adverse weather to give tenants the relevant information and assistance, why were elected representatives no immediately issued with an emergency contact number and what happens now to ensure those tenants, many of them from socio-economically deprived areas, who have had to fork out the bill for insufficient electric blow heaters provided by the Housing Executive.

Perhaps if assistive and preventative measures had of been adopted in advance we wouldn’t be dealing with this staggering repair bill of over £100 million.

I will lead a Sinn Féin delegation in meeting with the organisation’s Chief Executive tomorrow (Friday) and these are issues we will continue to explore with him, the DSD Minister and our colleagues in the Executive.” CRÍOCH

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has welcomed what he called the “long overdue” news that the Cabinet has agreed wording for a children’s rights amendment to the Constitution, as announced by Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews. Deputy Ó Caoláin, who was a member of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children, said:

“A referendum to strengthen the rights of children in the Constitution is long overdue. The news that the Cabinet has finally agreed a wording is welcome. However, we must reserve judgement on the wording until it is published. This should be done immediately and I have written to the Minister of State for Children, Barry Andrews TD, urging publication of the proposed constitutional amendment.

“The Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children, of which I was a member, did a huge amount of work, consulted widely and drew on a large body of research, before framing the wording which was finally agreed by all parties. As the Government in the person of Minister of State Andrews was party to this agreed wording, I have repeatedly urged that this should be the constitutional amendment put before the people in a referendum. We must now assess to what extent that wording has been diluted.

“The issue here is the protection of children in the Constitution, in law and in practice. Constitutional and legal changes will be worthless unless they provide the basis for improving the lives of children, especially those vulnerable to abuse and neglect.” ENDS

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Speaking today after the Live Register showed an increase of 5,200 people in December, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Innovation Arthur Morgan said:

“We are in a New Year but the same problem persists. A lack of job creation has seen unemployment rise again.

“It must be remembered that the true extent of unemployment is hidden behind casual employment in the run up to Christmas in the retail sector when traditionally shops take on extra holiday staff.

“These figures are only telling half the story as emigration continues to mask the true extent of the unemployment crisis.

“Yesterday’s exchequer figures showed a positive export performance and there is no doubt that this Government has been successful in exporting its people.

“The Government is so immersed in bailing out banks are diverting yet more funds into these defunct institutions that more and more people are falling into the unemployment trap.

“Nevermore has the need for a stimulus package been greater felt. If the Government continue on their path of fiscal contraction, exasperated by the EU/IMF bailout, then this pattern will continue.

“For the 5,200 people who signed on last year the future is certainly looking bleak. The sooner a general election is called the better.” ENDS

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Speaking today after it was revealed that the first tranche of the EU/IMF loan will be paid out to Ireland on Wednesday 12th January, Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty said:

“The interest rate being charged on this first part of the loan is scandalous. The EU is set to make a tidy profit of 3% on this loan, pushing up the cost of this intervention to an already beleaguered Irish economy.

“We must strongly question why this Government has entered the Irish people into such a bad deal and why the European Commission, in their misguided attempt to help the Irish economy, are actually taking advantage of an opportunity. It was bare-faced profiteering that brought about this crisis and this same profiteering will only make the Irish situation worse.

“This transfer of loans next week is the final nail in the coffin of Irish economic sovereignty. The conditionality attached to this loan, as seen in the memorandum of understanding will hinder economic growth and cripple the economy, throwing the economy into a self-defeating policy spiral.

“The State’s structural deficit is fixable. It is the insistence, by the commission and the IMF, that bank bondholders must be honoured that is plunging us into crisis. Remember this is the Commission that are telling us what to do while conversely penalising us through inflated interest rates on this same policy.

“We need to burn bank bondholders, introduce a stimulus package, overhaul the taxation system and eliminate wasteful spending. This approach will deliver recovery, not EU/IMF loans with thick strings attached.

“The people of this State need to be consulted on this monumental decision. This Government has no mandate to accept these funds, not least when many of the same figures who voted for this loan are refusing to go before the people at a general election to defend this position.” ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Workers Rights has claimed that the 110 Superquinn workers at its Naas outlet are the victims of property speculation. Superquinn was acquired from the Quinn family in 2005 by Select Retail Holdings whose major share holders included property developers Bernard McNamara, Jerry O’Reilly and David Courtney. All three have been part of multi billion Euro property failures.

Deputy Ferris said:

“It is a shame that yet more jobs are going to be lost as a consequence of the reckless behaviour of a small number of failed property speculators.

“In 2007 Superquinn’s current owners, Select Retail Holdings, made €142 million by selling sites, including the one at Naas, to Friends First. They said that the funds would be invested in expansion. Since then there have been shop closures and lay offs.

“Now apparently the group have been in negotiations with NAMA to acquire a lease on the currently empty Naas shopping centre which is on NAMA’s books. The irony ought not be lost on people.

“It is a shame that the jobs and lives of so many people have fallen victim to the greed and incompetence of a small number of reckless gamblers who put the prospect of short term speculative profits ahead of real jobs, and indeed the economy as a whole.” ENDS

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Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy today launched the consultation on the review of the Regional Development Strategy (RDS) for three months until 31 March 2011.

The Minister said: “The Regional Development Strategy provides an overarching strategic planning framework to facilitate and guide both the public and private sectors. The speed and direction of change in our society and economy requires a new approach to spatial development.

“The revised RDS therefore addresses key challenges on climate change, rebuilding and rebalancing the economy, population growth, the location of jobs and houses, infrastructure provision and the protection of our natural and built environment.

"I would encourage as many individuals and organisations as possible to make their views known on the RDS. The consultation will last for three months until 31 March 2011."

A number of events have been organised in Newry, Cookstown, Omagh, Belfast, Ballymena, Coleraine, Derry, Downpatrick, Enniskillen, Newtownards and Craigavon to provide information and clarification on the review. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The dates and venues of these events are listed below:

Monday 24 January, 6-8pm, Canal Court Hotel, Newry Tuesday 25 January, 10.30 -12am, Burnavon Arts Centre, CookstownTuesday 25 January, 2.30 -4pm, Silverbirch Hotel, OmaghWednesday 26 January, 2-5pm, Waterfront Hall, BelfastWednesday 26 January, 6-8pm, Waterfront Hall, BelfastThursday 27 January, 2-4pm, The Braid Ballymena Town HallThursday 27 January, 6-8pm, The Lodge Hotel, ColeraineMonday 31 January, 2-5pm, The Millennium Forum, DerryMonday 31 January, 6-8pm, The Millennium Forum, DerryTuesday 1 February, 10-12am, Downpatrick Cricket ClubWednesday 2 February, 11-12am, The Clinton Centre, EnniskillenWednesday 2 February, 2-4pm, Strangford Arms Hotel, NewtownardsThursday 3 February, 10-12am, Craigavon Civic CentreThe Consultation document and associated Impact Assessments are available on the Internet at: www.drdni.gov.uk/shapingourfuture/ or by contacting:Louise Fitzpatrick Regional Planning and Transportation Division 3rd Floor, Clarence Court, 10-18 Adelaide Street, Belfast, BT2 8GB Email: [email protected] Telephone: 028 90540186 Textphone: 028 90540642

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Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy, today provided an update on preparations for the predicted return of wintry weather.

The Minister said: “With a forecast for another cold period with a high probability of snow on Friday, motorists are advised to plan their journeys and check the latest travel advice. Roads Service has replenished its salt stocks over the Christmas and New Year period and there are adequate supplies of salt for the rest of the winter period.

“Roads Service will continue to work around the clock with 300 staff, 120 gritters and 11 snowblowers to focus resources as agreed by the Assembly, in ensuring the main roads which carry 80% of traffic are salted. This is a massive logistical task involving staff working night and day to keep the main network open which is particularly important as schools and work places reopen after the holiday and when more people may be travelling on the busier routes.

In relation to the impact of the recent severe weather on the road network the Minister added: “There is no doubt that the coldest December for over 120 years has had an impact on our road network. The repeated freezing and thawing cycles has caused many carriageways to split and potholes to form and Roads Service is giving priority to the repair of the affected roads.

“Roads Service teams and contractors across the North are working to ensure roads are kept safe. Whilst it will take time to assess the true extent of the damage, Roads Service has been undertaking a series of inspections and condition surveys to ensure the road network is maintained to defined standards and that serious road defects are detected and repaired as quickly as possible.

“In preparation for the winter period and the predicted impact to roads across the region, since October 2010 an additional £8.5 million has been allocated for roads maintenance and this will be used to deal with the effects of the recent cold spell including the purchase of additional salt as well as progressing programmes of work targeting the most severely affected roads."

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Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris has today expressed his disappointment at the announcement that 20 jobs are to be axed at Kerry Airport. Deputy Ferris said Ryanair’s recent decision to cut its Dublin-Kerry service was always going to put pressure on jobs at the airport.

Deputy Ferris said:

“I am deeply disappointed with this announcement and I’d like to express my sympathy with those who are to lose their jobs and their families. When Ryanair announced last October that they were to cut their service between Dublin and Kerry it was always going to have a negative impact on the future of those working in the airport, and so it has come to pass.

“The blame game that went on between Ryanair and the government over who was responsible for the loss of the Dublin route seems all the more childish now that 20 families are faced with this news." ENDS

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Commenting on the appointment of Eddie Stevenson as the new Head of the Orange Order, Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey said he hoped the new man would mark a change in the failed polices followed by his predecessor Robert Saulters.


Mr Maskey said:


“The Orange Order under Robert Saulters lurched from one crisis to another. Time and again when leadership was required the Orange Order was found wanting.


“The election of a new Grand Master provides an opportunity for the Orange Order to finally step forward and make their contribution to the Peace Process.


“They need to end their nonsensical ban on talking to residents, the Parades Commission and Sinn Féin. In the coming days we will be writing to the new Grand Master Eddie Stevenson offering to meet with him and the rest of the Orange Order leadership.” ENDS

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