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North Antrim Assembly member Philip McGuigan has demanded that the BBC adopt the same policy towards the wearing of the Easter Lily as they do to the wearing of the poppy.

Mr McGuigan said:

"The BBC is a public body they expect without question nationalists and republicans to pay their wages through the licence fee yet it is an organisation hostile to their political objectives.

"Presenters are forced to wear the poppy symbol in the lead up to remembrance events in November regardless of their own political views, no such policy operates in relation to the Easter Lily. This is a clear case of political bias and discrimination. Either the BBC afford the Easter Lily the same respect as the poppy or they adopt a position of neutrality.

"The current situation of adopting a hierarchy of victims is unacceptable. The Irish Republican war dead have to be afforded the same respect as the British war dead. This is a black and white issue. The BBC can no longer be allowed to sit back and discriminate against the republican community in this fashion. To any impartial observer the BBC policy in relation to the wearing of symbols is biased and I believe flies in the face of the Good Friday Agreement demand that symbols be used sensitively." ENDS

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Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Representative Paul Butler has described the revelation that the suspected loyalist drug dealer who had assets totalling £5m frozen yesterday was a former RUC member 'as further irrefutable evidence of links between loyalist death squads and the British forces'.

Cllr. Butler said:

"Sinn Féin has been campaigning for decades on the issue of collusion between the various unionist death squads and members of the RUC. Time and again these links have resulted in the murder of innocent Catholics.

"The revelation which has now emerged is that the individual who had assets totalling almost £5m seized yesterday by a Belfast court is not only a prominent loyalist drug dealer linked to both the LVF and UVF but that he is also a former member of the RUC.

"This evidence presented in a court is further irrefutable evidence of links between loyalist death squads and the British forces. However the failure to secure a prosecution against this individual will only raise suspicions that he has enjoyed some sort of immunity due to his close connections to the PSNI." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has expressed his 'deep personal sadness at the news of the death of Irish musician Sean Maguire. The Sinn Féin President extended his 'deepest condolences to Sean's family and large circle of friends.

Mr. Adams said:

"Sean Maguire was a master musician, admired and respected throughout the country. He was a great teacher of Irish music. His love - his grá - for Irish music shone through in his teaching and his playing.

"Sean was a proud Irish man and a good personal friend. He will be greatly missed.

"He was a lifelong republican and supporter of Irish unity." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Newry and Mourne councillor Breandan Lewis, who is one of four Sinn Fein representatives on the Southern Education Library Board has said that the vote by the SELB to implement savage cuts would cause long-term damage to the education of children and young people in the area.

Cllr Lewis said:

"Sinn Fein put forward proposals to reject these cuts. Unfortunately the Board rejected these proposals.

"The SELB, like the other education library boards, was put in this impossible position by Barry Gardiner.

"This left the Sinn Fein councillors with no other option but to resign.

"I think that along with many others there is a disappointment that the Board has allowed itself to be put in the position of having to vote on a savage programme of cuts caused by Barry Gardiner. I am disappointed that the Board has allowed itself to be used in this way.

"The implementation of these cuts will have a long term impact on the education of our children and young people." ENDS

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Commenting on the decision of the Irish Medical Organisation to boycott the GP-only medical cards, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said it showed that the Government's Health Strategy was now a shambles.

He stated:

"The Government's Health Strategy is now a complete shambles. While not condoning the action of the IMO in this matter, it shows gross political incompetence on the part of this Government that they should have brought in this scheme and now cannot deliver it. The 200,000 people who need and deserve this service as promised from April this year are now to be denied it.

"Since this Fianna Fáil/PD Coalition took office in 2002 there some 65,000 fewer people with medical cards. Well over 100,000 fewer people have cards now than in 1997 when the Ahern/Harney Coalition was formed.

"Plans for the development of primary care have been shelved. The renegotiation of the consultants' contract to ensure greater equity for public patients in our hospitals is more than two years overdue. And now we find that the Government has failed to lay the groundwork for the new GP-only medical cards and they are facing a boycott by doctors." ENDS

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Speaking today at the launch of the annual Easter Lily campaign in Stormont, Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly said that this weekend would see tens of thousands of republicans taking part in marches, commemorations and wreath laying ceremonies across the island.

Mr Kelly said:

"This year marks the 89th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. It is an important time for Irish republicans. It is a time for remembering our friends and colleagues who have given their lives in pursuit of our republican ideals and goals. It is a time for reflecting on these ideals.

"We recall the words of the 1916 Proclamation - an historic document - one of the most progressive documents ever written. The Proclamation spells out the demand for social and economic justice and democracy, of cherishing all the children of the nation equally, irrespective of colour, religion, gender, ability or race, equally.

"Easter is also a time of renewal - a time when we as Irish republicans rededicate ourselves to the legitimate and achievable goals of independence and unity for the people of this island.

"The past year has undoubtedly been both a challenging and indeed very difficult, year for republicans and the peace process. We made a massive breakthrough in the elections in the 26 counties yet ended the last year with the failure once again of unionism to agree the share power on the basis of equality and respect.

"This year Easter comes with the political establishment set once again on a course of criminalizing the republican struggle and by extension our patriot dead. This weekend provides republicans with the opportunity to send a clear message that we are rightly proud of our heritage and our struggle and will not allow it to be tarnished or criminalized.

"There are over 100 commemorations throughout the island and scores more smaller events. Internationally many Irish exiles will also take part in commemorations. I am calling on people to wear an Easter Lily and to make this years Easter Commemorations and events bigger and better than ever before." ENDS

Note to Editors

In this the 100th anniversary of Sinn Féin, republicans throughout Ireland

will gather on Easter Saturday, Sunday and Monday to honour and commemorate

Ireland's patriot dead.

Please see below for a list of the main commemorations - dates, locations

and speakers.

Main Commemorations

Easter Sunday:

Dublin City -- Assemble 1.30pm Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square and

March to GPO. Main Speaker: Martin McGuinness MP

Belfast -- Assemble 1pm, Beechmount Avenue. Main speaker: Martin Ferris TD

Derry City -- Assemble 2.30pm at the Bogside Inn, Westland Street march to

City Cemetery. Main Speaker: Gerry Adams MP

Tyrone -- (Carrickmore) Assemble 3.30pm. Main Speaker: Pat Doherty MP

County Waterford -- (Killrossanty) Assemble 3pm. Main Speaker Mary Lou

McDonald MEP

Fermanagh -- (Tempo) Assemble 2.30pm at Doon Lane. Main Speaker: Michelle

Gildernew MP

Monaghan Town -- Assemble 3pm, O'Hanlon Memorial, Clones Road. Main Speaker:

Gerry Kelly

Galway -- (Conamara) Assemble 3.30pm. Pearse's Cottage, Rosmuck. Main

Speaker: Bairbre de Brún MEP.

Armagh (Newry City) -- Assemble 12.30pm at Patrick Street. Main Speaker:

Conor Murphy

Armagh -- (Crossmaglen) -- Assemble at 10.30 am, Rangers Hall. Main Speaker:

Matt Carty

Cavan -- (Kilnavart) Assemble 12 noon Kilnavart Cemetery. Main Speaker: Sean

McManus

Cork (Bandon) -- Assemble 12.30pm, Republican Plot, St Patrick's Cemetery.

Main Speaker: Toireasa Ferris

Cork City -- Assemble 2.30pm National Monument, marching to St Finbarr's

Cemetery. Main Speaker: Sean Crowe TD

Derry - (The Loup) Assemble 2.30pm, Ballyronan Road and march to grave of

Brigadier Seán Larkin. Main Speaker: Arthur Morgan TD

Donegal -- (Drumboe) Assemble 2pm, Johnston's Corner, Stranorlar. Main

Speaker: Alex Maskey

Down -- (Castlewellan) Assemble 4pm at Lower Square march to monument. Main

Speaker: Caitriona Ruane

Drogheda -- Assemble 11am St Peter's Church to the Halpin/Moran monument,

Marsh Road. Main Speaker Martina Anderson

Dundalk -- Assemble 3pm Market Square, march to Republican Plot, St Patrick's

Cemetery. Main Speaker: Martina Anderson

Kerry -- (Tralee) Assemble 3pm, the Pike Man, Denny Street. Main Speaker:

Gearoid O hEara

Limerick City -- Assemble 12.30pm Munster Fair Tavern. March to Republican

Plot, Mount St Laurence Cemetery. Speaker: Killian Forde

Mayo -- (Achill) Assemble 10am, Dookinella. Main Speaker: Rita O'Hare

Wexford Town -- Assemble 11.45am Crescent Quay, parade to Republican Plot.

Main Speaker: John Dwyer

Easter Monday:

Armagh City -- Assemble 2pm Irish Street. Main Speaker Conor Murphy

Down -- (Downpatrick) Assemble 6pm Scotch Street, proceed to Republican

Monument. Main Speakers: Caitriona Ruane/Alex Maskey

Meath -- (Ashbourne) Assemble 11.30am at church and march to Republican Plot.

Main Speaker: Joe Reilly

Monaghan -- (Clones) Assemble 1.30pm, The Diamond. Main Speaker: Caoimhghín Ó

Caoláin TD

Easter Tuesday

Co Antrim (North Belfast-Ardoyne) Assemble 1pm Elmfield Street. Main

Speaker: Gerry Kelly

Toomebridge -- Assemble 4pm. Main Speaker: Barry McElduff

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Speaking today at the launch of the annual Easter Lily campaign in Stormont, Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly said that this weekend would see tens of thousands of republicans taking part in marches, commemorations and wreath laying ceremonies across the island.

Mr Kelly said:

"This year marks the 89th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. It is an important time for Irish republicans. It is a time for remembering our friends and colleagues who have given their lives in pursuit of our republican ideals and goals. It is a time for reflecting on these ideals.

"We recall the words of the 1916 Proclamation - an historic document - one of the most progressive documents ever written. The Proclamation spells out the demand for social and economic justice and democracy, of cherishing all the children of the nation equally, irrespective of colour, religion, gender, ability or race, equally.

"Easter is also a time of renewal - a time when we as Irish republicans rededicate ourselves to the legitimate and achievable goals of independence and unity for the people of this island.

"The past year has undoubtedly been both a challenging and indeed very difficult, year for republicans and the peace process. We made a massive breakthrough in the elections in the 26 counties yet ended the last year with the failure once again of unionism to agree the share power on the basis of equality and respect.

"This year Easter comes with the political establishment set once again on a course of criminalizing the republican struggle and by extension our patriot dead. This weekend provides republicans with the opportunity to send a clear message that we are rightly proud of our heritage and our struggle and will not allow it to be tarnished or criminalized.

"There are over 100 commemorations throughout the island and scores more smaller events. Internationally many Irish exiles will also take part in commemorations. I am calling on people to wear an Easter Lily and to make this years Easter Commemorations and events bigger and better than ever before." ENDS

Note to Editors

In this the 100th anniversary of Sinn Féin, republicans throughout Ireland

will gather on Easter Saturday, Sunday and Monday to honour and commemorate

Ireland's patriot dead.

Please see below for a list of the main commemorations - dates, locations

and speakers.

Main Commemorations

Easter Sunday:

Dublin City -- Assemble 1.30pm Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square and

March to GPO. Main Speaker: Martin McGuinness MP

Belfast -- Assemble 1pm, Beechmount Avenue. Main speaker: Martin Ferris TD

Derry City -- Assemble 2.30pm at the Bogside Inn, Westland Street march to

City Cemetery. Main Speaker: Gerry Adams MP

Tyrone -- (Carrickmore) Assemble 3.30pm. Main Speaker: Pat Doherty MP

County Waterford -- (Killrossanty) Assemble 3pm. Main Speaker Mary Lou

McDonald MEP

Fermanagh -- (Tempo) Assemble 2.30pm at Doon Lane. Main Speaker: Michelle

Gildernew MP

Monaghan Town -- Assemble 3pm, O'Hanlon Memorial, Clones Road. Main Speaker:

Gerry Kelly

Galway -- (Conamara) Assemble 3.30pm. Pearse's Cottage, Rosmuck. Main

Speaker: Bairbre de Brún MEP.

Armagh (Newry City) -- Assemble 12.30pm at Patrick Street. Main Speaker:

Conor Murphy

Armagh -- (Crossmaglen) -- Assemble at 10.30 am, Rangers Hall. Main Speaker:

Matt Carty

Cavan -- (Kilnavart) Assemble 12 noon Kilnavart Cemetery. Main Speaker: Sean

McManus

Cork (Bandon) -- Assemble 12.30pm, Republican Plot, St Patrick's Cemetery.

Main Speaker: Toireasa Ferris

Cork City -- Assemble 2.30pm National Monument, marching to St Finbarr's

Cemetery. Main Speaker: Sean Crowe TD

Derry - (The Loup) Assemble 2.30pm, Ballyronan Road and march to grave of

Brigadier Seán Larkin. Main Speaker: Arthur Morgan TD

Donegal -- (Drumboe) Assemble 2pm, Johnston's Corner, Stranorlar. Main

Speaker: Alex Maskey

Down -- (Castlewellan) Assemble 4pm at Lower Square march to monument. Main

Speaker: Caitriona Ruane

Drogheda -- Assemble 11am St Peter's Church to the Halpin/Moran monument,

Marsh Road. Main Speaker Martina Anderson

Dundalk -- Assemble 3pm Market Square, march to Republican Plot, St Patrick's

Cemetery. Main Speaker: Martina Anderson

Kerry -- (Tralee) Assemble 3pm, the Pike Man, Denny Street. Main Speaker:

Gearoid O hEara

Limerick City -- Assemble 12.30pm Munster Fair Tavern. March to Republican

Plot, Mount St Laurence Cemetery. Speaker: Killian Forde

Mayo -- (Achill) Assemble 10am, Dookinella. Main Speaker: Rita O'Hare

Wexford Town -- Assemble 11.45am Crescent Quay, parade to Republican Plot.

Main Speaker: John Dwyer

Easter Monday:

Armagh City -- Assemble 2pm Irish Street. Main Speaker Conor Murphy

Down -- (Downpatrick) Assemble 6pm Scotch Street, proceed to Republican

Monument. Main Speakers: Caitriona Ruane/Alex Maskey

Meath -- (Ashbourne) Assemble 11.30am at church and march to Republican Plot.

Main Speaker: Joe Reilly

Monaghan -- (Clones) Assemble 1.30pm, The Diamond. Main Speaker: Caoimhghín Ó

Caoláin TD

Easter Tuesday

Co Antrim (North Belfast-Ardoyne) Assemble 1pm Elmfield Street. Main

Speaker: Gerry Kelly

Toomebridge -- Assemble 4pm. Main Speaker: Barry McElduff

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has demanded an investigation into the deal struck to obtain the site for the Justice Minister's new superprison in north Dublin. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said that the sale of a site close to the prison site for a significantly smaller sum of money "proves that the Minister has some very serious questions to answer."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "I first called for an investigation into the prison land deal in February, after reviewing the minutes from the Mountjoy Complex Replacement Site Committee meetings, which were released following a question from myself to the Minister.

"There are a number of question marks over the purchase of the Thornton site. Reports in this morning's newspapers claim a farm four miles from the proposed prison site was sold yesterday for one-fifth of the price the Government paid, despite being significantly larger. No environmental assessment was conducted despite the vulnerable greenbelt location. The site selection process would also appear to be in breach of the standard procedures for dealing with expressions of interest or tendering for such large projects.

"I have therefore requested that the Public Accounts Committee immediately initiate an investigation into this deal, as this new information reinforces my conclusion that Minister has some very serious questions to answer. I was informed yesterday that the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee is currently considering my request."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Cavan-Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described the Government's asylum regime as operated by Minister Michael McDowell as 'travesty of justice'. While welcoming the temporary reprieve for Olunkunle Eluhanla, Deputy Ó Caoláin highlighted the deportation on the same plane of a Nigerian mother and her three children who have been living in County Monaghan for several years where the children were attending local schools.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"Because Minister McDowell came under intense political pressure, given the widespread media coverage of Olunkunlea's case, he has now given him a welcome, but only temporary reprieve. But what of the many families, including young children reared in Ireland, who have received little or no publicity and who have been deported without mercy?

"On the same plane on which Olunkunle was deported, the Okolie family were flown out of Ireland. Nkechi Okolie and her three children aged 6, 10 and 16 were forced out of the country to the consternation of the community throughout County Monaghan. The younger children have been reared here and know no other reality but Ireland.

"This family were valued members of the community. Nkechi worked in the Dochas women's centre and the Camphill Community for people with intellectual disabilities. The family were also members of the Presbyterian Church in Castleblayney and that community has expressed its shock at their deportation.

"The grief and distress of this family is no different to that of any other deportees, including Olunkunle. The schoolmates of the children have also protested at the deportation of their young friends.

"There is something wrong and rotten at the heart of a regime that can operate a system such as this."ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment Arthur Morgan T.D. called for legislation to be immediately brought forward to reform the work permits system in light of the litany of revelations of exploitation of migrant workers which have come to public attention in recent days.

Deputy Morgan said, "The cases of the construction workers employed by GAMA Construction, the farm labourers in the South East and the case of the Filipino woman employed by Irish Ferries are just the tip of the iceberg. Many more migrant workers are being exploited behind closed doors by their employers. The current work permit system is forcing them to remain in the employment of their exploitative bosses.

"I am reiterating the call made by Sinn Féin on numerous occasions for legislation to be introduced by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment MÃúcheál Martin T.D. as a priority so that the work permit would be held by the employee rather than the employer. The current system whereby workers are tied to one employer results in migrant workers being in a position not unlike bonded laborers. They have very little chance of leaving jobs where they are being exploited. There is now ample evidence that this the case.

"While this Government continues to oppose reform of the work permit system any mock concerns expressed by them regarding the plight of these workers will ring very hollow. The Government and Minister Martin's failure to act on this matter is resulting in migrants who make a huge contribution to the economy of this state continuing to be open to appalling exploitation."ENDS

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South Down Assembly Member Cllr Willie Clarke has welcomed this week's announcement by Direct Rule Minister, Barry Gardiner on the introduction of the Renewables Obligation for the North of Ireland (NIRO).

Cllr Clarke said:

"The Obligation is expected to stimulate private sector investment of around £500 million in projects to generate electricity from renewable sources over the next five years.

"The NIRO, which is being introduced with effect from 1 April 2005, will place a requirement on electricity suppliers in the six counties to provide evidence that a specified proportion of the electricity supplied to final consumers in the north has been generated from environmentally friendly renewable sources or alternatively to buy-out their obligations under the scheme.

"Ireland is lacking behind meeting its obligations to reduce Co2 omissions and this plan of action developed in partnership with DETI and the energy industry will I hope encourage everyone to rise to the challenge of mainstreaming renewable energy. An emphasis must be placed on developing technology which should harness not just wind but also geothermal, tidal stream and biomass.

"The commencement of the NIRO should help in the development of renewables in the North of Ireland and paves the way for around £500 million of private sector capital investment in the six county‚s energy system over the next five years. Local communities will gain further benefit through diversification into energy crops, energy from waste and more stable energy prices. This potentially increases the overall economic benefit of investing in renewables in the North to over £1 billion up to 2010."ENDS

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n lower prices to the end user ˆ the customer.

"Sinn Féin have argued for the creation of an all Ireland energy market. The signing of the memorandum of understanding between the energy regulators north and south should put in place the framework for the establishment of a single all Ireland energy market by 2007.

"This announcement today takes us a step closer to that reality. This must herald the emergence of a low cost energy market and the ability to access all Ireland gas supplies."ENDS

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Sinn Fein General Secretary Mitchel Mc Laughlin has accused the Belfast Electoral Office of introducing "new blocking measures to prevent people being registered to vote in May."

Mitchel Mc Laughlin said:

"In recent days 642 people from West Belfast who applied to be on the May register have received letters from the Belfast Electoral office challenging their application.

"Over the last number of months in West Belfast, Sinn Fein, the Falls Community Council and the Electoral Commission carried out an intensive registration drive. As a result of this 2000 people applied to be put on the register.

"This latest move by the Electoral Office practically undermines the efforts put into this registration drive.

"Sinn Fein has been in touch with the Office and their response has been less than satisfactory.

"We worked for many years to convince the British government to end Electoral Courts because they acted as a disincentive to people to register.

"We welcomed the British government‚s decision to end these courts but this latest development is the reintroduction of these courts through the back door.

"The Electoral Office must immediately end this new blocking measure and allow those people who have applied to be registered onto the register." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Anti-Racism Alex Maskey MLA and Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD have issued a joint statement during European Week Against Racism calling for all-Ireland anti-racist initiatives including legal harmonisation and for the exercise of greater political will to end racism by all the political leaderships on the island.

Alex Maskey MLA said: "In both parts of this island we have seen an alarming and unacceptable rise in racist hate crime over the past decade. This rise in racism is blighting our society and bringing shame on our nation. It is an island-wide problem, and it needs an island-wide solution. Sinn Féin has broadly welcomed the Irish Government's so-called National Action Plan Against Racism, but this plan must be extended beyond the border to be truly national, as Irish anti-racism initiatives cannot be as effective as we need them to be if they are not coherent and coordinated across both jurisdictions.

"We also need to significantly strengthen the hate crime legislation in both jurisdictions. We propose that it should be harmonised. Indeed, the Good Friday Agreement commitments to equivalent human rights protections north and south requires this. New hate crime legislation should also address the need to fight all forms of hate crime - be it racist, sectarian or homophobic. Incitement to hatred legislation is presently under review in the 26 Counties but this has become stalled under the present Minister for Justice, for whom fighting racism is not a political priority.

"In addition, the fact that two different immigration systems operate on the island is causing all kinds of unnecessary problems and heartache. Sinn Féin also believes that the island should have one immigration policy, and this should be positive, compassionate, human rights-compliant and anti-racist." ENDS

Aengus Ó Snodaigh said:

"Indeed, the Minister for Inequality is more interested in fanning the flames of racism with his anti-immigration policies, and he has shamefully exploited this issue for political gain. Earlier this week I called for the Taoiseach to remove the immigration portfolio from him, as the Minister has demonstrated by his total disregard for human rights standards that he is not fit for the job. Meanwhile other public representatives have used and even aggravated anti-Traveller sentiment locally as a cheap tactic to win settled votes. This is just as wrong and must end.

"The report of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination has recently confirmed that the Irish Government is not doing enough. Indeed, many of their policies violate the Convention. But the hard reality is that no political party on this island is doing enough. Fighting racism and promoting interculturalism is the responsibility of all of us, but there is an extra onus on public representatives. I therefore call on each and every political party north and south to make fighting racism a higher political priority. If we muster the collective political will and show leadership in our own communities I believe that we can turn back the tide of racism and make a smoother transition to a truly modern, intercultural Ireland of Equals in which we can all take pride." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh has welcomed the decision of the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, to allow Leaving Cert Student Olunkunle Eluhanla return to sit his exams. However, Deputy Ó Snodaigh was highly critical that the Minister allowed the deportation to go ahead in the first place and that he was now only issuing the young Nigerian with a six-month visa.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "While I welcome this decision I would like to point out that Olunkunle Eluhanla should never have been deported in the first place. Michael McDowell's decision to allow him to return is a clear indication of the pressure that was exerted on the Minister by ordinary decent people the length and breadth of the country. It is their humanity and decency that should be commended today.

"A six month visa to allow this young man complete his Leaving Certificate exams is not enough. We would argue that Olunkunle, who arrived in this country as an unaccompanied minor, and who had integrated fully in to Irish society, and who has developed strong social and emotional ties in this country, should be allow permanent residency on the basis of humanitarian and compassionate considerations. We would also argue that all of the other people deported on this week's flight, including parents who were separated from their children should be allowed to return immediately, and their cases reviewed on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, as is in the Minister's power.

"The policy of mass deportations is fundamentaly wrong and should be ceased immediately. At the very least we need a moratorium to allow for a full investigation and report on the human rights implications of this policy by the Human Rights Commission." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris speaking during a debate in the Dáil to establish a tribunal of inquiry into the deaths of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan.

I endorse the request made by Deputy Ó Caoláin that everybody with relevant information ought to make himself or herself available to this tribunal. The tribunal should be allowed to examine the entire background to the allegations made, particularly in regard to the individual who claims to have persuaded Judge Cory to request that it be established.

Toby Harnden is one of the sources for the claims that there was collusion involving members of the Garda in the killing of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan.

He has already been castigated by Judge Peter Cory for failing to substantiate that claim. Cory said his interviews with both Harnden and Kevin Myers revealed how little these gentlemen relied on fact and how much on suspicion and hearsay.

Harnden has already been found to have made an unsubstantiated allegation that those killed in Bloody Sunday in Derry had been involved in violence that day. It would appear that Harnden distorted a statement given to him by one of the paratroopers involved in that event. Kevin Myers, who repeated the allegations made by Harnden, has already reacted in his usual manner, by attacking Cory, comparing him to Homer Simpson. There has been speculation that both Myers and Harnden will attempt to avoid giving evidence to the tribunal, further proof of the shallow nature of their claims.

At the centre of the allegation is a person named Peter Keely, who uses the name Kevin Fulton. Keely, who claimed to have been a British agent within the IRA, was discredited by Scotland Yard, which claimed his false information cost it £1.5 million in wasted police time. Another source is a person named Martin Ingram, otherwise known as Jack Graham. He claims to have worked for the Force Research Unit and was completely discredited when he appeared at the Saville tribunal. It is interesting that both he and the other person mentioned have similar claims and used each other to back up their scurrilous allegations. It would appear that the Garda Síochána has already formed an opinion as regards the reliability of their statements. The Garda also described one of them as an intelligent nuisance and a serial informer who is not to be trusted. Yet they are the people whose claims are to form the basis for the setting up of this tribunal.

We are therefore entitled to ask what really lies behind the tribunal. I do not doubt that Judge Cory was genuine in his belief that the claims made by the aforementioned warranted further investigation, but I contend that he was gravely misled by that individual. A closer examination of his purported evidence would have come to the same conclusion as investigations into other claims concerning Garda collusion in the killing of Justice Gibson. There must surely be a suspicion, therefore, that allegations made are part of an attempt by British agencies to divert attention from the ongoing investigations of their roles in events in this country.

This also comes at a time when a concerted and possibly successful attempt is being made to ensure that Peter Cory's investigations into those events will be sabotaged in the same manner as previous investigations into the involvement in violence by the British state. It would appear the Taoiseach shares this view as he has come out in support of Peter Cory, who has strongly criticised the Inquiries Bill, which is designed to thwart any meaningful inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane as well as into many other instances where the British state is suspected to have been involved in the killing of those it claims to be its citizens. It is surely convenient at this time, when the spotlight should be on the murky role of British intelligence, that this tribunal has been initiated on the basis of what are generally believed to be baseless allegations made by discredited journalists, who have relied on their own imaginations and the word of discredited informers. If one of the aforementioned informers turns out to be a genuine agent, why did he make the claims, and at whose behest?

Finally, I note the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, in his remarks did not endorse the Taoiseach's support for Judge Cory's conclusions regarding the efforts to sabotage the Finucane and other inquiries. Neither did he refer to the refusal by the British authorities to co-operate in a meaningful way with the investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

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Commenting on the revelation that the Dunne Inquiry into organ retention is to be wound up without completing its work and having cost €20 million, Sinn Féin Health and Children spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin, stated:

"It is scandalous that over four years after it was established the Dunne Inquiry will be wound up without completing its work, having cost €20 million. Over two years ago Sinn Féin's TDs tabled a Dáil motion calling for a proper inquiry and questioning the refusal of many hospitals and many in the medical profession to co-operate with the Dunne inquiry. Those questions remain unanswered. The State has failed those parents affected by organ retention and the Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney must set out how she proposes to proceed in the wake of this debacle." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has welcomed the statement of Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney that she is in favour of the rollout of a national cervical cancer screening programme, including all-Ireland co-operation on its delivery. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"Minister Harney during Dáil Questions today stated in response to my question that she favoured the rollout of a national cervical cancer screening programme. She also stated that she would support cross-border co-operation in this area. This is welcome.

"What the Minister must do now is to act on her words in the Dáil. She should heed the call of the Irish Cancer Society and of 24 organisations including trade unions, professional bodies and women‚s networks who on the 24th of February joined together in a unanimous call for a national pre-cancer screening programme.

"In the year 2000 there were 1090 new cases of in situ cervical cancer ˆ a pre-cancerous state; there were 193 cases of invasive cancer and 65 deaths. Comprehensive screening, leading to early detection and treatment, can and will dramatically reduce both the development of cancer and the death toll from this disease. The Minister should therefore roll out a screening programme as soon as possible."ENDS

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Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Policing and Justice issues Gerry Kelly has welcomed a letter signed by a number of major international Human Rights organisations attacking the British government over their attempts to limit the scope of any future inquiries into those murdered by the state through collusion.

Mr Kelly said:

"The British government have been involved in a cover-up of the circumstances surrounding the murder of Pat Finucane and countless others killed through the collusion policy. They resisted for years calls to hold independent international inquiries into these deaths. Judge Cory's report demanded that a number of these inquiries take place.

"This piece of legislation is the latest stage in the campaign by the British government to suppress the truth. The Finucane family have already stated that an inquiry under these terms and limitations will not deliver the truth and they will play no part in it. Sinn Féin supports absolutely the Finucane family in this. Significantly Judge Cory has also added his voice to those condemning the British government over this legislation.

"Today a group of prominent and well respected Human Rights organisations have put their name to a letter demanding that this legislation is removed. This is a welcome move and adds further pressure on to Paul Murphy and the British government to finally come clean on the murder of Pat Finucane and allow the truth to out about the campaign of State sanctioned murder which was operated here for decades." ENDS

Editors Note: The letter, signed by Amnesty International, British Irish rights watch, The Committee on the Administration of Justice, Human Rights First, The Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association, Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, The Law Society of England and Wales, the Pat Finucane Centre and the Scottish Human Rights Centre, said that the Bill would, if enacted, alter fundamentally the system for establishing and running inquiries into issues of great public importance in the UK, including allegations of serious human rights violations.

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Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty responding to reports that the SDLP West Tyrone Constituency Party is recommending that they withdraw from the Westminster Election contest in order that Dr. Ciaran Deeney can have a free run against him said:

"It is interesting to note that it appears the SDLP has thrown in the towel in West Tyrone. This is further evidence of the decline in the SDLP and their acceptance that they no longer appeal to the nationalist and republican people of West Tyrone. It would also seem to signify that they are unable to find a credible candidate to fight the election.

"Sinn Féin has consolidated our position as the voice of nationalism West of the Bann and will continue to do so. Perhap‚s it‚s time that the SDLP accepted this reality in other constituencies also.

"Sinn Féin has seen off candidates from all of the other parties at previous elections and I am confident we will see off any proxies for other parties this time around. I‚m looking forward to the contest."ENDS

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