Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has described the plans for a Garda Inspectorate announced by Minister McDowell this afternoon as falling short of what's needed to establish a truly accountable best practice policing service.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "I welcome the Minister's decision to decouple the audit role planned for the Inspectorate from the office and investigative role of the Garda Ombudsman as we recommended in our policy document 'Policing for the People', and as was also recommended by the Human Rights Commission. However, from what the Minister described today his plans still don't go nearly far enough to establish the level of transparency and public accountability that are necessary to restore public confidence in the Gardai.
"In keeping with recognised international best practice, Sinn Féin believes that the Minister should instead establish a fully independent civilian Policing Board as an entity separate from both the Garda Siochána and from the Garda Ombudsman's office, to which the Garda Commissioner is accountable and which operates with full public transparency. Such a Policing Board for the Gardai would be the most appropriate body to carry out the functions the Minister appears to be assigning to the Inspectorate.
"Particularly in view of the very serious findings of the first report of the Morris Tribunal, I urge Michael McDowelll to embrace this recommendation and amend his legislative proposals to include the establishment of an independent civilian Policing Board. I also call on him to progress this as a matter of urgency when the Oireachtas resumes in September." ENDS
Newry and Armagh Sinn Féin spokesperson for Palestine, Davy Hyland MLA, has said that the recent refusal of Israel to acknowledge the UN General assembly's overwhelming vote, demanding that they abide by an International Court of Justice decision, reiterates a need for EU sanctions against them.
Last week, The International Court of Justice ruled that Israel's West Bank barrier was illegal and should be removed with compensation being paid to those Palestinians whose property was confiscated for its construction. This week, the U.N. General Assembly echoed the demands of the International Court with 150 countries in favour, 6 against and 10 abstentions.
Mr. Hyland said, 'we have said, from the outset, that the West Bank barrier is illegal due to the clear humanitarian and political consequences of it. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians have lost freedom of movement, have lost access to land and water and have been isolated from their places of work, schools and hospitals. In effect, there has been a de facto annexation of major portions of Palestinian land."
In response to Israel's continued refusal to abide by International Court and U.N. decisions, Mr. Hyland added, "While all 25 EU member states have demanded, through their vote, that Israel dismantles the barrier, it will mean little unless measures are taken to ensure that they abide by this resolution. Sinn Féin, therefore, reiterates its call to immediately suspend the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement, which gives preferential trade to Israel from the EU, until such times that they agree to comply with International law and observe human rights."
"Sinn Féin in Newry/Armagh", Mr Hyland concluded, "have taken the step of appointing a spokesperson for Palestine and are, at present, setting up Palestine support groups in Armagh and Newry. Anyone who wishes to become involved can contact Sinn Féin on 028 30 261693 (Newry) or 028 37 511797 (Armagh).ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams this morning met with the Parades Commission. Mr. Adams was accompanied by north Belfast MLAs Gerry Kelly and Kathy Stanton and Councillor Margaret McClenaghan
Speaking after the meeting, which last around one hour, Mr. Adams said:
"Our meeting dealt at some length with the events of July 12th on the Crumlin Road and the overturning by the PSNI and NIO of a decision by the Parades Commission.
"We told the Commission that we are seriously concerned by recent events and by the potential for more difficulties in the time ahead,
"At a public meeting in Ardoyne last night the deep-seated anger over events in July was clearly evident.
"The march by the Apprentice Boys on August 14th, which goes through the nationalist areas of Ardoyne, Mountainview and the Dales, is a coat-trailing exercise and should not be permitted by the Commission.
"I would appeal to the Apprentice Boys in the interests of good neighbourliness and common sense, to be magnanimous and voluntarily agree to travel to Derry without walking first through a nationalist area." ENDS
Sinn Fein Environment Spokesperson, South Down MLA Willie Clarke has expressed disbelief at the DoE's failure to close an illegal dump in County Armagh despite being told of its existence.
Mr Clarke said
"Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of household and industrial waste are being dumped illegally at sites throughout the Six Counties. It has now emerged that despite being informed of one such illegal dump the DoE continued to allow it to be used for 4 days. This is unbelievable incompetence on the part of the DoE and is a cause for real concern, which I will be raising with Direct Rule Minister Angela Smith.
"The insistence by Angela Smith that the DoE can cope with the current situation has a hollow ring to it and stricter legislation must be introduced to tackle the widespread problem of illegal dumping which has made millionaires of a number of criminals. It is incredible, that trucks laden with waste can travel from the south of Ireland unhindered through heavily militarised border areas that are under constant surveillance. The British Government must start to take this issue seriously and prosecute the people responsible.
"Sinn Féin have proposed stripping away all powers of enforcement from the DoE and the creation of a single Environmental Protection Agency for the i sland. Dealing with the problems of waste management and illegal dumping must become a priority because in the coming years the problem will only get worse. Councils will face very difficult choices. Coming up with solutions on an all Ireland basis represents a common sense approach to a problem that will not be tackled if it is tackled by two different agencies." ENDS
Mid Ulster MP Martin MC Guinness has described the announced job losses at BALCAS in Magherafelt as a further blow to the local economy.
Mr Mc Guinness said:
"First of all I would like to sympathise with those most directly affected by this announcement, that is the workers who will lose their jobs and their families, at a time when employment opportunities are scarce in the Mid-Ulster area. Coming on the back of recent heavy redundancies in the Textile Industry this is a further blow to the local economy.
"I have in the past lobbied Direct Rule Ministers for a strategic Plan for economic development in Mid-Ulster and I will once more be contacting InvestNI to demand that Mid-Ulster be given more attention when potential investors are surveying sites for investment.
"Mid-Ulster has been particularly affected by job losses in the Textile Industry in recent years and urgent government action is required to stem the loss of traditional employment in the area. I am seeking an urgent meeting with Direct Rule Minister Ian Pearson to impress on him the need to
address investment in job creation and retraining in Mid-Ulster as a matter of urgency."
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Policing and Justice, North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly has expressed surprise at the findings of the report by the Police Ombudsman allegations of misconduct by the PSNI in relation to forensic evidence in the case of Noel Abernathy.
Mr Kelly said:
"Serious allegations were made by a forensic scientist, Dr Ann Irwin, of interference by the PSNI and RUC in the gathering, analysis and presentation of results in forensic evidence over at least the last seven years.
"The Abernathy case was not the first time that such concerns have been expressed about both the independence and veracity of forensic evidence used in Diplock court cases.
"The Forensic Science Agency is located inside a PSNI complex. Other cases have also proven that both the RUC and PSNI are guilty of fabricating and manipulating forensic evidence. There is a pattern of Special Branch interference in the due process and that pattern is against a background of miscarriages of justice.
"Unfortunately this report from the Office of the Police Ombudsman does nothing to assuage these concerns. The pattern of abuse by Special Branch to obtain Diplock court convictions, by hook or by crook, continues to pervade and infect the criminal justice system and remains to be rectified." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Affairs Seán Crowe TD, responding today to the confirmation by the ESB that the company plans to pursue customers for arrears accrued because of the their outdated meter system, criticised the company saying it was "a new low" that.customers were being penalised for arrears which were accumulated through no fault of their own.
Deputy Crowe said:
"The ESB have confirmed to me today that they will pursue, over a 3 year period, arrears which came about because they failed to update their meter system. What is happening now is that many families struggling to pay bills every month are being told by the ESB that they have to pay additional arrears which accumulated simply because the reset of the budget controllers or meters was not undertaken to take account of the last price increases. This is a further blow after last week‚s news that ESB prices were to go up again by another 8% in October.
"It is a new low for the ESB to hit people for arrears that the company caused by their own faulty billing system. For a company that recently announced after-tax profits of •249 million, it is staggering to hear that they are going to chase people for electricity use which the customers believed to have already paid for in their bills. I am extremely disappointed that the Minister responsible, Dermot Ahern, did not intervene to persuade the ESB of the difficulties this will cause many families since I raised the issue with him a few months ago in the Dáil.
"People who have been struggling for years to pay bills and who thought that they had overcome the problem through a meter system find out that they are once again in debt. I believe that there is a case to be made where people whose meters were not adjusted to register the increases should not have to pay the arrears, accrued through no fault of their own. This is particularly important for those many people on low incomes who find it increasingly difficult to meet their bills." ENDS
Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that the announcement that the Deanery British Army barracks just outside Clougher in South Tyrone is to close is long overdue.
Ms Gildernew said:
"The British government have failed to deliver the programme of demilitarisation that they committed themselves to in the Good Friday Agreement and in the many subsequent negotiations. It is only through intense lobbying at the highest level that we are now seeing some piecemeal progress.
"The British government and particularly the NIO have frustrated progress on demilitarisation. Ten years after the first IRA ceasefire there are still twice as many British Army soldiers here than there are in Iraq. This speaks volumes about the commitment of securocrats to the peace process.
"A decade after the ceasefires and 6 years on from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement it totally unacceptable that there are still so many British Army barracks and watchtowers, still far too much British Army activity on the ground and in the air and nationalists still having to live with British Army harassment and interference." ENDS
Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Gerry Adams last night visited the family of Fiona Barnes. Speaking this morning Mr. Adams said:
"I would like to extend my own and Sinn Féin's sympathy to the entire Barnes family circle, and also to Fiona's many friends.
"Too many families have suffered the deep hurt and trauma of bereavement following the suicide of a family member or friend. Greater efforts must be made to tackle this problem."
The Sinn Féin West Belfast MP said:
"Over the past number of months Sinn Féin and community organisations have been lobbying intensively for money and support to deal with mental health issues. The continued high levels of suicide and self harm across north and West Belfast demonstrates the failure of government to give this problem the high priority it needs.
"Sinn Féin is therefore seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister of Health to urge her to speedily release the necessary funds which are urgently needed by the organisations working to help those at risk of suicide and their families.
"Across North and West Belfast there are counselling projects which are run on a shoe string budget, with short term funding. Several years ago a strategy for the prevention of suicide was developed for North and West Trust. This has yet to be fully implemented because of lack of funds. One project alone in Lenadoon has a waiting list for help of 120 people and the Trust itself has acknowledged that it is underfunded by £3 million in its mental health services.
"We have been told that this is a serious and complex issues for Government Agencies. We are told that plans are being drafted. We are told that budgets are being identified. This isn‚t good enough, the deaths continue.
"If the British Government and its health agencies are serious about tackling this issue; if they are serious breaking this cycle and about ending these deaths, then they must invest in services which promote positive mental health, which support people in distress and support the families affected by suicide and self-harm. Our communities need the support, we need the resources and we need them now." ENDS
West Tyrone Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty has accused the NIO of attempting to deceive the public into believing that it has made a reasonable pay offer to striking Civil Servants when in reality it has just rehashed its previous unrealistic offer in a new format.
Mr Doherty said:
"The fact that the NIO communicated its so-called new pay offer to the media before it had relayed it to NIPSA is a clear sign that this is not a genuine attempt to reach a fair and equitable resolution to the dispute.
"However, when the fog of spin is cleared away, it is obvious that there is nothing new in this offer. Instead of attempting to bring an equitable resolution to the long running dispute the NIO is attempting to deceive the public.
"Senior Civil Service Managers have been awarded pay rises of between 4-9% over consecutive years, yet ordinary Civil Service workers are being expected to accept having their pay frozen over the past two years and little prospect of any improvement over the next few years.
"I believe that this NIO ploy will lead to a further escalation in industrial action and increased disruption to a wide range of public services and to the community as a whole.
"To date, representations from local parties have been ignored. All local parties are equally angry about the mishandling of this issue by the NIO, British direct rule Ministers and senior civil service management. A cross party showdown with British Secretary of State Paul Murphy is long overdue. Only by presenting a united front can we embarrass Paul Murphy and the NIO into backing down from its totally unreasonable stance towards civil service workers." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Arthur Morgan T.D. has confirmed that his party has requested a meeting with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Martin Cullen T.D. in relation to the proposal by Dublin City Council to offer its stock of almost 16,500 council flats for sale to its tenants.
Deputy Morgan said
"Sinn Fein is seeking a meeting with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Martin Cullen T.D. in relation to the proposal by Dublin City Council to offer its stock of almost 16,500 council flats for sale to its tenants.
"Some time back Dublin City Council indicated its intention to end its involvement in the provision of social housing. We believe the latest proposals from City Council represent another significant move in that direction. While recognising that tenants often wish to buy their flats and that tenants in local authority houses already have that right, our concerns are centred around the fact that unless there is a significant social housing building programme put in place, the proposals from Dublin City Council will result in a dramatic diminution in the level of local authority social housing rental stock. While some will no doubt benefit from this move by being enabled to move onto the property ladder, many will suffer as a result of it. We have been given no indication regarding how the City Council proposes to house those in need of social housing once its social housing stock has been sold off. The revenue raised from the sale would not be enough to build replacement units given the cost of building land in the Dublin area. We are concerned that the most disadvantaged and marginalized in the City will suffer as a result of these moves. We believe it is part of a wider agenda by Dublin City Council to abandon its role in housing provision to which Minister Cullen and the Government are acquiescing. The other component of this agenda is the handing over of local authority flats complexes to the semi-private or voluntary housing sector.
"There is no reason that the social housing rental sector cannot work if proper maintenance and management procedures are put in place. It is the failure of consecutive governments to make adequate revenue available for the upkeep of local authority housing that is responsible for the fact that many flats complexes and housing estates have fallen into disrepair. Consecutive governments have failed to ensure that these flats and estates have a social mix along with proper facilities and amenities. The lack of such amenities is largely responsible for the social problems which have characterised many local authority flats complexes and estates. The City Council is attempting to tell us that it is only through the ownership of private property that people will maintain their properties. This is disingenuous given the fact that most local authority tenants go to great lengths to maintain both the interior and exterior of their properties and are badly let down by the failure of the Council to carry out necessary maintenance works.
"The only solution to the housing crisis in this state is the construction of more social housing, to increase the level of social rental housing stocks which have now hit an all time low. This is the only way we can end homelessness and ensure that all those resident in the State have access to proper housing, regardless of their income. Sinn Féin will be raising our concerns with Minister Cullen as soon as he makes himself available to meet with us. We will be making clear our opposition to all attempts by local authorities to abandon their responsibilities with regard to the provision of social housing." ENDS
South Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey has demanded that the DUP take action against their South Belfast Councillor Ruth Patterson after comments she made concerning an attack on a Protestant woman's home in the Donegal Pass area yesterday.
Mr Maskey said:
"Ruth Patterson last night demanded that the unionist paramilitaries explain why a Protestant pensioner from Donegal Pass was intimidated from her home. Cllr. Patterson demanded the explanation as the woman 'was not from an ethnic minority community or a Catholic'. The clear inference from her remarks was that such attacks on groups other than Protestants are acceptable. They are not and it is up to people in political leadership to give a lead on these issues.
"What we have witnessed from Cllr. Patterson effectively gives a green light to those within her community intent on continuing with racist and sectarian attacks. In recent weeks she instructed Catholics living in a Sandy Row apartment block to move to the South if they were offended over loyalist flags.
"The approach adopted by Ruth Patterson, a member of local policing structures, has added to the difficulties experienced by ethnic minorities and Catholics attempting to live in parts of south Belfast free from harassment and attack. It is now up to the DUP to act after her latest outburst." ENDS
Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development Martin Ferris TD, has claimed that the Government's Progress Report highlights numerous areas where the current administration is failing farmers and rural communities. Deputy Ferris said that while the Report is full of vague commitments and good intentions, that not only have many of the commitments made two years ago not been honoured, but that overall Government policy has worsened the situation for many farmers and rural dwellers.
Deputy Ferris said:
"This Report is revealing more for what it fails to say, rather than what it actually contains. For example, while it refers to a number of new Teagasc courses it fails to mention the effects of the scandalous closures and cutbacks in Teagasc centres which are seriously impairing the ability of Irish farmers to adapt to an ever changing and challenging environment. While referring to the implementation of decoupling it makes no reference to the lack of research and preparation that ought to have been done in many areas including the provision of entitlements to young farmers, and providing for those who took up the Early Retirement Scheme.
"The Report, in relation to horticulture and organic farming, nowhere provides practical ways in which these sectors can be expanded. For example, why did the Government not argue for more flexibility in the Single Payment to allow farmers to expand into those sectors which current regulations prevent them from doing? Also, why has this Government decided to do a u-turn on Genetically Modified food which presents a massive threat to the image of Irish food produce at home and abroad? The Report also claims that progress has been made on cross border animal health and disease prevention when in fact we know that almost nothing has been done in practical terms.
"One of the most pressing issues that needs to be addressed at present is the scandalous gap between the prices that farmers receive for their produce and those charged to customers by the major retailers. No reference is made to this despite evidence that farmers often receive barely 25% of the retail price. At the end of the day it is issues such as this which determine whether farmers are able to survive, and not vague generalisations and repeating unfulfilled commitments that were made when this Government came to power two years ago."ENDS
Sinn Féin Councillor Eoin O'Broin has said that he is in no doubt that an ongoing security alert in Ligonel is resulting from loyalists leaving a device outside a Catholic home.
Speaking from the scene Cllr. O'Broin said:
"A device of some kind has been left outside the first Catholic home in Ligonel. It is a home which has suffered in the past from ongoing attacks from unionist paramilitaries. I am in no doubt that this latest incident is a further escalation of an ongoing campaign against nationalists in this area.
"Previous to the Twelfth parades this small nationalist community was blockaded into their homes by a UDA led picket which took place every night for a week. No action was taken to stop it. It is therefore not surprising that as we face into another series of contentious parades in North Belfast that the allies of the loyal Orders within the unionist paramilitaries will once again attempt to use violence in order to influence parades determinations." ENDS
Sinn Féin North Antrim Assembly member Philip McGuigan has called on the entire community including leading unionist politicians to get a grip on the blight of sectarian and racist attacks. Mr McGuigan's remarks come after two homes in Cullybackey were attacked in racist attacks today.
Mr McGuigan said:
"It has been confirmed that the two attacks on homes in Cullybackey were racially motivated. There has been a significant rise in racist attacks across the six counties in recent times. These attacks are unacceptable and must end.
"The entire community including leading unionist representatives in North Antrim need to make their voices heard on this. Unfortunately in the past they have been slow to speak out against sectarian attacks on Catholics in this area. They have failed to provide the necessary political leadership to try and stop sectarianism and I had feared that the recent racist attacks in Belfast would spread to areas like this.
"Sectarianism and racism are two sides of the same coin. We need to tackle both with equal vigour. The Cullybackey attacks taken with recent sectarian attacks in Ballymena now make that challenge very real for representatives in North Antrim." ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly Group leader Conor Murphy has restated his view that the PSNI raid on the Sinn Féin Office in Stormont was politically motivated and designed to damage the peace process.
Mr Murphy said:
"It is the view of Sinn Fein and indeed the vast majority of nationalists that the stage managed raids on the Sinn Féin Offices in Stormont were politically motivated and part of a wider anti-peace process agenda operating within the PSNI. Just because Nuala O'Loan has failed to uncover evidence to support this does not mean that this widely held belief is flawed.
" The facts are very clear.
"This entire Special Branch operation from start to finish has been characterised by lies and misinformation and driven forward by a fundamental anti-peace process agenda within the PSNI Special Branch. This remains the case." ENDS
South Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member has branded a decision by the British Direct Rule Minister John Spellar to remove the Lower Ormeau area from the proposed Neighbourhood Renewal Scheme as 'typically without logic and totally unacceptable'.
Mr Maskey said:
"Under the original proposal the Village, Donegal Pass, Market and Lower Ormeau were to come together under the Neighbourhood Renewal Scheme. John Spellar this morning announced that the Lower Ormeau would not now be included in the scheme. There is no logic to this decision and it is totally unacceptable.
"The Lower Ormeau area has suffered from decades of neglect and lack of investment in the community infrastructure. The advent of the Neighbourhood Renewal Scheme offered a prospect of reversing this under funding. Now for reasons best known to himself John Spellar is attempting to block this chance of progress.
"I have already complained to the department and I have demanded an urgent meeting with Mr Spellar to insist that this disgraceful decision is reversed and the Lower Ormeau area is included as planned in the scheme." ENDS
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP speaking at the opening day Féile an Phobail parade has urged the community to stand together against racism, and, commenting on the tragic death of a teenage girl in West Belfast, also called for greater support for the young people of the area.
Mr Adams invited members of the Philippine community to join him on the stage in the Falls Park where they were warmly received. Mr Adams said:
"This community is a diverse and welcoming community. It is vital that we all stand together against racism and that the hand of friendship is extended to everyone who lives and works here. I want to congratulate the many anti-racism initiatives that are springing up throughout the city and particularly here in West Belfast.
In reference to the tragic death of a young teenager in the city cemetery last night Mr Adams added:
"Féile an Phobail and especially the opening day is about our young people. We need to celebrate and treasure our young people.
"As a community and as a society we need to give every support we can offer to ensure that they can make the best possible start with their lives.
Local West Belfast Councillor Marie Cush added here sympathy. Cllr Cush said:
"This is a sad and tragic loss. The community is in a state of shock. I want to extend sympathy to the entire Barnes family circle and also to this young woman's many friends." ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly has accused the DUP MP Gregory Campbell of breathtaking hypocrisy after he spoke out against the promotion of a British soldier who had killed one of his colleagues but continues to ignore the case of Peter McBride and others.
Mr Kelly said:
"Gregory Campbell has been campaigning against a decision by the British Army to promote William Graham after he was convicted of the manslaughter of one of his colleagues. This is the correct approach. It is outrageous that the British Army retains convicted killers within its ranks and subsequently promotes them.
"However people would take Gregory Campbell's opposition to this move a bit more seriously if he displayed some consistency on the matter. No unionist politician has come out and supported the family of Peter McBride in their campaign to remove their son's murderers from the British Army. No unionist politician spoke out when Lee Clegg was retained by the British Army and promoted.
"From Gregory Campbell's intervention in this case and his lack of action in other cases, we can only assume that he views the retention and promotion of individuals who killed unarmed catholic teenagers as acceptable, while on the other hand he clearly believes that those who kill fellow British soldiers should be treated differently. His hypocrisy is breathtaking." ENDS
Sinn Fein Assembly Group leader, Newry Armagh MLA Conor Murphy commenting on selective briefings that have accompanied the publication of the Ombudsman's report into the PSNI raid on Sinn Fein's Stormont offices has said that the report fails to tell the truth about the politically motivated raid.
Mr Murphy said:
"It has been claimed that no evidence has been found to prove that the Special Branch raid on Sinn Fein's offices was politically motivated. However, it is difficult to see how this conclusion is reached when there is no reference to operation Torsion, the Special Branch dirty tricks exercise which culminated in the Stormont raid.
"The Stormont raid on Sinn Fein's parliamentary offices was planned and executed by an RUC cartel of political detectives, in the name of the PSNI. It was a politically motivated raid with the clear intent to collapse the institutions and undermine the peace process.
"The Special Branch version of events given to the Police Ombudsman about the Stormont raid varies from the version offered by the PSNI Chief Constable at the time of the raid.
"On 7th October 2002, in offering a half-hearted, public apology for the Stormont raid, Hugh Orde said 'In terms of planning, we need to look at how planning took place. There was no pre-planning in relation to Stormont.' However, one of those behind the Stormont raid told the investigators from the Ombudsman's office that he planned the raid based on prior Special Branch intelligence.
"The same pattern of leaks, misinformation and political smears which have characterised the Special Branch's operation Torsion from the day of the Stormont raid have preceded today's findings. Since October 2002, many of the original claims made and widely reported have been shown to be a farrago of lies." ENDS