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Sinn Féin national Chairperson, Foyle MLA Mitchel McLaughlin has said that the momentum for a genuine Peace Dividend is growing. Speaking after a meeting of the Sinn Fein negotiating panel, Mr McLaughlin said:

"The British government have neglected our infrastructure for decades. This has damaged every part of our infrastructure - our roads, schools, hospitals, railways and sewerage. There is also a damming legacy of discrimination, inequality and disadvantage that must be tackled. The solution is not to increase the tax burden on people here through the water charges and rates increases but for the British government to accept its' responsibility to compensate for this under investment.

"Recently we have seen a £30 million cut in the policing budget and Gordon Brown able to identify an additional £1 billion to keep down the Council Tax in Britain; we have also seen the evident crisis in funding for the Education Library Boards and the failure to increase capacity within the health service hitting waiting lists and threatening substantial deficits over the next three years.

"This identifies the potential of extra resources from the British 'security' budget and that the ability of British Treasury to find additional resources when it requires them. It also highlights the significant levels of need. The British government should not pocket the savings it is making from reducing expenditure in real terms here. It should plough resources back into our budget.

"The British government should prioritise its commitments to underpin work of any new Executive and support a society emerging from conflict. The British government must recognise that peace does not come on the cheap.

"The EU peace funds and the IFI are a recognition that discrimination, the border and partition and conflict have had a huge impact on the social and economic well-being of our society. It is time that both British and Irish governments recognised their responsibility to address the impact of under funding by successive British administrations and their role in peace building.

"The British and Irish governments need to commit to a significant peace dividend so that any new Executive can effectively address the legacy of conflict and division in our community by tackling inequality, deprivation and under funding. There is inequality and poverty in our society, and both must be eradicated if we are to build on the promise of the peace process and Good Friday Agreement. There can be no more tinkering around the edges." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice President, Pat Doherty MP will give the main oration at the annual Volunteer Martin Savage Commemoration. The Commemoration will take place at 2pm tomorrow Saturday 4th December, opposite Myo's pub in Castleknock, Dublin. The event is organised by the Dublin West Sinn Féin. Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald will also be speaking at the event. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly said today that the decision of a Belfast court to grant bail to a suspected UDA armed robber one day after he was originally remanded, raised again very obvious questions about the judiciary in the six counties.

Mr Kelly said:

" Republicans know only to well the biased and partisan nature of the judiciary in the six counties. That is why we made it an issue in the negotiations which led to the Agreement. That is why we have devoted so much time and energy since the Criminal Justice Review in getting this issue right. Policing and Justice cannot be divorced if we are to create the sort of society we are aiming for.

" Time and again senior and well known UDA figures appear in court receive automatic bail and if ever convicted receive paltry sentences. Contrast this with republicans and nationalists. There are countless cases of people spending years on remand with no prospect of bail. There is no comparison between the severity of sentences handed out to republicans and any other group.

" This well known loyalist receiving bail today is further reminder for ordinary people just how much work we still need to do to transform the current system into a system which nationalists and republicans can have confidence in." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on International Affairs Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has welcomed the report of the UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change released earlier today.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "UN reform is a key issue of concern for Sinn Féin. This report is of major importance and we will be studying its 101 recommendations in detail. We will also be publishing a considered position in response in due course. These proposals for UN reform must be fully debated by the Irish people and also in our legislature before the special UN Summit of world leaders decides a programme of action in September 2006. Ireland can and must take a leadership role to ensure that the reforms are progressive and effective.

"I welcome that the report has characterised development as the 'first line of defence for prevention' and appears to have also confirmed that unilateral preemptive action such as the invasion of Iraq is illegitimate in the eyes of the international community. However, we will need to look closely at the detail on Security Council authorisation for preventive intervention.

"Democratisation of the Security Council is another essential ingredient. We will closely consider the two options on the table for Security Council reform.

"It is unfortunate that the report does not provide sufficient detail in the recommendations around increasing UN peacekeeping capacity.

"The wrong formula on any of these issues could make present problems worse." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast and party negotiator Gerry Kelly this afternoon met with US Senators John McCain (Arizona) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) in Dublin to brief them on the current state of the political negotiations.

At the meeting both Senators reiterated their willingness to help and urged all of the parties to secure a deal.

Speaking after the meeting Gerry Kelly said:

" This was a good meeting and provided another opportunity to acknowledge the continuing support of the Senators and indeed the US Administration for the peace process.

" I informed the Senators that we have now made our final representations to the two governments and that Sinn Féin is up for doing a deal which is firmly bedded within the Good Friday Agreement.

" The time for doing that comprehensive deal is now." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP and party negotiator Caitriona Ruane today spoke to the media in Belfast after returning yesterday from meetings with the British Prime Minister and senior officials in London.

Mr Adams said:

" Our discussions, particularly over recent weeks and days, have been exhaustive. We have made our final representation to the two governments on their proposals. It is now time for a decision.

" A comprehensive deal is possible. But it can only be done on the basis of the Good Friday Agreement and it cannot be done through a process of humiliation.

" The British Prime Minister has a particular responsibility to impress this on the DUP leader.

" Sinn Fein remains focused on achieving a deal. The work has been done. It is now time for Ian Paisley to decide." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment Arthur Morgan T.D. today joined striking Irish Ferries Workers as they protested outside the Dáil. Deputy Morgan has attempted to raise this matter with Minister in the Dáil on a number of occasions, but has been ruled out of order.

Arthur Morgan said, "The situation which has arisen at Irish Ferries is a matter of serious concern. I had asked the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment, by way of parliamentary question and standing orders, to intervene as a matter of urgency on behalf of workers at Irish Ferries who had been given only a brief period of time to consider a package which gave 150 workers the option of accepting redundancy or applying for transfer from Wexford to Dublin with no guarantee of retaining existing grade or pay scale.

"The company intends to operate the ferry under a flag of convenience replacing existing management and crew with low paid staff from other states. Time has come for the government to put an end to the practice of ferries and other ships working under flags of convenience where workers are subjected to derisory levels of pay and are left open to exploitation. The restructuring plan by Irish Ferries has the potential to effect almost ten times the number of jobs which are under threat at the moment as there is every chance that they will chose to eventually operate all their ferries under flags of convenience if they think they can get away with it." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has today voted against a report calling for the use of biometrics in passports for citizens of EU member states.

Speaking after the vote, Ms McDonald said:

"Sinn Féin reject the general idea of introducing biometric identifiers in identity documents for several reasons:

"Firstly, we are seriously concerned about huge risks to data protection and privacy in what will be extremely large databases. Risks in storage, access to and transmission of data are not resolved, dangers of identity theft and abuse remain even if the data is only stored on a chip. Problems with multiple identities, interception of data transmissions and pro-active policing continue to exist. Biometric systems are never 100% accurate, even fingerprints will not be precise on several hundred thousand people in the EU.

"Secondly, the proposal violates all common standards of appropriateness and subsidiary. Until now, neither the Commission nor the Council have adequately explained the necessity, functionality, efficiency and probable side effects of including biometric identifiers in identity documents. They have not even provided detailed figures of the expected costs nor proposed a clear budget!

"Finally, biometrics do not increase security, because they don't link a person to a real identity, only to an identity established by an identity document. If the passport is false, however, the biometric identifier included on it can't change this.

"Sinn Féin will continue to vigorously oppose this flagrant breach of citizens civil liberties. As part of this we opposed today's report." ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson, Mitchel Mc Laughlin MLA is the invited speaker at a gathering of Human Rights Lawyers from across Britain in the Beechill Hotel, Derry tomorrow ( Friday) night.

The Foyle MLA will be addressing the causes of the conflict and the birth and evolution of the Peace Process.

Mr Mc Laughlin said:

"I feel honoured and privileged to have been invited to address such an auspicious body of legal representatives. Although this group holds their Christmas gathering in Ireland every year this is the first time they have come to Derry and I am very pleased to welcome them to the Foyle Constituency. Their choice this year was influenced in no small measure by Derry émigré David Enright of London firm Howe & Co Solicitors, London.

"I will take the opportunity to inform them of the latest state of the political deliberations, the conduct of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, the draconian conditions under which Inquests here are conducted, the ongoing campaign to have fully Independent International Public Inquiries into the deaths of victims of British State sanctioned murder including Human Rights Lawyers Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson as well as An Fhírinne campaign to expose collusion between British Forces and Unionist murder gangs.

"I am sure that they will also take the opportunity to question me on issues of concern that they have identified. I am looking forward to informing them of our agenda of change aimed at creating a society of equals throughout this island." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson, Newry Armagh MLA Davy Hyland has said that the British direct rule Education Minster Barry Gardiner must accept responsibility for sorting out the cash crisis facing the Education Library Boards.

Mr Hyland said:

"Barry Gardiner must recognise that there is crisis facing all education boards. This is not down to weak financial management. It is because they do not have enough money to provide the level of service required.

"It is time that Mr Gardiner examined the failure of direct rule ministers to take responsibility for this situation. The department must also come clean on the impact on inflation and wage pressures on money available for front line services.

"There must be real increases in spending, in next financial cycle, beyond those swallowed up by inflationary pressures, to deliver services, particularly to meet increased Special Education Needs priorities.

"Quick fixes are not the answer and will cause nothing more than further hardship and indeed financial crisis. The proposals aimed at cutting millions from the budgets of the various boards that are currently identified as facing huge deficits will have very serious consequences. Children's education must not suffer.

"The approach adopted by Barry Gardiner will have only one outcome. It will impact on services for young people and have a long-term impact on the education of our young people. This is unforgivable and it is time that Mr Gardiner accepted responsibility for this situation." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy, who heads up the party's anti-water tax campaign has urged SDLP leader Mark Durkan to break the cycle of self-denial over the responsibility of those who negotiated the Reform and Reinvestment Initiative and the opened the door to the imposition of water taxes and challenged him to come clean on the water tax deal in order that a united cross party opposition to the tax can be developed.

Mr Molloy said:

"Over the past year there has been much debate over who was responsible for the introduction of water taxes. Mark Durkan and David Trimble in refusing to come clean on the negotiations that led to the Reform and Reinvestment Initiative are hindering the development of a cross party opposition to the imposition of these unfair and unjust taxes.

"I welcome the SDLP's new found opposition to the water taxes but if we are to build a successful opposition I would urge Margaret Ritchie to come clean on the details of the secret deal negotiated by her leader when he was the Minster responsible for opening the door to this form of unfair and unjust taxation.

"If Mark Durkan could find the courage to come clean on the water tax deal brokered in secret negotiations in London with the British Treasury it would enable us to develop a coherent strategy to stop the British governments plans dead in its tracks.

"I have repeatedly said that if every party within the Assembly and every party who would form any future Executive gave a joint undertaking to roll back this form of taxation that it would create huge difficulties for the direct rule ministers in pushing ahead with these plans." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on health, Upper Bann MLA Cllr John O'Dowd, in welcoming an apparent reduction in some hospital waiting list figures, has also urged Direct Rule Minister, Angela Smith MP, to release additional funding to deal with winter pressures and increase the number of hospital beds available.

Cllr O'Dowd said, "This latest reduction for in-patient waiting lists is welcome news. However, this announcement unfortunately is negated by the fact that the number of outpatients awaiting treatment has correspondingly risen by 8%.

"I wrote to the Minister some weeks ago asking that she urgently release additional funding to prevent a build-up of winter pressures upon the health service as these additional burdens at this time of year have a detrimental impact across the entire services capability. To date, she has not indicated any willingness to do so.

"More importantly, there can be no doubt that these waiting lists could be reduced dramatically if the Minister was to release the resources needed to re-instate the 650 inpatient beds across all Programmes of Care which have been lost to the healthcare system in the North in that period since the Labour Party became responsible for the health service." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, national chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has welcomed the introduction of a new direct daily air route to from Belfast to Geneva operated by easyJet.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"This new air route between Belfast and Geneva is good news for the local economy both in terms of the potential to directly create jobs and also in terms of developing trans European trade and tourism.

"The decision of easyJet to increase its services points to confidence in both the tourism market and a potential to build upon existing Euro trade.

"The success of the Air Route Development Fund in bringing seven new air routes to the north is helping to put us on the international business map, as well as contributing to the growth of the tourism. It is vital that we see more direct strategic intervention to ensure that this potential is built upon by increasing support for local businesses in targeting European markets and a stronger focus on developing our tourist potential through strengthening the remit of Tourism Ireland" ENDS

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Scandal is that gross inequalities have persisted in an affluent economy

Sinn Féin Dáil leader, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD described the Budget as an admission that opportunities to create real change since 1997 had been "deliberately spurned". He said while the "economic background to the Budget is a buoyant and successful economy - the social background paints a very different picture". "The scandal is that gross inequalities have persisted in an affluent economy," he said.

Deputy Ó Caoláin went on to say, "This is not a time for throwing big bouquets at the Minister and the Government. Very belatedly some measures are being taken to address inequity. But we should be much further ahead. In fact we should be seven years further on."

While welcoming the social welfare increases, some of which he said were "substantial", Deputy Ó Caoláin pointed out that they come "on top of a low base of welfare rates which will still see people struggling on a weekly basis."

The Cavan/Monaghan TD described the increases in Child Benefit as "disappointing" and said it was "disgraceful that nothing has been done to improve Child Dependent Allowances", which he maintained "shows a clear lack of priority in this Budget for the needs of children."

Deputy Ó Caoláin was also critical of Minister Cowen‚s defence of the 12.5% Corporation Tax rate saying that Banks and other financial institutions who, he said, "have ripped off the Irish public right, left and centre, should have been hit with a special increased tax rate that would be ring-fenced for disadvantaged communities."

Full text of speech follows:

Full text of speech by Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin on Budget 2004

No Government in the history of this State had the opportunities to create real change that were available to this Fianna Fáil/PD Coalition Government since 1997. Minister Cowen‚s first Budget is a tacit admission that those opportunities were deliberately spurned and that McCreevy economics massively favoured the property speculators, the high flyers and the very wealthy who were facilitated in refusing to pay their fair share to this society. But the question we must ask is has anything really changed?

Last June the electorate gave Fianna Fáil a sharp lesson and that party, with its characteristic political astuteness, realised that the people were sick of the McCreevy approach and something would have to be done. It was a time for a new image. So Champagne Charlie was shown the door and we had the longest running Cabinet reshuffle in history. The Taoiseach emerged in his light red anorak and proclaimed himself a socialist.

That is the political background to Budget 2005. I have no hesitation in welcoming many of the measures announced yesterday ˆ quite a number of them were demands that we in Sinn Féin had raised not this year or last year, but for the past seven years and in eight pre-Budget submissions up to and including Budget 2005.

The economic background to the Budget is a buoyant and successful economy with growth at over 5% and increased employment. For a decade now the Irish economy has experienced record growth. Government revenues were never higher. Tax receipts have consistently exceeded forecasts ˆ up 15% during 2004.

But the social background paints a very different picture. The scandal is that gross inequalities have persisted in an affluent economy. It is totally unacceptable that after the years of prosperity presided over by this Government, around 20% of the population of this State live in poverty and have incomes so far below the average that they endure economic hardship.

So this is not a time for throwing big bouquets at the Minister and the Government. Very belatedly some measures are being taken to address inequity. But we should be much further ahead. In fact we should be seven years further on.

I welcome the social welfare increases, a number of which are substantial. At the same time they are on top of a low base of welfare rates which will still see people struggling on a weekly basis.

Child Benefit has been increased by •10 and •12 per month and that is very disappointing. It is disgraceful that nothing has been done to improve Child Dependent Allowance. The value of the Child Dependent Allowance has decreased by 25% since it was frozen in 1994. This shows a clear lack of priority in this Budget for the needs of children.

In our pre-Budget submission Sinn Féin called for a range of comprehensive measures, both budgetary and legislative, to address the massive deficit in the provision of childcare. We saw increased Child Benefit and CDA as essential measures to help parents with childcare costs. Minister Cowen has failed to appreciate this need. The increased allocation for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme is, however welcome. That said the total dependence on this programme to meet childcare needs is not sustainable. There will be a need for more affordable and accessible places.

The Estimates extended medical cards to a further 30,000 people. But that‚s still 170,000 short of what was promised before the General Election. And there are over 100,000 fewer people with medical cards than when this Government took office in 1997.

Yesterday, Budget Day, in reply to a Dáil Question from me, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney stated that while the GP-only card will cost approximately •250 per year, the cost per year of the full medical card is •1,000 per year.

The revelation that the GP-only medical card is a quarter of the cost of the real Medical Card adds a dose of reality to the hype over this Budget.

Hospital charges and medicine costs have already been increased by the Government so that on health the Government is giving with one hand and taking away with the other. While the extension of free GP services to many more people will be welcome, the Government should not try to fool people into thinking that they are getting the full value of the General Medical Services Scheme. They will still bear the heavy cost of medicines which together with hospital attendances represent three quarters of the value of the medical card.

Let it not be forgotten that the PDs promised in 2002 that regarding the medical card they would "ensure income eligibility criteria would at least keep pace with movements in incomes". That hasn't happened, even after the Estimates and yesterday‚s Budget.

On taxation the removal of those on and below the minimum wage from the tax net is welcome - but again, it is something that could and should have been done by Minister McCreevy long ago. This government‚s tax cuts, between 1997 and 2002, saw only 5% of budget tax cut benefits go to the bottom 20% of earners. We are living with the legacy of McCreevy and yesterday represented a catch-up rather than a radical shift in direction.

For years we in Sinn Féin have been calling for a comprehensive review of the wide range of property-based tax reliefs and the closing of those through which wealth corporations and individuals are being allowed to avoid their fair share of tax. Minister Cowen yesterday promised the review but did not close off any of the tax dodges for which this Government is responsible - such as the tax giveaways for holiday home developments, hotels, multi-storey car parks, sports injury clinics - which benefit wealthy speculators.

We will probably never know how much has been lost to the public finances through these scams because the Government has never carried out a cost-benefit analysis of the huge range of such allowances.

Minister Cowen staunchly defended the 12.5% Corporation Tax rate. But the Banks, and other financial institutions, that have ripped off the Irish public right, left and centre, are major beneficiaries from this low rate. The Minister should have hit them with a special tax and ring-fenced it for disadvantaged communities.

Minister Cowen received plaudits from the benches opposite for the reduction in stamp duty for first-time buyers of second hand properties. Again this was long overdue and welcome but what will be done to ensure that the benefit is enjoyed by the buyers? Last night the auctioneers and valuers representatives were already out in the media saying that the reduction would be eaten up by increased house prices. That surely argues for the regulation of the price of housing, something this Government has refused to countenance.

Similarly, there is increased tax relief for tenants in private rented accommodation but if nothing is done to control rents they will continue to rise and this tax relief will amount to a subsidy to rack-renting landlords.

The measures for people with disabilities are welcome. Their implementation will need to be monitored very carefully, especially against the failure yet again of this government to deliver rights-based disability legislation. We don't know how much of this new funding will be swallowed up by the Government's proposed cumbersome bureaucracy that will be introduced as a consequence of the flawed Disability Bill.

This Budget shows that the Taoiseach‚s commitment to the UN target on Overseas Development Aid was no more sincere than his recent conversion to socialism. The reality is we have had an ODA freeze ever since he made that promise. We are the fourth wealthiest state in the world. But where other European states are giving in excess of 1% of GNP to ODA, we won‚t even give one half of one percent. The Government failure to honour this commitment brings shame on the country. Sinn Féin are calling for the introduction of legislation ringfencing the 0.7% for future budgets.

For the first time under this Government we see a net increase in Defence spending of over €41 million - despite prior denials by two Ministers for Defence that EU military commitments would result in spending increases. It would appear that they have now been caught out on this.

This Budget is deceptive, particularly as regards specific equality measures. Apparent increases in equality programmes barely cover the rate of inflation much less compensate for the deep cuts of the past two years.

For example, the additional 10% spending on the Status of People with Disabilities measure cannot compensate for cuts of 44% inflicted in 2003 and 19% in 2004. The 3% increase for the National Consultative Council on Racism and Interculturalism cannot compensate for the 63% cut in 2003. The National Action Plan on Racism - which was cut by 63% in 2003 and again by 76% in last year‚s budget - appears to have been completely eliminated. And the Minister for Justice apparently has no plans to replace the Citizen Traveller programme that he shut down. While Equality Monitoring appears to get a huge 41% increase, the reality is that this does not even come close to restoring levels of funding prior to the 48% and 18% cuts respectively in 2003 and 2004.

Finally, on agriculture, it has emerged that the stock relief for young farmers will only apply to those who have already received their training cert and therefore means nothing to those entering at present. The measures involve trivial amounts.

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Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, national chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has welcomed the introduction of a new direct daily air route to from Belfast to Geneva operated by easyJet.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"This new air route between Belfast and Geneva is good news for the local economy both in terms of the potential to directly create jobs and also in terms of developing trans European trade and tourism.

"The decision of easyJet to increase its services points to confidence in both the tourism market and a potential to build upon existing Euro trade.

"The success of the Air Route Development Fund in bringing seven new air routes to the north is helping to put us on the international business map, as well as contributing to the growth of the tourism. It is vital that we see more direct strategic intervention to ensure that this potential is built upon by increasing support for local businesses in targeting European markets and a stronger focus on developing our tourist potential through strengthening the remit of Tourism Ireland" ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that the response of DARD minister Ian Pearson to the delay in farm subsidy payment is unacceptable.

Ms Gildernew said:

"The response of Ian Pearson to the impact of the civil service pay dispute on the payment of farm subsidies is not good enough.

"If the department does not have in place effective delivery mechanisms to deal with its problems then it is unacceptable that the farmer will suffer.

"Figures on farm incomes published show that incomes are not improving and that farmers are heavily reliant of subsidies and carry huge debts. The failure to apply interest to delayed farm subsidies will impact on the resources and borrowing of farmers. It is wrong of the department to pass on its failures to the shoulders of the farmer who is already carrying a heavy burden." ENDS

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Sinn Féin South Belfast Assembly member Cllr Alex Maskey has described the additional £100,000 allocated to help fight hate crime as a 'pittance' that fails to recognise the scale of the difficulties faced by ethnic communities and the urgent need develop a large scale response.

Cllr Maskey said:

"While any money that can help in the fight against race hate crime must be welcomed. This money is a pittance compared to the level of funding that is needed to develop a meaningful long-term response.

"It is important that there are resources available to provide a practical response on the ground in communities where this is a major problem but this is only a drop in the ocean.

"Many people will draw a comparison between the figure of £3 or £4 million that is being bandied about as the carrot the British government are dangling in front of the UDA to give up gangsterism, who incidently are widely regarded as being behind much of the race hate crime in Belfast, with the figure of £100,000 additional resources to combat the impact of their campaign.

"Everyone has a role to play in challenging racism yet the failure to put in place proper resources will only undermine the efforts of those working on the ground to root out ingrained racist attitudes. Racism impacts on the daily lives of people from ethnic communities who, particularly here in Belfast, are a vital part of the rich social fabric of this city.

"The numbers of reported racial incidents in increases every year and yet these are only the tip of the iceberg. The Housing Executive deal with two cases a month on average and over 30 families and individuals have been forced to flee from their homes. The Equality Commission figures show racist attacks in Belfast are 30% higher than in England and Wales (16.4% per 1000 Belfast population compared to 12.6 for England and Wales)." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún today said that the DUP dalliance with Ulster Resistance provided a very real motivation for the DUP to try and prevent the truth about collusion coming out and provided a rational for the hysterical reaction of the DUP MEP Jim Allister to the news that a large delegation of families affected by collusion will travel to Brussels next week to lobby MEPs.

Speaking today from Brussels Ms deBrún said:

" Jim Allister's reaction while not surprising may well be motivated by a desire to prevent MEPs from hearing the full extent of this collusion policy. The six county state was in effect propped up by a terrifying mixture of British State repression, discrimination and violence. That is a reality about which many within political unionism are still in denial.

" It also has to be remembered that one of the vehicles used to rearm the unionist paramilitaries was Ulster Resistance. It was DUP leader and at the time sitting MEP Ian Paisely who set up Ulster Resistance. We can all remember well the images of the DUP hierarchy with their red berets in the Ulster Hall.

" It may well be that the DUP have been successful in hiding this reality from the rest of the European Parliament up until now. But the families and the victims of the British policy of state sanctioned murder have every right to tell their story. Sinn Féin make no apology for standing with the victims' families and supporting their search for the truth." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald will deliver the keynote address to a seminar on the proposed EU Constitution, to be held in Dublin this weekend.

The seminar, hosted by the Dublin MEP, will discuss ways to campaign against the constitution which consolidates and expands militarisation of the EU and further erodes Irish independence, democracy and neutrality.

Other speakers include Green Party TD John Gormley, Carol Fox of the Peace And Neutrality Alliance (PANA); Brendan Young, of Democracy And Public Services in Europe (DAPSE) and Frank Keoghan of the People's Movement.

The seminar takes place this Saturday 4th December between 10am and 1pm at the EU Parliament Offices, Molesworth St, Dublin 2. All are welcome.

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on All Ireland Development, Omagh councillor Barry McElduff MLA speaking at a major conference on 'North South political relations in the 21st century' organised by the Confederation of European Councillors in the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh on 2nd and 3rd December has said that 'partition has damaged communities, it is time that we build the momentum for greater harmonisation and co-operation to overcome this damage and it is time that we tackled the waste and inefficiency created by maintaining two bureaucracies across this small island.'.

Cllr McElduff said:

"Sinn Féin is committed to achieving full national and democratic rights for all the people of Ireland. Sinn Fein has an All Ireland parliamentary group. We demand much more by way of recognising the rights of northern citizens within the South. There needs to progress on rights for northern elected representatives in the Oireachtas and voting rights in presidential elections.

"On this small island of 5 million people it is sheer folly that we have two competing bureaucracies. Partition has damaged communities, it is time that we build the momentum for greater harmonisation and co-operation to overcome this damage and it is time that we tackled the waste and inefficiency created by maintaining two bureaucracies across this small island.

"Greater harmonisation and co-operation can release more money for frontline services and for investment in our infrastructure. It is important not just for Sinn Fein but to everyone on this island that we see the fullest development possible of the all-Ireland arrangements and institutions.

"It is also important to emphasis and recognise just how negative the impact of the border and partition has been in terms of social and economic development. It has directly impacted on the quality of life for everyone and it has damaged businesses.

"There is a growing recognition among policy makers and business leaders that balanced development demands the strengthening of economic and social cohesion by promoting and deepening all-Ireland integration. This requires the long term development of the range, remit and number of all-Ireland implementation bodies and areas of co-operation." ENDS

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