Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald speaking in Brussels this afternoon said "A spotlight must be shone on Britain's role in Ireland, and the EU member states, Parliament, Commission and Council of Ministers need to be questioning the British Government on its involvement in the murder of Irish citizens, particularly whilst it currently holds the Presidency of the European Union."
Today Sinn Féin hosted a delegation of campaigners to the European Parliament whose loved ones were murdered as a result of British state violence and collusion with unionist paramilitaries.
Speaking after hosting a press conference for the families Ms McDonald said that the families were well received at the Parliament and met with a number of MEPs representing six of the seven European groupings.
Speaking today Ms McDonald said:
"Today's visit to the European Parliament by the relatives of those murdered as a result of the British state violence and collusion was very significant.
"This is their second visit to the Parliament in the space of one year and is a clear indication of their determination to break down the wall of silence with regard to British government involvement in the murder of Irish citizens.
"The families met with representatives of six of the seven European groupings in the EU Parliament and expressed their hope for support from Europe. The fact that a diverse range of groups met with the families is a testament to the families' persistence and determination to find the truth of what happened to their loved ones.
"Europe has a part to play in assisting the families in their quest for justice. For years the British Government denied the very existence of the policy of collusion against Irish people. There is now a particular onus on the British Government to state the truth.
"In the coming weeks Sinn Féin will continue to work with the families to try and secure a cross party fact finding delegation from the European Parliament.
"A spotlight must be shone on Britain's role in Ireland, and the EU member states, Parliament, Commission and Council of Ministers need to be questioning the British Government on its involvement in the murder of Irish citizens, particularly whilst it currently holds the Presidency of the European Union." ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today welcomed a British EU Presidency recommendation that the PEACE programme should receive €200 million in funding for the period 2007 -2013. This decision arose directly from meetings held by Sinn Féin with the EU Commission in October and separate discussions in recent weeks with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
Speaking today Ms de Brún said that the proposal was "recognition of the need for a PEACE III programme, for which we have long campaign".
The recommendation came as the British Presidency presented EU leaders with its overall proposed financial perspectives for the period 2007-2013.
Ms de Brún said:
"The British Presidency proposals for a PEACE III programme covering the period 2007 to 2013 are very welcome. The proposals represent a first indication that the British Government is prepared to advocate €200 million in spending on EU PEACE projects.
"Sinn Féin have been lobbying for a PEACE III programme for several years. This work intensified following our entry to the European Parliament last year, with a round of meetings at the European Parliament and Commission. I and party President Gerry Adams met with the EU Commissioner for Regional Development, Danuta Hubner in October and I also met with her earlier this year to personally make the case for continued funding for PEACE and IFI funding. The matter has also been raised formally by Sinn Féin delegations with Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern.
"Work still remains to be done to ensure a further round of PEACE funding is secured and it is imperative that the EU Council of Ministers ratify this proposal when they meet to finalise the Financial Perspectives later in the month.
"The proposal also makes clear that a future PEACE III fund 'will be implemented in full respect of additionality of structural fund interventions' (Point 52 of British Presidency document). This means that a future PEACE III fund must compliment and be additional to existing levels of government expenditure rather than replace it. Sinn Féin will be following proposals closely to ensure that this happens.
"I want to take this opportunity to praise the work of community group‚s right across the country for ensuring that this issue was highlighted and fought for. My hope is that future PEACE and IFI funding will enable them to continue to deliver first class peace and reconciliation work in their local communities.
"Sinn Féin believes that a future PEACE III projects must be targeted towards tackling discrimination and disadvantage and the promotion of peace and national reconciliation. My hope is that such funding will provide a further opportunity to cement the peace process and peace building." ENDS
Sinn Féin will hold a press conference tomorrow, Thursday 8th December, at 2pm in the party's Sevastopol Street offices to announce details of the second annual Day of Reflection organised by Sinn Fein Mayors and Chairs across the Six Counties.
Building on the initiatives last year in Fermanagh, Derry City, Magherafelt, Strabane and Omagh, Sinn Féin first citizens in Omagh, Strabane, Fermanagh, Magherafelt, Derry City, Moyle and Newry and Mourne Councils will be holding a variety of 'Day of Reflection' events this year on December 10th to mark International Human Rights Day.
Speaking ahead of the press conference Sinn Féin General Secretary Mitchel McLaughlin MLA said:
"Last year Sinn Féin mayors and chairs throughout the six counties initiated a number of events to mark a Day of Reflection.
"In the past 12 months Sinn Fein have built upon this work. It is guided by a commitment to providing civic leadership and equality. It is about facing up to the challenge of building peace and tackling difficult and divisive issues through engagement between people of different faiths and traditions.
"It is a genuine efforts to acknowledge the loss of all those who have died as a result of war and conflict and to acknowledge all those who still live with the pain and memory of that loss.
"The Day of Reflection events are not intended to replace the existing commemorative events but are underpinned by a desire to provide civic leadership with the aim of promoting reconciliation and equality.
"We hope that these efforts will build upon the important work by former Derry Mayor Gerry O Hara and by Alex Maskey, during his term as mayor of Belfast, to develop the concept of recognising the experiences of all equally, and together." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil leader, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said grave concerns have been raised by what appears to have been the leaking of confidential Garda files to individuals outside the Department of Justice in relation to three individuals, including the head of the Centre for Public Inquiry, Frank Connolly, who Minister McDowell named in a Dáil reply last night.
Deputy Ó Caoláin also described as "an outrageous abuse of Dáil privilege" the allegations made by the Minister last night about the three men in a written reply to a Parliamentary Question from Deputy Finian McGrath.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "Michael McDowell's comments, made in the Dáil last night through a written reply to a question, are nothing short of an outrageous abuse of Dáil privilege. That he used a Dáil mechanism to put on record unsubstantiated allegations marks a very sinister development in his ongoing campaign against the Centre for Public Inquiry.
"More serious though, and a matter which is of grave concern is the question of whether or not the Minister or his department was responsible for the leaking of confidential Garda files to persons outside his Department and who shouldn't have been in possession of or had access to these files or the information contained therein.
"People should be rightly concerned at the increasingly brazen and reckless behaviour of the Minister. This Minister has shown scant regard for due process in the past but this latest development, even for him, is a new low.
"No other Minister in government would be allowed to act with such scant regard for the law. It is time that Michael McDowell was reined in." ENDS
Sinn Fein Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson has broadly welcomed the Education
Minister's desision to scrap the 11+. Commenting upon the announcement
Michael Ferguson said:
"Martin McGuinness as Minister for Education under the Assembly, initiated the consultation that has lead to the demise of the 11+ system. I broadly welcome the end of the 11+ because it was a system that branded 80% of our children as failures every year.
We now have an opportunity to deliver an education system that celebrates all intelligences and allows all children to achieve their human potential and learn at a pace which suits them.
However if we are to build confidence in a new system then we need to invest in our children, in our teachers and in our schools and the current Minister and Government are intent on taking 173 million from our schools by 2008 when we need to be investing."ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Irish language Francie Brolly MLA this evening welcomed Direct Rule Minister David Hanson‚s positive comments on the Irish language but said it was long past time that these comments were backed by action. The Sinn Féin Assembly member called for the immediate enactment of an Irish Language Act which would give legal protection to the Irish speaking community and outlaw discrimination and petty bigotry against the language.
Mr. Brolly said:
„Sinn Fein welcomes the commitment to the principles of the Charter for Regional or Minority Languages expressed on behalf of the British Government by David Hanson, Direct Rule Minister for Culture. We particularly welcome his acknowledgement of the importance the Irish language plays in our society.
"However, the reality is that the Minister‚s views are odds with the behaviour and actions of many government departments and officials and the result is that Irish language speakers continue to face discrimination.
"For example, 30% of the viewing public in the Six Counties still cannot access TG4 on terrestrial TV despite repeated undertakings to remedy this; the Administration of Justice (Language) Act Ireland 1737 bans the use of Irish in the courts again despite repeated undertakings to remedy this; the Department of Regional Development has instructed Newry & Mourne District Council that fáilte (welcome) signs it has erected on the outskirts of Newry will have to be removed because they are in Irish.
"These are just a few examples of the ingrained prejudice against the language. Minister Hanson must ensure that his positive remarks are matched by positive actions. One way in which he can do this is to support the enacting of an Irish Language Act which will give legal protection to the Irish speaking community and outlaw discrimination and petty bigotry against the language."ENDS
Three Sinn Féin TDs today criticised the level of funding being provided for the National Drugs Strategy after it was revealed there was a €15m shortfall in this years Estimates. The TDs also attacked the Minister of State Noel Ahern for his failure to "work in partnership with the local Drugs Task Forces and the National Drugs Strategy Team," which they said had led to the resignation of an "experienced" community sector representative from the National Drugs Strategy Team.
Speaking during Order of Business, the Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh said, "The Minister of State Noel Ahern has failed to work in partnership with the Local Drugs Task Forces and the National Drugs Strategy Team and this, coupled with the measly funding provided for in the Estimates which is totally inadequate to meet the needs identified in local communities, has forced the resignation of the experienced and dedicated Fergus McCabe from his position as community sector representative on the National Drugs Strategy Team."
Sinn Féin leader in the Dáil, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin accused the Government of failing to "commit the resources necessary to implement the National Drugs Strategy." "A failure," he said, "that is evidenced by the Estimates which involved a shortfall of €15m and which must be rectified by additional funding through the Budget."
Deputy Seán Crowe said there was an urgent need for an additional €4.8m euro to be included in the Budget for the Emerging Needs Fund. This needs to be done if the demands for 2006 as identified by the Local Drugs Task Forces are to be met and existing projects built upon he said.
Sinn Féin Social Welfare spokesperson Séan Crowe TD has called on Finance Minister Brian Cowen to double the Fuel Allowance to €18 per week in Wednesday's budget. Deputy Crowe also called for the payment to be paid up front at the beginning of winter and for it to include the months of April and May.
Speaking in Dublin today he said, "There are now 62,000 households in chronic fuel poverty in the 26 Counties. 16,300 of them are households with elderly people living in them. In all 270,000 people have been in receipt of Fuel allowance as of 2003.
"The current payment is €9 a week. We are calling for it to be raised to €18 per week; for it to be paid up front at the beginning of winter and for it to include the months of April and May. This would be a practical measure that would help alleviate the hardship faced by some of the most disadvantaged people in our society. We believe this would cost in the region of €80-€100 million a year.
"This is just a fraction of the money that has been wasted by this Government on IT systems in the last couple of years - never mind the massive loses suffered by Revenue as a result of very generous tax breaks to the wealthy operated by the Government. Included in that IT figure is the €195 million wasted on the failed PPARS computer system; €57 million on the failed media lab in the south inner city; €61 million on the Garda PULSE system and the €50 million on the E-voting debacle.
"This Government has proved itself to be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to spending public money. This Wednesday I urge Minister Cowen to be wise when it comes to investing in those most in need in our society, rather that fritter away money on white elephants and ego trips." ENDS
Sinn Féin North Kerry TD Martin Ferris has described the deployment of one extra Garda for traffic duty in Kerry in the run up to Christmas as pathetic. Deputy Ferris said the deployment of one extra Garda was wholly inadequate for a county the size of Kerry. He also said that a government promise of extra gardaí by 2008 was insulting to people’s intelligence when everyone knows there will be a general election on or before 2007.
Deputy Ferris said:
“The deployment of one extra Garda for traffic duty in a county the size of Kerry is wholly inadequate and to be quite honest a pathetic attempt by the government to cover up its broken promise of deploying 2000 extra gardaí throughout the state. It is also notable that any commitments being given by the government across a whole range of issues, including promises of extra gardaí, are being made for 2008. Everyone knows that there will be an election on or before 2007, so if there’s even a slight change in government they will be able to renege on any promises they made. It’s an insult to people’s intelligence and they are fooling no one."ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has highlighted the case of murdered Human Rights
Lawyer Pat Finucane during her tour of Australia and New Zealand this week.
Ms de Brún has travelled to Australia as part of Sinn Féin's centenary celebrations to provide parliamentarians and community activists a briefing on the current state of the peace process and to lobby both governments for continued financial assistance through the International Fund for Ireland (IFI).
Speaking today Ms de Brún said:
"Over this past year I have met with the Finucane family on a number of occasions and informed them that I was committed to assisting the family both at home and at a European level in order to see a fully independent judicial public inquiry established into the solicitor's death.
"Having spoken to a number of people here in Australia, I would be confident that people, particularly those in the legal profession, will want to speak out about the British government's attempt to block any hope of a properly independent public inquiry.
"For years the British Government denied the very existence of state sponsored murder and its complicity with unionist paramilitaries in the deaths of citizens in the six counties. Judge Cory's recommendation that a full judicial inquiry be held into Pat Finucane's murder has shown up the British Government's unwillingness to let the family have the truth. They are actively attempting to block an independent inquiry as part of the state cover up in the aftermath of his murder.
"Not only is the case of Pat Finucane being raised here in Australia, but the families of those murdered as a result of state sponsored collusion are taking their case to the European Parliament this Wednesday (7th September). The demand for the truth is being heard right across the world." ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty departs for London today for a series of
meetings with MPs and other interested groups. Speaking before his departure
Mr Doherty called on the two governments to bring forward an action plan
which would see the political institutions re-established.
Mr Doherty said:
" We are now four months on from the historic announcement by the IRA in July formally ending the armed campaign. Unionism has had ample space and time to come to terms with the new political realities created by that initiative.
" We cannot allow the political process to simply drift along hoping that the DUP will finally display the necessary political courage or will. Thetwo governments have an obligation to inject momentum into this process. We need to see an action plan for the governments leading us back into the all-Ireland power sharing institutions.
" The DUP have in the past stated that the only obstacle to power sharing was the issue of IRA weapons. That issue has been decisively dealt with. It now remains to be seen if the DUP can live up to their slogan of a new confident unionism. So far they have turned away from the difficult business of taking up ministerial responsibility and delivering for the people who elect them, preferring instead to stand back and watch from the sidelines as the Direct Rule Administration continue to make bad decisions for all of the people who live here." ENDS
Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today said that the Irish Government has a 'moral responsibility to press for an EU Ferries Directive'.
Ms McDonald made her comments as the EU Maritime Transport Council met to discuss a directive for the protection of maritime workers today. The Irish Government has previously opposed such a directive in the past.
Speaking today Ms McDonald said:
"Today's meeting of the EU Maritime Transport Council was crucially important for the future protection of the employment rights of maritime workers throughout the European Union.
"I am pleased that the Government has finally decided to press European officials for action on a European Ferries Directive. This welcome change of direction by the government contrasts sharply with their previous position of actively opposing the Manning Directive of last year.
"Sinn Féin has been consistently calling for a European Ferries Directive which would deal with ships operating in European waters under flags of convenience and for minimum labour standards to be set. It is my view that had the Ferries Directive been already in place, moves by Irish Ferries to replace 543 directly employed labourers by cheap labour from Eastern Europe could have been prevented.
"This Government must not merely pay lip service to calls for an Irish Ferries Directive, but must actively lobby all member states for its introduction. The Irish Ferries saga provides the irrefutable evidence that workers' require protection." ENDS
Sinn Féin Social Welfare spokesperson Séan Crowe TD has called on Finance Minister Brian Cowen to double the Fuel Allowance to €18 per week in Wednesday’s budget. Deputy Crowe also called for the payment to be paid in a up front at the beginning of winter and for it to include the months of April and May.
Speaking in Dublin today he said, “There are now 62,000 households in chronic fuel poverty in the 26 Counties. 16,300 of them are households with elderly people living in them. In all 270,000 people have been in receipt of Fuel allowance as of 2003.
“The current payment is €9 a week. We are calling for it to be raised to €18 per week, for it to be paid in up front at the beginning of winter and for it to include the months of April and May. This would be a practical measure that would help alleviate the hardship faced by some of the most disadvantaged people in society every year.
“To do this would cost €83million a year. This is just a fraction of the money that has been wasted by this Government, the €195 million wasted on the failed PPARS computer system, the €315 million wasted in tax incentives for luxury holiday homes, €57 million on the failed media lab in the south inner city, €61 million on the Garda PULSE system and the €50 million on the E-voting system. This Government has proved itself to be very foolish at times when it comes to spending public money. This Wednesday I urge Minister Cowen to be smart, to invest in those most in need in our society.” ENDS
Speaking today in response to the conclusions of a Swedish parliamentary investigation into extraordinary renditions and information obtained by RTE under the Freedom of Information Act Sinn Féin spokesperson on International Affairs Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said:
“Sinn Féin have called repeatedly for Garda inspections of the planes identified by human rights groups, and now the Swedish parliamentary investigation, as possibly being involved in the transportation of prisoners by the CIA to locations where they may be subjected to torture, inhumane and degrading treatment.
“The US authorities expect their assurance to the contrary to be accepted and the Irish Government is choosing to rely on these. I have been calling on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to back up these assurances with evidence because until the planes are inspected everything is deniable. Unfortunately, the Government have made it clear in their own statements and in responses to parliamentary questions placed by myself that they do not intend to inspect the planes unless evidence is brought forward. However, further evidence cannot be produced until the doors of the planes are opened - it is a classic Catch-22 situation.
“The Council of Europe and a number of national parliaments have launched investigations and in light of this, and of the credible evidence produced thus far, I am calling again on the Irish Government to authorise the search and inspection of the planes N379P and N85VM and any other flights associated with the US-led war on terror.” ENDS
Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast Fra McCann has today said that the volume of traffic on the Falls Road and the low priority given to the road have contributed to it becoming an accident blackspot. Mr McCann made his comments after the PSNI claimed that the Falls Road was the most dangerous accident black-spot in the North.
Speaking today Mr McCann said:
"The Falls Road is the main arterial route through West Belfast and anyone using the road will be well aware of the constant traffic jams and excruciating wait times at peak periods. It is clear that further traffic calming schemes are required on the road to lessen the amount of accidents which are occurring.
"It certainly seems that the development of safer roads is not a high priority for the Roads Service and or the other statutory agencies. Sinn Féin has been pursuing the Roads Service to implement further road safety measures in West Belfast.
"The PSNI's new found interest in the amount of stolen cars being driven on the Falls Road stands in stark contrast to their disinterest in death drivers and anti-social behaviour in West Belfast over the past 30 years." ENDS
Sinn Féin's Dublin Spokesperson on the Environment, Councillor Daithí Doolan, has today called for, "the establishment of an All Ireland Task Force to tackle global warming and the effects of climate change."
Speaking ahead of tonight's conference on Climate Change in the Mansion House, Cllr. Doolan said:
"One of the biggest challenges facing this generation is climate change. Yet the government have totally abdicated their responsibility in tackling the issue. It‚s refusal to publish it's own Review of National Climate Change Strategy brings into stark focus their lack of commitment on the matter.
"I am calling the establishment of an All Ireland Task Force with a view to focusing politicians, businesses and the public‚s minds on the challenges that lie ahead. We can no longer bury our head in the hope this impending disaster that is climate change will simply go away. The Task Force should be made up of representatives from the business sector, local & central government, environmentalists and NGO's from across the island.
"Sinn Fein is committed to tackling the issue head on, we want to work with others to set long term targets to cut emissions and will work for the achievements of those targets through a multi faceted approach which would include investment in public transport, renewable resources, urban planning based on energy saving technologies and the possibility of carbon taxes."
In conclusion Cllr. Doolan called on, „the Minister for Environment Dick Roche to convene this task force as a matter of urgency and let us get on with planning for a sustainable future." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice issues Gerry Kelly today said that "Community Restorative schemes are a valuable community asset which have worked well of over 5 years". Mr Kelly's comments come on the day the British Government published their proposals on future CRJ schemes.
Mr Kelly said:
"Community Restorative Justice is not an alternative to a policing service. It never has been nor pretended to be. Indeed Lord Clyde the Justice Oversight Commissioner recently praised the CRJ schemes operating here and reported that 80% of their work relates to community and neighbourhood disputes which are nothing to do with the formal Criminal Justice system.
"The CRJ schemes themselves have invited the Criminal Justice Inspectorate to inspect and monitor their work. Therefore funding for such schemes should not depend on the opinions of those from within the Criminal Justice structures.
"The recently found SDLP opposition to Community Restorative Justice and the myths which they continue to pedal in the media has nothing at all to do with these schemes or the way they operate. These schemes have been operating successfully in the north since 1999 and we have not heard this hysterical opposition before now.
"The SDLP opposition is based upon a need to prevent further necessary policing changes to justify their flawed decision to jump too early onto policing. The SDLP and Policing Board would be far better off supporting a community based scheme which is working and has impacted positively in hundreds of cases rather than attempting to prevent further policing and justice change in order to justify their own political view." ENDS
Sinn Féin Regional Development spokesperson, Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney has hit out at suggested 'equality' provisions to be implemented to protect vulnerable groups with the imposition of the Water Charges.
Peter Hain visiting a Waste Water Treatment Plant in County Down last week indicated that his colleague, Regional Development Minister Shaun Woodward would announce this week that he intends to ensure that measures are set in place to protect those households who will undoubtedly suffer further economic hardship as a consequence of water charging.
Mr McCartney said:
"Plans to impose this double taxation allows people to assess for themselves the role of the British Direct Ministers in the North. This reform agenda, which is nothing less than a cover for privatisation, will cement the levels of deprivation that many communities already experience.
"If British Direct Rule Minister believe that a series of cosmetic consultation exercises to involve key stakeholders will convince anyone then they should visit those communities who will be plunged into unacceptable levels of water poverty.
"Implying that provisions will be set in place to protect those who may have difficulty in paying for an essential public service is conceding that these proposed charges are grossly unfair.
"Sinn Fein remains committed to doing all in its power to oppose this form of increased taxation.
"The government rationale that the water charges must be imposed is bogus. European drinking water quality standards, wastewater standards and the upgrading of the sewerage network need to take place as of right. People have been paying for this through the domestic rates for years.
"Under European legislation there is no explicit directive, which states that water charging must take place in any country. Failure to comply with EC Directives will result in huge fines and possible planning embargoes due to sewerage 'hotspots'. The real reason these charges are being introduced is to transform the current Water Service into a private or Government Owned (Go-Co), which will be a profit-making organisation.
"Sinn Fein along with all the other political parties is vehemently opposed to the imposition of the water charges. The only way deal with the threat of water charges is through a functioning Assembly and Executive.
"All parties, particularly the DUP, need to engage with us and others so that the damaging influence of Direct Rule can be removed. Let us discuss openly and work together to restore the Assembly and the Executive." ENDS
Sinn Féin Newry Armagh MP Conor Murphy has said that while many of his constituents will be happy at the announcement that the last 'emergency' British Army battalion, currently based in Bessbrook, will be sent back to Britain in the New Year that levels of British Army activity and harassment particularly in rural area highlighted the failure of the British government to deliver the promised programme of demilitarisation.
Mr Murphy said:
"Anything that further reduces the number of British troops stationed in the north must be welcomed.
"However, this does not equate to dealing with British Army soldiers who are still very active on the ground particularly in rural communities such as South Armagh.
"The British government must deliver on its commitment to a rolling programme of demilitarisation."
Sinn Fein demilitarisation spokesperson, Newry Armagh MLA Davy Hyland added:
"On an almost daily basis there is evidence that levels of British Army activity and harassment are negatively affecting the lives of ordinary decent people going about their daily business.
"The impact of the British Army presence on the lives of children at school, on communities, businesses and farmers cannot be underestimated.
"Transforming the political landscape demands that the British government deliver on its commitments to dismantle the British war machine." ENDS