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A Sinn Féin delegation led by party President Gerry Adams MP and including Martin McGuinness MP, Dr. Dara O'Hagan, Cllr. Philip McGuigan and Cllr. Alex Maskey, this morning met with US Special Envoy Richard Haass.

Speaking afterwards Alex Maskey said:

"We had a good, useful meeting with Mr. Haass. The US continues to play an important role in the peace process and Mr. Haass especially has remained very focused.

"Sinn Féin remains confident that elections will be held.

"Useful work has been done and we had positive engagements during our meetings in London. These are issues that need to be resolved including, for Sinn Féin, the vexed issue of the transfer of power on policing and justice.

"I remain hopeful that if the participants to the talks continue to apply ourselves collectively that we can bridge the gap and make progress."ENDS

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Former Education Minister Martin McGuinness has expressed deep concern at the spreading of confusion over when the 11+ transfer test will be finally abolished.

Mr McGuinness said:

"The decision that the final year group to sit the 11 + transfer test would take it in November 2004 was taken over twelve months ago.

"Children, parents and teachers need to know that this decision target will be adhered to and that increasing speculation and confusion is ended.

"The present confusion is being used by those opposed to change within the educational system." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokespersons on Fisheries, Martin Ferris TD and former Assembly person Gerry McHugh have welcomed a policy initiative by fishermen throughout the island of Ireland, and from ports in Scotland, England, Wales and the Isle of Man who have established a new grouping to protect the interests of fishermen whose livelihoods depend on the Irish Sea. The group will meet with Sinn Féin and other opposition spokespersons on fisheries in Dublin on Wednesday where they will be promoting their detailed proposals for the future of the Irish Sea fishery.

The Alliance has agreed a comprehensive alternative strategy to that currently being implemented under the Common Fisheries Policy. Among its key demands are:

∑ That industry representatives be involved at all levels of management of the Irish Sea fisheries

∑ That fishermen be involved in the collation and interpretation of all scientific data to determine the management of the area

∑ That fish stocks be built to optimum harvesting levels

∑ That there is a balance struck between biological and socio-economic considerations in setting future management objectives

Deputy Ferris and Mr McHugh said: "We whole-heartedly endorse the strategy put forward by the Pan Irish Sea Alliance. They embody much of what those concerned with the industry have being saying for some time regarding the manner in which the Irish fisheries are being treated under the Common Fisheries Policy. It has long been Sinn Féin's contention that the deal made on accession to the EU in 1973 was probably the most disastrous of any to effect the Irish economy. Since then, successive Irish Governments have been content to go along with ever-increasing restrictions that threaten the future viability of the sector.

"It is high time that the Department of the Marine began to listen to those involved on a day-to-day basis in the industry, and to take on board their proposals for the future of the Irish fisheries. We therefore commend the strategy being put forward by the Alliance and hope that the Irish Government makes the same kind of arguments in Brussels".

A Press Conference organised by the Pan Irish Sea Alliance will be held in the Georgian Suite, Buswells Hotel on Wednesday, October 15, at 7pm.

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has welcomed the recommendations of the Immigrant Council of Ireland study Labour Migration into Ireland launched earlier today as "a call to action for comprehensive change" to the state's immigration policy.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"The Immigrant Council's report is of major significance, and should be read byGovernment as a call to action to create a positive, integrated, transparent,anti-racist, rights-based immigration policy for this state - based onprogressive international best practice models - within the lifetime of this Dáil. Each of the Council's recommendations are worthy, and should be acted upon without delay.

"The Council has called on political leaders and the Government especially to accept and publicly declare that immigration is a permanent and positive reality in Irish society, with the potential to bring enormous social, cultural, and economic benefit to this island. Sinn Féin can endorse this statement without any hesitation whatsoever, and I challenge both the Taoiseach and the Justice Minister to set a positive and responsible example for other Irish political leaders by doing the same." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Candidate for next year's EU elections and former Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Bairbre de Brún today pledged her support for the 'Croke Park Declaration' on women in agriculture. De Brún was speaking following the adoption of the declaration at a landmark conference organised by the Irish Farmers Association, 'Fast Forward -- Driving the Agenda for Women in Agriculture'.

The former Minister represented Sinn Fein at the conference, and stated that she will be calling on the Irish Government to fully implement the Declaration. She will also be calling on the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Six Counties to implement a similar measure, and stressed the need to pursue such a strategy on an all Ireland basis.

The text of the Declaration reads:

CROKE PARK DECLARATION

"We hereby call on the Government to urgently establish a permanent 'Women in Agriculture' section within the Department of Agriculture and Food, charged with driving forward the agenda for women in agriculture. This executive unit will lead the development and implementation of viable strategies and policies in full co-operation with every other department and agency". ENDS

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Former Belfast mayor, Cllr Alex Maskey has said that the success of the review of public administration will be in its‚ ability to deliver power to the people‚ to scrapping the huge layers of bureaucracy and unaccountable quangoism that have flourished as a result of previous direct rule administrations.

Cllr Maskey said:

"The review of public administration is huge in its scope. However if it is to deliver the results that are required it must fundamentally dovetail with the review of local government to ensure that services are provided at the time and in the right place and are accessible and that service provision goes hand in hand with real democratic accountability.

"The success of the review of public administration will be in its‚ ability to deliver power to the people to scrapping the huge layers of bureaucracy and unaccountable quangoism that have flourished as a result of previous direct rule administrations. It is about created new democratic relationships between decision-making, control and accountability in pour society.

"The Assembly and the institutions are only part of the wider process of democratisation that are crucially important if we are to reject the failed old ways of doing things in the past that was about maintaining prestige and power in the hands of a small elite who were not accountable and who created and maintained the patterns of discrimination and disadvantage that are still prevalent today -a statistic that shows that 37% of children are growing up in poverty should tell us that the elites who have dominated so much of our public administration and local government should hang their heads in shame at the very least and be called cubically to account." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Equality Spokesperson, Upper Bann representative, Dr Dara O‚Hagan commenting of the publication of a Queens‚ University Report into Poverty has said that this provides yet more evidence that we have failed to deal with the issue of poverty.

Dr O'Hagan said:

"In the last number of weeks there have been a series of reports highlighting the simple stark fact that we have failed to deal with the

issue of poverty. The Low Income Households report from OFMDFM highlighted the fact that particularly for the elderly, lone parents and children the situation was deteriorating, then in a consultation document on fuel poverty it was revealed that over 1300 pensioners die each year from the cold and today's report confirming that 37% of our children grow up in poverty show that we must deal with issue of poverty much more seriously.

"The levels of poverty that we are witnessing today, in both relative and absolute terms, are totally unacceptable. They are the result of the total and absolute failure of government policy to take this issue seriously and of insufficient resources.

"Either we decide today that eradicating poverty is a priority that collectively we share responsibility for achieving or we admit failure. These levels of poverty particularly amongst the most vulnerable in out society, the elderly, the young are not acceptable. We must all ask ourselves why and how the situation has been allowed get so bad." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Fishing, Martin Ferris TD has strongly criticised the arrest last night of Michael Crossan, skipper of the Sea Queen, of Waterford. The boat was detained as the vessel has not yet been licensed despite the fact that Mr Crossan was merely attempting to transfer his licence and tonnage to the Sea Queen from two vessels he owned previously. The difficulties may have arisen due to the Department having over-allocated tonnage to some of the larger vessels in the fleet.

Deputy Ferris said: "Last nights arrest of Waterford fisherman Michael Crossan is absolutely outrageous and completely unjustified. I am calling on Minister Dermot Ahern to ensure that the charges against him are not pursued as they are the consequence of factors outside of Mr Crossan's control. It is a farcical situation when someone who is attempting to earn their living is prevented from doing so by the restrictions being placed on the Irish fishing fleet, compounded by bureaucratic delays. This latest case once again highlights the urgency for the Department to renegotiate the entire basis of the way in which Irish fishing is treated under the Common Fisheries Policy".

Deputy Ferris also indicated his opposition to any softening of the position regarding the defence of the Irish Box conservation area, which is being discussed at Luxembourg today.

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Sinn Féin TD Aengus O Snodaigh has condemned the imprisonment of three of his constituents this morning for taking part in protests against the Bin Tax. The three women, who include a prominent Sinn Féin activist for the area, received sentences of up to two weeks from the Courts.

The Dublin South-Central TD said: "There are now 15 people in prison, including a TD and a councillor because of the Government's insistence on criminalising peaceful political protest. The imprisonment of these three women this morning shows that the Courts in this country are no longer a place of justice, but of injustice. The Courts are being used to criminalise working class people taking part in political protests while the corrupt and the greedy go unpunished.

"I know both Chrissy, who is a member of Sinn Féin locally, and her daughter Karen very well. They are not criminals, they are people who have taken a principled stand in opposition to the imposition of an unjust system of double taxation. They do not deserve this treatment and they have my full support.

"Despite a march of thousands of people in Dublin on Saturday and the open and committed support of growing numbers of Trade Unionists, the Government has clearly not grasped the enormity of the anger on the streets and in communities right across Dublin.

"These women, along with the others imprisoned for their activities in the Bin Tax campaign should be released immediately." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called on the Government to make special provision in its 2004 Budget for Mayo landslide relief.

"The initial estimates for replacement of the infrastructure in Pollathomas and the neighbouring districts affected are in the region of €3 - €5 million euro", the Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson said.

"On top of that, the residents whose homes were destroyed have been told that their insurance companies will not reimburse them for what they describe as an 'Act of God'.

"This landslide was one of the worst natural disasters in our country‚s recent history and it occurred in one of the counties least able to afford it. The outlook is very grim for the people of the area without a substantial contribution from the Government.

"The Budget for 2004 is due for publication in less than two months‚ time. I urge the Minister for Finance to make funds available in it for landslide relief, and to announce his decision at the earliest opportunity, to help restore the peace of mind of people in the affected area." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Equality issues Dr. Dara O'Hagan has accused the SDLP representative Patricia Lewsley of being 'completely and totally confused on Sinn Féin's position'. Dr. O'Hagan's comments come after Patricia Lewsley claimed that Sinn Féin was proposing a Department of Justice and Equality.

Dr. O'Hagan said:

" Yesterday after a meeting with the Equality Commission Patricia Lewsley criticised the lack of drive behind the Equality Agenda. She also criticised what she claimed were Sinn Féin proposals for a Department of Justice and Equality.

" Sinn Féin have never proposed a Department of Justice and Equality. We have been the party demanding that the British government transfer powers on Policing and Justice to the Assembly and we have been the lead party over the years in promoting the Equality agenda.

" It was Sinn Féin who proposed that the best way in which the Equality agenda would be advanced was through a separate Department for Equality. This idea was rejected by a coalition of the SDLP and UUP in the negotiations which led to the creation of the ten current departments. The outworking of this and the positioning of the Equality issue within the remit of OFM/DFM is the reason for the lack of drive which Patricia Lewsley is now complaining about. It is hypocritical for her to complain about a situation which her party helped to create through a bad negotiating strategy." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillors Christy Burke, Nicky Kehoe, Dessie Ellis and Larry O'Toole, speaking in advance of today's march organised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, have called for the immediate release of jailed anti-bin tax campaigners. The Councillors are calling for the group leaders of all parties on the City Council to come together to seek the release of Dubliners who have been jailed and to try and find a resolution of this issue.

Speaking in the City this morning Sinn Féin Group leader on Dublin City Council Christy Burke said:

"Sinn Féin is calling for the release of jailed anti-bin tax campaigners. We are calling for all of the Group leaders on the City Council to come together with the City Manager and relevant personnel to look for the release of Dubliners who have been jailed and to try and reach a resolution of this issue.

"This is a political issue that should be resolved politically and at this stage I think it is important that breathing space is created and that the Council immediately stop its confrontational approach of demanding the jailing of people who are engaged in peaceful protest.

"I want to congratulate the Trade Union movement for taking the initiative today in organising this march and we look forward to working with them on this campaign and bringing it to a successful conclusion."ENDS

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Sinn Fein education spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has called for greater resources to support young people at risk from suicide. Ms Gildernew said:

"At present there are insufficient resources committed to providing support for young people at risk from suicide. This leaves them exposed to problems of alienation, low self-esteem and social exclusion. It also creates difficulties for teachers and parents alike.

"The education department, the education library boards and Health and Social Services Trusts should commit resources to providing in schools support services for our young people either through access to counsellors on site or through the use of peer educators that is beginning to deliver very positive results.

"I would like to see resources made available through the Education Action Zones support our schools and young, particularly in making the complex and difficult transition to adulthood. "Not only are young people dealing with the consequences of decades of conflict on top of the many interlinking personal and social difficulties but the reality is that in many areas sustained generational disadvantage and on some level hopelessness make it increasingly difficult for our young people to take a positive outlook on life and to realise their own full potential." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokespersons on Fisheries, Martin Ferris TD and former Assembly person Gerry McHugh have welcomed a policy initiative by fishermen throughout the island of Ireland, and from ports in Scotland, England, Wales and the Isle of Man who have established a new grouping to protect the interests of fishermen whose livelihoods depend on the Irish Sea. The group will meet with Sinn Féin and other opposition spokespersons on fisheries in Dublin next week where they will be promoting their detailed proposals for the future of the Irish Sea fishery.

The Alliance has agreed a comprehensive alternative strategy to that currently being implemented under the Common Fisheries Policy. Among its key demands are:

· That industry representatives be involved at all levels of management of the Irish Sea fisheries

· That fishermen be involved in the collation and interpretation of all scientific data to determine the management of the area

· That fish stocks be built to optimum harvesting levels

· That there is a balance struck between biological and socio-economic considerations in setting future management objectives

Deputy Ferris and Mr McHugh said: "We whole-heartedly endorse the strategy put forward by the Pan Irish Sea Alliance. They embody much of what those concerned with the industry have being saying for some time regarding the manner in which the Irish fisheries are being treated under the Common Fisheries Policy. It has long been Sinn Féin's contention that the deal made on accession to the EU in1973 was probably the most disastrous of any to effect the Irish economy. Since then, successive Irish Governments have been content to go along with ever-increasing restrictions that threaten the future viability of the sector.

"It is high time that the Department of the Marine began to listen to those involved on a day-to-day basis in the industry, and to take on board their proposals for the future of the Irish fisheries. We therefore commend the strategy being put forward by the Alliance and hope that the Irish Government makes the same kind of arguments in Brussels." ENDS

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Dublin Sinn Féin will be hosting a housing seminar on the theme of 'Housing is a Right, Not a Privilege' in Wynn's Hotel, Lower Abbey St., Dublin, tomorrow, Saturday the 11th of October from 10.30am to 2.00pm.

A range of housing lobby groups, NGOs and community groups will join Sinn Féin activists from across Dublin in a series of talks and workshops around the development of a key plank of Sinn Féin‚s policy on housing, the need for a right to housing to be enshrined in the 1937 Constitution.

The seminar will be opened by the party‚s European election candidate for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald and former Minister for Health and current European election candidate for the Six Counties Bairbre De Brún.

Speakers include Arthur Morgan TD, the party‚s national spokesperson on housing, Bob Jordan of the Simon Community and Jerome Connolly, author of Re-righting the Constitution: The Case for New Social and Economic Rights.

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Responding to a statement made by the UPRG claiming that they were committed to peace, Sinn Féin Representative for North Belfast Gerry Kelly said:

" Only this week Sinn Féin produced a dossier of over 160 sectarian attacks carried out by loyalists in the past three months alone. The majority of these were orchestrated by the UDA. This despite the fact that we were assured by the UPRG that the UDA was on cessation.

" What people want to hear from the UPRG is that the attacks will end and what they want form the UDA is a halt to their campaign of sectarian attacks. Given the record of both groups people in nationalists areas simply do not believe what the UPRG is saying. The intentions of the UDA will not be judged on the basis of statements from the UPRG, but on the actions of loyalists on the ground." ENDS

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Former Assembly Health Minister and EU candidate for the Six Counties Bairbre de Brún speaking following a meeting of the party‚s Ard Chomhairle has called for legislation, north and south, to tackle discrimination outside the workplace. She said 'We, in Ireland, do not need to wait for the new EU directive on gender equality to be adopted. It is time that we take the lead on this important issue.'

Ms de Brún said:

"The European Union has played a key role in making progress towards equality between women and men in the workplace. And a new EU directive on gender equality, which begins to tackle discrimination outside the workplace, will be an important advance when it is introduced.

"This should deal in particular with access to and supply of goods and services; taxation; social assistance, social benefits and healthcare; education; taxation and non-discrimination in advertising and the media.

"However, the delay in bringing forward a new EU directive, which has been due since 1999, has been causing a lot of concern right across Europe. The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle has discussed the issue and has given its support to the campaign for the directive to be implemented.

"We believe that this issue also needs to move up the agenda in Ireland. We do not need to wait for the EU to move first. We are calling for legislators in Ireland to take the lead and bring forward legislation, north and south, to tackle discrimination outside the workplace. We will engage widely on this matter in the coming weeks and months."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin speaking at a meeting of the party's Ard Chomhairle in Dublin this afternoon has called on the British government to end the public uncertainty and call the Assembly election.

Mr. McLaughlin said:

"At today's meeting the Ard Chomhairle were given an update on the current talks with the Irish and British governments and the Ulster Unionist Party. People from right across the country reported on the growing frustration at the ongoing impasse and the attempts by the Ulster Unionists to jeopardise the chance of making progress by continuously raising the bar.

"The British government should end the public uncertainty and confusion over the election. An election is a democratic imperative and it is our belief that we have won the argument on this matter, nationally and internationally.

"It is clear that there is no option other than an election. Democracy must be upheld and in these difficult times politics must be seen to work.

"It is vital that in the months ahead that we use our voices to secure the full implementation of the Agreement. I am calling on nationalists to use any election to strengthen the peace process and the process of change."ENDS

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A meeting of the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle will take place at the party's Head Office in Dublin tomorrow, Friday 10th October. Among the items for discussion are the current peace process talks and preparations for the Assembly elections.

Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin will be available to talk to the media at 12.15pm

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Sinn Féin Spokespersons on Natural Resources and Energy, Martin Ferris TD and former Upper Bann Assembly Member Dr. Dara O'Hagan, have welcomed the completion of phase one of the Coolkeragh power plant in County Derry. The plant is being built by the 26 Counties state-owned Electricity Supply Board and will be operational by 2005. It will be gas powered and it is planned that it will be linked to an all-Ireland grid.

Deputy Ferris and Ms. O‚Hagan said:

"Sinn Féin very much welcomes the ongoing development at Coolkeragh. Not only will it benefit the people and economy of the immediate area, but will be an important part of an all-Ireland energy network in the future. It is vital therefore that progress is made towards completion of a gas grid that will operate on an all island basis.

"However, we would also express concerns over the extent to which such future developments might be left in the hands of private companies, and that this would work against the best interests of the Irish people as a whole. For example, in the 26 Counties, much of the control over actual and potential natural gas deposits has been surrendered to multi-national corporations whose pipe line plans militate against the development of an all Ireland grid. Likewise, privitisation of electricity supply in other countries had been proven to be detrimental to the interests of consumers".ENDS

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