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Sinn Féin President elect Mary Lou McDonald TD gives her first major speech to party activists


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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has said that if European heads of state are serious about creating jobs in rural areas as an alternative to falling incomes from farming it is short sighted to take money out of the rural development budget.

Ms de Brún was speaking today in Brussels after a conference organised by the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, with the co-operation of the European Commission.

The conference took place in the European Parliament and was addressed by the Commissioner Fischer Boel and both the Chair of the Agriculture committee and one of the vice presidents of the European Parliament. The conference 'A bid from the countryside' dealt with the vital contribution of the rural economy and three challenges to the rural economy - increasing cohesion, increasing competitiveness and increasing sustainability. Presentations came form Hungary, Belgium, Poland, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Britain, France Denmark, and Italy.

Speaking after the conference Ms de Brún said:

"Some very important points were raised at the conference today, including the need for sustainable development and balanced development between rural and urban areas, the essential role of farmers in caring for rural areas, the importance of the LEADER approach, the need for dedicated policies for women in rural communities, who are more likely to be excluded from employment, job creation and the importance of ICT and particularly broadband access and how the finance talks this week are key to all of that

"Commissioner Boel sees the European Council meeting this week as being decisive for the direction of the European Union for many years to come. She said it was very important that rural development is not sold short in any deal on the Financial Perspectives ( EU Budget for 2007- 2013) and also that we get agreement now.

"One thing is very clear from all that has been said. If European heads of state are serious about creating jobs in rural areas as an alternative to falling incomes from farming it is short sighted to take money out of the rural development budget.

"Speaker after speaker today also emphasised the importance of the bottom up approach. Mrs Maura Walsh, speaking on behalf of ELARD (rural Network for the Mediterranean and Ireland) told how LEADER + in the North of Ireland had had a target to create 1,000 jobs yet had managed to create 800 jobs in the first year alone." ENDS

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West Tyrone Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty says he has been inundated with information from various sources all of which leads him to conclude that the dominant group within the Sperrin Lakeland Trust are using the findings of the Risk and Governance Report to completely remove all acute services from Tyrone County.

He said,

"When the Risk and Governance Report was made public the new NIO Health Minister Shaun Woodward said that his priority was to ensure that public confidence was restored in the services that were being provided and that urgent action was taken to ensure that patients were put first.

"However, since then the very opposite has happened with the Sperrin Lakeland Trust being allowed to act with full impunity in pursuing its agenda of removing all acute services from Tyrone County.

"In its ruthless determination to secure this outcome as speedily as possible many staff at Tyrone County have also been treated in an abysmal fashion by certain Trust officials. This is an absolute disgrace especially when one considers that staff at the hospital have been working well beyond the call of duty for some considerable time now.

"On 13th May and twice since then I have written to the Health Minister Shaun Woodward outlining the gravity of the situation and requesting an urgent meeting but as yet I have not even received an acknowledgement from him never mind a date for a meeting.

"Minister Shaun Woodward can no longer remain aloof from this deteriorating situation and today I have written him another letter calling on him to come to Omagh in person and to hear at first hand what has been going on since he gave the people of this area commitments following the release of the Risk and Governance Report." ENDS

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Sinn Féin councillors in Dublin succeeded in building a cross-party coalition to oppose the proposed sale of Aer Lingus at Dublin City and South Dublin Council meetings on Monday evening.

Councillors from Labour, the Greens and Fine Gael, along with Independents swept away opposition from Fianna Fáil and PD representatives across Dublin as Sinn Féin councillors followed up on the work of the party's TDs who had put a similar motion to Leinster House less than three weeks ago.

In Dublin City a delegation of high-ranking SIPTU Aer Lingus officials there at the invitation of the Sinn Féin Group watched as the sale of the airline was opposed. Their presence followed a meeting with SIPTU last Friday attended on behalf of Sinn Féin by Mary Lou McDonald MEP, Seán Crowe TD and councillors Daithí Doolan and Larry O'Toole.

Speaking after the motion was passed Cllr O'Toole said: "The verdict of the elected representatives of the people of Dublin is an absolute rejection of the short-sighted economic thinking the Coalition Government has adopted in its proposal to sell off a vital strategic asset.

"I am delighted that the other parties rallied around the workers and users of Aer Lingus and put political differences aside to take a principled stand of support for public ownership of the national airline."

Cllr Mark Daly, Sinn Féin Group Leader on South Dublin County Council, was equally delighted. "This was a great result for the workers of Aer Lingus and made it clear to the Government where the people of Dublin stand in protecting a company that is not just economically vital on a national basis, but has made an enormous contribution to Dublin," declared Daly.

"I am hoping that our successes here will be replicated across the State and other local authorities, in particular in Cork and Clare will join us in maximising the pressure on the Government to reverse course before they irreparably damage the people's airline." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, MP for West Belfast lead a party delegation to meet with the Minister for Education this morning. Mr Adams was joined by Sinn Féin colleagues Michael Ferguson, MLA, party spokesperson on Education, Thomas O Reilly, MLA, and Cllr. Claire McGill, both members of the Western Education & Library Board.

After the meeting, Mr Adams said that it is now vital that the Minister of Education seeks additional funding to address the very real crisis in our education system.

"There current crisis in our education system means that the core services which the boards have a responsibility to deliver cannot be provided and that the education of our children is being damaged. Those who will suffer the most in this context will be those children with the greatest need. This is unacceptable. Whatever the origins of the current crisis it is the primary responsibility of the education minister to defend the education of our children. We reminded the Minister that her own Prime Minster declared his priorities as 'education, education and education' and urged her to go to the Treasury to secure the resources required to address the current crisis in the north of Ireland.

"This situation in unfair particularly when contrasted with the British government announcement of hundreds of millions of pounds of additional expenditure on school services in England. Yet here the crisis in funding means that we are not just failing to improve our provision - we are now moving backwards. This is about the rights of our children and the rights of everyone working within the education system.

"This is the cost of direct rule. I believe that we could and should be making these important decisions √ that local democratically mandated and accountable politicians can do a better job particularly when it comes to challenging the British government and British Treasury.

"In the negotiations before Christmas, both the British and Irish governments accepted the arguments about the need for a genuine peace dividend. If they accepted the arguments for investment to tackle the huge infrastructure deficits across all our public services and the legacy of the conflict then it stands that the case for a Peace Dividend has been won and accepted by the two governments." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's Spokesperson on Equality, Human Rights and Women Caitríona Ruane MLA described today's verdict by an industrial tribunal, who ruled that NI Fire Brigade must scrap their 'standby map' policy, as a 'landmark decision that will have long term implications for public sector bodies throughout the north'.

Ms Ruane said:

"This policy was designed to include predominantly unionist towns like Craigavon and Portadown so anyone from these areas would be eligible for senior positions within the Fire Brigade. At the same time, it excluded large swathes of the nationalist population who live in places like Belfast, South Down, Fermanagh, Tyrone, South Armagh and Derry.

"It was only through the determination of John Allen, who had been prevented from accepting a promotion because he lived in a town outside of the standby map area, that the Fire Brigade have been forced to abandon their policy."

"Today's verdict is a victory for the rights of people working in the Fire Service and the people who live in nationalist areas of the north. It is also a damning indictment against the Fire Service who attempted to implement policies designed to deliberately exclude nationalists from the most senior positions. I welcome also, the announcement that any future policy decisions will be scrutinised and equality proofed so they meet the requirements of Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act.

"The policy of stand-by maps was an attempt to exclude members of the Catholic community yet it effectively discriminates against anyone living outside of these designated areas. Questions must be asked why the Fire Service choose to fight this case and why it took so long to reach today's inevitable outcome. I am calling on the Fire Service to publish how much money they spent fighting this case.

"This is a historical development and a landmark decision which will have long term implications for public sector bodies throughout the north. The Fire Brigade has historically been an organisation that seemed exempt from proper scrutiny. Today‚s decision should serve as a warning for all public authorities in the North about the implications of them failing to embrace public equality duties. For too long the brigade has been a cold house for Catholics, particularly at a senior level, and I want to commend the bravery, determination and far-slightness of John Allen whose stand against discrimination in then brigade will have long term benefits for people who would otherwise have suffered similar inequality." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly will lead a party delegation including Assembly members Alex Maskey and Fra McCann to meet with the British Security Minsiter Shaun Woodward this evening at 7pm in Stormont Castle. The meeting which is at Sinn Féin's request is to discuss the upcoming marching season and in particular the small number of controversial Orange Parades still seeking to march through nationalist areas, without the agreement of the host community.

Speaking before the meeting Mr Kelly said:

"Over the past number of summers the volume of violence and disruption associated with Loyal Order parades has been reduced significantly due to work on the ground. However there remains a small number out of the thousands of parades which have the potential to cause community conflict. The decision last week to force the tour of the north parade up through the nationalist Ardoyne and Mountainview areas is a case in point..

"The loyal orders must come to the realisation that the days of simply marching when and where they want are over. The loyal orders have a responsibility as parade organisers to ensure that their parades do not cause offence and do not choose routes which give rise to serious community tensions.

"In recent years much good work has been done at a community level to ease tensions in interface areas. Irresponsible behaviour from the Orange Order jeopardised this work. These issues have already been raised with Tony Blair and Peter Hain.

"Our delegation this evening will impress upon Shaun Woodward the need for local communities to be respected and for their rights and entitlements to be upheld. Nationalist communities have displayed a willingness over many years to enter into dialogue with the Orange Order over parades. Unfortunately these advances have been spurned by the Orange Order and in some cases this intransigence has been rewarded with parades being forced through nationalist areas.

"Sinn Féin will do all in our power to ensure that local communities can live in peace and without the fear and disruption associated with Orange parades and the accompanying PSNI and British Army operations. However a massive responsibility still rest with the leadership pf the Orange Order to end its attempts to march through nationalist areas without recognising the concerns of host communities and entering into a process of real dialogue and reaching agreement with them." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy said that the Irish and British governments needed to make it clear to the DUP in their discussions this week that running away from the politics of the peace process would not result in the continued stalling of the process of change and the continued denial of basic rights and entitlements.

Mr Murphy said:

"It is welcome that the Irish government is to hold discussions later this week with the DUP leadership. However it is vital that both governments make it clear to the DUP that any running away from the politics of the peace process would not result in them stalling further the process of change.

"They also must make clear that there will be no dilution of the Good Friday Agreement. Any progress will be based firmly in the core principles of that Agreement. The Agreement is about delivering basic rights and entitlements for the people. These rights and entitlements cannot continue to be denied because the DUP refuses to engage." ENDS

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Chuir Ceannaire Dála Shinn Féin Caoimhghín O Caoláin fáilte roimh cinneadh an Aontais Eorpaigh chun stadas oifigiúl oibre a thabhairt don Ghaeilge. Dúirt an Teachta O Caoláin:

"Céim tábhactach chun tosaigh don Ghaeilge atá anseo. Cuirim comhghairdeas leis na daoine uile a ghlac páirt sa bhfeachtas fada do Stadas na Gaeilge. Bhí áthas orm cabhrú leis an bhfeachtas sin sa Dáil le roinnt bliana anuas. Léiríonn an cinneadh seo cé chomh tábhacthach is atá feachtais a chur ar bun chun brú a chur ar na húdaráis anseo in Eirinn agus san AE. Ba chóir cuimhniú nach raibh an Rialtas anseo toilteanach an moladh seo a chur ar aghaidh go dtí go raibh sé mar ceist mór sna toghcháin Eorpacha anuraidh curtha chun cinn ag Sinn Féin, i measc páirtithe agus dreamanna eile.

"Tá pobal na Gaeilge ag déanamh obair sár-mhaith chun an teanga a chur chun cinn anseo in Eirinn. Ach tá easpa deiseanna oibre do dhaoine ar mhaith leo oibriú trí mheán na Gaeilge. Tá súil agam go dtabharfaidh an cinneadh seo deiseanna oibre do Ghaeilgeoirí óga. Leis an teicneolaíocht nua is féidir alán de na postanna sin a lonnú sa Ghaeltacht agus in áiteanna eile timpeall na tíre." Críoch

Welcome for EU status for Irish

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín O Caoláin welcomed the EU decision to accord official working langauge status to Irish. Deputy O Caoláin said:

"This is an important step forward for the Irish language. I congratulate everyone who took part in the long campaign for Stadas na Gaeilge. I was very glad to support this campaign in the Dáil for the past number of years. This decision shows the importance of campaigning aimed at the authorities here and in the EU. It should be remembered that the Government was unwilling to put this issue forward until it was raised as a major issue during the EU election campaign last year, raised by Sinn Féin, among other parties and groups.

"The Irish language community is doing great work to promote the language here in Ireland. But there is a shortage of work opportunities for people whho wish to work through the medium of Irish. I hope this decision will create work opportunities for young Irish speakers. With new technology many of those posts can be located in the Gaeltacht and other areas around the country." ENDS

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Ms de Brún made her comments after the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern announced that the language had been accorded official status, albeit with a derogation sought by the Irish government.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"As an Irish speaker I am obviously delighted that the Irish language has been accorded the status of an official working language of the EU. Today's announcement is a victory for campaigners from all over Ireland and further afield who continue to campaign for equality for the language.

"Sinn Féin has made the recognition of the Irish language at EU level a party priority and has campaigned long and hard with other Irish speakers and Irish language organisations.

"As expected, the other member states unanimously endorsed what was sought by the Irish government. Sinn Féin will continue to monitor the impact of the derogation sought by the Irish government and the pace of practical improvement in the status of the language and its speakers.

"Whilst recognition of the language in an international context is symbolic, it is also much more than that. The positive impact of this decision will be hugely influential for the one million plus Irish speakers and learners in this country, as well as opening up further employment opportunities for Irish speakers.

"I want to pay tribute to all those involved in the STÁDAS campaign for their hard work and determination, which undoubtedly moved the Irish government to act on this issue. Today's announcement is a major step forward in the Stádas campaign. This is a day to celebrate for Irish speakers and campaigners." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP will lead a party delegation including Michael Ferguson MLA, Fermanagh councillor Thomas O'Reilly and Derry councillor Maeve McLaughlin to meet with the direct rule Education Minster Angela Smith tomorrow, Tuesday 14th June, at 10.30am in Stormont Buildings.

Speaking today party Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson said:

"There is a funding crisis facing the Education Library Boards that will damage the provision of education services.

"The reality is that once rising costs from wage agreements for teaching and non-teaching staff, the 10% increase in transport costs and 7% increase in rates bills are taken into account that the ELBs have had a below inflation increase of just 1.8% in their budgets. This is why the five Library Boards are together facing deficits of over £30 million for each of the next two years. This will lead to cuts and the impact on services will be devastating.

"The loss of frontline and support staff will make it very difficult to schools to maintain let alone develop services. It will mean that school children will face greater dangers are they travel to and from school and it will mean that children who require more support in the classroom won't get it and it will mean that children are less likely to get healthy school meals. It will also mean educating children in substandard classrooms and it will mean cutting back on library and music services.

"Unless direct rule ministers go back to the drawing board then the below inflation increases will lead to a huge shortfall that will be compounded next year. The danger is that in trying to meet some unattainable budget target that we will miss the point of education.

"We need to turn this debate on its head and begin by analysing what is the current level of expenditure required. How are we going to meet the costs of additional statementing, of home based educational provision and increasing special needs education provision and how are going to tackle the maintenance backlog.

"We need to see immediate resources allocated and we need to assess the overall block grant allocation, the commitment of the British government to a genuine Peace Dividend and also the education budget allocation against the level of need.

"Sinn Féin believe that there are a number of steps that can help move the situation forward. We believe that responsibility for wages should be met centrally and that then the extent of remaining educational provision by the Education Library Boards should be assessed and a budget to deliver allocated on the basis of needs." ENDS

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Sinn Féin South Down MLA Cllr Willie Clarke believes that today's statement from the Consumer Council, calling on the Minister for Regional Development, Shaun Woodward, to announce a one-year delay in the introduction of water charges, could go even further and called for the complete scrapping of the proposed water tax.

Cllr Clarke said:

"The Consumer Council is calling on the British Government to revise the crippling timescale that would see the introduction of water charges by April 2006 and believe a delay of a full year is needed. It is Sinn Féin's position that these charges must be scrapped altogether and the determination of successive Direct Rule Ministers to impose this most regressive form of taxation must be resisted by all layers of civic society. Every political party should stand together and do everything in their power to resist water charges that will hit those least able to pay the hardest.

"The deficit facing the Six Counties vis-à-vis water and sewerage treatment is a direct result of decades of neglect, under investment and the negligence of successive British Administrations to modernise and upgrade this essential service. Our communities have been funding the water and sewage infrastructure through Domestic rate payments and via the taxation system for the past 40 years. This investment has not been realised through maintaining and developing the water and sewerage system.

"Huge sums of money have been paid out to consultants attempting to legitimise the introduction of water charge which I do not believe can be fair, affordable or sustainable. The Consumer Council points out that the current legislation is incomplete and the licence that the new government-owned company will operate and how it will be regulated has not been produced. The consultation on the impact these charges will have on every household in the north of Ireland, particularly on low income families, has yet to be published but Direct Rule Ministers seem more determined than ever to impose water taxation on the people of the six counties. ENDS

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Sinn Féin councillors on Dublin City and South Dublin Councils will today c all for cross-party support for emergency motions opposing the proposed sale of Aer Lingus. The motions will be put to both local authorities.

Speaking ahead of tonight's meeting Dublin City councillor Larry O'Toole, Sinn Féin representative for Dublin North-East, said: "These motions are coming on the back of meetings Sinn Féin has had with Aer Lingus workers. Last Friday I accompanied Mary Lou McDonald MEP, Seán Crowe TD and Cllr Daithí Doolan to a meeting with SIPTU representatives where we outlined our campaign of opposition to the ideological vandalism that is the proposed sale of our national airline.

"We are calling on all councillors to put party differences aside and unite in defence of an airline that has made an enormous contribution to the State, and to the city and county of Dublin. We need a national airline that plays a dynamic role in an all-Ireland economy and today's motion gives all councillors the opportunity to stand with the workers and users of Aer Lingus."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Policing and Justice Spokesperson, North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly has welcomed the launch of the new Public Prosecution Service but said that it must be genuinely independent and free from political interference.

Mr Kelly said:

"In negotiations Sinn Féin consistently argued for the creation of an Independent Public Prosecution Service. This is the culmination of that hard work. However, as with all policing and justice changes that have been achieved, there continues to be internal resistance to the process of change.

"There also remains a serious crisis of confidence particularly in the handling of political cases.

"The process of delivering change is not complete and Sinn Fein will closely monitor developments to ensure that we do have a new beginning to the way that prosecutions are handled.

"Essential to completing the development of a genuinely Independent Public Prosecution Service is the need to ensure that it is both free from political interference and free from political and cultural bias. Central to this is the need to for a change of personnel at the upper echelons of the old prosecution service. There is no point attempting a break with the failed DPP agenda of the past if the same people continue in position." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Cllr Brian Mc Mahon, the Chair of Strabane District Council says that the people of Strabane want to see justice done for the family of Ciaran Connolly who was tragically killed by the vehicle gate of Strabane PSNI station over two years ago.

Speaking following the release of the Police Ombudsman's Report into his death the local Council Chair said,

"The people of Strabane want to see full justice for the Connolly family to ensure that their grieving is not compounded in any way.

"While the Police Ombudsman‚s Report into the tragic death of Ciaran provides some answers into what happened at the gate of Strabane PSNI station on that night there is a general scepticism among townspeople as to the conclusions of the Report.

"In particular, people are shocked at the revelation that this terrible tragedy could have been prevented if reported faults with the safety mechanisms of the gate had of been rectified.

"People are of the view that if this gross negligence had of happened in any other walk that someone would have been held accountable. For example, someone somewhere must have given the order for the gate‚s safety mechanisms to be deactivated, as no one would have been able to carry out such work at such a heavily fortified base without receiving prior authorization.

"However, the most important thing is that the Connolly family receive all the answers that they need so that they can begin to come to terms with the tragic loss of Ciaran. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Councillor Joe Reilly said that the failure of Meath County Manager to declare a conflict of interest in the appointment of a former member of Meath County Council as tourist office administrator and assistant to the manager of the new arts threatre was a serious error of judgement. Councillor Reilly will be putting a motion to Meath County Council calling for public representatives to be appointed to the Board of Meath Arts Centre Company Ltd and for procedures to be put in place to ensure that such a situation will not arise in the future.

Councillor Reilly said:

"Over the last number of weeks I have raised a number of very serious questions with the County Manager and at Navan Town Council regarding the appointment of a former member of Meath County Council as tourist office administrator in the new Meath Arts Centre. I put a series of questions to the County Manager and also met with him in person in recent weeks.

"It is my firm belief, having carefully examined the matter, that this appointment raises a number of serious concerns with regard to decisions taken by the County Manager:

He set up the Meath Arts Centre Company but no public representatives were appointed to its Board. The appointment of public representatives to such bodies is normal practice.

He unilaterally accepted the recommendation that former councillor Alison Boyle be appointed, as tourist office administrator by Meath Arts Centre Company instead of bringing the matter to the Board as is normal practice.

At no time did the County Manager state that he had a conflict of interest in this matter due to his personal relationship with the individual who was appointed to the position.

The County Manager should not have been involved in this appointment when there was a blatant conflict of interest. The appointment should have been dealt with by the Board of the Meath Arts Centre Company and not by one individual member. There should have been public scrutiny of the process through the involvement of public representatives.

The people of Navan and Meath need to have complete confidence in Meath County Council and in all of the workings of the Council. There is a need for accountability and transparency in how it operates. And there is a need for procedures to be put in place to ensure that this situation can never happen again. It is also important that councillors, as public representatives, are alert to these issues and not let a blind eye culture develop.

The Arts Theatre will be an important addition to the cultural life of Meath and it is important that it gets the best possible start. I will continue to scrutinize the workings of the Council and ensure that it works in the best interests of all of the people of Meath."ENDS

Councillor Reilly will be placing a motion on the clar of the July meeting of Meath County Council asking that a number of public representatives be immediately appointed to the Board of Meath Arts Centre Company Ltd. He will also be asking for procedures to be put in place to deal with any situation where the County Manager or any other senior council official has a conflict of interest.

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Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA speaking after a party delegation meet with the Energy Regulator Douglas McIldoon has said that the sell-off of Phoenix Gas to Private Equity company Terra Firma should be blocked.

The Sinn Féin General Secretary said:

"Phoenix was awarded a unique position in relation to the favourable terms of its licensing agreement, substantial subsidy and a guaranteed higher rate of return of 8.5% until 2016. This received cross party support in recognition of the need to develop the gas market to tackle high-energy costs and high levels of fuel poverty. Sinn Féin would be deeply concerned that this privileged position will now be exploited to generate super profits at the expense of the consumer for EHS who acquired Phoenix for a sum of around £240million. It is now reported that the offer from Terra Firma to EHS is in the region of £450 million - a suggested profit of £210million over an eighteen month period.

"Sinn Féin would also be concerned that as a private equity company such as Terra Firma ˆ rather than developing the gas market - intends to generate greater profits for itself in a sell-on deal.

"This bid is not good for consumers. It is not good for the long-term stability of the gas market. It would not be good for the development of the single all-Ireland gas market. It is our view that the proposed sale should be blocked.

"Any attempt by direct rule minister Angela Smith to proceed with this sale would not be in the interests of people here and underscores the need to have the local institutions re-established as soon as possible. I would call on Angela Smith to block this deal pending all-Party discussion on a comprehensive Energy policy that will address the circumstances specific to here." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Regional Development spokesperson and Assembly Member for Foyle Raymond McCartney, has hit out against the introduction of running the new Labour Government transport tax proposals in any shape or form in the North. This week has seen the British Transport Minister, Alistair Darling and his policy advisors give serious consideration to running pilot schemes to examine the potential for introducing what is a congestion charge.

"I am astounded by the recent proposals aired by British Transport Secretary this week vis-à-vis the introduction of a congestion charge. What we need is to see an end to stealth taxation. There is nothing in DRD policy planning to indicate the full implementation of a modern public transport strategy. Instead what we are likely to see is an increase in car ownership, continued congestion, longer journey times, an upward trend in road accident statistics all at a detrimental cost to our environment and the quality of life of transport users. From my own perspective, the complete dependence and over reliance on car usage is down to a lack of a public transport network, which is not financed to build the type of transport infrastructure fit for purpose. There are many issues to be addressed and the irony of the congestion tax proposition has surfaced during ride your bike to work week.

There are already plans to run pilot schemes, and the North could be one such area whereby individual car owners will see microchip transponders fitted to their vehicles and electronic or satellite tracking systems will monitor miles accumulated. A levy of some £1.30 per mile could be applied for vehicles using urban road networks, and 30p per mile exercised in rural areas.

"The idea of this tax raises issues around civil liberties as much as it does around the whole concept of a Government which is committed to privatisation of key public services. I am further saddened by these plans when set against the revelations of DRD paying almost £500,000 in consultants fees to explore the potential for the water charge. There is only one way that this type of unaccountable and unacceptable governance can be reversed - for Unionism to begin immediate discussions with Sinn Fein, along with others to ensure a return to the Executive and template of the Agreement. The socio-economic issues which impact enormously on everyone's lives requires and demands locally elected and responsible Ministers to fully redress the detrimental impact of Direct Rule." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's Dublin Environment Spokesperson & Representative for Dublin South East, Councillor Daithí Doolan, speaking before the monthly City Council meeting, "urged the City Council to adopt a Zero Waste strategy at tonight's meeting."

Speaking this morning in City Hall, Dublin, Cllr. Doolan said:

"Tonight's special debate on waste management will give the City Council a unique opportunity to endorse a Zero Waste strategy and bin the option of incineration for Dublin. Nobody doubts that we face a waste crisis in this city but to simply impose land fills and incinerators is not the solution. We need to look beyond simply burning and burying our waste and now is the time to do exactly that. Despite bullying from the Minister this council must stand up be counted, we run the City not faceless bureaucrat's or civil servants. Incineration is bad for Dublin and I hope tonight that message is heard loud and clear.

"Across Europe, in the US and Canada incinerators are being shut down as the argument for incineration is being lost. Similarly here in Ireland we need to tackle the waste crisis at source, we need to reduce the waste at production, reuse where appropriate and invest in our recycling industry. If the proposed incinerator goes ahead in Dublin then incineration will get locked into the waste management cycle and becomes virtually impossible to remove. In the current Waste Strategy, adopted in 1998, incinerators become the cornerstone and their appetite needs to be satisfied by increasing our production and consumption of waste. This can not be allowed to happen, a radical and relevant strategy needs to be implemented based on community consultation and democratic accountability. Here in Dublin we have the opportunity to make a real difference to the Waste Strategy for the Dublin region by adopting a Zero Waste strategy."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan, urged, "all those Councilor's who want seriously tackle the waste crisis to come out and support the Zero Waste option tonight."

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Sinn Fein spokesperson on Justice, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has described as "adding insult to injury" the decision of the Garda Commissioner to transfer five of the Gardai named in the Morris Report to duties in Dublin.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"The decision of the Garda Commissioner to transfer five of the Gardaí named in the Morris Report to duties in Dublin is a scandal and is adding insult to injury. All those Gardaí named in the Morris Report should be suspended from duty immediately and not be allowed to resign on full pension or merely transferred into different positions.

"If this is the Commissioners idea of punishment then it just adds to the serious concerns many members of the public have about his suitability for the role.

"How can the general public have any confidence in a police service where there is no accountability and where a culture of closing ranks goes all the way to the top? This case highlights the need for total Garda reform and it needs to go far beyond that currently recommended by the Justice Minister." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, party General Secretary Mitchel McLaughlin has welcomed the signing of a joint Memorandum between the two Transmission System Operators on the island - ESB National Grid in the 26 counties and the System Operator in the 6 Counties, agreeing to establish a single all-Ireland energy transmission operator.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"This is a very positive next step in the creation of a single all-Ireland energy market.

"The creation of a single all-Ireland energy market is gathering momentum. It has the potential to deliver real gains for small and medium enterprises and industry as well as being an important element in the battle to eradicate fuel poverty.

"The key targets need to prioritise reducing energy costs and the related issues of interconnection and access. These are vital if we are to achieve an energy market that is secure, diverse, efficient and environmentally sustainable and that can deliver real gains by significantly reducing cost.

"The establishment a single transmission operator is central to the development of an all-island electricity market capable of delivering choice and competitive prices to consumers.

"There is a need for a much more proactive approach to the development of an all-island energy strategy to ensure that there are no problems in meeting the 2007 July 1st deadline for start of the single electricity market." ENDS

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