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Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor Christy Burke has today challenged the Health Minister Mary Harney to visit the Mater Hospital to 'see for herself the unacceptable situation of patients forced to wait hours on end for a bed space'.

Councillor Burke's calls came after a protest yesterday by relatives of patients, many of whom have been waiting several days on trolleys in the casualty department.

Speaking today Cllr Burke said:

"I am calling upon the Minister for Health to visit the Mater Hospital Casualty Department to see for herself the unacceptable situation where many patients have been forced to wait hours on end for a bed space.

"People are furious that in this day and age that the state cannot provide the resources to protect the sick and elderly within our society. The Hospital‚s Chief Executive Martin Crowley has called for an additional 100 beds to help ease this current crisis at the casualty department. The government and particularly the Minister for Health can resolve this matter.

"Sinn Féin is committed to ensuring that the health service needs of citizens are met effectively." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin responding to remarks by British Secretary of State Paul Murphy in Wales this afternoon said:

"It would be more helpful if the British Secretary of State fulfilled the British Government's commitments to the Agreement rather than engaging in unhelpful hype and spin. We need to see substance. We need to see the British Government applying itself to fulfing its obligations under the Agreeement

"The British Secretary of State is more than a commentator. After all he suspended the political institutions, he penalised the Sinn Féin electorate and he refused to co-operate with the Barron Inquiry."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP today said that while republicans are up for doing a deal which would see the political institutions re-established and outstanding elements of the Good Friday Agreement implemented.

Mr McGuinness said:

'Sinn Féin has grave concerns about the position of the two governments on possible changes to the institutional arrangements. In addition the DUP is seeking changes to the Agreement which are not acceptable.'

"Progress was made at Leeds Castle. That was over 4 weeks ago. The two governments and the parties now need to bring this work to a speedy conclusion.

"The fundamentals of the Agreement, including the checks and balances which are of such crucial importance to nationalists and republicans, will not be bartered or negotiated away by Sinn Féin.Demands for a unionist veto over Ministerial Executive authority or the institutions, or a return to unionist rule will simply not happen.

"Progress will only be made on the basis of the framework laid out in the Good Friday Agreement. There is no other way forward." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has today reiterated her calls for the incoming EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security Rocco Buttiglione to voluntarily step down from his position after yet more inflammatory comments made at the weekend.

Mr Buttiglione was quoted as saying that children who only have a mother and no father were 'the children of a not very good mother.'

Speaking this morning Ms McDonald said:

"If Mr Buttiglione's intentions are to keep a high profile before he becomes EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security on November 1st 2004 then he is doing an excellent job. Many people will be dismayed by Signor Buttiglione's latest comments, the most recent in a long litany of disgraceful comments.

"To question the integrity of single mothers, many of whom struggle to cope financially and socially is another outrageous comment from a man who is not fit to be EU Justice Commissioner.

"How can Mr Buttiglione have any credibility to implement a programme of social justice within the EU, when he clearly believes in excluding and demonising some of the most vulnerable peoples within our society. I wish to reiterate my call for a progressive European Justice Commissioner who can promote a socially inclusive EU. Unfortunately, Mr Buttiglione does not seem to be the right person for the job."ENDS

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Sinn Fein spokesperson on Human Rights Caitriona Ruane has said that the SDLP are sending mixed signals on their approach to repressive policing issues. Ms Ruane's comments come after the SDLP in Derry raised concerns about the ongoing regular use of CS gas by the PSNI in the city.

Ms Ruane said;

"Recently when I publicly challenged the rising use of CS gas by the PSNI the SDLP policing spokesperson Alex Attwood attacked my remarks and said that CS gas was not repressive and was perfectly legitimate.

"Now only a matter of weeks later the SDLP in Derry are demanding meetings with the PSNI over its use and raising public concerns.

"People are at a loss to know exactly what the position of the SDLP is in relation to CS gas. They sit on the Policing Board and rubber stamped along with plastic bullets its purchase. Alex Attwood has defended the PSNI from criticism from political parties and human rights organisations about its ever increasing use.

" The SDLP cannot have it both ways. They cannot be part of a Policing Board which purchases with their support CS gas and then complain when it is used on our streets. Like plastic bullets it seems that the position of the SDLP in the privacy of the Policing Board duffers greatly from their public position afterwards." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's five TDs today wrote a formal letter of protest to the Taoiseach over the Government's failure to implement its promise to increase Overseas Development Aid to 0.7% of GNP. The Sinn Féin team demanded that the Taoiseach, as leader of the fourth wealthiest country in the world, to ringfence the money in future budgets to ensure the 0.7% goal is reached by 2007.

Speaking after the letter was sent to the Taoiseach Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on International Affairs, Aengus Ó Snodaigh said, "We wrote to the Taoiseach to protest at the failure of the Government to implement its promise to increase Overseas Development Aid to 0.7% of GNP by 2007. We urged him to make an iron-clad commitment this year to multi-annual incremental increases until this goal is reached in 2007, and to ringfencing the 0.7% in subsequent budgets.

"At the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 the Taoiseach committed Ireland to meet this target by 2007. Instead, however, ODA spending has been frozen at the 2002 level of 0.41%. This is not acceptable. Ireland is the fourth wealthiest country in the world and is presently in a budget surplus. We have the capability not only to meet this target but indeed to surpass it, as five European nations have already done. It would therefore be an outrage and an embarrassment for the Government to even consider reneging on this commitment.

"It is well past time for the Taoiseach's to back up his "firm decision" with action. Development Cooperation Ireland and Dóchas have proposed an incremental increase each year until the target is reached: 0.5% in 2005, 0.62% in 2006 and 0.7% in 2007. We are calling on the Cabinet to implement this proposal, or a suitable alternative, starting with Budget 2005.

"We also urge the introduction of legislation ringfencing a minimum of 0.7% annually for ODA from the year 2008 on. Such decisive action would be a source of pride for the Irish people and would be warmly welcomed by Sinn Féin." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Sean Crowe has reacted to a report due to be released this morning on poverty levels in West Tallaght and said Œthis report paints a bleak and depressing picture of the area. It confirms what Sinn Féin has been saying about poverty levels in West Tallaght for a number of years‚.

The report entitled: 'How are our kids?' was funded the US-based philanthropic organisation Atlantic Philanthropies.

Speaking today, Deputy Crowe said:

"This report paints a bleak and depressing picture of the sheer scale of poverty and social exclusion in the West Tallaght area. Unfortunately, the study merely reinforces what Sinn Féin has been saying about poverty levels in West Tallaght for a number of years. These statistics should surprise no one, indeed past reports from RAPID have shown similar patterns of deprivation.

"It is ironic that just a few short days after a report by The Economist magazine entitled 'The luck of the Irish' which claimed that Ireland had leaped from being one of the poorest EU member states in the 1980‚s to one of the richest today, that this latest report shows that many children in West Tallaght are living without adequate home heating.

"Let us be clear, many people in West Tallaght and indeed throughout this state feel alienated, excluded and let down by the authorities. The unprecedented levels of poverty, deprivation and anti-social behaviour are a direct result of the inequalities and inequities promoted by this, and successive governments.

"I welcome the key recommendations of the report and call for a multi-agency response to the wide-ranging problems in West Tallaght. The Œout of sight-out of mind approach‚ to the problems faced by local communities must not be allowed to continue. We know what the problems are and how they should be tackled, what is required is a follow through with real investment.

"Sinn Féin has worked hard to represent those who feel most excluded within our society. We will continue to work with like-minded and progressive groups to help create dynamic and empowered local communities." ENDS

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Speaking from the European Social Forum, Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has called for strong EU action to ensure fair elections in Palestine.

Ms de Brún was speaking after a meeting with a Palestinian delegation composed of:

  • Mustapha Barghouti from The Palestinian National Initiative
  • Nurit Peled previous recipient of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize
  • Jonathan Shapira, Israeli pilot and member of Pilot Courage Refuse

Ms de Brún continued:

"We heard at first hand of interference in the proposed electoral process through the closure of some voter registration offices. Nationalists in the Six Counties know only too well the debilitating effect that disenfranchising voters can have on a peace process. If the EU is calling for democracy and reform in Palestine, then it must react now to this attempt to deny Palestinians the right to vote."

Ms de Brún also welcomed the opportunity to meet Mustapha Barghouti face-to-face.

Ms de Brún said:

"I had hoped to welcome Mustapha Barghouti to Belfast last year where he was due to address a meeting I chaired at St Mary‚s College University as part of the West Belfast Festival. At that time, the Israeli government refused to let him travel, so the meeting was held by video-link. I was delighted to meet Mustapha Barghouti face-to-face today. I hope he will be able to visit Belfast in the future."

In conclusion, Ms de Brún called for the suspension of the EU-Israel special trade agreement because of the continued breach of human rights and of the terms of the Agreement by the Israeli government." ENDS

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Clones Councillor Pat Treanor hit out at the latest British Army incursion over Clones town and surrounding area on Sunday 17th Oct at 5pm. The large helicopter flew up to two miles into County Monaghan and then over Clones town on its return to Co. Fermanagh.

Cllr Treanor said : „This was a totally illegal and provocative incursion into County Monaghan by the British Army. It is particularly outrageous at the present time, when serious efforts are being made to bolster up the Peace Process. People are rightly suspicious and concerned by this incident. I have reported it to the local Gardaí and have asked for an investigation.

"My 12-year-old daughter, Cáit, and two of her friends were playing at Bishopscourt, about a mile out of Clones. They were able to describe a large green helicopter with camouflage colouring, flying overhead."

Cllr Treanor said that he has contacted Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who will raise the issue with the Dublin Government. He has also contacted the Sinn Féin representative on the British/Irish Intergovernmental Body, Arthur Morgan, who will also attempt to raise it at a meeting in Wales today.

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Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald speaking in Dublin this afternoon called on the Irish government to honour their commitment to achieve the UN target of spending 0.7% of GNP on Overseas Development Aid by 2007.

Ms McDonald said:

"The Irish Government has pledged to increase ODA spending to the UN target of 0.7% of GNP by 2007. Instead of achieving this, Government inaction has effectively seen ODA spending frozen at 2002 levels (0.41%) leaving us well behind many of our European neighbours. Five have already reached and exceeded the UN target. Luxembourg and Norway have committed to increase their spend to 1% GNP by 2005 and Sweden has committed to reach 1% by 2006.

"Development Cooperation Ireland and Dóchas have recommended managed ODA spending growth in the form of an incremental increase each year until the target is reached: 0.48% in 2004; 0.5% in 2005; 0.62% in 2006; and 0.7% in 2007. Sinn Féin endorses this approach.

"The Irish government need to honour the commitment which the Taoiseach made at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 and they need to urgently set out how they intend to achieve the 0.7% spending on ODA by 2007."ENDS

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Commenting on Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's remarks at Bodenstown, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said : "The decision on whether Sinn Féin will enter any form of Coalition at any time in the future will be made by the membership of Sinn Féin on the basis of whether this would advance our policy platform of equality and national reunification."

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"If Sinn Féin is given a sufficient mandate by the people we are as entitled to take office as any other party, if we choose to do so.

"Let us be very clear. We do not accept any pre-conditions to the restoration of the institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement and to our return to the Executive. Nor do we accept any second-class status for our electroate in this Sate.

"The question many Sinn Féin members are asking is why would our party want to go into Coalition with a Fianna Fáil party leadership whose political home seems to be in Punchestown rather than Bodenstown.

"In policy terms it is my belief that Fianna Fáil is far from ready for government with a progressive party like Sinn Féin. They have a long way to go before our membership would accept them.

"The decision on whether Sinn Féin will enter any form of Coalition at any time in the future will be made by the membership of Sinn Féin on the basis of whether this would advance our policy platform of equality and national reunification." ENDS

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Commenting after it emerged that the PSNI and IMC have acknowledged that their first report contained totally inaccurate information regarding the murder of Michael O'Hare, Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly said:

"At the time the IMC Report was published Sinn Féin denounced its contents and exposed a series of inaccurate sections. Other political parties accepted it as gospel. Now the PSNI and IMC have themselves acknowledged the report was based on inaccurate information.

"The fact is the IMC has no credibility and this news further exposes this unrepresentative British securocrat tool. Those who jumped up and down and were quick to try and use the shoddy IMC Report as a basis to attack Sinn Féin should reflect long and hard on their reaction given the gradual exposure of the report as lies.

"The IMC has no positive role to play. It operates outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and it is little more than a mechanism to be used to exclude the largest nationalist party, Sinn Féin, from the process." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, writing in today's edition of the newly launched Village Magazine said "What Sinn Fein is trying to do at this time is unprecedented. We are dealing with the ongoing challenges of the peace process, but continuing at the same time to build for Irish unity and independence, while preparing to be in government in the future. But we want social and economic change in the here and now. We want equality now."

Full test of Mr. Adams article

The question of Sinn Féin involvement in a future coalition government is one which appears to particularly exercise Fianna Fáil. For some years now that party's leading lights have returned again and again to this issue. Depending on who is talking they either signal a willingness to form a coalition with Sinn Féin or they rule that out.

The Taoiseach has led this debate on a number of occasions. In fact in an fifth of our people are living in poverty. We have a two-tier health system and a housing crisis. Our children are being educated in dilapidated and run down school buildings. There is no sign of decent child-care services. At every turn punitive measures are taken against the disadvantaged.

Sinn Féin wants to build an alternative to this. We want to change the status quo. We don't want to join it. The measure of our success can only be judged in the amount of change we bring about. We should not be judged by how many Cabinet seats we get or indeed how many votes we get, although that is a crucial part of building political strength. Without political strength you cannot bring about change. But having built that strength the real test is how to use it to improve society.

Other parties have been in government, some for decades. But they have failed to bring about the changes, which the majority of people desire and deservell destroy the economy, that we will bankrupt the state. This from parties which are selling off public services and which believe inequality is a good thing for society.

Those who ask would Fianna Fáil be in coalition with Sinn Féin are asking the wrong question. Of course Fianna Fáil would if it suited them. But the real question is will Sinn Féin join such a coalition? "ENDS

the Sunday Times in February 1999 he handed the unionists a stick to beat the peace process with when he declared, 'no powersharing before arms handover.' Or so the Sunday Times told us. Charlie McCreevy suggested that his leader was 'too open' when dealing with journalists. The Taoiseach dissented, 'I do not detract from what I said in the article in the Sunday Times.'

And so it has gone on. A senior Fianna Fáil person would say one thing. Some other party person or anonymous source would put some other interpretation on it.

Of course, what it's all about is politics. That is a fact. There are no preconditions whatsoever in the Good Friday Agreement and nor should there be. Powersharing is compulsory for those parties, which have sufficient mandate, and the wish to be in government. That is not the case in the south. So why the fuss?

For some time now the prospect of a single party government herl us that a fifth of our people are living in poverty. We have a two-tier health system and a housing crisis. Our children are being educated in dilapidated and run down school buildings. There is no sign of decent child-care services. At every turn punitive measures are taken against the disadvantaged.

Sinn Féin wants to build an alternative to this. We want to change the status quo. We don't want to join it. The measure of our success can only be judged in the amount of change we bring about. We should not be judged by how many Cabinet seats we get or indeed how many votes we get, although that is a crucial part of building political strength. Without political strength you cannot bring about change. But having built that strength the real test is how to use it to improve society.

Other parties have been in government, some for decades. But they have failed to bring about the changes, which the majority of people desire ao set the political agenda so that those in government have to respond, even if they are not happy to do so.

Sinn Féin will be in government in the north in the time ahead. But while I am Party President we will only consider coalition in the south if that advances the process of change and the struggle for equality. We have no interest in Ministerial seats for the sake of it. And we certainly could not embrace, never mind support, the punitive anti-people measures, which the conservative parties advocate. Neither could we proceed without a real strategy for Irish unity.

So there will be lots more talk of Sinn Féin. There will ongoing attempts to vilify us and to criminalise or demonise us. As in the past there will be no concern of how this will effect developments in the peace process. The only interest will be self-interest or sectional party concerns. There will also be efforts to dismiss the thrust of our policie

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Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has commented on the report by the Economist magazine, which has claimed that Ireland is now regarded as a role model for some of the EU's poorest states. Ms McDonald claimed that the Economist report did not 'reflect the reality of the widening gap between the rich and poor'.

The Economist magazine published the report entitled 'The luck of the Irish' yesterday, which found that Ireland had leaped from being one of the poorest EU member states in the 1980's to one of the richest today.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"It would be wrong not to acknowledge the tremendous wealth produced over the past number of years. There is in no disputing that Ireland is one of the richest member states within the EU and that this is a result of a booming economy over the past two decades. However, the Economist report does not adequately reflect the reality of the widening gap between the rich and poor. Ireland has become an increasingly unequal society both economically and socially. Whilst this state is the fourth wealthiest in the world, it has the lowest level of social spending and the highest poverty rate in the EU.

"There has not been an even distribution of the wealth generated and this is borne out by numerous statistics including the ESRI and Combat Poverty reports which have shown that a fifth of people in the state are living in poverty. This is unacceptable as there is sufficient wealth within our society to ensure that citizens are protected by the state - unfortunately this is not the case.

"We have a Minister for Justice who believes that inequality is an incentive to the economy. This right wing strand of thought leads to a Œsurvival of the fittest‚ approach to society and pitting people against each other to compete for resources, when there is obviously enough to go around.

"Sinn Féin is committed to the eradication of poverty both in Ireland and across the globe. The needs of the poor and disadvantaged must come before the needs of the wealthy and big business. As a small step towards this, Sinn Féin calls for the level of social spending to be increased to protect our social, health and education services." ENDS

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Sinn Fein Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that the Review of Public Administration must take full recognition of the reasons for the changes brought following the publication of the McCrory Report in the early 70's.

Ms Gildernew said:

"The history of unionist abuse on local government led to the recommendations published in the McCrory Report that stripped powers from local government and led to the creation of new councils to give a genuine voice for nationalists at local government level.

"Nationalists throughout the Six Counties will not forget the reasons for the McCrory Report. It is vital that the Review of Public Administration take full recognition of the reasons for the changes brought following the publication of the McCrory Report in the early 70's.

"This means that there must be statutory equality safeguards and protections in the deliver of services through local government and that we need to see the d'Hondt mechanism for power sharing also given statutory recognition.

"The behaviour of unionists on councils where the have dominance today demands nothing les than strong equality protections. The Review of Public Administration must not forget the history of unionist abuse of power of the continuing refusal of unionists to share power on councils today." ENDS

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Responding to remarks made today by DUP MLA Nigel Dodds calling for Sinn Féin to be 'tested' before they could share power, Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew said:

" It seems that the DUP are continuing to fail the test set by the electorate in the six counties at the last Assembly election. The simple fact remains that Sinn Féin are the largest nationalist party in the six counties and the third largest party on this island. The fact is more people on this island vote for Sinn Fein than the DUP.

" If the DUP are to share power and if the DUP are capable of doing a deal then that will have to be with Sinn Fein. There is no other possibility open to them. For this to happen Nigel Dodds and his colleagues will have to grasp basic democratic principles and acknowledge that a Sinn Féin voter is every bit as important as those who choose to vote for the DUP. No matter how much the DUP desire it republicans and nationalists will simply not accept being treated as second class citizens or second class voters.

" It is precisely because of this sort of attitude from the DUP and other unionists and their history of abusing power that the Good Friday Agreement has enshrined within it checks and balances to guard against unionist abuses. These fundamentals are under attack from the DUP in their quest to return to the days of domination and discrimination. Nigel Dodds needs to realise that republicans will not accept these protections being tampered with or removed. The sentiments contained in Mr Dodds statement today once again demonstrate the very real need for these fundamentals to be maintained." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called for transparency and accountability in the deployment of the 2,000 additional Gardaí and for a public consultation process to precede their allocation.

Responding to plans announced by the Justice Minister earlier today, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"There needs to be transparency and accountability in the deployment of these extra Gardaí if the move is to increase public confidence in the service. There should be a public consultation process to allow communities to make representations where they feel that policing resources dedicated to their area are insufficient to meet their needs.

"While I am very concerned that the Irish language requirement may not be retained in view of the statutory obligations under the Official Languages Act, I wholeheartedly welcome the commitment to recruit to make the Gardaí more diverse and representative of the population.

"I cannot accept the idea that in excess of 400 of these new recruits could be diverted to traffic duty. Yes we need more resources to prevent dangerous driving and road deaths, however these duties would be better carried out by a dedicated traffic corps. Too many fully trained crime fighters are presently misused on this detail. The Minister should solve this situation, not aggravate it.

"Finally, I hope people will take a realistic view of what can be accomplished by the increase in numbers, and I would caution against disappointment in results fuelling calls for more and more Gardaí. Numbers are not all that count. Appropriate and accountable deployment of resources is just as important. As is employing best practice and the establishment of trust with local communities leading to a relationship of equal partnership. This can only be founded on transparency and public accountability, and that requires fundamental Garda reform. Minister, after two years, we are still waiting." ENDS

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South Belfast Sinn Fein Assembly member Alex Maskey will today meet Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekhat as part of a week long trip to Palestine.

Speaking today Mr Maskey said:

" During the past two-weeks the Israeli military have killed more than 120 Palestinians. There is growing despair among the Palestinians about the violence, and a desire that their case be properly heard on the international stage.

"I have been attending meetings with a variety of people during this visit, which has seen me in discussion with non-governmental officers, academics, professionals and representatives of the Palestinian Authority.

"I have also been taking part in a seminar on the peace process in Ireland and the situation here in Palestine.

"This is a chronic situation. The people I have been speaking to are bordering on despair, and they seem to have no idea about how to move forward.

"Palestinians cannot move around the area because of the violence. There is a terrible anger here at what they feel is a terrible imbalance in coverage of events in the international arena. The Palestinians feel that their side of the story is not being properly reflected in the media.

"I am looking forward to meeting with Saeb Erekhat today and I will be there very much in listening mode. I am not here to pass on advice, but will return from this visit and reflect on what Palestinians are saying.

"I will then reflect that back to my colleagues, to the Sinn Fein leadership, and I will talk to the Palestinian ambassador to Ireland to see what can be said or what can be done.

"There are currently 25 countries based and represented in Ramallah including the Japanese who have been doing infrastructural work, and the Germans involved in development work.

"However, that work is being destroyed by the Israeli bombardment. Infrastructure is being demolished and destroyed. This week has been an eye-opener coming here to see how people have been pushed to the depths of despair at what is happening.

"I think it is also a reminder of how far the peace process back home has travelled, but also about how it can unravel."ENDS

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Sinn Fein Culture Spokesperson, East Derry MLA Francie Brolly has warned the British government against diluting commitments to the Irish language after indications that the proposed £12 million 3 year start up budget for the Irish Film and Television Fund is under threat.

Mr Brolly said:

"The establishment of the Irish Film and Television Fund, despite clear commitments from the British government has been dogged by foot dragging and lack of political will.

"Finally in March the British government agreed to a £12 million 3 year start up budget for the fund.

"It is frustrating that there are now indications that the British government is preparing to row back on this commitment by spreading the start up budget over 5 years instead of 3. This in effect will mean that there is a budget cut of some £8 million over the 5-year timeframe.

"Any attempt by the British government to dilute its Irish language commitments will be taken as a clear sign of bad faith.

"Gerry Adams is writing to both governments to spell out clearly the opposition to any further delay or dilution of the British governments commitment to the Irish Film and Television Fund." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has said that major staff shortages across almost every facet of our health service demands a major rethink, particularly on opening up access and training to all health professions.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"It is clear that right across the health service there are significant and serious staff shortages that are not improving. While a piecemeal approach has seen slight improvements this is no substitute for a coherent long-term strategy to tackle staff shortages that are impacting of levels of care and creating very serious stresses throughout the healthcare system.

"We need not just more doctors and nurses, we also need more occupational therapists and other allied health professionals supported with a strong commitment to ongoing professional training.

"What is required is a radical rethink on opening up access to all health professions and a major expansion in the number of training and university places available along with a serious look at how we financially support people giving that long term commitment to our health services.

"In particular we must recognise that the British governments plans to introduce a massive hike in the cost of third level education will create huge barriers to participation. We also need to look at incentives for ongoing career development and to support the retention of staff.

"This is going to cost money but money spent now on increasing the numbers of people studying medicine, nursing and the other healthcare related subjects will pay long-term dividends.

"I also believe that we need to develop the Health College model here locally by creating a dedicated facility that can allow for an expansion in the number of training and university places while also supporting the significant levels of ongoing professional training that are vital to a modern healthcare system." ENDS

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