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


Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Cllr John O'Dowd MLA, has expressed his concern over the reasons behind the increasing number of delayed discharges from hospitals of patients who have been declared medically fit for discharge in the North.

He said, "I had recently written to the NIO health minister, Angela Smith, asking for a breakdown on the numbers of delayed discharges of patients from hospitals and the reasons for those delays. In her reply to me, the minister has provided information which shows that half of those delays are caused by the fact that there is either no funding available to put in place appropriate care packages either at home or in a residential care setting, or that no appropriate place or care package is available. Indeed, the number of delayed discharges from acute hospitals has risen from a monthly average of 313 in 1999 to a level of 435 in 2004.

"This totally avoidable bed-blocking situation within acute hospitals is obviously something which neither the patients, their families or hospitals wish to be in, but it is a situation that is directly attributable to government under-funding of the community care programmes provided across all Health and Social Services Trusts. Indeed, the real knock-on effect of this under-funding is felt right across the health service in the unacceptably high number of patients who are regularly forced to lie on trolleys until such times as a bed becomes available, and is also visible in the form of the wider number of patients presently on hospital waiting lists for treatment.

"Clearly, there needs to be a commitment from government to increase dramatically the amount of funding needed to address this totally avoidable situation. I, along with other party colleagues, will be due to meet with minister shortly to discuss the proposed budget for the North's health service over the next three years. We certainly will be making a case for increased funding across all programmes of care within the health service in order to ensure that both patients and health service staff can have access to the quality health provision they deserve." ENDS


Sinn Féin South Belfast MLA, Alex Maskey, has described as "hysterical" the reaction of unionist politicians to the comments of President Mary McAleese.

Mr Maskey said,

"No-one has done more than President Mary McAleese to build bridges between unionism and nationalism and between our tragic past and a new future. But Unionism is in total denial about the history of this state. The most senior leaders of Unionism routinely practised and encouraged institutionalised anti-catholic discrimination. Unionist leaders to this day refuse to acknowledge that discrimination ever happened.

"There are, of course, many people, including many unionists, working to overcome these out-dated attitudes but the leadership of Unionism, particularly of the DUP brand, needs to face up to the fact that its has, both past and present, promoted the anti-catholic bigotry and prejudice which has characterised the 6 county state since its creation". ENDS


Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún will today (28 Jan) address a meeting of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on the topic of privatisation and globalisation.

Others addressing the meeting will include Meena Menon of the Social Forum of India and Francois Houtart of Cetri (Centre Tricontinental based in Belgium).

Speaking in advance of the meeting Ms de Brún said:

"It makes absolutely no sense for anyone who claims to have a social conscience to plan for the wholesale privatisation of services and at the same time talk of introducing measures to alleviate the hardship that such privatisation will bring, especially for the poor. Better by far to defend the provision of quality public services and to promote a positive social and environmental agenda.

"It is especially important that we oppose any attempt to put the privatisation of services at the heart of future relations between the EU and the developing world. This issue is of particular concern to those who have spoken to the MEPs attending the World Social Forum in Brazil this week."

Ms de Brún and the other MEPs in Porto Alegre this week have also met party leaders of the government party of Brazil (PT), and of other parties participating in the World Social Forum. Ms de Brún has also carried the SF 100 message to the World Social Forum (Sinn Féin is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2005). She has also attended meetings with a number of social movements and has carried out a number of television and radio interviews. ENDS


Sinn Féin Human Rights, Equality and Women's Spokesperson, South Down MLA Catríona Ruane commenting on the ruling that indefinite detention without trial was a fundamental breech of human rights laws and on the decision of British Home Secretary Charles Clarke to replace this with a form of house arrest has said that this is also an affront to international human rights standards.

Ms Ruane said:

"The ruling that indefinite detention without trial is a fundamental breech of human rights is positive. It was the only decision that could have been reached.

"However the decision to introduce a form of house arrest without any recourse to due process of the presentation of evidence as to culpability is an affront to international human rights standards.

"Only last week the British government renewed the temporary emergency powers legislation that has been in force here in one form or anther for the past 84 years. The UN Committee Against Torture has made it clear that there is no justification for the continued use of such emergency powers that throughout the history of their existence have been used against the nationalist community.

"None of these development do anything to promote the creation of human rights culture in this part of Ireland.

"Human Rights must be based on due process and the ability to scrutinise evidence that is used to deny people the right to liberty." ENDS


Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today said that the horrors of the holocaust must be used to "educate young people and remind them of the dangers of racism".

Ms McDonald was speaking on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, were a special ceremony took place today, to remember millions of Jews exterminated during the Second World War. Ms McDonald made her comments following the passing of a resolution in the European Parliament to remember all the victims of the holocaust.

Speaking from Brussels Ms McDonald said:

"We should not consign the horrors of the holocaust to the pages of history or commemoration ceremonies. The holocaust should be used to educate people, particularly the younger generations of the immense suffering of the Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies, people with disabilities and all of those whom the Nazi's deemed inferior and worthless. Even after the most unimaginable human suffering, neo-nazi and fascist groups flourish in some areas of Europe today.

"We must also remember that racism and intolerance are alive and well in Ireland. Violent attacks against ethnic minority communities are on the rise today. Eliminating such abuses of human and civil rights is the responsibility of us all, and I would call upon all political and civic leaders to reaffirm their commitment to this.

"The legacy of the holocaust should be about reflecting on a dark past but also a determination to oppose racism and intolerance wherever we may come across it in our daily lives. Education remains the key to much of this." ENDS


Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today accused the Irish government of failing to properly communicate the content and ramifications of the EU Constitution to the Irish people. Ms McDonald said that "the government had been more concerned with concluding negotiations on the EU Constitution than communicating its content to the people".

Ms McDonald made her comments after a European survey revealed that nearly 50% of Irish people were not even aware of the existence of the EU Constitution. The survey was carried out by "EU Barometer".

Speaking from Brussels Ms McDonald said:

"During Ireland's Presidency of the European Union, Sinn Féin consistently called upon the Irish government to effectively communicate the content and ramifications of the proposed EU Constitution to the people. The results of this survey show that nearly 50% of Irish people are not even aware of the existence of the EU Constitution.

"Considering agreement on the EU Constitution was reached during Ireland's stewardship of the European Union, then clearly this represents a monumental failure on the part of the government. It became increasingly clear during that period that the government was more concerned with concluding negotiations on the EU Constitution than communicating its content to the people.

"The government has a duty to inform citizens in a non-partisan manner regarding fundamental changes which may effect them. It is not good enough for the government to only communicate the contents of this far-reaching document in the period leading up to the referendum on the issue. By that stage it will be much too late." ENDS


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP is in London this afternoon briefing British MPs and the international media on the peace process. Accompanying Mr. Adams are Martin McGuinness MP, Michelle Gildernew MP and Cllr Joe Reilly. The Sinn Féin delegation will meet with Tony Blair tomorrow morning.

Responding to questions from the media today Mr. Adams said:

"It is obvious that electoral and party politics, plus a view that no progress is possible before the upcoming elections, is impacting on the behaviour of the Irish government and the outrageous commentary which we have witnessed from them in recent days. By taking up the Michael McDowell line, the Taoiseach is sending a clear signal of how he sees the future of the process at least in the short term.

"The Taoiseach, of course, has to stand over his remarks but he will know that the tremendous progress achieved thus far in the Peace Process flowed from a general consensus among parties with a broadly nationalist outlook. That meant that party political and other differences were subordinate to the national interest.

The process has been in greatest difficulty when disunity among Irish parties allowed the British system and it‚s allies in Ireland to set the agenda. That is what is happening at this time.

When the integrity of the Sinn Féin party is being attacked we will defend ourselves robustly. When the rights of our electorate are being threatened, Sinn Féin will defend those rights.

We have no apologies to make to any political party or leadership for our stewardship of the Peace Process. We have never said we had all the answers. If others think they can do better then they are welcome to try. But would any sensible Irish person trust Michael McDowell with the Peace Process?

"The Taoiseach may have deflected media and opposition attention from the Ray Burke affair, but he needs to consider where this takes the process in the longer term."ENDS


Foyle Sinn Féin MLA, Mitchel McLaughlin has called on British Secretary of State, Paul Murphy to close his deliberations on City of Derry Airport and release the funding urgently required for safety improvements and development.

The Foyle MLA said:

"Despite the pressing need of improvements and development of City of Derry Airport it has succeeded in increasing its throughput by more than 10% during the past year with more than a quarter of a million passengers now using the airport annually.

"This is a gauge of how important the facility is to Derry and the North West Region and it flags up the damage that will be done not just to the future of the Airport but to the potential regeneration of the NorthWest if the planned developments do not take place without further delay.

"There is growing evidence that officials in the DRD are briefing against investment in the NorthWest in general and Derry Airport in particular. It is totally unacceptable that these officials are permitted to engage in this activity unchallenged. Mr Murphy established a joint working group to prepare the case for the development of City of Derry Airport. That body has now reported and Mr Murphy needs to respond to its recommendations immediately.

"I am concerned that those in positions of influence and who are charged with development of this area, actually seem to be undermining the development of the NorthWest Region by grossly understating its requirements for growth in order to justify their own policy of neglect and east of the Bann bias.

"The infrastructure of this city has been neglected for decades and we have consistently been told that there is insufficient demand to justify such infrastructural investment in our roads, railway or airport. This never was justifiable, is not acceptable and the fact that the NorthWest is the fastest growing region in the 6 Counties exposes this reasoning as demonstrably false.

" I have written to Mr Murphy today to call for an urgent decision on the release of the necessary funds to allow the development work at City Of Derry Airport to proceed. I have also requested of the Mayor of Derry, Gerry Ó hÉara that he convenes the City's Civic Regeneration Forum to develop a cross-party and civic intervention." ENDS


Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew commenting on the publication of the estimates for farm incomes has welcomed the increase in total farm incomes but warned that the low base means that many farm families are still struggling on incomes of £160 per week or half the average industrial wage.

Ms Gildernew said:

"It is good news that for the second year running that there is a real increase in farm incomes although the growth seen in 2003 has slowed considerably. This is driven by increases in output values across the board and increased subsidy receipts.

"Increases in farm incomes are expected for the key dairy, pig and poultry sectors yet they will come under threat in the future from the nitrate and water framework directives. Unless there is co-ordinated action the expected decline particularly in beef and lamb farming incomes will also continue. The fact that across all types of farming that net farm income has shown no signs of improving is very worrying. A net farm income of £8,500 hardly provides a sustainable basis for future development. Many farm families are still struggling on incomes of £160 per week or half the average industrial wage and many are also carrying huge debt.

"It is clear that farmers are doing their best to increase productivity and generate higher prices but we are yet to see real action in tackling the difficulties that the nitrates directive and the move over to decoupling will bring.

"It is important that we move away, as a matter of urgency, from any linkage to the tarnished image of British farming and make progress on the campaign to lift the beef ban, as well as develop greater co-ordination across Ireland to find more effective ways to challenge the implementation of the raft of EU directives that will have a massive impact on the future of farmers.

"I believe that central to any long-term strategy to build on high value produce must be a commitment and the political will to build on the well-established internationally recognised Irish brand. This demands that the potential of the all-Ireland agenda is realised. Market development also demands that we give a priority to moving towards a single all-Ireland system of traceability in order to bring as much confidence as possible to potential markets.

"The agri-industry is vital to our rural communities which play and should continue to play an important role in our economy." ENDS


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Community and Family Affairs, Seán Crowe TD has questioned the Minister for State for Community Affairs, Noel Ahern TD about his decision to axe funding for the Community Workers Co-operative, an organisation that works on the ground fighting poverty, inequality and injustice.

Speaking in the Dáil last night he said "The Combat Poverty Group's most recent assessment of the Community Workers Co-operative at the end of 2003 acknowledged the quality of their work and their focus on poverty and exclusion. In fact the quality of their work and their commitment to addressing poverty is recognised locally, nationally and indeed internationally.

"Their provision of quality information, policy analysis, strategy guides, resources, and training are invaluable to thousands of local groups struggling to work against poverty. These groups are outraged about the negative impact the closure of the Community Workers Co-operative will have on their work.

"The Community Workers Co-operative has been a critical voice of Government policy on anti-poverty and equality issues for the last 24 years. The decision by Minister for State Noel Ahern to axe this funding has been described as a sinister move to silence an effective critical voice.

"The process by which this decision was made must be questioned. There was no discussion with the organisation.

"Were evaluation and assessment reports of the 10 networks considered in the decision? Apparently not, as the Community Workers Co-operative has consistently performed well, particularly in relation to its anti-poverty focus.

"Were others renowned for working in the field of anti-poverty work consulted? Again apparently not, as witnessed by the statements such as that of Helen Johnston of the Combat Poverty Agency or from the European Anti-Poverty Network.

"What is happening here appears to be political vetting of community work. The government clearly doesn't like what this organisation says, or its ability to bring diverse groups experiencing poverty together to work collectively."


Commenting on the Report on Minister Martin Cullen and Leech Comunications Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said it "cannot be taken as anything other than an indictment of Minister Cullen himself and of Government practice in general, even though the Report baulks at such a conclusion".

Deputy Ó Caoláin stated, "What will rightly strike most people as scandalous is that a Minister or a Department can award such a contract. When this is for public relations which could and should have been done by the civil service itself the scandal is compounded.

"This report highlights the increasing practice of Ministers over recent years in employing highly paid public relations consultants and other consultants as illustrated by the use by Minister Cullen of Leech Communications.

"The report shows that the value of the contract given to Mrs. Leech turned out to be well in excess of the EU threshold for advertising in the Official Journal of the EU and should have been put out to tender.

"The Report shows that the OPW contract awarded to Mrs. Leech as Project Information Co-ordinator was unique to Waterford and was unprecedented for any other major OPW project, apart from Farmleigh House.

"Mrs. Leech was awarded a tender at the exorbitant rate of £650 per day and the report finds there is "no comprehensive inventory of work done under the contract and monitoring and recording of the work was not satisfactory".

"This cannot be taken as anything other than an indictment of Minister Cullen himself and of Government practice in general, even though the Report baulks at such a conclusion. Whether Minister Cullen was required to resign or not there would still be an urgent need to end the over-use of consultants by Ministers and Government Departments at huge cost to the taxpayer.

"Q4, owned by former Fianna Fáil general secretary Martin Mackin along with former government advisor Jackie Gallagher and former Eircom Director of Corporate Affairs Gerry O'Sullivan, was given the €4m contract to promote the failed electronic voting system. That was also on Minister Cullen's watch.

"It's time the government called a halt to these gravy trains." ENDS


This week Sinn Féin will unveil the first in a series of major initiatives to advance the party's all-Ireland agenda and advance preparations for Irish reunification. The launch of Aontú (Uniting), the Sinn Féin strategy group for cross-border integration, will take place in the Clinton Centre, Enniskillen tomorrow Friday, 28th January at 10am. Sinn Féin chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin will speak at the event. It will be followed in February with the launch of the party's Green Paper for Irish Unity.

Aontú has been set up by the party leadership to bring forward and implement plans for the integration of services, developments and infrastructure throughout the border region. It will be headed by Sinn Féin spokesperson on All-Ireland Integration, Barry McElduff MLA and will be made up of Sinn Féin's representatives on the various cross-border groups, like the North West Region Border Group, the Irish Central Border Area Network and the East Border Region Group, along with the party's MLAs, TDs, council group leaders and Sinn Féin councillors from both sides of the border. Although denied access to membership of the North West Region Border Group, Donegal Sinn Féin councillors Pearse Doherty, Padraig MacLoughlainn, Tomas Pringle and Tony McDaid have joined Aontú to address the specific problems of social and economic marginalisation suffered by the people of Donegal as a result of partition and the decades of inaction by establishment politicians in the County.

Speaking in advance of the conference Aontú spokesperson, Barry McElduff said, "Life along the border for many people is characterised by poor planning, inadequate transport systems, insufficient energy supply and ICT (broadband) networks and, critically, by a duplication of services that is uneconomic and inefficient.

"Government discrimination, inadequate representation and poor planning have ensured that the border corridor is less developed and growing more slowly that the rest of the economy. It is also poorly serviced by bus and rail links, the energy infrastructure is not capable of supporting significant economic and social development, the agriculture sector is in difficulty and, despite having excellent natural resources, the proportion of tourist expenditure in the border corridor area is low and falling in many areas.

"In 2003, Sinn Féin brought forward a document "Reunification Through Planned Integration" which set out innovative solutions to these problems and this is already impacting on debate and planning at local government level.

"It is clear that only co-ordinated cross-border integration that creates common systems and shared infrastuctures and services will deliver the balanced development needed for people living and working within the Border Corridor. The need for greater Cross-Border Integration will require local government councils and departments working together for the benefit of all communities.

"Sinn Féin, as the only all-Ireland party with a dedicated cross-border strategy and councillors in every county in the Border Corridor Area, is ideally placed to develop the dynamic cross-border links between councils - links that are essential for the development and long-term prosperity of the border region.

"The formation of Aontú illustrates Sinn Féin's absolute commitment to achieving real progress not just in the Border Corridor Area but beyond. The Strategy Group will ensure that we use our political strength to promote dynamic and productive cross-border links between councils and government departments to deliver cross-border integration. The group will also engage with civic society, trade unions, business community and farming organisations, disadvantaged communities and groups who are marginalised to ensure that process of cross-border integration is an inclusive one.

"On Friday we will set out proposals our representatives will be seeking support for in the time ahead." ENDS


Sinn Féin TD, Martin Ferris today demanded the release by the British Government of the only man jailed as a result of the activities of the British Army on Bloody Sunday in Derry. Deputy Ferris made his call during a Order of Business in the Dáil this morning and will again raise it in the Dáil with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern this afternoon. Describing it as an "absolute outrage" he said "in this the anniversary week of the murder of 13 civilians by the British Army's Parachute Regiment in 1972 it is a scandal that Martin Doherty is now the only person to have been sent to jail because of his refusal to testify at the Saville inquiry."

Speaking in the Dáil today he said, "Martin Doherty was jailed on the 19th of this month for refusing to testify at the Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday.

"Mr Doherty maintains he has nothing to offer the inquiry as he was not there on the day and now he has been imprisoned for not testifying about events he knows nothing about.

"In this the anniversary week of the murder of 13 civilians by the British Army's Parachute Regiment in 1972 it is a scandal that Martin Doherty is now the only person to have been sent to jail because of his refusal to testify at the Saville inquiry. It is not acceptable and is an absolute outrage.

"I am calling on the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern to demand the release by the British government of Martin Doherty and for him to be returned to his family immediately." ENDS


Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has been participating in the opening of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil (26 January/27th January). Ms de Brún along with fellow MEPs, joined hundreds of thousands who marched through the streets of Porto Alegre carrying the message of the World Social Forum - that another world is possible.

The opening demonstration had a carnival atmosphere with artistic contributions from as far afield as India, Brazil, Uganda, Argentina, Australia, Haiti, Peru, France and Italy. Tickertape flew from the windows of buildings along the route as the march passed by. Those participating in the opening ceremony come from political groups, religious and environmental organisations and many community and campaigning groups from around the world. At one point participants laid stones, books and banners as symbols of the diversity of the World Social Forum process. There was also a minute‚s silence in memory of all those who suffered from the tsunami in Asia and Africa.

Speaking from the opening of the WSF, Ms de Brún said:

"This truly diverse gathering has an upbeat carnival atmosphere and is a real celebration of the diversity of the World Social Forum. Behind the carnival atmosphere, however, lies a serious message that we must all act to create a fairer and more sustainable world. That is the real work that will take place in the meetings and seminars in the coming days." ENDS


Speaking today in Belfast in advance of tomorrows meeting with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP said:

"The Justice Minister Michael McDowell has misrepresented yesterdays meeting. Martin McGuinness and I did not agree that the Sinn Féin leadership must go away and reflect on the government's insistence that the criminality issue be dealt with.

On the contrary we argued that the government should not allow itself to be distracted from the difficult but necessary work needed to tackle all of the outstanding elements of the Good Friday Agreement.

We asked the Taoiseach to stand up his accusations that the Sinn Fein leadership had prior knowledge of the Northern Bank robbery. He failed to do this either during our meeting or in subsequent media interviews.

In the course of our discussions yesterday the Taoiseach agreed with us that the process needed to be based on the broad principles of inclusivity, equality and dialogue. The Taoiseach and we agreed that all the outstanding elements of the Good Friday Agreement needed to be dealt with. It was also agreed that following on his meeting with the British Prime Minister we would meet again to continue with this work.

The Taoiseach said the government was opposed to sanctions. It is not good enough therefore for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to say that sanctions are primarily an issue for the British. The Irish government's stated opposition to sanctions obliges it to ensure that there are no sanctions. No one issue can be made a pre-condition. All matters are the collective responsibility of all parties.

We also rejected any suggestion that Sinn Féin was involved in criminality or that we have any special obligation to tackle any issue. We are opposed to criminality of any kind.

Finally, reluctant though I am to engage in recriminations, I want to deal with Michael McDowell's role in all of this. The Progressive Democrats have made no constructive contribution to the peace process. Minister McDowell's focus is on staying in power in this or any future coalition. It is a matter of concern that the Taoiseach is allowing Minister McDowell to lead for the government on these important issues."ENDS


Reacting to the news from the Council of Europe that Ireland now has the second highest rate of cocaine use in Europe, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said it is "an issue I have been flagging up for some time now, deserving of more effective action from this Government".

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "The revelation by the Council of Europe that Ireland now has the highest rate of amphetamine use and the second highest rate of cocaine use in Europe confirms a pattern that I have been flagging up for some time now, particularly with respect to the rise of cocaine as a drug of choice. There is an urgent need for more effective action to increase enforcement against drug traffickers. The Minister for Justice must be held to account for his failure to prioritise this issue because it doesn't either serve his ideological agenda or affect the elite in Dublin 4.

"In a party submission to the Natoinal Drug Strategy Mid-Term Review I warned the Minister of State responsible that urgent action was needed on cocaine to prevent this relatively new problem from spiralling out of control. This is one of the main standards by which the recommendations for the remainder of the Strategy will be judged. If the mid-term review report does not set out a clear agenda around the interdiction of cocaine trafficking and providing specific and appropriate services for cocaine addicts - together with a strong commitment of adequate resources for these and a specific timeline for implementation - then it will be a failure." ENDS


Sinn Féin MLA Mitchel Mc Laughlin has welcomed the proposed all-ireland Medical School for Magee Campus.

Mr Mc Laughlin said:

"I have long advocated locating a Medical School at the Magee Campus. I met with Professor Hannigan, and Provost of Magee, Professor Tom Fraser in early December along with the two Sinn Féin MEP's Mary Lou Mc Donald and Bairbre de Brún.

"Among a range of issues discussed was the need for additional Medical training facilities and the case for such a faculty at Magee that would attract entrants from across the island.

"At present only Queens in Belfast and Trinity in Dublin offer Medical Training and the limited number of places available cannot hope to cater for the increased need for Doctors in our Hospitals. Although those Doctors recruited from other countries do an excellent job it should not be a substitute for training our own Medical staff.

"The fact that the proposal is based on untilising the local Hospitals on either side of the border (Altnagelvin and Letterkenny) and recruiting on a 50/50 basis in each jurisdiction is a recognition that health care is best served through integrated planning on an all-Ireland basis. Logistically and economically this approach makes sense and should be used in other areas also."ENDS


Sinn Féin Communications spokesperson, Seán Crowe TD has called on the management of An Post to "pull back from the brink and immediately re-instate the 68 workers that were suspended on Monday."

The management suspended workers hours before a scheduled meeting with the Communication Workers Union at the Labour Relations Commission on Monday.

Speaking in Dublin this morning he said:

"On the 8th of December last the Minister encouraged the workers of An Post not to use industrial action in their fight against the closure of the SDS service, but to show faith in the mechanisms of the State and to use the Labour Relations Commission to resolve the dispute.

"On the back of this the Communications Workers Union went to the LRC and a meeting between management and the union was scheduled for Monday 24th of January. Three hours before the meeting was due to start the management pulled the rug from under the workers by proceeding with plans to relocate the SDS service and suspending workers who refused to co-operate.

"I call on the management to pull back from the brink and immediately re-instate the 68 workers that were suspended on Monday and enter into a talks process with the union in order to resolve the dispute.

"I also call on the Minister to use all his influence to have these workers re-instated and to encourage the management of An Post to show faith in the mechanisms of the state, as he has already asked the workers to do. The Minister cannot be seen to have double standards when dealing with such a sensitive issue."

In conclusion, Deputy Crowe said "Sinn Féin will raise this issue in the Dáil when it resumes today." ENDS


Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald will this afternoon deliver a speech in the European Parliament on the case of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane. Ms McDonald said that Sinn Féin was "putting the British Government on notice that it cannot hide the truth from either the Finucane family or the European Parliament for much longer".

Ms McDonald said that she was following up on commitments made to the Finucane family last week, that Sinn Féin would raise the issue in the European Parliament.

Speaking from Brussels Ms McDonald said:

"Sinn Féin will be raising the Finucane case with the European Council, Commission, and Parliament in the near future. However today, I wanted to take this opportunity to initially raise the matter and put the British Government on notice that it cannot hide the truth from either the Finucane family or the European Parliament for much longer.

"For 16 years the family of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane have campaigned for a public enquiry into the circumstances surrounding his murder. During that time, cogent evidence has emerged that the police, British Army, and the intelligence services all colluded in his murder.

"Last Friday (21.01.05), both myself and my colleague Bairbre de Brún met with the wife and family of Pat Finucane. We discussed recent developments in the case and their fear that the British government is continuing to hide the truth of Mr Finucane's murder for its own political reasons. Bairbre and I agreed at the conclusion of the meeting that we would explore ways in which this important case, which has implications for every member state, can be raised at a European level." ENDS


Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has said that a Westminster Public Accounts Committee report into tackling cancer demonstrates that Government policies are failing the less well off in society.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"The deprivation gap in survival between rich and poor was wider for patients diagnosed with cancer in the late nineties than in the late 1980s. Increases in cancer survival during the 1990s are shown to be significantly associated with a widening deprivation gap in survival.

"These inequalities in survival represented many deaths each year which could have been avoided if all cancer patients had had the same chance of surviving up to five years after diagnosis as patients in the most affluent group.

"Contrary to what the British Health minister John Reid asserted last year when he voiced his opposition to a complete ban on smoking, the evidence proves that more people do die in deprived areas because of smoking and also, almost certainly, because of later presentation to health services with their problems.

"Every cancer patient deserves the best possible treatment and care, regardless of where they live. Improving cancer services must become a priority." ENDS

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