Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has welcomed the news that John Spellar is to meet with the family of Peter McBride.
Mr Adams said:
" The McBride family had been keen to meet with Mr Spellar given his role in the Army Board which retained the killers of Peter McBride in the British Army after their murder convictions. Initially Mr Spellar had refused to meet with the McBride family.
" This was an issue which was of concern to nationalists in general and Sinn Féin in particular given that his responsibilities covered Human Rights. We raised this with Mr Spellar and his office on a number of occasions. I welcome the fact that he has now agreed to meet with the McBride family at the earliest opportunity.
" Sinn Féin will be meeting with John Spellar in the near future. At that meeting we will raise a range of issues including the issue of the McBride killers and concerns about recent resignations from the Human Rights Commission." ENDS
The Democratic Challenge
There is no doubt that this new EU draft constitution finally presented last week by convention president Giscard d‚Estaing represents a serious challenge for Irish society. It is a test for the Irish government in that it is they who will have to negotiate through the Inter-Governmental-Conference (IGC) not just on behalf of the 26-Country citizens but ideally on behalf of all the citizens on the island.
In Sinn Féin we are concerned that any new treaty resulting from the IGC discussions will not be put before all the people of the island in a referendum. To have an inclusive informed debate Sinn Féin believes we need not just transparency in terms of what are the government positions entering and during the IGC, but also what sort of engagement do they plan with the Irish people on the issues.
Though the consolidation and simplification of the Treaty is welcome there is a still a job to do in popularising and debating the issues at stake in the draft EU constitution. The question is whether the Dublin Government are up to this democratic challenge of facilitating a really inclusive debate to all parts of Irish society on what sort of Europe we should be part of?
The Sinn Fein view
Whatever form the draft EU constitution finally takes it will play a huge role in the shaping of Ireland over the coming decades. It is because of the seriousness of such an undertaking that Sinn Féin are offering now our first thoughts on the draft EU constitution.
As a party representing voters throughout Ireland and concerned about inequality and exploitation not just here but internationally we have grave concerns about the implications of ratifying a new constitution. Our reading of the constitution leads us to believe that the ongoing process of a developing economic and military superpower emergnstitution rightly commits itself to the eradication of poverty outside its borders but contains no such objective for the citizens inside the internal EU borders. Could the new constitution not commit the EU governments to tackling poverty within its own borders?
In terms of partition, the treaty allows for special provisions for state aid and spending for the costs of re-unifying Germany but not for Ireland where the arguments for funding all-island infrastructure in energy, transport, telecommunications, health and education are compelling.
Sinn Féin wants to be in the forefront of the debate on what type of Europe is best for us all. This discussion document is the first of what will be many interventions over the coming negotiations process.
Sinn Féin believes that democracy is built upon the sovereignty of the people expressed in the form of the democratic nation-state. Democracy is nt of the European Union into a state therefore we do not accept the argument that the EU must have a Constitution.
The Draft Constitution has been portrayed as a necessary consolidation and simplification of existing Treaties. But it is much more than that. The Draft Constitution:
• makes fundamental changes in the structures of the EU
• Gives those structures more powers.
• Gives the EU a single legal personality for the first time
The effect is:
• To shift the balance of power yet further from sovereign national parliaments and towards the EU.
• To take the single biggest step so far in the creation of an EU superstate.
The Draft Constitution has been presented to the Council of Ministers and it will likely be concluded (however tortuously) by member state Governments and the resulting treaty will be put to referendum in the 26 Counties. This means that the people aignty or national self-government.
It says it shall respect "essential State functions" including ensuring the territorial integrity of the State, law and order and internal security.
This Article should be amended to include respect for national sovereignty and self-government. The Constitution should recognise that "the social and economic well-being of their people" are among "essential State functions". This would emphasise the right of states to control their own economies, a right currently undermined by the EU.
Primacy of EU law
Article I-10 states that the Constitution and law adopted by the EU institutions "shall have primacy over the law of the Member States" in exercising competences conferred on the EU. This would firmly establish EU law as superior to national law. While the word 'federal', which appeared in earlier drafts of the document, has been removed, this in efsummoned to court and become a member of international organisations. The result would be greater clarity in relations with the rest of the world, increased effectiveness and legal certainty and more effective action".
Taken together with the new roles of the European Council President, the EU Foreign Minister and the further expansion of common foreign, security and defence policy this is a key article in establishing the EU as a single state, aspiring to be a superpower on the world stage.
We firmly oppose Article I-6 and demand that the Irish Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC)negotiators ensure that it is removed from the Draft Treaty.
Common Foreign and Security Policy
The new EU Constitution will require Ireland to cede most or all of our remaining independence in foreign policy to the EU.
We have already noted that Article I-10 has established the primacy of EU law over member state law in its areas international scene or any commitment which could affect the Union's interests".
These provisions represent major incursions on Irish sovereignty in foreign and defence policy. We firmly oppose the diminution of sovereignty and democratic accountability in relation to foreign affairs entailed in these Articles. Irish IGC negotiators at minimum, must protect Irish exercise of sovereign independence in international affairs by securing an explicit statement that EU competence in foreign policy is a shared competence -- that, like with development cooperation and humanitarian aid, the exercise of EU competence in foreign policy shall not result in Member States being prevented from exercising their competence in foreign policy. They must also ensure the retention and strengthening of the unanimity requirement in both spheres of CFSP, which is undermined by proposals in the draft Constitution.
Militarisation of the EU
Sinn0(2) states that EU defence policies shall not prejudice NATO states - and further, shall be compatible with NATO. However, the special rights and responsibilities of the militarily neutral member states are not explicitly acknowledged, and these states are not specifically exempt from Common Defence requirements.
Article I-40(3) directs that member states contribute forces to a Common Defence and improve their military capabilities. It also establishes a European Armaments Agency, the basis for a European military industrial complex. This is contrary to our belief that multilateral disarmament - and multilateral nuclear disarmament in particular - should be a central goal of both Ireland and the EU.
Article I-40(7) introduces a so-called solidarity clause. It directs that member states must come to the aid of another member when it is "the victim of [an unspecified type of] armed aggression" and that they shall work with NATO. However, this The Union's Institutions
President of the European Council
The Draft Constitution proposes fundamental changes to EU institutions and further centralises power.
Article I-21(1) proposes the new post of permanent President of the European Council (with a renewable two and a half year term of office instead of six-month rotation between member states as at present).
This proposal sets aside the partnership model of the rotating presidency, which guaranteed each state a turn at the presidency, regardless of its size, and puts in place another key characteristic of a single state - a Head of State in all but name, the EU President. For example, Article I-21(2) states that the President will represent the EU "on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy".
This is similar to foreign policy role of the US president. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the presidential proposals are desigelopment, as is any measure that maximises available and enforceable human rights. We are worried that it has not been included in the body of the Draft Constitution. Our concern is that its force may be weakened. We are also concerned that its exclusion from the body of the Draft Constitution means that it could still be rejected by the IGC, while the rest of the Constitution is accepted. Irish IGC negotiators need to ensure that this does not occur.
We find it ironic that in a document that involves huge expansions of the scope of the Union into affairs that were previously the remit of member states, when it comes to fundamental rights, the Constitution is extremely sensitive to national autonomy. It is stated repeatedly throughout the Charter that the protection of rights contained in it is to be "in accordance with national laws and practices". Essential social rights for European workers - such as the right of collective bargaining and action, protection against unjustified dismissal, entitlement to social security benefits and social services - are all subject to this qualification. Similarly, Article II-35 circumscribes the right of access to preventive health care and the right to benefit from medical treatment to 'conditions established by national laws and practices'. In reality, these provisions add nothing to the protection afforded to European workers, but are simply an exercise in paying lip service to these rights.
In relation to the future implementation of the charter, we are concerned that, given the reluctance of the European Court of justice to strike down EU legislation on human rights grounds to date, the Charter does not expressly state that European legislative measures that violate the Charter shall be void. This contrasts with the position under Article 15.4 of Bunreacht na hÉireann, which provides that any law which is in any respect repugnant to the Constitution of Ireland shall be invalid. Irish IGC negotiators should ensure that an equivalent statement should be included in the EU Constitution.
We also have reservations about the content of the Charter. For example, in Article II-36, the Charter states that 'The Union recognises and respects access to services of general economic interest as provided for in national laws and practices'. We believe that this provision may have the potential to undermine the right to legitimate collective action for workers in services deemed to be of 'general economic interest', and should therefore be excised from the draft.
We are also concerned with Article II-16, which establishes the freedom to conduct a business. This article should be clarified. While we accept the right of a person to conduct a business, we are concerned that this article could allow a scenario where the rights of corporations supercede not just the rights of the individual but national ones also. We call on the Irish IGC negotiators to ensure that the economic and social rights of the citizen are paramount.
Article II-41.4, which states that "Every person may write to the institutions of the Union in one of the languages of the Constitution and must have an answer in the same language" is a very important provision, given that Irish is one of the Constitution's languages (Article IV-9). In effect, it may give Irish speakers better rights in this regard vis a vis the European Union than are currently enjoyed vis a vis the Irish State. However, the Constitution still fails to make Irish an official language of the Union, despite ongoing campaigning by Irish speakers on this issue. We call on the Irish IGC negotiators to press for the inclusion of Irish to be included in the Constitution as an official language of the Union.
In discussing competences, Article I-16 states that 'The Union may take supporting, coordinating or complementary action'. Sinn Féin believes that the outline of what constitutes 'areas of supporting, coordinating or complementary action' is too vague and does not comply with the supposed objective of clarity and transparency in relation to the Constitution. A detailed definition of all Union competences (exclusive, shared and what were previously termed "complementary competences") should be contained in the Constitution. In drawing up this definition, Irish IGC negotiators should strive to ensure that complementary action, or at least shared competence, should, in as many cases as possible - and particularly in non-economic spheres, take precedence over exclusive competences. For example, as we have already noted, there is an urgent need to maintain national control over foreign policy and defence.
Sinn Féin supports the principle of subsidiarity and, while challenging the Union's claims to exclusive competence in many areas (see above), welcomes the commitment in Article I-9(3) that, 'in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence the Union shall act only if and insofar as the objectives of the intended action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level'. However, we have concerns as to how this principle is to be enforced. In setting out the practicalities of member states challenging the Union's opinion that it is in compliance with the principle of subsidiarity, Annex II(6) states that if at least one third of states put in a reasoned challenge, then the Commission must review its position. However, it goes on to state that after the review, the Commission may decide to maintain its proposal. Sinn Féin calls upon the Irish IGC negotiators to ensure that states are vested with meaningful sanctions that allow them to effectively challenge the Commission in cases where they believe the Commission is over-stepping its remit.
We also call for the principle of subsidiarity to be extended as far as possible to sub-national levels, and for an expansion of the involvement of local development groups in the management of EU programmes. Real substance needs to be given to the commitment found within the regulations governing rural development programmes, for example, to 'bottom up' development. We are of the firm view that wherever possible, decisions should be taken at the lowest possible level and with the greatest amount of decentralised control. We call on the Irish negotiators to ensure that it is clearly stated that the principle of subsidiarity should include decision-making powers at regional and local levels as well as national.
Sinn Féin welcomes proposals contained in Annex I for the improvement of information coming from the Union to national parliaments. However, we note with concern that, with the exception outlined above, no mention is made of what parliaments can do with the information they receive. Indeed, while the working group on this issue talked vaguely of scrutiny, all mention of the word has been excised in the Draft Constitution. We call on the Irish IGC negotiators to ensure that national parliaments are given clear and meaningful sanctions in relation to Commission proposals.
We also note that the working group's observation that 'many of the measures relating to scrutiny on the national level could also, within each Member State, apply to the substate level' has not been taken up in the Draft Constitution. We believe that inclusion of such a clause would be of considerable benefit to a 6 county assembly, and therefore call upon Irish negotiators to press for such an inclusion.
Freedom, Security and Justice
The pace at which the EU has developed a competence in criminal law over the past decade is staggering. The draft Constitution dramatically increases the European Union's role in this highly sensitive area.
In their final report, the working group in this area stated "there are a number of areas such as cross border crime, asylum policy or control of the unions external borders which cannot be dealt with effectively by States acting on their own, nor is defence against the new terrorism threats compatible with autonomous action at national level". This basic assumption underlines all the arguments used by those who advocate or support integration, or mutual recognition in matters of criminal justice.
Practical examples of the need for such integration are, however, scarce on the ground. While some hope the harmonisation of criminal procedure could result in a levelling up of human rights protection, realistically, a process which is dominated by a Council of Home Affairs and Justice Ministers - with only limited parliamentary scrutiny - is much more likely to result in an erosion of rights.
Our concern with the emerging European criminal justice system is that it will not be a synthesis of the best procedures and protections that currently exist among the member states but will be a new system with increased powers transferred to prosecuting authorities at the expense of individual human rights.
For example, Article III-166(2a) envisages a European Framework Law which would govern the mutual admissibility of evidence between member states. Such a proposal, would most likely result in evidence that is currently inadmissible in the courts of many member states, being deemed admissible, if obtained in another member state. We call on the Irish IGC negotiators to ensure that no provisions within the remit of freedom, security and justice will lead to an erosion of rights currently enjoyed by Irish citizens.
Again, the Constitution undermines the unanimity requirement in this area of competence, and we call on the Irish IGC negotiators to ensure the retention of unanimity in the area of security and justice.
Article III-161 of the Draft Constitution also proposes a common European asylum system. While there is not enough detail in the Article to make a definitive judgement on the issue, those advocating that asylum be dealt with at a European level have yet to conclusively establish in what way minimum human rights standards would be guaranteed. We call on the Irish IGC negotiators to ensure that any provisions under this section ensure that the human rights protection afforded to applicants in the system are equal to or greater than those currently afforded to those within the Irish legal system, and also fully compliant with the UN Convention of Refugees.
There is some confusion as to what sort of economic market is being advocated in the Draft Constitution. Article I-3(2) envisages 'a single market where competition is free and undistorted' to describe the EU. This contradicts Article I-3(3), which calls for a social market economy. An unhindered capitalist market-driven society can neither be described as a social market, nor can it be something desirable to anyone with an interest in equality. We oppose the idea of competition being completely free and unhindered and believe that states should be allowed to exercise democratic control over their economies.
We are concerned that the free market model will emerge dominant from this contradiction, and that economic priorities will continue to outrank social ones. We call on the Irish IGC negotiators to ensure a strengthening of the pre-eminent status of the social market.
In relation to state aid to industries, the provisions in Articles III-53 and 54 do not go beyond the provisions of extant EU treaties. They need to be expanded substantially. Their application to the Irish economy is hampering the funding and development of much needed infrastructure in ICT, transport, energy, environmental waste management and leading to privatisations. Irish IGC negotiators should be looking at broadening out the conditions for state aid. It should be noted that there are already special provisions for subsidizing the reunification of Germany. Irish negotiators should be demanding equivalent provisions for the unification of Ireland.
We are suspicious of the Irish Government's motivations in their negotiations on tax harmonisation. However, on the grounds that it entails the maintenance of some degree of economic sovereignty, we welcome the fact that the draft Constitution does not impose harmonisation and that the Irish Government has boxed this off as an area of core state interest.
Eradication of Poverty
Article I-3(4), which deals with the Union's primary objectives, commits the EU to working for the eradication of poverty in the wider world. This is positive in and of itself but it exposes the fact that such an objective is not listed in Article I-3 as an internal objective of the Union. This is deeply objectionable and brings into question how serious the Union is about tackling poverty within its own borders.
We call on the Irish IGC negotiators to ensure that the elimination of poverty within the EU becomes one of the key objectives of the Union. We also call on the Irish negotiators to ensure that Article I- 3(3) includes a statement guaranteeing citizens a right to access decent education, health care and housing.
• Sinn Féin does not accept the argument that there should be an EU Constitution because we are opposed to the creation of an EU superstate.
• We agree that the simplification and consolidation of existing EU Treaties is necessary but we are opposed to such a process being used to diminish national sovereignty and increase the power of the EU as the Draft does.
• The Draft Constitution would establish the EU as a single State legally and politically and would advance the project to turn the EU into a world power.
• It will enhance the power of the larger states.
• One of the central terms of reference in the Laeken Declaration was that the Convention on the Future of Europe redress the democratic deficit. We conclude that the Convention's draft Constitution has failed in this regard.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has urged the Orange Order to re-assess its attitude to parades through nationalist areas. Offering to meet the leadership of the Orange Order, Mr Adams said that dialogue is the key to mutual understanding and respect and, ultimately, to the resolution of the issue of contentious parades.
Mr Adams call comes after the low key protest at Drumcree and the relatively peaceful Twelfth.
Mr Adams said:
"Sinn Fein is an Irish republican party. We are committed to building a United Ireland in which all sections of the people of this island are comfortable, valued and respected. That includes the significant section of our people who define themselves as British and who identify with Orangism. For this reason, I have always defended the right of Orangemen to march. But this right must be exercised with full respect for the right of others, and in particular, the rights of host communities.
"Those who wish to celebrate the Orange culture must be free to do so but there is no justification for Orange marches taking place where they cause hurt and offence. The reality is that there are areas where Orange marches are regarded as provocative, triumphalist and offensive. The Orange Order do not have to agree with this but should recognise that this is a reality and on that basis should reassess their attitude to parades through nationalist areas.
"At a wider level the Order should review its approach to the nationalist community. Following on from the de-escalation in the Drumcree dispute, the Orange Order now has the space to adopt a new approach which is non-contentious and which is based on dialogue and mutual respect. The Order should begin a process of dialogue with nationalists and republicans to hear and understand their perspective on Orange marches. And, of course, there is a similar responsibility on nationalists and republicans to meet with, listen to and understand the Orange perspective.
" There are only a very few contentious marches each year and we should now set about the task of resolving these through dialogue and agreement. I know that there are difficulties for the Orange Order in all of this but I am available to meet the Orange leadership at any time to facilitate, or as part of, such a process of dialogue." ENDS
Commenting on the report of the Joint Committee at Westminster into the operation of the Human Rights Commission, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the issue Bairbre de Brún said:
"I would welcome the Joint Committees support for greater resources and powers, particularly investigatory powers, for the Human Rights Commission and its view that independence should be introduced into the appointment of Commissioners in line with the Paris Principles. The Joint Committee also makes reference to the need for the Commission to be representative of the community but also that the principal criteria for appointment should be experience, knowledge and expertise in the field of human rights.
"The report expresses concern at the interference by the then RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan into the work and independence of the Commission and the reaction of the Chief Commissioner to such interference. This is a reference to attempts by Mr Flanagan to prevent he Human Rights Commission involving itself in the Holy Cross case in Ardoyne. Sinn Féin shares the concern of the Joint Committee in this matter.
"The views of the Joint Committee echo those expressed by Sinn Féin and by other organisations and individuals working in the field of human rights that Œdiscrimination has been endemic‚, in the north of Ireland and that Œinstitutional sectarianism still persists‚. Indeed the Joint Committee‚s report reflects the concerns of many that the equality and parity of esteem provisions of the Agreement are being undermined by some from within the Human Rights Commission in their attempts to redefine the Framework Convention on National Minorities.
"With regard to the Bill of Rights, we welcome the recommendation that a round table forum should be convened to drive the Bill of Rights process. This should take place immediately.
"The Human Rights Commission is an integral part of the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Féin wants to see the best possible Human Rights Commission in place, one that is truly independent and representative and with the powers and resources to place human rights at the centre of society." ENDS
Sinn Féin's EU candidate for Dublin Marylou McDonald said: "There are a number of key provisions in the draft constitution which give a clear indication of the drive that is on to create a world superpower out of the EU. These provisions include the evolving relationships between the Union and the Member States; the primacy of EU law and the establishment for the first time of a Single Legal Personality for the EU."
She called on the Irish negotiating team to reject the provisions of the draft constitution that allow for the EU to become a single legal entity and that give it primacy in law over national governments.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on International Affairs and the EU Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD commenting on the militarisation of the EU and on security and defence issues said: "Sinn Féin has long warned that the EU is becoming progressively militarised, and predicted that developments pointed towards the establishment of an EU army with both force projection capabilities and an internal security function. Some dismissed this as exaggeration. But the provisions in the draft Constitution confirm our prediction. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
"We believe that it is the duty of Irish IGC negotiators to protect Irish independence in defence policy, and specifically the traditional policies of military neutrality and UN primacy, by at minimum securing a specific article
explicitly recognising the right of those states requiring a UN mandate for military operations. They must also insist that this be given the same weight of recognition as that accorded to the obligations of NATO states.
"In the area of Common Foreign and Security Policy there are a number of provisions in the draft constitution that represents serious incursions on Irish sovereignty in foreign and defence policy. We firmly oppose the diminution of sovereignty and democratic accountability in relation to foreign affairs entailed in these Articles. Irish IGC negotiators at minimum, must protect Irish exercise of sovereign independence in international affairs by securing an explicit statement that development cooperation and humanitarian aid, the exercise of EU competence in foreign policy shall not result in Members states being prevented from exercising their competence in foreign policy. They must also ensure the retention and strengthening of the unanimity requirement in both spheres of CFSP, which is undermined by proposals in the draft Constitution."ENDS
Speaking at today's press conference to launch Sinn Féin's initial response to the draft EU constitution the Party's chairperson, Mitchel McLaughlin said: "This new EU draft constitution represents a serious challenge for Irish society. It is a test for the Irish government in that it is they who will have to negotiate through the Inter-Governmental-Conference (IGC) not just on behalf of the 26-Country citizens but ideally on behalf of all the citizens on the island.
"Our reading of the constitution leads us to believe that the ongoing process of a developing economic and military superpower emerging will be sped up by ratifying an EU constitution. However, we also recognise that there are some positive aspects to this treaty that must be revisited in the coming negotiations process and fleshed out into better proposals.
"Sinn Fein wants to be in the forefront of the debate on what type of Europe is best for us all. We believe that democracy is built upon the sovereignty of the people expressed in the form of the democratic nation-state. Democracy is best exercised at local and national level. We have a policy of critical engagement with the EU.
"Sinn Féin agrees that the simplification and consolidation of existing EU Treaties is necessary. But we are opposed to such a process being used to diminish sovereignty and increase the power of the EU as the Draft Constitution does. We are opposed to the development of the European Union into a state therefore we do not accept the argument that the EU must have a Constitution.
"Notwithstanding our scepticism about the whole notion of a European Constitution, Sinn Féin believes that it is our responsibility to influence the debate and to ensure that the 26 county Government uses its negotiating position to ensure that those anti-democratic elements currently contained in the Draft Constitution are excised."ENDS
Speaking following a presentation to the All-Party Committee on the Constitution by the Auctioneers and Valuers Institute (IAVI), Sinn Féin member of the Committee and spokesperson on Housing, Arthur Morgan T.D. accused the IAVI of having no sense of social responsibility.
Deputy Morgan said
"It is clear from the oral presentation which the IAVI made this morning that they have no sense of social responsibility. Their submission attacks the introduction of social and affordable housing and argues in favour of the liberalisation of property markets.
"This organisation used its presentation to the Committee to promote the interests of international investors over and above the interests of ordinary people who can longer afford to buy a house or pay rents in the private rented sector. The public should be aware that the IAVI is promoting the interest of wealthy property owners and has argued that individual landowners and speculators should not, in the interest of disadvantaged members of the community, be deprived of any of the inflated market price which they get for the land which they have hoarded.
"Ordinary citizens who find themselves at the mercy of speculators will be shocked at the IAVI's attitude which it could be argued is very much driven by the grossly excessive profits which their members have been making from rising house prices" ENDS
Note to Editor
Sinn Féin will make an oral presentation of the Party's submission on Property Rights to the Joint Committee on the Constitution in Leinster House tomorrow morning at 10.30am. The delegation will be led by Sinn Féin councillor John Dwyer from Wexford and will include Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD and Derry MLA Mary Nelis.
Sinn Féin will hold a press conference tomorrow, Tuesday 15th July at 11am in Buswells Hotel, Molesworth Street, to launch its response to the draft EU Constitution. Attending the press conference will be party Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD and Marylou McDonald, Dublin EU candidate.
Speaking before the press conference Ms McDonald said:
"It is impossible to overestimate the impact of the process of Economic and Monetary Union on ordinary peoples lives. The draft EU constitution if adopted will shape the Ireland, north and south, that we will live in for the next ten years. There is an urgent need for a transparent public debate on the implications of the development of the EU and what it will mean for Ireland and the rest of the world.
"Sinn Féin's document 'Should there be an EU Constitution' is our initial response to the draft Constitution. It is both a critique of the Constitution and also contains many specific proposals - issues which we believe that the Irish negotiators should take on board during the forthcoming discussions."ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President and West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty speaking following the launch of the party's submission to the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on Seanad Reform called for citizens of all the 32 Counties, over the age of 16 years, to be allowed vote in future Seanad elections.
Mr. Doherty said:
"Sinn Féin believes that there is a need for the complete overhaul of the Seanad to make it democratic, accountable and relevant. We propose that it is transformed in terms of its membership, its electorate and what it is responsible for.
"We believe that the Seanad should be elected by universal suffrage of citizens of all the 32 counties of Ireland and those resident here for more than 5 years who are over the age of 16 years. Pending the reintegration of the national territory citizens resident in the 6 counties would cast their ballot by postal vote. Emigrants registered with their appropriate Irish Embassy or consulate would be entitled to vote.
"The main function of the Seanad would be scrutiny of national and EU legislation. Senators should be elected from sectoral panels rather than on a party political basis, with these panels representing the community and voluntary sector, culture and education, regional, industrial and commercial and agriculture and fisheries. In order to address the under-representation of women, quotas of at least 30% should operate across each panel.
"Now is the time to overhaul the Seanad as the second house of the Oireachtas. It is time that it is elected by people from across the island and it is time for its members to be truly representative of the entire country and not elites within it."ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this afternoon contacted the Irish government asking that they immediately intervene to secure the release of Belfast man Sean O Muireagain, who was arrested by Israeli forces in the West Bank at the weekend.
Mr. Adams said that Sinn Féin had also been in touch with the Israeli Embassy in Dublin to voice the party's concern and to call for Mr. O Muireagain's release.
Mr. Adams said:
"Sean O Muireagain is a well known Irish language activist in Belfast and there is a lot of concern among his family and friends at his arrest in the West Bank at the weekend.
"Sinn Féin has been in contact with the Irish government and the Israeli Embassy in Dublin voicing our concern about his arrest and calling for Sean O Muireagain to be immediately released."ENDS
Commenting on tonight's Panorama programme Sinn Féin MP Martin Mc Guinness said that the scandalous attack on his character has no basis in fact and is entirely without foundation.
Mr Mc Guinness said:
"The substance of Panorama's programme is entirely false. My legal representatives have already been in contact with the programme makers and have refuted in the most forthright terms these groundless allegations. I am now considering my legal options in this regard.
"This type of political bias and black propaganda targetting of Sinn Féin in general and the Sinn Fein leadership in particular has stretched back over many years and comes as no surprise to Irish Republicans. But in the context of the Peace Process, in which Sinn Fein has been central, the motivation for this type of black propaganda has to be questioned by responsible journalists." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin today released the party's recent submission to the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on Seanad Reform. In it Sinn Féin describes the Seanad as it is currently constituted as "fundamentally undemocratic and elitist". It calls for it to be reformed so that it would "afford a role for civic society, and provide for fuller representation of all sectors of society in the legislative process".
Among the main recommendations are that:
· The Seanad would be elected by universal suffrage of citizens of the 32 counties over the age of 16 years.
· Emigrants would be entitled to a vote
· The Taoiseach would not be entitled to nominate to the Seanad
· Senators would be elected from Sectoral panels rather than political parties
· The elections would be by Proportional representation
· The main function would be scrutiny of national and EU legislation
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"Sinn Féin has put forward these proposals because we want the creation of a reformed, democratic, transparent, accountable and relevant second house of parliament. We need a forum that will provide for the fullest possible representation of all sectors of society in the legislative process. We need to move beyond party politics so that the second house is not just a duplication of the Dáil." ENDS
Table of contents
2. Summary of recommendations for reform of Seanad
3. Composition of Seanad
4. Nomination Process
5. Functions of Seanad
6. Summary of recommendations of functions of Seanad
Sinn Féin believes that the Seanad as it is currently constituted is fundamentally undemocratic and elitist. It duplicates the role of the Dáil. Sinn Féin envisages the creation of a reformed, democratic, transparent, accountable, and relevant second house of parliament.
Sinn Féin envisages a democratically elected Seanad which would afford a role for civic society, and provide for fuller representation of all sectors of society in the legislative process.
In examining options for reform of the Seanad, we re-considered as a first option the abolition of the Seanad. This option was rejected on the basis that one house does not adequately represent all sections of the Irish population and a second house could be constituted so as to represent those not adequately represented in the Dáil.
Sinn Féin believes that it is beneficial for the democratic nature of government to have an upper and a lower house of parliament in that it provides a system of checks and balances on government legislation and policy.
Beyond Party Politics
The option of a national list system, as recommended in the 7th Progress Report of the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution was also considered. Arguments in favour of this option included that it would allow all parties to present themselves as an option nationally thus benefiting smaller parties who would not necessarily have the resources to run in all constituencies. The argument was also made that a benefit of this method of election would be that it would be non-clientelist.
The national list system was rejected on the basis that it would not involve a radical reform of the Seanad, would not provide for greater representation of civic society and would result in a Seanad which would in its composition be a duplication of the Dáil.
A new beginning
Sinn Féin asserts that the Seanad should be elected on a sectoral panel system. There are a number of advantages to this system. It would be radically different in composition to the other house of parliament i.e. the Dáil, thereby ensuring that civic society and specifically those marginalized in society, would have a role in the legislative process. An outline of our proposal for a Seanad elected on a sectoral panel system follows.
2. Summary of recommendations for reform of Seanad
· The Seanad would be elected by universal suffrage of citizens of the 32 counties of Ireland and those resident therein for more than 5 years who are over the age of 16 years. Pending the reintegration of the national territory citizens resident in the 6 counties would cast their ballot by postal vote.
· Emigrants registered with their appropriate Irish Embassy or consulate would be entitled to vote.
· The election would not take place on the same day as the Dáil election.
· There would be no provision for nomination by An Taoiseach.
· Senators would be elected from sectoral panels rather than on a party political basis.
· Election would be by proportional representation single transferable vote on each panel.
· The main function of the Seanad would be scrutiny of national and EU legislation.
3. Composition of Seanad
The current system is legislated for under the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Act, 1947 and the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Act, 1954.
Sinn Féin proposes a Seanad based on a sectoral panel system elected by universal suffrage of citizens of the 32 counties of Ireland and those resident therein for more than five years, who are over the age of 16 years.
The Seanad is currently elected by an undemocratic limited franchise panel system and the panels are constituted as follows:
· Cultural and Educational
· Agriculture Panel
· Labour Panel
· Industrial and Commercial Panel
· Administrative Panel
There are also reserved seats for those elected by graduates of certain third-level institutions.
Sinn Féin proposes retaining a 60-member assembly. The outline of panels would be as follows
1. Community and Voluntary Panel (including geographical communities and communities of interest)
2. Cultural and Educational Panel (including but not limited to arts, language, sports and students organisations)
3. Local and Regional Panel (for example representatives of community councils as recognised under Better Local Government, regional bodies etc.)
4. Labour Panel
5. Industrial and Commercial Panel
6. Agricultural and Fisheries Panel
In order to address the under-representation of women, quotas of at least 30% would operate across each panel.
4. Nomination Process
All organisations who seek accreditation as a nominating body must apply to a 'Seanad Panel Accreditation Committee' before they can nominate a person to stand in the appropriate panel. It should be open to all bodies, other than political parties, to apply for such accreditation. An organisation would have to seek accreditation at least six months prior to an election.
Guidelines for accreditation would be laid out in legislation i.e. amendments to the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Acts.
Each nominating body would only be permitted to nominate one person to one panel.
Arguments will be made by opponents of this system that it is cumbersome, however we contend that it is possible to overcome these difficulties. Any difficulties arising are far outweighed by the democratic and inclusive benefits of the sectoral panel system.
5. Functions of Seanad
Sinn Féin envisages that the main role of the Seanad would be scrutiny. It would scrutinise draft domestic legislation and furnish reports to the Dáil, including specific recommendations for amendment, withdrawal, further consultation, impact assessment, fast-track progress, etc.
It would be responsible for checking legislative proposals against the constitutional and other rights of citizens, and also against Ireland's international obligations.
Sinn Féin proposes significant changes to current legislative stages. Prior to consideration by the Dáil, all proposed legislation would first pass scrutiny by the Seanad, to be known hereafter as the 'Seanad Stage'.
All legislation would pass through the following stages:
· First Stage Publication (Dáil)
· Seanad Stage (Seanad) ? see below
· Second Stage Debate (Dáil)
· Committee Stage (Dáil)
· Report Stage/ Final Stage (Dáil)
The new "Seanad Stage" would include a community consultation process. Following this consultation, the Seanad would debate the bill and consider amendments. At the conclusion of this Stage, the Seanad would agree the amendments it would recommend to the Dáil.
The Seanad would have a responsibility to equality-proof and human rights-proof proposed legislation.
The Seanad could recommend withdrawal of legislation.
The Dáil must take cognisance of the Seanad Report when debating the bill in Second Stage, and subsequently.
If the Government ignores the Seanad recommendations, this could be grounds for a no-confidence vote. The President can also use this as a reason to refer legislation when presented.
The Seanad would have the right to question Ministers on legislation.
The Seanad would also scrutinise proposed European legislation and furnish reports to the Oireachtas including recommendations for amendment, withdrawal, further consultation, impact assessment, fast-track progress, etc.
The Seanad would have the ability to permit MEPs to attend and speak, without voting rights, at Seanad debates on European issues or on legislation resulting from the transposition of EU directives.
Legislation which needs to be amended: 1947 Act (sections 33 & 43) Seanad Electrol (panel members) act 1954
6. Summary of recommendations on functions of Seanad
· The main role of the Seanad would be scrutiny.
· The Seanad would be required to furnish reports to the Dáil on all legislation it has scrutinised, including the equality-proofing and human rights-proofing of all legislation.
· Significant changes to current legislative stages would be necessary.
· The Seanad would have the right to question Ministers.
· The Seanad would have the ability to permit MEPs to attend and speak.
Sinn Féin Press Office
Tel: (353 1) 618 4276
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Email: [email protected]
For immediate release ˆ July 11th, 2003
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Natural Resources Martin Ferris TD has questioned the benefit of the potentially massive oil find at the Dooish Well off the North West coast. Deputy Ferris was speaking following the announcement that the find could be worth as much as €10.4 billion.
Deputy Ferris said:
"At the present time, such a find would be of almost no benefit to the people of Ireland. I say this because of the scandalous conditions that apply to multi-national exploration companies such as Shell who operate here. Almost uniquely in the world, this Government has no stake in any oil or gas find, and the companies pay no royalties. When one looks at the benefits which have accrued to states like Norway which have maintained some control, the differences are stark.
"A number of years ago former Energy Minister Frank Fahy said that if oil were to be found in the Rockall Basin then the state would consider changing those terms. In the light of this find, I would call on him and other members of this Government to do just that. Otherwise, the vast wealth from our seas will be taken up, shipped abroad, and we will be left with nothing". ENDS
Sinn Féin is today formally opening its new office in Galway City. The official opening is being performed by the party's Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD. Speaking at the event, Deputy Ó Caoláin said Sinn Féin is the fastest growing party in the West of Ireland and "offered the only real alternative to the failed polices of the establishment parties who have let down the people of the West".
As he was in Galway, the home of the Irish language TV station TG4, Deputy Ó Caoláin also took the opportunity to call on the British government to live up to its Good Friday Agreement commitments to make the television station accessible to all areas of the Six Counties saying it was a matter of "equal rights" for Irish language speakers. He also called for the British government to urgently establish a properly resourced Irish language TV and radio fund for the Six Counties. He said:
"The opening of the new Sinn Féin office in Galway is another demonstration of the accelerating growth of our party throughout the 32 Counties. In the last three years Sinn Féin in County Galway alone has developed from three cumainn to ten. That growth is matched throughout Cúige Connacht.
"The people of the West of Ireland continue to be sold short by the Fianna Fáil/PD government. Like successive administrations they have failed to decentralize economic development from the east and south. Health services are in crisis as witnessed by the closure of Tuam Hospital. The transport infrastructure is totally inadequate and our natural resources like Corrib Gas have been virtually given away to multinational corporations.
"People quite rightly feel cheated by the broken promises of the FF/PD government. While many people have become disillusioned with politics as a result, many have also become more politicized and are looking to Sinn Féin for leadership. We are determined to provide that leadership as we work towards the unification of our island and our people and the building of an Ireland of Equals."
Speaking in relation to the funding of Irish language TV and Radio production the Cavan/Monaghan TD said that "here in Galway TG4 has shown tremendous innovation and ingenuity from the very start and they are to be commended for their consistently high production values and output. It is clear that direct funding from the Irish Government has played a crucial part in this. However, I would like to take this opportunity to address the situation regarding funding for Irish language TV and radio production in the Six Counties and indeed the promises to make TG4 accessible to all areas of the north. The British Government has not lived up to its commitments under the Good Friday Agreement in this regard. This is a question of equality and parity of esteem. They need as a matter of urgency to establish a properly resourced Irish-Language fund for TV and radio production in the Six Counties as well as making TG4 accessible so that the growing body of Irish language speakers there can access this important media source through their native tongue. This isn't about special rights and entitlements for Irish language speakers - this is about equal rights." ENDS
Reacting to the proposals announced this evening by Minister Seamus Brennan to break up Aer Rianta into three companies for Cork, Dublin and Shannon, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Transport Seán Crowe said it was 'a massive backward step, which will end up seriously damaging the island economy'.
Deputy Crowe said:
"Just a year ago when he took on the Transport brief Seamus Brennan claimed that he had no ideological position on privatisation but everything he has done in office since then has shown the opposite to be true. It is bad enough that he is ramming privatisation through at CIE and now Aer Rianta. What is worse is that in each case there has been little real discussion and no worker consultation. It makes a mockery of the partnership process.
"Aer Rianta is a profitable company, so profitable that the Government is looking for a 20% dividend on the E36 million net profit made by the company last year. Dublin Airport was one of the three highest growth airports in Europe and one of only seven of the top twenty European airports to report annual growth in the year ending October 2002. It has encouraged the development of Shannon Airport by spending more than 60 times per passenger promoting Shannon than Dublin Airport.
"As a state depending on its ability to import and export for economic prosperity, efficient management of the transport infrastructure is a priority. It is clear that there are flaws in the how airports are managed and run in Ireland but break up and privatisation is not the solution. This strategy will fail. It will cost jobs and damage the economy
"We want vibrant, dynamic well run public sector companies that will benefit all of the economy not private sector concerns driven by short term profits and little focus on the bigger picture. Aer Rianta should be growing into an all-Ireland company with greater focus on developing regional air facilities, not be carved up for a fire sale"ENDS
Sinn Féin Councillors Alex Maskey and John O‚Dowd this morning launched an anti-racist charter for local councils and their members to sign up to. This initiative follows an increasing number of violent racist attacks in recent times and is an attempt to present a united political front to challenge those involved in these attacks.
Cllr. Maskey said:
"In recent times there has been a marked increase in the volume of racially motivated attacks, particularly here in Belfast and in parts of Upper Bann and in the activities of various right wing groupings. Those of us in political leadership have a responsibility to challenge this directly.
"This charter does not pretend to be a solution to these attacks or this activity. But we hope that it can become part of a political response to the upsurge in racism we are experiencing at this time.
„"Political parties have to make it clear that there is no place in our society for the sort of racism and intolerance which has sadly been on the increase.
"The Good Friday Agreement is about creating a tolerant and peaceful society, not simply for nationalists, republicans, unionists or loyalists but for all who live here.
"Sinn Féin will continue to meet with and engage with ethnic minority communities across the island and we will continue to confront and challenge racism from whatever quarter." ENDS
Anti-Racism Charter for Councils and Members
This Council and its elected members who are signatories to this charter undertake to ensure that it‚s day-to-day activities are conducted in such as way that they do not incite hatred or prejudice on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, religious or political belief, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or membership of the Traveller community.
The Council and its elected members agree:
To send a consistent and clear message to their constituents that racism cannot be accepted or tolerated.
To challenge publicly and actively, any campaign materials or statements which incite hatred or express any form of prejudice on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, religious or political belief, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or membership of the Traveller community.
To ensure that all debates which bare reference to any groups or individuals who may be potential targets of racism, such as Minority Ethnic groups, Asylum Seekers, Refugees, Immigration Detainees and Migrant Workers, are conducted in a responsible way and with respect to the dignity and rights of all.
To use appropriate and inclusive language when referring to people of different Ethnic backgrounds.
To sign the following Declaration on Anti-Racism.
Declaration on Anti-Racism
As a member of this Council, I reaffirm:
Its commitment to work for the benefit of all in our constituency to enjoy equal rights and to be treated with equal respect regardless of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, religious or political belief, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or membership of the Traveller community.
Its commitment to working for, and maintaining a community free from intolerance on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, religious or political belief, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or membership of the Traveller community.
Its commitment to publicly challenging all forms of racism and to work with our constituents to eliminate it from our society.
Council condemns racial intolerance in any form as incompatible with our basic human rights and right to equality.
Sinn Féin Spokespersons on Agriculture and Rural Development Martin Ferris TD and Assembly Member Gerry McHugh have called on the British and Irish Governments to conduct a joint approach to the implementation of the CAP reform proposals agreed in Luxembourg on June 26. They have also called on the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to initiate a consultation process similar to that taking place in the 26 Counties.
Deputy Ferris and Mr McHugh said:
"We welcome the decision of the Department of Agriculture in Dublin to initiate this consultation process. Sinn Féin will be presenting our detailed proposals which will outline how we believe the reforms can be made work in the best interests of all Irish farmers. However, it is also vital that similar packages are implemented on both sides of the border. Otherwise, the current problems presented by having two separate administrations over such a vital sector will be made even worse.
"To avoid this, we are calling on both Governments to consult closely and to ensure that whatever decisions are reached will be complementary and of benefit to the majority of farmers in both areas. We note that Minister Pearson has claimed that he secured what he termed 'regional flexibility' for the Six Counties in the Luxembourg Agreement. We now call on him to go one step further and to recognise that that 'region' is in fact the island of Ireland, and that a common approach needs to be taken to the problems facing agriculture on the whole of this island". ENDS
Sinn Féin Upper Bann representative and equality spokesperson Dr. Dara O'Hagan is meeting with officials from the Office of First Minister/Deputy First Minister today, to discuss the ongoing review of the Equality Commission. Speaking in advance of the meeting Dr O'Hagan said:
"Today's meeting is part of a series of meetings that Sinn Féin is having with the Equality Commission and OFM/DFM. We will be raising a number of concerns about the Equality Commission and the manner in which the equality agenda is being dismantled.
"The establishment of the Equality Commission was a cornerstone of the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Féin had argued for a dedicated Equality Department and Ministry within the Executive. Instead the Equality Commission was established and charged with driving and implementing that agenda.
" Five years on we have identified that the Commission, by its own deficiencies in management, in decisions it has taken and by dint of the fact that it has not fully exercised its powers or been adequately resourced, is not sufficiently impacting on the deep rooted inequalities that exist within our society.
"A review of the Equality Commission is currently being undertaken under the auspices of OFM/DFM. I will be raising a number of issues with officials from OFM/DFM including the fact that elected representatives and stakeholders from within the equality constituency were not notified that this review was taking place.
"The Commissions monitoring systems are deficient. As public representatives we have experienced ongoing difficulties in terms of soliciting information from the Commission about the categories of cases affected by their decision to withdraw assistance or refuse to grant funding for legal cases. This demonstrates that some five years on, the Commission has not put in place adequate monitoring systems to track the impact of decisions it takes as a Commission, never mind the impact of discriminatory practices by others.
" Sinn Féin is of the view that the Review Team should also be examining the role of OFM/DFM which has a responsibility to monitor the effectiveness of the Equality Commission. This review needs to be pro-active and include stakeholders in the Equality constituency to elicit a range of views, otherwise the review will be looked on as a white wash.
" Sinn Féin along with many others who work in the equality field, has serious concerns that a minimalist approach to equality is being adopted by the Commission and its parent department, OFM/DFM. Indeed there are fears that modest gains made are being rolled back. This is not acceptable. Equality remains a central plank of the Good Friday Agreement. Five years on we should be further along the path to eradicating discrimination and inequality." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and anti-Sellafield campaigner Arthur Morgan T.D. has travelled to France in an attempt the link the nuclear reprocessing plant, COGEMA La Hague, with the campaign to have Sellafield shut down.
Speaking from France, the Louth Sinn Féin T.D. said
"COGEMA La Hague in North West France has been contributing to the contamination of our coastline with radioactive material since it entered service in 1966, in the same way that radioactive emissions from Sellafield has been contaminating the Nordic countries. It is clear that even if Sellafield was closed COGEMA La Hague would represent a continuing threat to our people's health. For this reason I have travelled to France to see at first hand the monster that is the source of the pollution.
"With 5,500 employees COGEMA La Hague is a much lager plant than Sellafield yet people in Ireland have very little awareness of the risks that this nuclear reprocessing plant poses to their health. I have come here to highlight those dangers and in attempt the broaden the anti-Sellafield campaign to include the closure of COGEMA La Hague.
"Officials here play down the dangers posed by the plant in much the same way as those at Sellafield, however they have admitted to me that they don't know what is going to happen to the waste they have produced.
"I am particularly concerned that a waste pipe from this plant goes 4 km out into the sea, posing serious dangers particularly to the South East Coast of Ireland.
"The Government must recognise the dangers from this reprocessing plant in North West France and target it as well as Sellafield". ENDS