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Ógra Shinn Féin has today urged voters to reject the forthcoming Citizenship Referendum on June 11th. Ógra made the call during its launch of its manifesto for 2004 in Buswell's Hotel, Dublin (02.06.04). Speaking during the launch, Sinn Féin candidate for Rathfarnham Sorcha Ni Chormaic - said that they are "urging people to vote No to the Government's flawed, ill-conceived and ultimately racist referendum."

Ms Ni Chormaic stated:

"The Government's racist and reactionary referendum to impose restrictions on Irish citizenship must be rejected. The referendum is in violation of the Good Friday Agreement and is a betrayal of the 1916 Proclamation.

"We utterly reject the Government‚s contention that this proposal is either necessary or desired. If this is passed, two children born in the same hospital ward on the same day could be deemed to have different constitutional rights. These children will be denied the same status or rights.

"The Human Rights Commission has found that Minister McDowell's so-called facts and evidence‚ used to back up his case for a referendum were not adequately researched or analysed. It has also said that the government should have consulted with other parties to the Good Friday Agreement on the impact of the referendum on the Agreement.

"Ógra Shinn Féin is urging people to vote No to the Government‚s flawed, ill-conceived and ultimately racist referendum." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Councillor Matt Carthy speaking at the launch of the party's Youth Manifesto for the Local Government and EU election campaigns said "this is a manifesto written by and for young people. It sets out our demands for Irish Unity, for youth rights and against racism and sectarianism." Cllr Carthy attacked the government's arrogance and described the holding of the elections and referendum on a Friday as a deliberate attempt to prevent young people from voting. He called on young people to come out and vote on June 11th.

Cllr. Carthy said:

"Thousands of young people have come on the voters register since the last Local Government and European elections and their votes will be critical in deciding who will represent them at local and European level. Our task in the final two weeks of the campaign is to convince young people that their vote does matter and that if they stay at home those who want status quo will decide for them.

"This Youth Manifesto is a manifesto written by and for young people. It sets out our demands for Irish unity, for youth rights and against racism and sectarianism. We are demanding that young people be treated as equals in society and have a proper say in decisions that effect our daily lives.

"The Fianna Fáil/PD government have a very different attitude. They have ignored youth issues for the last seven years and they couldn‚t even facilitate young people on election day. Instead they are holding the elections in the middle of the Leaving Cert and on a Friday and closing the polls at 9pm ˆ making it difficult for young people to vote.

" Ógra Shinn Féin is the fastest growing youth political grouping on the island. We are an active youth organisation. We believe that young people can deliver change. They can make a difference. But to do so young people must vote for a party that can deliver change, for a party that is genuinely different. In Sinn Fein they see a radical political party. They sense change coming, great change, and they want to be a part of it."

Among the priorities of Ógra Shinn Féin are:

  • Irish Unity and Independence
  • A no vote in the government‚s racist and reactionary referendum
  • Opposition to Shannon airport being used for the US war effort
  • Support for positive neutrality
  • All future elections and referendums should be held at weekends
  • The reduction of the voting age to 16
  • Funding should directed at tackling inequality at all levels of the education system
  • Student grants should be increased to social welfare levels
  • Children‚s rights to be properly protected in law
  • Minimum wage to increased substantially
  • Establishment of a state insurance company that will have a particular emphasis on providing third party motor insurance and put an end to the rip off of drivers based on their age
  • Citizens in the Six Counties to be afforded the right to vote in the Presidential elections

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Download Ógra Shinn Féin Manifesto 2004 here

Ógra Shinn Féin Manifesto 2004

Ógra Shinn Féin is the youth section of Sinn Féin. We are committed to the establishment of a 32-county democratic socialist republic. Our guiding philosophy is that all the people who inhabit the island of Ireland have a right to live in a society based upon the principle of equality.

Participation in politics

Young people are interested in political issues, but many feel that politicians don't represent their interests. This does not mean that our young people are apolitical. The willingness of so many young people to participate in political action was illustrated by the huge numbers who protested against the war in Iraq.

Ógra Shinn Féin aims to build a broad movement of young people working towards a more equitable society. We have been expanding our structures to achieve this, and there are now youth liaison officers across the country, five regional youth officers and a national executive.

Decisions are taken by government that affect young people, and to not have young people represented at that level is discriminatory. Young people have to live with the decisions of government and it stands to reason that they should also be involved in them.

We believe a number of areas need to be addressed to give young people a fairer stake in Irish society and to reverse the disillusionment and disenfranchisement felt by many.

Principles in practice

Equality demands social and economic policies to empower those who are marginalised in Ireland. Such policies could include:

  • increased state involvement and control over key sectors of the economy;
  • the participation of workers;
  • the promotion of cooperatives;
  • a much higher minimum wage;
  • improvements in social welfare benefits; and
  • a free and decently funded national health service.

Campaigning for change

Ógra Shinn Féin is involved in highlighting the prohibitive cost of car insurance for young people, the inadequacy of student grants and support mechanisms and in calling attention to the high rate of suicide among young males.

Ógra is also campaigning against drugs, in support of the worldwide anti-globalisation movement, and in support of a campaign for a higher minimum wage.

Respecting our diversity

All of the inhabitants of Ireland should have the right to Irish citizenship. Ireland should be a beacon of hope to oppressed peoples everywhere. Racist immigration laws cannot be tolerated and must be opposed.

The various religious, linguistic, political and ethnic differences of Irish people should be respected and no one conception of 'Irishness' should be promoted over another. This has an obvious importance to the unionist population of the North of Ireland.

Sectarianism and racism must be rejected.

We reject patriarchal structures enforced upon women, inside and outside the home, and commit ourselves to the promotion of equal opportunity in all areas of life for all women in Ireland.

Gay relationships should have the same status and legitimacy in the eyes of the law as any other, and gay couples should enjoy the same legal rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

Reject the Referendum

The government's racist and reactionary referendum to impose restrictions on Irish citizenship must be rejected. The referendum is in violation of the Good Friday Agreement and is a betrayal of the 1916 Proclamation.

We utterly reject the Government's contention that this proposal is either necessary or desired. If this is passed, two children born in the same hospital ward on the same day could be deemed to have different constitutional rights. These children will be denied the same status or rights.

The Human Rights Commission has found that Minister McDowell's so-called facts and 'evidence' used to back up his case for a referendum were not adequately researched or analysed. It has also said that the government should have consulted with other parties to the Good Friday Agreement on the impact of the referendum on the Agreement.

Ógra Shinn Féin is urging people to vote No to the Government's flawed, ill-conceived and ultimately racist referendum.

Government lacks political will

The current attitude to youth work says that we must make do with what we have and continue to allow young people to fall through the cracks. The government lacks the political will to address the fundamental inequalities in Irish society. Last year's government decision to cut Corporation Tax is estimated to have cost us •350 million, in a state that already has the lowest tax take in Europe.

Why are our prisons filled with young people, mostly from deprived backgrounds, without educational qualifications or income, while none of the tax evaders or corrupt politicians are in prison?

Young people are sick of a corrupt political system that is unwilling to correct itself but is always willing to imprison the young, without addressing the dire social and economic circumstances that are a huge contributory factor to the causes of crime.

Ógra Shinn Féin supports the vital work of youth groups throughout the country and has been to the fore in campaigns against student poverty, for an increase in financial assistance and other targeted measures to tackle inequality in accessing education.

Ógra also recognises the need to support young people getting their own homes. We deplore the government's changes to the council housing requirements, designed to force young people out of their parents' home, even while the government's friends in the property industry manipulate house prices to force young people out of the market.

Access to Education

Juts 2% of full time students in the top ten 26-County colleges and institutes come from households where their parents were semi skilled or manual unskilled workers. Yet as a percentage of the population, these households make up more than 25% of the workforce.

Those from the poorest households in the 26 Counties are 16 times more likely to leave school without sitting the Leaving Certificate than those from the wealthiest households.

Those from the poorest households are also four times more likely to get insufficient points to get to third level and three times less likely to go even if they had the necessary points.

According to the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), the maximum grant available to third level students does not even cover the accommodation costs of students who have to leave home for college.

Spending on disadvantage represents less than 5% of the education budget at first and second level.

All our children have the right to a top quality education, but too many are receiving second-class treatment because of government policy.

Ógra believes that funding should be directed at tackling inequality at all levels of the education system. As part of this, we are calling for the current student grant to be increased to social welfare levels.

Children's rights

Cherishing all of the children of the nation equally is a central tenet of republicanism, but Ireland's child poverty rates and the gap between rich and poor are the largest in Europe. This government has presided over one of the most unequal periods in Irish history. Those who can afford private schooling are many times more likely to achieve third level education, and there are still sections of society for whom college education is a pipe dream.

Children's rights must be protected in law. One in four Irish children live in poverty and we have one of the highest levels of child abuse in Europe.

Ógra proposes that:

  • parents be made aware of the dangers of smacking and shaking children;
  • children be empowered to speak out about any abuse they may suffer; and
  • proper support systems are provided.

A President for All

Ógra Shinn Fein is calling on the Dublin government to allow citizens living in the Six Counties to vote in the Presidential Elections.

As a step towards the reunification of our country, we believe that citizens living in the North should have the right to choose a President to represent the whole of the island of Ireland.

At present, we have a President who was born in Belfast; but the very people who grew up with her (and still live in Belfast) cannot vote for her!

Extending voting rights in Presidential elections to the Six Counties is a step towards a more inclusive society. We will only have a President who can truly represent the whole of Ireland when he or she is elected by all the people of Ireland.

Positive Neutrality in Action

The decision to hand over Shannon Airport for the US war effort in Iraq has demonstrated exactly what this government thinks about Irish neutrality. They have ignored the protests of ordinary people and have jeopardised Irish neutrality to an unprecedented and disgraceful extent.

Ógra Shinn Féin proposes an independent and progressive Irish international relations policy that opposes military alliances and works for international co-operation and conflict negotiation. That policy should be directed towards creating democratic social change and respect for human rights, universal demilitarisation and nuclear disarmament.

To this end, neutrality should be enshrined in the Irish Constitution and codified in legislation. We should have no involvement with the EU Rapid Reaction Force or NATO's Partnership for Peace.

Irish troops should train and serve abroad only under the auspices and leadership of the United Nations.

We are totally opposed to the use of Irish airports, airspace, seaports, or territorial waters for preparation for war or other armed conflict by foreign powers.

We also want to see an end to Irish involvement in the arms trade and profit from war.

Proposals for change

We believe a number of other areas also need to be addressed to give young people a fairer stake in Irish society and to reverse the disillusionment and disenfranchisement felt by many.

Disenfranchisement

For years, the National Youth Council of Ireland and the Union of Students in Ireland have been lobbying for Saturday voting. Tens of thousands of young voters are disenfranchised because they cannot get home to vote or because they are studying and working such long hours that time off to vote is a pipe dream.

  • Ógra Shinn Féin is calling for all future elections and referendums to be held at weekends.

Homelessness

Despite promises fromFianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, housing waiting list and homelessness has increased and young people make up a substantial proportion of those on the streets.

  • Ógra Shinn Féin is demanding a statutory agency to identify public building that are underutilised and make them available as temporary accommodation for people currently sleeping rough.

Employment

Young people are working in ever greater numbers and making a significant contribution to the Irish economy's growing wealth. However they are often working in difficult conditions, on low wages, with no sick or holiday pay and little real recognition of the anti-social hours or long shifts they put in.

We need to protect our young workers and ensure that their first employment experiences are not exploitative ones. The minimum wage needs a huge upward rise and the rights of young people in the workplace need urgent protection.

  • Ógra Shinn Féin is calling for the minimum wage to be increased substantially.

Motor Insurance

Young motorists are charged premiums that are not remotely reflective of the costs of actually insuring them but little has been done by government except to allow the continued exploitation of young drivers.

  • Ogra Shinn Féin is calling for the establishment of a state-sponsored body to provide third party motor insurance and put an end to the rip-off of drivers based on their age.

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Sinn Fein's candidate for Dublin in the forthcoming European Elections Mary Lou McDonald has called for a greater focus on 'the dangers of drug abuse on the roads' following reports in today's Irish Independent that huge numbers of drivers are under the influence of illegal drugs. Ms McDonald went on to describe as 'truly appalling' the claim in the report that prosecutions are a rarity.

Ms McDonald said: "Following the most extensive survey of motorists in Europe the relevation that there has been a massive increase in the number of drivers who tested positive for driving under the influence of illegal drugs such as cannabis and increasingly cocaine will come as little surprise to many Dubliners. In many communities across the city local people have a great deal more of unwanted experience with drugs than they would like.

"What is truly appalling about the report is that it seems prosecutions for these offences are a rarity, with no proper structure in place to bring these people to justice despite the grave threat they pose both to themselves and other road users. With seven out of ten drivers testing positive for one or more drugs but negative for alcohol the scale of the problem is staggering. It is particularly noteworthy that one quarter of all male drivers under 25 are testing positive.

"Since being appointed the Minister for Justice has been all talk and little action on a wide range of issues while men and women are dying on Irish roads in increasing numbers. While the focus on drink driving has been welcome, it is clearly long past time for the Government to focus on the dangers of drug abuse on the roads." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for Louth Arthur Morgan, during Private Members' time today berated the Government for its failure with regard to balanced rural development, pointing to rising unemployment and calling the National Spatial Strategy "strong on commitments, weak on delivery"

Deputy Morgan said: "Current government policies based on laissez-faire economics is bringing about the destruction of rural Ireland as it is failing to ensure sufficient employment and income opportunities, failing to ensure balanced regional development and failing to maintain public services in rural areas. The border region is amongst the worst in terms of unemployment. Recent census figures found that Carndonagh, Castleblayney and Dundalk all have a rate of unemployment of a least 19% compared with 4.5 % nationally - this is an indictment of the coalition government, particularly coming off the back of the economic boom of recent years.

"The National Spatial Strategy, which was supposed to address the imbalance in employment, was strong on commitments, weak on delivery. The three main gateway centres into rural Ireland in the National Development Plan are Galway, Waterford and Limerick. The importance of these was re-emphasised with the launch of the National Spatial Strategy in November 2002. They were seen as the keys to increasing the economic attractiveness of the regions in which they are situated. In each of those cities, unemployment has risen since 2002. Of the nine hub centers, seven have seen the numbers of jobless rise, some by alarming levels. This makes a nonsense of the Government's claim that the National Spatial Strategy is a success. Publishing it may have been a success but it is clearly not being implemented.

"We need to recognise that encouraging entrepreneurship, indigenous industry and the social economy provide the best opportunities for job creation in rural areas. We need to move away from our over-dependence on multi-nationals who, after receiving huge grants to set up, pull out after a number of years leaving an area devastated. We must recognise that a small community, which becomes dependent on one large industry, is in a very precarious position. We need to support small businesses that can often generate small profits but a lot of local employment and which are often overlooked by the industrial development agencies.

"Women have also remained disempowered in rural Ireland because of the Government's failure to ensure gender balance on Rural Development bodies such as LEADER and CLAR. It has disgracefully failed to meet the target set of 40% representation of women on the management boards of rural development programmes. And it has refused to accept our amendments to recent legislation such as the Bord Bia Bill to ensure that these targets are met.

"Public services in rural areas are under siege as the privatisation agenda is implemented. Government promises to 'rural-proof' all national policies are worthless as rural post-offices and Garda stations are closed and rural areas continue to be left bereft of access to public transport. Plans need to be sustainable with regard, not just to economic issues, and long-run profitability, but sustainable in relation to our environment, our natural resources, our culture, our social values, and the provision of social services to provide an acceptable standard of living.Rural development programmes need to be genuinely driven from community level upwards rather than directed by government-appointed officials and boards." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for Cavan/Monaghan Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin today criticized the Government's failure to fulfil their commitments on Rural Development, citing the closure of hospital services, post offices and garda stations as "part of the avoidable decline of rural Ireland".

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"Sinn Féin's argument is that every person, no matter where they are, ought to be entitled to an equal level of access to and provision of public services; be that health, transport, education, post offices or banking. The reality for many rural communities is very different. Many of these services are either non-existent or have been withdrawn from these communities. That is clearly illustrated by the health crisis within the regions. The loss of services at local hospitals must be seen as part of the avoidable decline of rural Ireland - a decline for which the Government is responsible. Monaghan and Louth hospitals have already been targeted. Under the Hanly Report, further hospitals will go under the knife. The reference to health in the government amendment cannot hide that reality. In the area of health there are relatively minor administrative measures that could be taken to integrate ambulance services so that people could be taken to the nearest available hospital rather than having to travel longer distances that might place them in greater danger.

"Farm incomes in real terms have fallen by almost 25% since 1995, according to the Central Statistics Office. This, in combination with current debt levels of E1.1 billion, has made it increasingly difficult for many family farms to survive. Over 30,000 people have left farming since the beginning of the 1990s.

The majority of these have been smaller producers and this has had a malign and devastating effect on rural communities. It has made it more difficult for local businesses to survive, and it has not been compensated for by an increase in other types of jobs in sufficient numbers to offset the recent increases in unemployment. The main reason for the real fall in farm incomes has been the declining share that farmers receive from the products which they sell - it is not unusual for farmers to receive 30 or 25 or even 20% of the price that the consumer pays. There is an argument for a return to real co-operativism to enable farmers to secure the best price for their produce and to limit the power of the multiples.

Although rural communities are not exclusively based on farming, it is important that agriculture remains strong and vibrant and provides both employment and the basis for other rural jobs such as processing. If the EU is committed to maintaining the European model of agriculture based on family farming, then measures must be taken to ensure that the current drift from the land is halted. In the context of the current reform of the CAP, that must mean that decoupling provides farmers with a guaranteed income, but also that the Irish Government develops new strategies to take best advantage of the new situation facing farmers. It must also mean that the funds taken away from direct payments through modulation are ring-fenced within the country they originate from, and that they are made to directly benefit the farmers from whom the funds are taken. These funds should be used here in Ireland for rural development.

"Another area where this Government is abandoning its commitments is in the area of community-based policing. Only last week, Minister McDowell was speaking about closing more Garda stations in rural and urban areas. This often has a particularly marked impact on rural communities where people see the withdrawal of local Gardaí as another form of abandonment by the State. People, and especially the elderly in isolated rural areas feel vulnerable in the absence of a visible and known Garda presence. Sinn Féin proposes that this problem can be addressed through the establishment of Community Policing Partnerships. These would comprise elected representatives, appointees of local statutory agencies, and representatives of the community and voluntary sector. These Partnerships would meet regularly with the Gardaí and ensure that a greater level of accountability and confidence is nurtured.

"Empowering rural communities - decentralization - does not just mean the relocation of Government offices from Dublin - it means the real empowerment of local government. This is especially important for many of our marginalised and neglected rural communities, particularly in the Border, Midlands and Western region. " ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for West Belfast Michael Ferguson has accused the PSNI Special Branch of 'still conducting its dirty war against the nationalist community'. Mr Ferguson's remarks came at a press conference in Belfast where he was joined by two local men who had been pressurised to work for the Special Branch in recent weeks.

Mr Ferguson said:

"The stories told by these two men and other similar reports received by Sinn Féin about this sort of PSNI activity across the six counties

demonstrates clearly that the Special Branch's dirty war against the nationalist community continues.

"This sort of activity is bound to raise questions for those who have been so vocal in their support for the current policing arrangements.

Arrangements which clearly have at their core the Special Branch still active, still running agents, still trying to recruit agents and still trying to spy on the broad nationalist community. This sort of activity is not compatible with a new beginning to policing.

"This is not he sort of activity that we will hear members of the Policing Board discuss. The reality is that they are powerless to do anything about it and they know that to be the case.

"I am calling on Hugh Orde to get his Special Branch off the backs of these two men who have come forward and off the backs of the nationalist and republican community as a whole. He should end his media charm offensive and face up to the fact that what currently passes for policing here is unacceptable and incompatible with the demands of both Patten and the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS

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Sinn Féin will launch its youth manifesto tomorrow, Wednesday 2nd June at 10.30am in Buswells's Hotel, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.

Attending the event will be Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP and some of the party's young candidates including Councillor Matt Carthy (Monaghan), Eoin O Sé (Rathmines) and Toireasa Ferris (Kerry)

Sinn Féin is standing 59 candidates under 35 years of age in the Local Government elections (30% of our candidates) and two of its European Union candidates are under 30.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Truth Recovery Philip McGuigan has accused the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy of 'breathtaking hypocrisy' as he tours South Africa studying their model of truth and reconciliation.

Mr McGuigan said:

"While in South Africa Paul Murphy has behaved as if he was an honest broker in all of this. He is not. He represents one side of the conflict in the six counties. This is a role which the British State has yet to acknowledge. People in Ireland will be shocked by the breathtaking hypocrisy which he has demonstrated.

" Paul Murphy's approach to this issue, had it been adopted in South Africa, would have seen the white Apartheid Government and the National Party taking the lead in developing a model for truth recovery and 'dealing with the past' while all of the time ignoring their own role in creating and sustaining decades of violence and discrimination. That clearly could not have been allowed to happen. Similarly with the British Government in this part of Ireland.

"Paul Murphy needs to get real. The British government cannot be allowed to take the lead in developing a model for truth recovery while simultaneously ignoring their central role as protagonists in the conflict." ENDS

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Speaking during a canvass tour of South Down where she was joined by local MLAs Caitriona Ruane and Willie Clarke, Sinn Féin EU candidate Bairbre de Brún has called for the 'immediate closure of Sellafield nuclear plant'. Ms de Brún said:

'Sinn Féin is working towards a nuclear-free Ireland in a nuclear-free EU. We believe the European Union must lead the move away from nuclear energy and towards the generation of electricity from renewable sources.

'We are deeply concerned that after enlargement 13 of 25 member states will have nuclear reactors, but there will be no common set of rules regulating nuclear safety in the EU. This is not acceptable.

'Sinn Féin in the European Parliament will campaign for:

  • the closure of Sellafield
  • an end to the reprocessing of nuclear fuel within the EU
  • an end to the promotion of nuclear energy by the EU
  • the declaration of Ireland and the EU as Nuclear-Free Zones
  • nuclear disarmament by EU states

'There is no place in the 21 century for such a dangerous and unpredictable energy source. The EU should be actively leading the way in eradicating nuclear power and replacing it with safe and clean forms of energy.' ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dublin EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald has called for urgent intervention to halt the momentum of EU militarization and to protect neutrality.

Ms McDonald said:

Successive EU treaties since the Single European Act in 1987 have corroded independent foreign policy to the point where Irish military neutrality is virtually all we have left.

But Irish neutrality is now under pressure from the accelerating militarisation of the EU, underway in earnest since the first reference to EU military cooperation and Common Defence appeared in the Maastricht Treaty. Subsequent treaties have built incrementally on this. Despite all the denials, an EU Army is evolving, and the Constitutional Treaty under negotiation will bring us measurably closer to this.

The need for intervention to halt the momentum of EU militarisation has never been more urgent. Yet the Irish Government on behalf of a supposedly neutral state has done nothing to oppose these developments, and has done even less to improve its negotiating position for the future in an EU that continues to be even more heavily dominated by NATO states after enlargement.

Worse, the Irish Government has continued to violate its own stated policy of neutrality by allowing Shannon airport to be used as a refuelling base by thousands of US troops on their way to the illegal occupation of Iraq.

Sinn Féin proposes an independent and progressive Irish international relations policy that opposes military alliances and works for international cooperation and conflict negotiation leading to democratic social change and respect for human rights, universal demilitarisation and nuclear disarmament.

Sinn Féin MEPs will strongly promote our policy of "Positive Neutrality in Action", which requires:

  • neutrality to be enshrined in the Irish Constitution and codified in legislation
  • withdrawal from the EU Rapid Reaction Force and NATO's Partnership for Peace
  • Irish troops to train and serve abroad only under the auspices and leadership of the United Nations, and only with prior Dáil approval
  • no use of Irish airports, airspace, seaports, or territorial waters for preparation for war or other armed conflict by foreign powers
  • an end to Irish involvement in the arms trade and profit from war
  • clear recognition and legal protection through a binding Protocol on Irish neutrality in any new EU Treaty, and explicit parity of esteem for the EU neutral states
  • active promotion of demilitarisation of the EU, including nuclear disarmament
  • active promotion of UN primacy, as well as badly needed UN reform

A vote for Sinn Féin is a vote to endorse this approach to international relations and a vote in favour of the demilitarisation of the EU.

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Speaking at the launch of the party's EU manifesto, Sinn Féin EU candidate for the South David Cullinane has called on the Irish government to address the fundamental flaws in the draft EU Constitution in the upcoming talks and not be party to the creation of an EU superstate that will have a negative impact on Ireland and Europe for generations to come."

Mr. Cullinane said:

"Sinn Féin wants to build a Europe of equals -- a true partnership of equal sovereign states, co-operating in social and economic development in Europe and beyond. This vision has little in common with the EU, which Ireland is a member of today. Every EU Treaty since 1973 has transferred power from the Irish people to a political elite in Europe. This has reduced our economic and political sovereignty and undermined our neutrality by increments. Shortly after the election the EU heads of state will again attempt to agree a new treaty establishing for the first time an EU Constitution.

"simplification pointSinn Féin is opposed to the creation of an EU superstate and the proposed draft EU Constitution moves the EU further down this federalist road. It makes fundamental changes in the structures of the EU and gives those structures more powers. It shifts the balance of power yet further from sovereign national parliaments and towards the EU, taking the single biggest step so far in the creation of an EU superstate. It entrenches the inequality of the EU by enhancing the power of the larger states. It also advances the project to turn the EU into a superpower. Sinn Féin is calling for:

  • an explicit recognition of EU member states' right to national sovereignty and self government
  • the primacy of fair trade and the social economy over free trade
  • an explicit recognition of Irish neutrality and parity of esteem for EU neutral states
  • an end to the practice of the EU Council meeting in camera
  • an end to weighted voting and a reintroduction of equality in decision-making between EU partners

We will also push for the domestic changes necessary to redress the democratic deficit here at home

"It is important that the Irish government addresses the fundamental flaws in this draft Constitution and not be party to the creation of an EU superstate that will have a negative impact on Ireland and Europe for generations to come."

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this morning launched the party's manifesto for the EU election and called for people to support Sinn Féin's agenda for change in Ireland and in Europe. The manifesto addresses fundamental issues relating to the future of the EU and sets out Sinn Féin's policies for an Ireland of equals in a Europe of equals.

Mr. Adams said:

"This election will help to determine the future of the EU — and therefore Ireland's future — for many years to come. Sinn Féin's EU manifesto "An Ireland of Equals in a Europe of Equals" is a comprehensive manifesto which deals with four key areas:-

  • the future direction of the European Union
  • promoting peace, economic sovereignty and Irish independence
  • a rights based EU
  • an end to the militarisation of the EU and the role of the EU in the search for global justice

"Sinn Féin stands for change in the EU. We have a vision for an EU that respects the democratic rights of the people of each member state. We want an EU that promotes equality among people and nations. An EU that works for the just and peaceful resolution of conflicts in Europe and beyond. We believe that the enlarged EU must adopt a new set of priorities including the elimination of poverty within its borders and the reform and strengthening of the United Nations to advance justice and peace in the wider world. The changes we want to see happen at EU level are no different from those we are pursuing here in Ireland.

"We also want the EU to become a partnership of equal states. We oppose current attempts to turn the EU into a superstate or a military and economic superpower because we value Irish sovereignty and Irish neutrality. We know that the EU reflects the political agenda of the big States, the unelected Eurocracy, and big business. But it can be changed, and it should be changed.

In keeping with our agenda for change, Sinn Féin's priority is to:

  • work for a reformed EU that gives power back to the people
  • promote Irish sovereignty, democracy and neutrality
  • advance all Ireland approaches to economic and social issues with the active assistance of the EU
  • seek new priorities for EU policy including the elimination of poverty and support for public services
  • ensure that all EU law and policy respects and promotes equality and human rights
  • the Irish language to be recognised as an official and working language in the EU
  • build political alliances with like-minded parties and civil society in Ireland and across the EU to advance these goals

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Sinn Feín EU candidate for the Dublin constituency Mary Lou McDonald has this evening expressed her concerns regarding the forthcoming Citizenship Referendum. Ms McDonald argued that the "Citizenship Referendum would enshrine inequality within the Constitution".

Ms McDonald made her comments before her attendance at the launch debate of the Smurfit Debating Society in UCD, attended by representatives of the other main political parties this evening at 7.00pm.

Speaking this evening Ms McDonald said:

"I look forward to this evenings debate on the forthcoming Citizenship Referendum, to put forward the Sinn Féin view on the issue. We are calling upon people to reject Justice Minister McDowell‚s racist referendum on June 11th. His justification for the referendum does not stand up to scrutiny ˆ he has not provided any concrete evidence for his claims. His statistics do not prove his case.

"This proposal will enshrine inequality and race-based citizenship into the constitution. Sinn Féin is concerned that the proposal also undermines the Good Friday Agreement and jeopardises the peace process.

"The Citizenship Referendum moves us away from the tradition of citizenship by birth shared with over 40 other democracies including the US and Canada, and towards race-based or bloodline-based citizenship, which is offensive to the republican principles of equality.

"Sinn Féin wants a comprehensive immigration policy that is positive, compassionate, human rights-compliant and anti-racist. That policy must fully recognise the positive contribution of immigrants to Irish society and to the Irish economy."ENDS

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Speaking in advance of Sinn Féin's Private Members' motion tomorrow on the Government's failure regarding Rural Development commitments, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Rural Affairs Martin Ferris TD said that the lack of balance in regional development in Ireland was something which the people of the West had been highlighting for a long time and that they were justifiably "embittered and angry" at the lack of adequate services in the area.

Deputy Ferris said:

"What was promised by this Government for Rural Development has not even begun to materialise. Is it any wonder people in the West of Ireland are embittered and angry at the way their needs are ignored? All that is being asked for is an equal level of provision of services for residents of this area.

"The West is an area of great potential and to see it being depleted by population decrease due to lack of services for communities is a national crisis and something that this Government cannot continue to turn its back on or it will pay the ultimate price when people realise they cannot rely on the right-wing PD-dominated coalition to deliver for sustainable rural communities in the future. The Government have failed to generate real regional development through the National Spatial Strategy or to encourage sufficient investment to compensate for losses in the Agricultural sector in an area where there is already unemployment of a much higher level than the national average in places like Kerry and Donegal. Everyone, no matter where they live, is entitled to equal access to and quality of public services." ENDS

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Sinn Féin EU candidate for the North West, Pearse Doherty, has contrasted the manner in which the banks treat their farmer customers to the growing evidence of internal malpractise. Mr. Doherty was speaking as yet more evidence emerged regarding the manner in which AIB in particular, have been allowed to operate over the past number of years.

 

Mr. Doherty was speaking before a two day Rural Development Conference which is taking place in Westport, Co. Mayo (31st May - June 1st):

 

"There are tens of thousands of farming households throughout this state who are massively in debt. Last year farmers owed €1.1 billion. Many of them are finding it extremely difficult to survive in these circumstances. Many of them also find that they are treated with little understanding by the banks and this stands in sharp contrast to the kind of practices which we have seen are tolerated among the golden circle of banking in this country.

 

"It is time that the state intervened to ensure that the banks are made more sensitive to the problems of their ordinary customers including farmers. They must also be made to tailor their lending practices to ensure that the chief aim is productive investment rather than the banks' own obsession with maximizing their already massive profits."ENDS

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Sinn Féin EU candidate for the Six Counties Bairbre de Brún has called on the EU to lead by example on protection from discrimination and the promotion of equality. Ms de Brún said:

"The European Union is still a very unequal place, where women are grossly underrepresented in decision-making, where people with disabilities are regularly denied full access to education, services and jobs, and where some member state governments still believe it is acceptable to discriminate against people based on their national origin, religion, sexual orientation, family status or age.

"Sinn Féin believes that the achievement of full equality of all people within the EU regardless of gender, ethnic origin (including nomadic status), national origin, sexual orientation, disability, religious or political belief, family status, socio-economic status or age, must become a higher priority objective of EU policy.

"The EU must lead by example on protection from discrimination and the promotion of equality.

"Sinn Féin MEPs will make campaigning for equality a priority here at home and in Strasbourg and Brussels. We will work for: the introduction of a mechanism for equality-proofing all EU law and policy; levelling-up of equality rights protections throughout the EU; the introduction of more comprehensive EU anti-discrimination legislation with similar scope to the Racial Equality Directive, including new comprehensive Gender, Disability and Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual Equality Directives

"Sinn Féin is committed to creating an Ireland of equals in a Europe of equals. Only by tacking strong measures at an EU level and complementing that with local action can we begin to seriously tackle the negative effects of inequality and discrimination on many people across society."ENDS

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Sinn Féin will launch its manifesto for the European election campaign tomorrow, Tuesday 1st June at 10.30am in Buswells Hotel, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.

Attending the press conference will be Gerry Adams MP, EU candidate for Dublin - Mary Lou McDonald and EU candidate for the South - David Cullinane.

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for West Belfast Michael Ferguson has hit out at those responsible for leaving an explosive device outside the offices of Community Restorative Justice in Andersonstown last night.

Mr Ferguson said:

" At around 3am last night an explosive device was left outside the offices of the Community Restorative Justice programme in Slemish Way. The area was evacuated and much disruption was caused to the local community.

" At this stage we are not yet sure of the motives of those behind this attack. However what I can say is that people locally are angry at this incident. CRJ provide a crucial mediation role within this community and this attack is being viewed as an attack on the wider community in this part of West Belfast.

" I would call on those responsible for this attack to come to their senses and get off the backs of the community. This sort of attack will not prevent people organising community projects and coming together to work for the benefit of the entire West Belfast community." ENDS

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