Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP is speaking at two meetings in Dublin tomorrow, Wednesday 10th March. He will begin by addressing a public meeting in Ballymun at 4.30pm, which is open to the media, and speak in Mulhuddart later in the evening. These are the first two, in a series of meetings, which Mr. Adams will address in the city in the coming weeks
Axis Centre, Ballymun 4.30pm - Gerry Adams MP and Mary Lou McDonald EU candidate Dublin
Mulhuddart Community Centre 8pm - Gerry Adams MP and Mary Lou McDonald EU candidate Dublin
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has welcomed the launching of a new mental health initiative to meet the needs of young people but urged the NIO Minster to ensure that the initiative is matched with long term funding commitments.
Mr O'Dowd said:
"Today's initiative is an important step in tackling the unacceptable levels of suicide affecting young people, particularly in young men where it is the second highest killer.
"This initiative must link in with the public health agenda in the 'Investing for Health' strategy that looks at promoting good health and well being by targeting action on areas such as unemployment, education and training and housing.
"It must also be matched by long term funding commitments particularly to build community based services and the wider mental health care sector." ENDS
Sinn Féin West Belfast MLA Bairbre de Brún has accused the British and Irish governments of pandering to unionism after they cancelled the review plenary scheduled for today.
Ms de Brún said:
"The decision to cancel today's scheduled plenary is unacceptable.
"In last week's review talks and again yesterday we pressed the British government to end the anti-peace process activities of their security and intelligence agencies. We also pressed both governments to seek an assurance from unionist leaders that they would use their influence to bring an end to attacks directed at the Catholic community by unionist paramilitaries.
"The governments were aware that Sinn Féin intended to raise the ongoing campaign of sectarian and racist attacks being orchestrated by unionist paramilitaries across the North, particularly in areas like Ballymena, South and North Belfast, South Antrim and Lisburn.
"It is clear that the only reason for the cancellation is the resistance of the two unionist parties to the process of change set out in the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS
Sinn Féin South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane has accused the DUPs Jim Wells of grandstanding over threats to have restrictions placed on the annual Kilkeel St Patrick's Day parade.
Ms Ruane said:
"Instead of trying to create division and conflict around the issue of a St Patrick's Day carnival in Kilkeel, an event that is marked by people of differing political persuasion the world over ˆ Jim Wells should be working to reduce tension and conflict.
"Last year Jim Wells created controversy when, in front of hundreds of young children, he tried to remove a banner from one of the marching bands. His behaviour indicated his unwillingness to accept the rights of nationalists to express their identity.
"Mr Wells would better serve all the people of this constituency if he used his good offices in conjunction with my own to promote tolerance, understanding and equality."ENDS
Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Martin Ferris TD, has strongly criticised the decision by the British Government to allow the commercial growing of a genetically modified maize. He also echoed concerns by the party in the north on the possibility that GM growth may be permitted in the Six Counties.
Deputy Ferris said:
"Sinn Féin has campaigned strongly on this issue over the past year since it became obvious that both the British and Irish Governments at EU level were caving in to pressure from the United States and corporate interests to allow GM crops. We are particularly concerned at the prospect that GM maize will be grown in the north. As a recent American scientific study proves, there can be no safeguard against cross-contamination and therefore the growing of such a crop in any part of Ireland would have serious implications for non-GM species.
"Today's decision also reinforces the need for public opinion in this state to put pressure on the Irish Government to reverse its decision to vote at EU level in favour of lifting the current embargo. We will be urging this at every opportunity and intend to make it a major issue in this year's elections to the European Parliament. The future of Irish agriculture and the safety of Irish food produce must not be endangered by the allowing of GM crops." ENDS
Responding to remarks made today by members of the International Monitoring Commission Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin accused the IMC 'of ignoring totally the reality of unionist paramilitary violence, while instead focusing on allegations from securocrats opposed to the peace process'.
Mr. McLaughlin said:
"Comments from members of the IMC today expose the real agenda of the British government. By its own admission the IMC is not an honest broker. It is not independent and its remit is outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
"The IMC was established as a sop to unionism and to advance the agenda of those elements within the British system who are opposed to the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.
"Any IMC report will be based upon so called intelligence provided by securocrats who are clearly already working to an anti-peace process and anti-Sinn Féin agenda.
"Since the IMC was established there have been hundreds of incidents of sectarian violence carried out by unionist paramilitaries including two murders. There has been evidence of continuing collusion by British state forces, we have had the suspension of the political institutions by the British government and the refusal of unionist politicians to participate in the institutions, all of this in breach of the Agreement.
"Many people are outraged at the continual fixation with alleged republican activity while all of the time ignoring the reality of unionist violence and British government breaches of the Agreement." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has called on the direct rule Minister Ian Pearson to immediately intervene and reinstate those Nipsa members suspended yesterday from their civil service jobs for taking part in industrial action.
Mr Adams said:
"The industrial dispute within the Civil Service has been allowed to escalate principally because of a lack of leadership being shown by the Minister Ian Pearson. The approach taken by the Minister to attempts to resolve the dispute through negotiation has been extremely disappointing.
"The suspension of workers taking part in an industrial dispute is wrong, it should not happen and it makes the prospect of a resolution of this dispute more difficult. The suspended workers should be reinstated to their jobs immediately.
"Ian Pearson claims to be a member of a Labour party yet he is happy to preside over this situation. It is time for him to show leadership and sit down and engage in a constructive manner with the Nipsa representatives and find a fair resolution to this matter." ENDS
Sinn Féin EU Affairs Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Bairbre de Brún has said that an all Ireland approach to agriculture is more necessary now than ever before and a strong and unified all Ireland voice championing the needs of Irish agriculture, north and south, at the very heart of the European Union.
Ms de Brún said:
"Irish farming communities are in crisis. Farming incomes, north and south, are lower now than they have been in a decade. Across the island the farming sector has become dependent on EU grants, price supports and other aids through the Common Agricultural Policy. The industry faces low profit margins and erratic market prices for agricultural produce. Added to the inequalities that arose from CAP, this has left thousands of farmers on either low or subsistence incomes. There has also been an increasing isolation of ordinary farmers from the business of farming. Farmers have systematically lost control of the industry which depends on the produce they generate.
"This is not an Irish problem alone, but one which affects farmers and rural communities across the European Union.
"Nor is it simply a matter of statistics or economic calculations. Behind this story of crisis lie our rural communities and farming families whose well-being relies on agriculture. In turn, the very future of rural Ireland depends on these same farming families.
"Agriculture plays a major role in the Irish economy. Farming is the second largest industry in the 26 Counties while in the 6 Counties it is four times more important than in many other EU states.
"Sinn Féin is committed to keeping farming families on the land and ensuring a good quality of life for all those in rural areas. Rural communities in both parts of the island share a common interest and need a common platform.
"An all Ireland approach to agriculture is more necessary now than ever before. To date, the workings of the all Ireland structures created under the Good Friday Agreement, have been positive. There is widespread acknowledgement of the benefits of an integrated island wide approach. The need for further development has been acknowledged by the all Ireland Ministerial Council and other stakeholders in society, including the agricultural sectors.
"There is a growing awareness that the well being, indeed the very survival of Irish agriculture will depend on developing the industry on an all Ireland basis.
"This needs to go much further than the present level of co-operation.
"We need a radical new strategy to equip Irish agriculture for the challenges that lie ahead. We need a series of parallel steps to be taken to formulate effective development strategies for individual rural communities. Such steps would include, as a basic starting point, putting local communities in the driving seat of formulating their own strategies.‰
This approach would include:
Ms de Brún added:
"We must secure a future for Irish farming. This will entail vigorous measures embracing all aspects from animal health to the marketing of food produce. Most importantly, it will require a strong and unified all Ireland voice championing the needs of Irish agriculture, north and south, at the very heart of the European Union." ENDS
Sinn Fein North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly, at the review meeting today with the British government, asked British Minster John Spellar in his new role had he or any other of the NIO Ministers advised the British Minister of Defence that the two soldiers convicted of murdering Peter McBride should be removed from the British Army.
Mr Kelly said:
"No NIO Minister has raised the issue of the retention of theses two killers in the British Army with their colleague in the MoD.
"When asked to advise the British Minister of Defence that the two soldiers convicted of murdering Peter McBride should be removed from the British Army John Spellar refused point blank to raise the issue.
"Considering that John Spellar has been seized upon about one alleged attack as a reason for the present crisis it is frustrating that he refuses to act on another case where a person was murdered." ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly member for Newry & Armagh Conor Murphy has called on all Crown Force helicopters in the Six counties to be grounded following Saturday's crash landing in Portrush.
Mr. Murphy said:
"In the past number of years there has been a number of incidents were British military helicopters have crash landed. Recently two members of the Crown forces died in a crash outside Derry. On Saturday it was only through good fortune that this Lynx helicopter did not land on residential or commercial premises.
"In South Armagh this type of helicopter flies over homes, schools and shops on a 24 hour basis. There are clearly serious health and safety issues. Tens years into a peace process the British military have no justification for the continuation of military flights in the six counties and this is particularly the case given the pathetic safety record of their aircraft.
"I am calling for the immediate grounding of all British military helicopters operating in the Six Counties and for their removal back to their bases in England." ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty today announced details of a series of public meetings which are taking place across Ireland in the coming days to discuss Sinn Féin's agenda for change, the housing crisis and the current difficulties surrounding the Peace Process. Party President Gerry Adams MP will be speaking in Dublin and Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP will be in Donegal and Cavan.
Speaking today Mr. Doherty said:
"Sinn Féin has taken the decision to call a series of public meetings to discuss Sinn Féin's agenda for change and the very serious implications surrounding the stalled Peace Process. We will be visiting other towns and cities across the country in the coming weeks. We look forward to engaging with local communities and groups and receiving their very valuable feedback and thoughts".ENDS
8th March - Jackson's Hotel, Ballybofey 8pm - Martin McGuinness MP and Pearse Doherty EU candidate North West
9th March - Kilmore Hotel, Cavan Town 8pm - Martin McGuinness MP and Pearse Doherty EU candidate North West
10th March - Axis Centre, Ballymun 4.30pm - Gerry Adams MP and Mary Lou McDonald EU candidate Dublin
10th March - Mulhuddart Community Centre 8pm - Gerry Adams MP and Mary Lou McDonald EU candidate Dublin
Sinn Féin West Belfast MLA Bairbre de Brún has accused NIO Minster John Spellar of ignoring the role of British agents in the conflict in the North of Ireland.
Speaking after meeting British government Minister John Spellar in Stormont today Ms de Brún said:
"John Spellar refused to accept that there was British intelligence involvement with unionist paramilitaries.
"This flies against established facts about the involvement of RUC/PSNI Special Branch - MI5 double agents such as Brian Nelson in directing and arming unionist paramilitaries and evidence that British agents were directly involved in the murder of citizens on this island.
"Why else would the British government refuse to publish the Stevens reports or indeed why is it continuing to stall on the publication of the Cory Report into collusion between elements within the British security system, Special Branch and unionist paramilitaries?
"The British government cannot try to absolve itself of responsibility in creating and maintaining the conflict in the North of Ireland.
"It is also astonishing that John Spellar said that there was no evidence that the DUP or UUP had any influence over the activity of unionist paramilitaries.
"Sinn Féin welcome the focus being put on paramilitarism but this demands that the British government and unionist political parties accept their responsibilities in bringing an end to the violence directed at Catholics, such as the attacks last night in North Belfast." ENDS
Sinn Féin National EU Director of Elections Pat Doherty MP has welcomed the launch of the Electoral Commission campaign aimed at getting people on the register for the June election. But Mr. Doherty was critical of its late start and the figures being quoted by the Commission for the shortfall in the register.
Mr. Doherty said:
"It is welcome that the Electoral Commission have finally launched a campaign to bridge the massive shortfall in the register. It is a recognition that what Sinn Féin have been saying for months is in fact true.
"The figure being quoted by the Commission for those missing from the register is 170,000. Although a massive total this figure does not tell the full story. In a comparison with the census figures and adding on the figure previously given by the Commission for those registered but not having the required ID the figure for those currently being disenfranchised rises to 211,000. That is one fifth of the electorate.
"This situation is not tenable. This year the register fell by another 28,000. This will become the annual pattern if urgent action is not taken. This registration campaign will not solve the underlying problem of seriously flawed legislation enacted with the purpose of manipulating the electoral process." ENDS
Sinn Féin TDs Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Martin Ferris have accused the Government of violating its Programme for Government promise to ensure that a minimum of 40% state Board nominations are women because it has refused to include these targets in its own legislation creating new statutory agencies. The Sinn Féin Deputies have called on the Government to make a fresh commitment on International Women's Day to include this target in legislation for all newly-created bodies.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said: "Knowing the evidence that affirmative action targets work, and in view of the specific commitment made in the Programme for Government, it is nothing short of outrageous that last week the Government refused a Sinn Féin amendment that would have required the Minister for Justice to ensure equal gender representation on the newly created Private Security Services Authority. Sinn Féin should never have had to table this amendment at all. The Minister should have kept his promise and included the provision in the Bill. For our part, Sinn Féin have set similar targets in our own party as we are convinced by results from the Nordic countries that target-setting is an effective tool for increasing gender representation. We are fully committed to getting our own house in order."
Deputy Ferris meanwhile announced his plans to table a similar amendment to the Bord Bia Bill which also fails to legislate for equal representation. Deputy Ferris said: "I cannot understand why there is no provision for affirmative action targets in this Bill. Clearly Ministerial discretion has not been sufficient, as only 17% of appointments made by the Minister for Agriculture have been women, and the Government have fallen short of the 40% target ever since they first agreed to it in 1991. While Sinn Féin should not have to table these kind of amendments, we will do so whenever necessary as part of our commitment to building an Ireland of Equals. Equal representation will not happen overnight, nor because Government Ministers mouth platitudes. It will only happen when those with power agree to share it. No one is absolved. We each have a responsibility to ensure that affirmative action targets are set and met." ENDS
South Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey has said that the death of a man in the Lee Hesita Hostel in Brunswick Street last week was a 'tragedy for the man's family'. Mr Maskey also called for a debate on the provision of proper accommodation for homeless people in the city.
Mr Maskey said;
"During my time as Mayor of Belfast I prioritised the issue of homelessness in the city. I visited many of the hostels and other facilities in the city dealing with homeless people and indeed I visited the Brunswick Street Hostel one morning in the early hours. It was obvious the pressure under which the staff there were trying to operate.
"Talking to people involved in the sector there is clearly a crisis of funding and therefore of proper provision for homeless people in the city.
"The death of a man last week in the Lee Hestia hostel is obviously a tragedy for his family and friends. I hope however that it can provoke a debate on how best we provide the necessary care for homeless people, many of whom are extremely vulnerable.
"I have written to the Social Development Minister seeking a meeting to discuss how best we can learn the lessons of last weeks tragic events." ENDS
Sinn Féin representative for Dublin South East, Daithí Doolan, has described Michael McDowell's comments in the Sunday Star as disgraceful. He said: "Minister McDowell would be better off doing the job that he is being paid to do rather than jeopardising the peace process for party political advantage."
Mr. Doolan said:
"People know that the Minister is acting in a totally cynical manner but there is growing amazement that he is willing to jeopardise the peace process for party political advantage.
"Ordinary people are fed up listening to the President of the most right-wing party in this country abusing his position to attack Sinn Féin in the run up to the European Union and Local Government elections.
"People know who is responsible for lengthening hospital waiting lists, the widening poverty gap, rising house prices and the withdrawal of funding to community projects across the state.
"They also know that Sinn Féin is working hard to get the peace process back on track, that we are working in our local communities and that we are the only alternative to the cosy political cliques that have run this state for so long.
"Given his almost singular focus on Sinn Féin, it is little wonder that the portfolio for which Minister McDowell is responsible is in such disarray. It is time that he got back to doing that job that he is being paid to do."ENDS
Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin speaking from Derry this evening said that the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern would be better off facing up to his responsibilities instead of constantly hectoring Irish republicans. He said that it was no coincidence that his attacks on Sinn Féin were becoming more frequent in the run up to European Union and Local Government elections.
Mr. McLaughlin said:
"This evening, Bertie Ahern, instead of explaining to the Irish public how he intends to implement an Agreement, to which he admitted being in default last October, choose to attack Irish republicans.
"Sinn Féin is up to any challenge from Fianna Fáil and the other establishment parties, north and south, in the run up to the elections but we are certainly not going to accept lectures from a government that has walked away from its responsibilities in relation to the peace process.
"The Good Friday Agreement is not some sacred piece of paper to be supported in theory. It is an international Agreement, which was massively endorsed not just by nationalist Ireland, but the vast majority of people in Ireland six years ago and which the two governments are committed to implementing in full.
"But instead of doing this, they have walked away from their commitments, suspended the political institutions, failed to move on equality, human rights, demilitarization, policing, northern representation, Irish language and many other issues.
"We all want the Good Friday Agreement to work, but it will only work if all of those responsible for implementing it face up to their responsibilities and that includes the Irish government." ENDS
A meeting of the Sinn Féin Officer Board took place this morning in Monaghan. The meeting discussed the current state of the Peace Process and was briefed by Party President Gerry Adams on last week's discussions with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Martin McGuinness's meeting with the Taoiseach. The meeting also discussed preparations for both the EU and 26 County Local Government elections.
Speaking after the meeting Mr Adams said:
"Today's meeting of the Officer Board was the first meeting since our Ard Fheis. I briefed the meeting on the current state of play in the peace process and on our discussions with Tony Blair in London this week and Martin McGuinness's meeting with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
"And at this time I would again challenge Bertie Ahern to face up to the responsibilities that the Irish Government have as co-guarantor with the British Government of the Good Friday Agreement.
"In all of the public remarks from the two governments there has been a focus on what others should do and no indication that the two governments will fulfil their responsibilities despite clear public admissions by both Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern that they have yet to complete the implementation of many aspects of the Good Friday Agreement.
"Much of the meeting however focused on our preparations for the 26 County Local Government elections and the EU elections scheduled for June. Party Vice President Pat Doherty has been appointed as our National EU Director of Elections and we face into the elections in a confident mood.
"Sinn Féin's agenda for change is garnering supporting across the island. I believe that this growing support will result in a major breakthrough in June when an all Ireland Sinn Féin team will be returned to the EU parliament. I believe that both Bairbre de Brún and Mary Lou McDonald are well placed to pick up seats and that we will make major advances across the 26 counties in the Local Government elections.
"I think that the establishment parties know this also and this provides much of the rational for the recent unwarranted attacks being made upon this party.
"Sinn Féin does not take the electorate for granted. We will continue to work hard in the coming months to ensure that the potential which clearly exists, with an ever growing number of republicans on the island, is delivered." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD warned strongly against what he referred to as a "dangerous and worrying development" around issues of racism in light of a racist ad placed in a Galway newspaper this week.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
"We need to be very careful that signs of blatant racism are not ignored or tolerated in our society - this could lead to a dangerous and worrying development. The published ad is more reminiscent of what was seen by many unfortunate people, Irish included - seeking employment or accommodation in the 1940s and 50s in Britain and North America. The fact that a newspaper should carry an ad with such outrageously and blatantly racist words is genuinely worrying. But it is not enough to simply note this so-called "misprint" in passing. This Property company in Galway needs to be pressed further for a proper explanation instead of insulting the intelligence of the nation by calling it a "misprint". Computers do not automatically type hidden words so how did the words "no coloured" appear? I assume they didn't mean the house was unpainted.
"The Property company try to assure us saying they had 'many coloured people in different properties' as though that could excuse the occasional racist ad. Anyone aware of racism in their midst - and this is hardly a recent phenomenon, knows that black people are not 'coloured'. It is in fact highly objectionable to call them 'coloured' in any context, good or bad. I hope the matter will be dealt with comprehensively by the Equality Authority, at the least, so that non-nationals in Galway do not have to fear further discrimination or racism from any quarters, as suggested by NGOs there.
"We need to keep on top of this issue. Racism lurks in our midst, evidenced also by the Vincentian Centre's recent report on racism and housing, and only constant education and positive initiatives to address it will ensure that it will be proactively tackled" ENDS
Sinn Fein County Councillor Gerry Murray has called on planning section of Mayo County Council to take a tougher stance in relation to the activities of rogue developers. There are cases in the county of where there has been a total disregard for planning regulations and conditions. Some of these cases have been on the books of Mayo County Council with years and it is practically impossible to obtain enforcement action against the developers concerned.
Cllr Murray said; "While the Council might prefer to resolve these issues via negotiation it is obvious that some of these developers will only respond to tough legal action. Many of the residents in the Estates concerned have lost all faith in local Government due to its failure to take decisive action in relation to serious breaches of the Planning law."
"The Planning and Development Act of 2000 bestows huge powers on County Councils in relation to non compliant developers, these powers are wide ranging and can be used to veto all future proposed planning applications by non compliant developers. In other words planning permission should not be granted to Developers who have failed to comply with planning conditions in their other developments."
"I have called for more resources to be allocated to the Enforcement Section of Mayo County Council in relation to this issue. Its time we had swift and decisive action in relation to rogue developers whose attitude to Local Government is bordering on the contempt. In the meantime the people who have bought into these developments are totally disillusioned and dismayed with the lack of action by the planning authority". One particular case is ongoing with the last six years and still no sign of a resolution. The full rigours of the Planning Act must be applied to these non compliant developers."ENDS