Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokespersons, Fermanagh South Tyrone representative Cllr Gerry McHugh and Martin Ferris TD commenting on the publication of the results of the three-year farm-scale trials of GM crops have said that the mounting evidence now supports opposition to the introduction of GM into Ireland.
Cllr McHugh and Deputy Ferris said:
"The British governments' own GM crop trials throw serious doubt on any decision to introduce commercial GM crops into Ireland. There are just too many doubts and too many unanswered questions. Not least the finding the findings that GM crops have an adverse impact on levels of bio-diversity in the vicinity of GM crops.
"Many have questioned the validity of these farm-scale trials, the largest anywhere in the world to date. Michael Meacher who initiated the trials has himself now cast doubt on the validity of the trials after the weed killer Atrazine, used in the trials of GM maize, was banned by the EU. There is also new evidence that contamination cannot be controlled with the British government announcement that GM oilseed rape had cross-pollinated with non-GM rape at a distance of over 16 miles.
"However, as a party Sinn Féin are totally opposed to the introduction of GM food and crops. This is an issue that will impact on Ireland's clean green farming image and has implications for farmers across the island of Ireland.
"We see no environmental, economic, nutritional or consumer benefits from GM or improvements for third world countries in Genetic Modification. The only beneficiaries from GM will be the profits of the companies who want to own the patent on a sizeable proportion of the world's food.
"Since legislation on the regulation of genetically modified food and feed was passed by the European Parliament, along with further passing of co-existence guidelines which wish to prohibit national or regional governments in banning the use of Genetically Modified Organisms, the European Union has rolled over to the threats of the US and the profit hungry GM companies.
"Sinn Féin believe that across the island we need one policy on this - a GM free Ireland - because cross contamination of hybrid plants and crops could contaminate the whole island." ENDS
Sinn Féin Representative Barry McElduff has called upon the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy to make public the latest advice put together by civil servants on how government departments should meet the needs of the Irish speaking population.
Mr McElduff said:
"Irish speakers are frustrated and angry about the minimalist and slow approach adopted by government departments in fulfilling the promises made by the British government in relation to the Irish Language in the Good Friday Agreement.
"Sinn Féin is aware that draft advice to government bodies about the Irish language has been put together by the Intergovernmental Group on the implementation of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. This advice has been sent to Paul Murphy for ratification without any consultation with the Irish speaking community or the parties who signed up to the Good Friday Agreement.
"The European Charter itself puts emphasis on the importance of involving Irish speakers in discussion about its implementation. Since the Charter was signed by the British government in July 1999, there has been no significant consultation between government and the Irish speaking community. This is unacceptable. I am calling on Paul Murphy to publish the draft proposals from the interdepartmental group on the Charter and to initiate immediate public consultation with Irish Language organisations on the implementation of the Charter." ENDS
Sinn Féin TDs Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Arthur Morgan will today go to Mountjoy prison to visit a number of the anti-bin tax protesters recently jailed for participating in peaceful protests against the unjust charges. Deputies Ó Snodaigh and Morgan will be offering their support and solidarity to all fourteen remaining activists who are in prison and will repeat the call for their immediate release.
Speaking before going to the prison Deputy Ó Snodaigh said: "I'm going to Mountjoy today to offer, on behalf of Sinn Féin, our solidarity and support to all the anti-bin tax protesters currently imprisoned. I will be specifically visiting two of my own constituents, mother and daughter, Chrissy and Karen Heffernan. I know both women very well as Chrissy is member of Sinn Féin in my own area. They are not criminals. They are people, who like all the other bin charge protesters, have taken a principled stand in opposition to the imposition of an unjust system of double taxation. They do not deserve this treatment and should be released immediately."
Deputy Arthur Morgan said:
"The decision of the anti-bin tax protesters to call a halt to the pickets on the local authority depots is a welcome development that gives us all a chance to sort this mess out. The local authorities should immediately offer a reciprocal gesture by abandoning their policy of non-collection that led directly to the escalation of this protest. There needs to be a resolution to the present conflict. This can only be achieved when the City and County Managers along with the Minister for the Environment end the inflammatory and gung-ho attitude they have adopted so far and sit down with the protestors,trade unionists and community and political representatives." ENDS
The Sinn Féin TDs are scheduled to meet the activists at 1 O'Clock today in Mountjoy Women's Prison.
A Sinn Féin delegation led by Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has met with the Western Health Board and the Ambulance Trust in the Tyrone Fermanagh Hospital in Omagh today, Thursday 16th October, to demanded action on improving ambulance service provision in Tyrone, Fermanagh and Derry.
The delegation included Fermanagh councillors Paddy Gilgunn and Gerry McHugh and Derry councillor Billy Page.
Speaking after the meeting Ms Gildernew said:
"West of the Bann, in Fermanagh, Tyrone and Derry it is clear that there is insufficient ambulance coverage. There was a review into ambulance services in 1995, and again in 2000 and former Health Minster Bairbre de Brún set aside £165 million to act on the recommendations of the last review yet where are the improvements.
"It is not just a question of new ambulances, that we undoubtedly need, it is also the vital question of staffing levels. What use is a rapid response cardiac unit if there is no one available to drive the vehicle Similarly what use are new ambulances if the Ambulance Trust and Western Health Board do not put in place enough staff to provide the required level of coverage.
"In many parts of Fermanagh, Tyrone and Derry we are talking about very rural communities that simply do not have adequate levels of ambulance cover to support access to the hospital facilities that exist. This is part of the wider debate about rebalancing resources ˆ not just in health care - West of the Bann. There have been reviews and plans - what people living West of the Bann need is action.
"We don't need another review into ambulance provision. We need to see that the money, the vehicles and the staff are in place to build on any recommendations that already exist. The Board and Ambulance Trust must take responsibility for the situation and there are many who question their management of ambulance services in this part of the north." ENDS
An Introduction: Social, Economic and Spatial Inequality – A Question of Human Rights
“…we declare that the nations sovereignty extends not only to all the men and women of the nation, but to all its material possessions, the Nations soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth producing processes within the Nation and with him we affirm that all right to private property must be subordinate to the public right and welfare.” (Democratic Programme of the First Dáil 1919)
This affirmation has yet to be realised.
The material resources of the nation have not only been amputated and stunted by partition; but remain unfairly distributed, with the right to private property and enterprise superseding public right and welfare.
Nowhere is this more evident than within operational commitments of regional and spatial development strategies North and South.
Within these strategies it is the market place that determines the allocation of resources. The very same forces that create wealth create poverty and inequality.
Wealth creation on this island is concentrated within the largest cities, more specifically Dublin and Belfast. Development and growth using this model is reliant on the radial expansion (often uncontrolled) of the metropolis and will always be accompanied by impoverishment of the periphery – as can be seen in the historic neglect and stagnation of the Border Corridor.
The discrimination that has underpinned regional development in Ireland is compounded and stimulated by the existence of the border.
Social, economic and spatial deprivation brought about by the dislocating resonance of the border impacts detrimentally on the life chances of the people who live adjacent to it. In individual and communal terms this represents a denial of human rights.
Therefore strategies that seek to redress social, economic and spatial inequality along the Border Corridor must recognise this relationship and work from that premise. Integrated Area Plans that promote integration and participation on the basis of equality puts the needs of the people before private capital.
The Rationale: Developing Integrated Area Plans for the Border
The Proclamation of the Republic declares
“The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all it citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious to differences fostered by an alien government” (Proclamation of the Republic, 1916)
This principle has yet to be realised.
The communities within those counties along the Border are interdependent and suffer from similar types of social, economic, and spatial deprivation.
It must be recognised at the outset that insular regional development will not work.
Republicans have always insisted that Partition and by extension the
existence of the Border has distorted the political, social and economic
life of the people of Ireland. However the functional reality of the Border
is that it impedes development and impacts detrimentally on the quality of
life of those communities and businesses sited adjacent to it.
The Border is an artificial construct and has been independently acknowledged as an impediment to the social and economic development in that geographical area.(1)
Life in the Border Corridor is defined by low wage culture, high unemployment, low educational attainment, the debilitating duality of services and service providers, poor roads, inadequate transport systems, insufficient energy supply and ICT (broadband) networking, and undeveloped environmental opportunities. In fact 68 per cent of the wealth created in the 6 Counties and the 26 Counties in 1998, was located in the Belfast and Dublin areas.(2)
The diffusion of wealth, economic opportunity, administrative control and social development is clearly influenced by spatial regionalism that is blatantly discriminatory and represents a denial of human rights.
In this regard - it is of paramount importance that the strategies we put in place seek to tackle and eliminate these historical imbalances.
The promotion of self-contained regional development is at variance with the commitments within ‘the Common Chapter’ and the rationale, measures and priorities of the European Unions INTERREG III fund.
Only co-ordinated integration that creates common systems, mechanisms of delivery for services and programme work will deliver the balanced development needed for the people that live within the Border Corridor. As such the most appropriate frameworks for regional development are Integrated Area Plans.
Integrated Area Plans should be developed in each of the three border corridor zones (North West, Central and Eastern) and should take account of the interdependent relationships between the social, economic, environmental and the spatial in a dynamic and mutually reinforcing way.
The developmental logic that informs the Integrated Area Plans is based on the premise that it is simply not good enough to promote a purely economic driven process at the expense of a social or spatial initiative to the detriment of the environment. All of these essential considerations are interlinked and cannot be divorced one from another – and so the regional development framework must be an integrated one.
In terms of geographical remit ‘Integration’ as a regional development concept must be considered in relation to all counties within the corridor area given the shared experience of deprivation between the communities that live adjacent to the border.
The Integrated Area Plans are best informed and needs orientated if all the stakeholders (the social partners and target constituencies) are involved at all stages of development on the basis of equality – this is the fundamental premise of real participation. There is a need for change in the development of the border corridor that is both integrative and participative. The foundation stones for the realisation of both these imperatives have already been laid in specific policy commitments and relevant funding conditions.
The Policy Context: Matching Areas of Need with Relevant Funding
Within a regional policy context both spatial strategies recognise the need to develop the border corridor on a collective basis. Also in the 6 counties and the 26 counties the respective development plans explicitly state the centrality of participative and needs based - community regeneration and social inclusion initiatives.(3)
Both strategies share a ‘Common Chapter’ that highlights the fact that within the context of North South Co-operation it is recognised that the areas immediately adjacent to the border are some of the most disadvantaged areas of the North and South.(4)
The ‘Common Chapter’ makes very specific time bound commitments in relation to cross-border co-operation and integration of services and infrastructure in the following areas:
This list should not be considered exhaustive as there are many more areas of informal co-operation.
The ‘Common Chapter’ also states that the primary fund for addressing this and other issues of ‘Cross-Border Co-operation’ will be the EU Community Initiative Programme – INTERREG III.(5)The Governments, in the 6 counties and 26 counties, gave a clear commitment to use INTERREG III to promote ‘a framework for an integrated approach to common problems, which should create opportunities for genuine and practical benefits.’ (6) The geographical remit of INTERREG includes those counties that interface with the border or are considered to be in a border area, such as county Sligo. INTERREG as an independent fund - views the existence of the border as an impediment to social and economic development.(7) INTERREG states that:
“The Rationale for the INTERREG Programme is, ultimately, that the eligible area suffer disadvantage as a result of the existence of the border. In particular, it has been noted that the border areas of both jurisdictions remain relatively disadvantaged and are still characterised by relatively high unemployment, low incomes, an over-dependence on agriculture, a low level of industrial activity and an over-dependence on declining manufacturing activity […]
In general, borders can constrain economic activity by limiting market areas, preventing optimal allocation of resources and preventing competition. The N.Ireland/Ireland Border has certainly thus affected economic relationships in the past. [the border] remains a social and psychological barrier which is an impediment to the exchange of ideas and information and a barrier to effective co-operation and the development of effective local policies/strategies.[…]
The economic weaknesses of the Border area are characteristic of rural areas outside the dynamic growth centres on the island…Moreover, the existence of the border is an obstacle to the remediation of economic problems.” (8)
The prime directives of INTERREG are to facilitate the creation of intensive systemic integration (social, economic and spatial) along transnational border regions within the EU.(9)
The border in Ireland is considered transnational and therefore eligible for all three strands of the INTERREG fund. Only networks, projects and systems that are fully integrative can be funded under INTERREG.
Many types of initiatives that promote social, economic and spatial development on an integrative basis within the border corridor can be funded under the priorities of INTERREG III (A, B & C).
The socio-economic conditions, relevant policy contexts and associated funds exist to facilitate the development of Integrated Area plans for the Border Corridor.
How then can we make sure that the various departments within the local structures of Governance buy into participation on the basis of equality and integration given their hierarchical methods of working?
If the integrated area plans are to be participative and premised on intense integration then local government and other stakeholders are going to have to become comfortable with working in a cross border ‘power-sharing’ environment.
The Pooling of Sovereignty: Promoting a Cross-Border Multi-Agency
Approach for the Development of Integrated Area Plans
Because of the inter-jurisdictional complexity of deprivation along the border, regional and local government councils and departments cannot work in isolation from each other or the social partners and so the strategic response in developing and implementing Integrated area plans need to be cross-border and multi-agency.
In this regard the Cross-Border Multi-Agency approach will require a ‘pooling of sovereignty’ on issues of departmental remit locally and regionally (North South) in order to comprehensively address the requisite levels of social, economic and spatial integration - fulfilling the strategic aims of the Integrated Area Plans for the border corridor.
In practical terms this means dynamic inter-sectoral and inter-departmental co-operation between:
While it should be recognised that the development d reps and social partners.
Sinn Féin fully recognises the systemic impediments for the comprehensive implementation of INTERREG and we will work with others to ensure social, economic and spatial impacts of this fund are maximised.
However, the Cross-Border Corridor Groups are strategically positioned to play a pivotal role in the process of tackling deprivation. Their powers and relationships with the social partners, government departments, local council and all-Ireland bodies can ‘potentially’ transform the scope of integrated development, delivery and decision making for the benefit of all the communities living adjacent to the border
The Cross-Border Corridor Groups should build on the co-operative relationships developed through the INTERREG IIIa partnerships – fostering sectoral and spatial integration, facilitating balanced regionalism and economic enterprises that have progressive social impacts.
Participative association for the integrated development of the region is
the best way forward.
The developmental capacity and skills of the Cross-Border Corridor Groups should be supplemented and enhanced. The creation of an EU exchange programme on balanced integration and social-inclusion to allow the members to network, learn and impart best practice with contemporaries in other EU border groups should be developed.
The Cross-Border Corridor Groups and the social partners need to be given an even more strategic role in the criteria for setting, ring fencing, allocation and distribution of EU and Central funds. Decentralising the process and locating decision-making to promote balanced integration at the heart of a participative democratic framework along the border corridor.
The Need for Training: Understanding and Promoting Sustainable
Securing the commitment to the idea of developing Integrated Area Plans for the border corridor from Local Government and the various Government departments is critical to ensure the initiative gets off the ground at the outset. The development process for the Integrated Area Plans, as previously indicated, should be participative involving all the stakeholders.
The difficulties that this type of process will have for Local Government civil servants and council workers especially at a department head or management level, in order for it to be overcome, should not be underestimated.
It should not be assumed by the community and voluntary sector or by Sinn Féin that inclusive participation (on the basis of Equality) will be an easy concept and working methodology for Council and Government Officials to grasp and feel comfortable with.
Neither should it be assumed that Council Officials or the other pillars of social partnership would have an advanced working knowledge of the principles and functional objectives of Cross-Border Integration.
Both regions have highly centralised government, in spite of the attempts at developing social partnership approaches. The very nature of Local Government in both the 6 and 26 Counties (especially under periods of direct rule in the north) is one of hierarchical structures with delineated remits that have little scope or experience of inter-departmentalism never mind the potential of cross-border participative processes to promote systemic integration.
The stylised and rigid local and regional government frameworks are not the fault of those who labour within them but the responsibility of elected politicians in positions of executive power.
Those involved in the drafting and implementation of the integrated area plans must be given the support and training needed to fulfil their operational requirements and mandates as integral stakeholders in the development process.
The training should focus on the need to address attitudinal problems and systemic constraints/impediments developing responsive and flexible working methodologies that will allow them to work in concert with the community and voluntary sector (urban/rural), business and others on the basis of equality. In a development process defined by – the identification of real needs, inclusive participation, intensive integration (social, economic and spatial).(11)
In relation to long term capacity building and creating a sustainable culture of participation and need for integration – ‘laying all your eggs in one basket’ will not suffice.
Local authority/government departments frequently send one staff member to training workshops with the intention of using this person as a conduit for training needs for the whole department/organisation. While this approach is better than nothing it is by no means satisfactory and can facilitate a capacity crisis should the person leave their post for another job.
Training schemes need to involve participants from a broader catchment including heads of department. Training needs to include ongoing support and continuing skills development. The impact of skills acquisition on work methodology and outputs should be monitored and steps taken to adjust training programmes to ensure more effective results.(12)
Participation and the Stakeholder Process: Ensuring those who
experience Poverty and Social Exclusion participate in the development
Opportunities for participation for the poor and socially excluded in the policy development process that will affect them are few and far between. In relation to the ethical advancement and practical implementation of Integrated Area Plans for the border corridor those sections of our community that are living in poverty and/or socially marginalised must be directly and sensitively consulted.
Building an inclusive community for reunification also means ensuring that the voices of the most marginalised are heard and acted upon.
Sinn Féin believes that those in poverty and the groups that advocate on their behalf are better placed than anybody to vitally contribute to the reconstructive shaping of support services that address their needs within the context of anti-poverty and social inclusion strategy for the border corridor.
In many instances communities living in poverty can be experienced in negotiating services and explaining physical (infrastructural), financial, and social constraints. However, they may not have extensive familiarity with participatory processes; either through lack of knowledge or lack of practical opportunity. This lack of opportunity to participate is no longer acceptable from a human rights perspective as well as from a practical policy development perspective.
Poverty and deprivation represent first and foremost a fundamental denial of human rights. The needs of the poor and socially excluded must be assessed.
Actual Needs Identification is critical to the development of Integrated Area Plans that will have tangible benefits for the poor and socially excluded living within the border corridor.
Commitments to processes that are participative and needs based to tackle poverty and social exclusion have been openly affirmed within the regional development strategies of the 6 counties and 26 counties.(13) Participatory Needs Assessments will involve direct engagement between target constituencies, and service providers to discern actual and not perceived need and could be defined by the following criteria:(14)
Who are the participants - the Stakeholders?
In order to facilitate Participatory Needs Assessments, which will become the backbone of the primary data collated, we must first identify the ‘stakeholders’.(15) This can be done simply by pulling together a focus group that includes regional and local strategic development partnerships as well as regional anti-poverty groups and representatives of the three Cross-Border Corridor Groups. The identification of a comprehensive profile of stakeholders is an essential first step for the development of Integrated Area Plans that meet the actual needs of a broad range of groups adversely affected by poverty and social exclusion.
For example key stakeholders include the following:(16)
After identification of the 'stakeholders' who will be engaged in participatory bodies, the development process needs to move onto the establishment of Participative Fora. This process can be managed through a range of stakeholder seminars that can be constructed within an agreed time frame and should be held on a sectoral (target constituency) and collective basis.
In the first instance the stakeholder seminars can be used to introduce and mainstream the idea of promoting anti-poverty and social inclusion initiatives as part of a wider process balanced integration and regeneration along the border corridor.
The stakeholder seminars could then agree key definitions, principles, aims and objectives and terms of reference for research to develop a coherent data profile on social, economic and spatial deprivation within the border corridor. Developing these features is crucial to facilitate mutually beneficial working relationships between the stakeholders.
The stakeholder seminars should be seen as a useful vehicle to access primary data and promote constructive working relationships. Building awareness of the extent of poverty, and developing a common analysis that ascertains why poverty levels in the Border regions are so high, and how disadvantage has come about, is integral to the process of developing Integrated Area Plans that will tackle real need.
The composition of the stakeholder groups should act as a central point of contact – helping to indicate what relevant studies have been already carried out in this field (local, municipal, regional). Because the geographical area is cross-border there will be dissonance and lack of uniformity in some areas of information provision. This incongruence should be seen as an opportunity to fill the gaps in the data profile.
The data collated in this regard should be both quantitative and qualitative developing a more holistic picture of the material conditions and quality of life consequences of social, economic and spatial injustice. Data collation using these considerations helps to not only highlight the extent of social, economic and spatial deprivation but also links in shared experiences and by extension the interdependent features of peripheralisation. This can help fill the gaps between the two different systems of measuring poverty based on the premise that poverty is a human experience not merely a mathematical calculation.
Ultimately the seminars can be used as a mechanism to develop more
substantial and enduring spaces for participation on integrated policy
development and implementation along the border corridor.(17)
As part ‘Creating Community for Reintegration’ and promoting an ‘Ireland of Equals’ Sinn Féin wants to see the development of co-operative platforms that will emancipate the poor and socially excluded on the basis of equality – pushing the ‘stakeholder’ seminar process to its developmental conclusion by creating permanent co-operative platforms for social and economic development and integration along the border corridor promotes that imperative.
Conclusion: Developing ‘a Community’ to Eliminate Deprivation and
Sinn Féin is committed to the elimination of poverty and deprivation on the island of Ireland. We feel that a meaningful approach to eliminating poverty will, by necessity, have to adopt a human rights based approach and draw all sectors of Irish society closer together. In a very real sense, there is an unbreakable link between the eradication of poverty and inequality and the full self-determination and democratisation in our society.
It is of critical importance that social partners recognise the infrastructural debility created by the border and engage in a broad campaign for rational approaches to integrated cross-border development and planning. In terms of balanced regional development on a 32 county basis - if the geographical areas that incorporate the border corridor are socially, economically and spatially interdependent – so too are the adjoining regions that interface with the border corridor.
The development of the Integrated Area Plans for the border corridor can facilitate the construction of a framework that is multi-agency and seeks to break patterns of regional peripherality from the ground up – interfacing more prosperous areas (Eastern Seaboard) with less prosperous areas (Border Corridor, West and South West) in a balanced and mutually beneficial developmental framework for the island as a whole.
Ultimately, the generation of the Integrated Area Plans will require
partnership and inclusive participation. This process will necessitate
dialogue with the requisite stakeholders in a process of sustained
engagement – this strategy document is part of that engagement. We all have
a responsibility to ensure that the long term patterns of regional
discrimination experienced by the communities living in the border area is
eradicated – this can only be achieved through the pragmatic integration of
social, economic and spatial networks
Given the comparable and interdependent nature of deprivation within the border corridor we believe that this strategy document presents a logic for integrated regional development that everyone irrespective of social or political grouping can invest in.
(1) INTERREG III, Programme 2000-2006, Ireland/Northern Ireland Operational
(2) Indicative Area Plan for the North West, Community Worker Co-operative/North West Community Network, 1999, p. 6
(3)See ‘National’ Development Plan 2000-2006, promoting social inclusion, chapter 10, p.188 and the Northern Ireland Structural Funds Plan, 2000-2006, Chapter 7, Priorities 2,3 and 5
(4) ‘National’ Development Plan 2000-2006, ‘the Common Chapter’ (9.20), p. 180
(5) Ibid, p.180
(7) INTERREG III Programme 2000-2006, Ireland/Northern Ireland Operational Programme, SWOT Analysis, pp. 53-54
(8) INTERREG III Programme 2000-2006, Ireland/Northern Ireland Operational Programme, SWOT Analysis, pp. 53-54
(9) See INTERREG IIIB, North West Europe, Programme Complement, pp. 13-15
(10) As outlined in the ‘Common Chapter’ the SEUPB will act as the overall management authority for INTERREG III and also be responsible for the monitoring and promoting the implementation of the “Common Chapter”, see ‘National’ Development Plan 2000-2006, ‘the Common Chapter’, (9.52, 9.53) p. 186
(11) See Appendix 1 An Explanatory Framework for Addressing Attitudinal, Systemic Constraints, adopted from Janelle Plummers, Municipalities and Community Participation: A Source Book for Capacity Building, p. 116, 1999, Earthscan Publications Ltd
(12) Capacity building training programmes to help create and sustain integration can be funded through INTERREG III – development officers within the Border Corridor Groups would be best placed to identify the most appropriate measure.
(13) Northern Ireland Structural Funds Plan 2000 –2006, pp. 52-53 and ‘National’ Development Plan 2000-2006, p. 196
(14) See Janelle Plummers Municipalities and Community Participation: A Source Book for Capacity Building, pp. 29-31, 1999, Earthscan Publications Ltd
(15) See Community Worker Co-operatives Developing Methodologies and Strategies to Combat Social Exclusion, p. 41, 2000.
(16) The above mentioned list is not exhaustive.
(17) These spaces could be developed into co-operative platforms within a two-tier system based on a mutually negotiated separation of power and jurisdictions with one tier acting as strategic collective (umbrella/regional) while the second tier would be more sectoral (thematic/cross-border) and grassroots. Both tiers should operate on the basis of equality not authority.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has reacted with disbelief and anger to the Minister for Justice's assertion that Travellers are not a distinct ethnic grouping in Ireland. The Minister's comments came in a reply to a parliamentary question by the Dublin South Central TD.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said "it is not within the gift of the Minister for Justice or indeed the Government to decide whether a group is ethnically different. Only those people themselves can exercise that right. Travellers organisations such as Pavee Point have made it quite clear that Travellers are a specific ethnic group within Ireland, with their own language, culture, customs and traditions. As such Travellers not only have the right to assert and celebrate their distinct ethnic identity, they also have the right to freedom from discrimination and protection under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination - which specifically includes the grounds of descent and ethnic origin.
"That the Minister for Justice can so casually dismiss the claims and aspirations of a significant section of Irish society is the height of paternalism, but unfortunately not too surprising coming from the man whose Government has criminalised nomadism and who himself has declared war on a rights based society.
"But the net effect of this Government policy is to deny Traveller identity. This is extremely serious. I call on the Government to retract this policy immediately and make a public statement recognising Travellers as an ethnic minority with all attendant rights." ENDS
Commenting on the Hanly Report, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said it failed to challenge the way in which hospital consultants exploit the two-tier system and is a blueprint for centralisation and for loss of services at local hospitals. He said:
"This is yet another report when what people want is real delivery of better services in their hospitals. The reality is that public patients are lying on trolleys in A and E units and beds have actually been closed when more beds were promised.
"This Report involves centralisation of hospital services. We've seen what this means with the closure of A&E and maternity services at hospitals such as Monaghan and Dundalk. People in the regions will suffer as a result. I predicted that the loss of services at Monaghan and Dundalk would be used as a blueprint for cuts in services in other hospitals. I know the reality of the pain that that causes to people. Hanly is that blueprint for over-centralisation and communities will suffer as a result.
"There are many services in local hospitals that are now going to be removed. The Minister's claim that there will be no downgrading will not wash with concerned citizens and healthcare providers at many of these locations.
"The commitment to no closure of any hospitals is a well worn response by the Minister, repeated many times in the case of Monaghan while services diminished. The people of Co. Monaghan will be very familiar with the language used.
CONSULTANTS GO UNCHALLENGED
"I welcome the planned reduction in working hours for Junior Hospital doctors in line with EU directives.
"While the Government is indicating more consultants will be employed there won't actually be any substantial increase in the aggregate number of Consultants and Junior Hospital Doctors and over the ten-year period. It will go from 5,800 overall to 5,900 in 2013.
"This Report highlights yet again what we've all known for years that consultants are exploiting the two-tier system. They are getting paid top dollar for work in the public system and being subsidised with public money to carry ontheir lucrative private practice.
"The National Health Strategy promised to re-negotiate the consultants contract to address this injustice. That was in 2001 yet two years later not even the preliminary negotiations have been concluded. The Minister is today again promising a renegotiation on the back of this Report.
"What we need are consultants working exclusively in the public health system, salaried by the State. As Brennan recommended, all new consultant posts should be in the public system only. Hanly does not directly address this issue.
"This abuse and the other serious ills of our health system have been highlighted repeatedly. But successive Governments have failed to deliver the cure. Don't forget this Fianna Fáil/PD Government have been in office for over six years and they are continuing in their failure to deliver the promised reform of the health services."ENDS
Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that top-up fees and loans will only create greater barriers to participation in third level education.
Ms Gildernew said:
"Top-up fees and student loans are a disastrous way to approach the strengthening of our universities and colleges. They will create greater
barriers to participation in third level education. This only weakens the diverse mix and quality of people able to afford to go to college and ultimately undermines the quality of our graduates, our research and the contribution universities and their students can make not just to our economy but the fabric of life in the Six Counties.
"It is totally unacceptable for the ability to pay to become the benchmark for accessing educational opportunity. We need to rule out top up fees and we need to scrap student loans because they have failed to address the need to open up access to our colleges and universities.
"The truth is that we should not be in this position today. There was a review of student finance undertaken by the last Assembly. Unfortunately the Minister responsible fudged the issue. Carmel Hanna created a hotch potch of measures on student finance that have failed but even worse she left the door open for the introduction student fees and a further dependency on loans.
"At the time Sinn Féin argued that there was an opportunity to resolve the issue of student finance and to deal with the issue of access to universities in a way that would support their long term growth. This was an opportunity missed. While I don't want to get to deeply into party politics I do find it ironic that members of Ms Hanna's party are now trying to portray themselves as the champions of the student body and access to third level education." ENDS
Speaking at the launch of the Sinn Féin strategy paper 'Re-unification through planned integration', Newry/Armagh representative Conor Murphy said:
"Partition is detrimental to the development of what is described as the Border Corridor. The EU recognises partition as the key factor in the disadvantage experienced by deprived communities along the border. This disadvantage is both structural, through the inadequacy of infrastructure, and systemic in terms of discrimination and partitionist mindsets in both administrations, which have actively opposed the social and economic logic integration across the border.
"Along with the representatives of other parties and the wider civic society encompassing Trade Union, Community, Voluntary and Private Sectors, Sinn Féin sits on all three Cross-Border Corridor Groups. It is important that the opportunities offered to both local communities and statutory authorities in progressing the agenda for meaningful integration is exploited to their limits.
"A key task for all republicans is to engage in this arena and to fully utilise the potential offered for building re-unification through integrative policies and projects. The strategy sets out a path by which we will be able to join with other progressive forces on the island of Ireland in identifying and developing concrete integrative proposals. These can take several approaches ˆ whether through campaign work, outreach and consultation or through the support of appropriate initiatives from community groups, businesses, statutory authorities and agencies. This strategy is appropriate to political activists at every level within our party and within every section of society that wishes to see this region developed to its full potential. We invite all interested parties to join with us in this project.
"In launching this strategy paper we are focussing clearly on the potential offered by the availability of EU funding for projects that will progress meaningful integration across the Border Corridor.
"At the centre of this process, Sinn Féin is calling on both governments to produce progressive, research-based, integrated area plans which will support applications made under Interreg 111b and 111c in addition to determining the appropriate nature of applications under Interreg 111a. Furthermore, it is essential that the manner in which these plans are developed is truly democratic and based on the best principles of participatory democracy with the creation of representative participatory fora.
"We look forward to the public launch of this strategy paper at a conference in Palace Stables Heritage Centre, Palace Domain, Armagh on Saturday 18th October. The conference will be opened by the Mayor of Armagh, Councillor Pat‚Rawe."ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP and party colleague Cllr. Alex Maskey will tomorrow welcome the President of East Timor Xanana Gusmao to West Belfast.
Speaking today Mr Adams said:
" Sinn Féin has had a relationship with the people of East Timor for many years during their struggle for independence and since, and in particular with the President's own political party.
" We are proud to have President Gusmao of East Timor visiting Ireland, and West Belfast in particular. As the MP for West Belfast I am honoured to welcome him to this area on behalf of the people." ENDS
Editors Note: Cllr. Maskey will meet with President Gusmao in the Springfield Millenium Community Outreach Centre at 2.15pm.
Mr Adams will meet President Gusmao at the Clonard Garden of Remembrance in Bombay Street at 3.30pm
Speaking in the Dáil this morning Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Arthur Morgan T.D. called for the repeal of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2003 which has increased the levels of housing segregation.
Deputy Morgan said:
"Housing segregation has been promoted by this government through the inclusion in the Planning and Development Amendment Act 2003 of what was effectively an opt out clause from the Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 for developers opposed to social and affordable housing. This has led to the unacceptable situation whereby some developers are now promoting, as a positive
feature the fact that housing developments have no social and affordable housing. The government's disgraceful actions and squalid deal with developers have contributed to the stigmatisation of those seeking social and affordable housing and Sinn Féin is calling of the immediate repeal the Planning and Development Amendment Act 2002.
"Segregated housing is the source of many of the social problems that have existed in this State for the last 30 years. The segregation of housing based on the class or the income of families has long been discredited and there has been widespread support at all level for integrated housing which represents the best option for the creation of stable communities." ENDS
Responding to the publication today of an 'Action Plan' by the Human Rights Commission Sinn Féin spokesperson on the issue Bairbre de Bron said:
" There is a crisis of confidence in the Human Rights Commission. It is broken and needs to be fixed. We received a copy of this Action Plan this morning and will study it in more detail before meeting with the Commission in the coming days.
" However this plan cannot address the core issues of structure, appointments, resources and remit. These are matters for the British government which we again raised with them in recent days. We will continue to raise these issues with the two governments in our ongoing discussions." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government Arthur Morgan T.D. this morning hit out angrily at lack of accountability with regard to waste management. Deputy Morgan was speaking following the disallowing of a question which he had tabled to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Martin Cullen T.D. Deputy Morgan said:
"I enquired from the Minister for the Environment how many of the local authorities in the 26 counties had privatised their refuse collection, to outline the amounts which are being charged by private refuse collection companies in each case and to state if these private companies provide waivers for pensioners, the unemployed or those on low incomes.
"This question was disallowed on the basis that the Minister has no responsibility to the Dáil for this matter.
"This is absolute madness. Nobody is accountable. The Minister has washed his hands of waste management altogether and is happy to leave it in the hands of the unelected city and county managers who are accountable to nobody. When the Minister for the Environment cannot even tell the Dáil which local authorities have privatised their waste collection services there is something seriously wrong.
"It is this unaccountable incompetence in relation to waste management that is at the very root of the current waste management crisis and escalation in protests over bin charges which people rightly see as being a stepping stone to privatisation." ENDS
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP has described a report from the Electoral Commission estimating that over 38,000 people on the register are without photographic ID as 'deeply concerning'.
Mr. Doherty said:
" This report from the Electoral Commission estimating that as many as 38,000 people who are on the register will be denied their vote because they do not have the correct ID is deeply concerning.
" These concerns are exacerbated further when you consider the additional voters who will be denied their vote because of the failure of the Electoral Office to compile a complete register.
" It now seems that not only will many thousands of potential voters be disenfranchised because they have been removed for the register, but another large body of people who are registered will also be denied their right to vote because of the narrow band of ID which is deemed acceptable." ENDS
Sinn Féin representative Gerry Kelly has called on the Ombudsman to immediately open an investigation into the relationship between the PSNI and the supposedly independent Forensic Science Agency. Mr. Kelly's remarks came after the acquittal today in Belfast of William James Nelson on robbery charges after claims that his DNA was found at the scene of a crime were proven false.
Mr. Kelly said:
" In court today it was exposed by an independent scientist that claims that a robbery suspects DNA were found on cigarette butts were false. The case was thrown out of court.
" It has emerged that the cigarette butts in question were never in fact tested for DNA by the Forensic Science Laboratory. They were instead removed from the crime scene by the PSNI. The PSNI then claimed that they had been tested for DNA.
" This is the second serious incident regarding court evidence being presented by the Forensic Science Laboratory in recent weeks. Recently it emerged in court that the PSNI had been placing pressure upon Forensic Scientists to come up with false evidence.
" The Ombudsman must now examine the entire relationship between the Forensic Science Agency and senior detectives operating within the PSNI."
Speaking after raising today's protests at bin depots across the city and county of Dublin in the Dáil this afternoon Sinn Féin Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe said:
"Today's events at bin depots throughout the city represent a serious and dangerous escalation of the bin tax protests which have left one man injured at a picket line on Collins Avenue and the effective lockout of bin workers by management at the Ballymount depot.
"In this the 90th anniversary year of the 1913 Lockout I think it is reprehensible that Dublin's local authorities have adopted the tactics of William Martin Murphy and his ilk in trying to defeat what are legitimate and principled protests against unjust taxation by ordinary people.
"The disruption of all bin collections across the city and county of Dublin is a direct consequence of the unacceptable and outrageous actions of the local authorities. We need them to step back from the confrontational path they have adopted, which has so far resulted in 15 people being jailed in relation to these unjust taxes.
"If the situation is to be retrieved we need to have a climate created that would be conducive to finding a just and equitable resolution to the bin tax dispute. This means the local authorities withdrawing their threats of non-collection and the re-introduction of a full bin service throughout the Dublin region. This is no longer just a simple dispute over non-payment of charges ? this has the potential to turn into a serious environmental and health problem as well as providing the spark for serious industrial unrest. The Councils and the Minister for the Environment's game of brinkmanship must end."ENDS
Sinn Féin Leader in the Dáil Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin this afternoon challenged the Taoiseach over the purpose of his recent meeting with the President of Shell Oil. Speaking during Leaders Questions the Sinn Féin deputy demanded to know if the meeting was called to specifically discuss the Corrib gas project and if it was just a "coincidence that the proposed Critical Infrastructure Bill surfaced in the wake of the meeting." He also pointed out that Shell would pay no royalties and the lowest tax in the world to exploit our natural gas.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "it is entirely inappropriate for a head of Government to be discussing a major planning matter which is still going through the planning process with this multinational. It is even more inappropriate for the Taoiseach to be discussing with the president of Shell a major piece of legislation, to fundamentally alter the planning process in this State, which has not even been signalled in the Government's Programme of Promised Legislation, let alone considered in any way by the Dáil or any Oireachtas Committee.
"It's a very strange coincidence indeed that the proposed Critical Infrastructure Bill as the Taoiseach described, or the National Infrastructure Bill, as Minister Cullen described it in Killarney last weekend should surface in the wake of the meeting with Shell.
"This is a prime example of the unacceptable, undemocratic and privileged access to the corridors of power in this State which wealth and power guarantees.
"How can the Taoiseach justify his Government's special treatment for a company like Shell which will pay no royalties and the lowest tax rates in the world for its exploitation of our natural gas resources?
"Bord Pleanála was correct in its refusal of planning permission for the gas terminal in West Mayo and that it was proven correct by the subsequent landslide which showed that the proposed method of disposal of peat was unsafe. This proves the absolute necessity to have the best planning and the best planning safeguards for all projects, regardless of size. We all agree that the planning process should be faster but we are opposed to the railroading of projects regardless of the wishes of communities and regardless of real environmental and health concerns. " ENDS
Sinn Féin Foyle representative Mary Nelis has welcomed the announcement that £2.5 million is to be made available to fit locks and other security measure to the homes of senior citizens‚ to both increase safety and the sense of security but added that such measures are only dealing with the symptoms not the problem.
Ms Nelis said:
"Making resources available to improve security in the homes of 10,000 senior citizens is a welcome step in itself. It both improves safety and the sense of security.
"However, such measures only deal with the symptoms they are not a cure for the problem of increasing attacks on the elderly.
"The reality is that turning homes into fortresses is not a long term solution to the problem of isolation, alienation or vulnerability. We need to look at targeting resources and actions to support communities in challenging the violence of those who target our senior citizens and we need to support senior citizens in realising their vital role in our communities." ENDS
A Sinn Féin delegation led by party President Gerry Adams MP and including Martin McGuinness MP, Dr. Dara O'Hagan, Cllr. Philip McGuigan and Cllr. Alex Maskey, this morning met with US Special Envoy Richard Haass.
Speaking afterwards Alex Maskey said:
"We had a good, useful meeting with Mr. Haass. The US continues to play an important role in the peace process and Mr. Haass especially has remained very focused.
"Sinn Féin remains confident that elections will be held.
"Useful work has been done and we had positive engagements during our meetings in London. These are issues that need to be resolved including, for Sinn Féin, the vexed issue of the transfer of power on policing and justice.
"I remain hopeful that if the participants to the talks continue to apply ourselves collectively that we can bridge the gap and make progress."ENDS
Former Education Minister Martin McGuinness has expressed deep concern at the spreading of confusion over when the 11+ transfer test will be finally abolished.
Mr McGuinness said:
"The decision that the final year group to sit the 11 + transfer test would take it in November 2004 was taken over twelve months ago.
"Children, parents and teachers need to know that this decision target will be adhered to and that increasing speculation and confusion is ended.
"The present confusion is being used by those opposed to change within the educational system." ENDS