Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Latest Statements

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


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Sinn Fein MEP Bairbre de Brún will meet with EU Commissioner Danuta Hübner on Monday April 18th in Brussels. The meeting is part of Sinn Fein's ongoing work to promote the need for a Peace III programme from 2007 - 2013 and for increased cross border cooperation within EU regional policy.

Speaking in advance of the meeting Ms de Brún said:

"Since the beginning of 2004 Sinn Fein has been campaigning and lobbying to secure a Peace III programme for 2007-2013. Such a programme would assist in underpinning the important work which has been carried out by community organisations across the country through Peace I and II.

"Since my election to the European Parliament last year I have been in correspondence with the Regional Development Commissioner and have raised the issue within the European Parliament and with the EU Presidency.

Following the election of Danuta Hübner as Commissioner in November, I contacted her office to make the case for a Peace III programme and to invite her to visit the region to see for herself the positive impact of PEACE and IFI funding to date. Next week's meeting is part of this ongoing political effort to explain to the Commission the vital need for peace and reconciliation projects to continue to secure funding.

"I will also take the opportunity of the meeting to highlight the need for a greater focus on cross border cooperation in Ireland as a means to further the social and economic regeneration on the 12 border counties, and the North West in particular. Such an approach would not only benefit these counties but the social and economic life of the island as a whole.

"Commissioner Hübner is in a key position to inform EU policy on both of these issues and I am looking forward to what I hope will be a positive and constructive meeting.' ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokespersons on Rural Development and the Environment, Martin Ferris TD and Arthur Morgan TD have jointly given a guarded welcome to the Minister for the Environments new planning guidelines for rural housing

The TDs said, "In practice much of what has been presented by the Minister is in effect happening already in different parts of the country albeit inconsistently. It is clear however, that some local authorities treat planning applications by local people much harsher than others. If these proposals bring uniformity to the planning process and actually help local people remain in their local areas then it has to be welcomed.

"We acknowledge the contentious issues associated with one-off housing and rural development. However, local people must be accommodated in developing homes in their respective areas.

"Sustainable rural communities will not develop through the provision of proper planning and design regulations alone -- but will require environmentally sustainable infrastructure and properly resourced government support." ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today said that the party 'does not accept the need for an EU Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)' and that Sinn Féin would continue to oppose its implementation.

Ms McDonald made her comments before both Sinn Féin MEPs voted against a motion for a European Parliament Resolution, proposed by Elmar Brok MEP.

Speaking from Strasbourg Ms McDonald said:

"Both myself and Bairbre de Brún MEP will be voting against this motion in the European Parliament today. Mr Brok´s report encapsulates everything that Sinn Féin believes is wrong with the current European approach to foreign policy.

"His report proposes the further militarization of the European Union and an increase in military spending. Furthermore the resolution proposes that aspects of the Common Foreign and Security Policy contained in the proposed EU Constitution are implemented in advance of the ratification of the treaty. This is wholly undemocratic and undermines the ratification process across the EU.

"Sinn Féin is committed to campaigning for an independent foreign policy and the promotion of alternative approach to foreign policy within the EU. This alternative opposes militarisation, promotes dialogue and conflict resolution, promotes a global justice including the Millennium Development Goals, Fair Trade policies and UN reform. Unfortunately Mr Brok's report takes us further away from these objectives." ENDS

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A Sinn Féin delegation, including Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, John O'Dowd MLA and Joan O'Connor from Sinn Féin's International Department, today met 18 members of the Diplomatic Corps in Ireland to brief them on the current state of the peace process, the latest initiative by Gerry Adams and to outline what Sinn Féin believes should be the next steps in the peace process.

Speaking after the meeting in Leinster House this afternoon Sinn Féin‚s International Affairs spokesperson, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said, „Today's meeting was very constructive and positive. We briefed representatives from 18 countries on the current state of the peace process, the latest initiative by Gerry Adams and on what Sinn Féin believes should be the next steps in the peace process.

"We addressed the role of the International Community and asked the Diplomatic Corps to use their Government‚s influence to put pressure on the British and Irish Governments to respond positively to the latest initiative by Gerry Adams.

"We also stressed the need for all parties to return to the negotiating table after next month‚s elections in order to get the institutions back up and running and to enhance the peace process.

„"Finally we outlined our continued commitment to the Good Friday Agreementand to building a united Ireland based on the principal of equality" ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún met with Gary Titley MEP, leader of the British Labour MEPs in Strasbourg this week. The meeting, which Ms de Brún described as 'useful' was at her request. The Sinn Féin MEPs have had a number of meetings in recent weeks to provide European parliamentarian with information about the Irish peace process'.

Speaking from Strasbourg Ms de Brún said:

"I found the meeting with Gary Titley MEP useful. I drew attention to a number of issues that are part of the process of implementing the Good Friday Agreement and in particular the need to re-establish the institutions and move forward on the all-Ireland aspects of the agreement. I also raised the issues of policing, demilitarisation, equality and human right

"We also spoke about the murder of Robert McCartney.

"I spoke to Mr Titley about the significant initiative undertaken by Gerry Adams last week.

"In addition to the meeting with Mr Titley, both Mary Lou Mc Donald and I are engaged in an ongoing programme of dialogue with MEPs from across the EU to ensure that they are kept informed of on-going developments in the Irish peace process." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGinness MP today met with the US Special Envoy Mitchell Reiss in Washington. Mr McGuinness had travelled to the US to brief Mr Reiss and other US politicians on the initiative taken last week by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.

Mr McGuinness said:

" Last week Gerry Adams took a hugely significant initiative aimed at advancing the peace process and moving us out of the current deep impasse. This was a genuine attempt on behalf of Sinn Féin to show the necessary political leadership at what is undoubtedly a difficult period in the process.

" Gerry Adams initiative has been well received by both the British and Irish governments and by the Administration and political opinion here in the US. The fact that I am here in the US while other political leaders in the north are engaged solely on the election campaign is a demonstration of the seriousness with which we are taking forward this initiative.

" There is a narrow window of opportunity to get down to serious negotiations after the Westminster and Local Government elections. If this is to succeed then it is important that all in political leadership including the two governments display the necessary political will to see real progress made. That will involve difficult decisions for all, not just republicans." ENDS

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Speaking at the launch of his Manifesto for Foyle in the upcoming Westminster General Election Sinn Féin's Mitchel Mc Laughlin said:

"The date for the Westminster election May 5th is a very poignant date in the Republican Calendar being the 24th Anniversary of the death on Hunger strike of the Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone, Bobby Sands. Since that historic election victory Sinn Féin has increased its political strength and we are now the pre-dominant voice of republican and nationalist opinion in the North and the third largest political party in Ireland.

"We are now, following the Údáras na Gaeltachta election not just the only all-Ireland Party but the only Party with representatives on every elective forum on this island. Moreover, supporting me here at this launch today we have a representative from each of those fora on the platform.

"I would like to welcome, Cavan/Monaghan TD, Deputy Caoimghin Ó Caoláin, Údáras na Gaeltachta Representative, Gráinne Mhic Géidigh, Donegal County Councillor and Member of Buncrana Urban District Council, Councillor Padraig MacLochlainn and Sinn Féin Group Leader on Derry City Council, Councillor Maeve Mc Laughlin.

"This Manifesto is my vision and that of my party for the future growth and prosperity of the Foyle Constituency and the greater NorthWest Region. In addition, I specify the NorthWest Region because I do not believe that we can fully develop the potential of Foyle in isolation from our natural hinterland of Donegal and the other border counties.

"In this Manifesto we lay out what Sinn Féin believes is required if we are to move out of what has been marketed for too long as a highly educated, low wage economy. This approach did nothing to strengthen the local economy or boost confidence in job security. Many expected job announcements made in a flurry of publicity never even materialised and many that did were only short term. There was no future planning for example to offset the downward spiral in the textile industry. Most of our highly qualified young people had to emigrate to acquire jobs with income commensurate with their qualifications.

"It is a time of change. It is time to change the policies that failed to make any real difference to the economic life of the majority of citizens here. Sinn Féin is the Party of change. After this election, I believe that we will have the opportunity to mould the required change at both Westminster and Local Government level. Following the elections, Sinn Féin will work with all of the other parties and sectoral groups to bring real jobs with real wages to this area. Sinn Féin Economic Policy for the Foyle constituency is based on a clear recognition that only a cross-border economic development strategy can fully address the legacy that over eighty years of separation from Derry‚s natural hinterland of Donegal has imposed on us.

"Sinn Féin, as I have previously remarked, has elected representatives on every fora on this island as well as Members of the European Parliament. As MP for Foyle, I will utilise all of the influence that these colleagues can exert on both governments and the European Parliament in my quest for investment and job creation in this Region.

"This Manifesto spells out the Sinn Féin position on Health Care provision, Education, Equality, Housing, Rural Development, Irish Language, the Environment and many more areas affecting the day-to-day lives of the citizens of Foyle.

"We will be delivering a copy of this Manifesto to every house in the Constituency so that electors can study it more closely and it is also available on CD disc for the benefit of the visually impaired."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD is to seek further clarifications from the Minister for Justice on the issue of the reinvestigation into the murder of Sinn Féin Donegal County Councillor Eddie Fullerton. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"I welcome the Minister‚s reply, particularly in that it makes very clear that the British Government and the PSNI are holding up the process of finding out the truth about collusion in this case, and in that it also leaves open the possibility of a public inquiry.

"However I still need clarification on a number of issues and I will be seeking this from the Minister today.

"The Minister says he will not publish the interim report he has received on the case because it is incomplete due to the outstanding information needed from the British authorities and PSNI. However, he avoids committing to publishing the final report, and we need this commitment from him. The Fullerton family, the people of Buncrana, and the Irish people as a whole deserve to know the truth about the assassination of this elected representative. Question marks also remain over the serious deficiencies in the original Garda investigation, and the public deserve the truth about this also.

"Disturbingly, despite a direct question on the matter it is unclear from the Minister‚s reply whether he has in fact raised this case with the British Government. If he has not, I want a clear commitment from him that he will do so, as the murder of an Irish public representative as a result of British security force collusion with a loyalist death squad is a matter of the utmost seriousness and public importance."ENDS

Questions to Minister and response received are attached:

Questions from Sinn Féin TDs and answer from Minister in relation to Fullerton case

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has raised or will raise the issue of the strong evidence of British security forces collusion in the murder of Donegal County Councillor Eddie Fullerton.

Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will raise with the British authorities the lack of full co-operation from the PSNI in relation to the reinvestigation of the murder of Donegal County Councillor Eddie Fullerton.

Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether the murder of an Irish elected representative, Donegal County Councillor Mr. Eddie Fullerton, demands a full public inquiry.

Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the questions regarding the Garda investigation into the murder of Donegal County Councillor Mr. Eddie Fullerton arising out of the TG4 documentary, Fullerton; including the failure to question suspects and a key witness.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a report from the Garda Síochána regarding the re-examination of the Garda investigation into the murder of Donegal County Councillor Eddie Fullerton which was completed in 2004; if not, the reason for the delay; if so, when he intends to publish its contents.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):

I would first like to state unequivocally my abhorrence at the murder of Mr. Eddie Fullerton, then Sinn Féin councillor on Donegal County Council,

on the morning of 25 May 1991. The attack was callous and cold-blooded, and it also involved the taking hostage of another family in Buncrana. The so-called Ulster Freedom Fighters subsequently claimed responsibility for the murder. Unfortunately, to date, no person has been made amenable for this appalling crime.

In June 2003, solicitors acting on behalf of the family of the late Mr. Fullerton submitted to me what was described as a 'preliminary memorandum' setting out the concerns of the family in relation to the murder and the ensuing investigations and calling for an inquiry into the matter. These concerns had, to some extent, already been raised directly with the Garda Síochána in April 2002.

In any event, I referred the submitted memorandum to the Garda Commissioner. In response, the Commissioner directed the establishment of a review team led by a chief superintendent to conduct a thorough and concise investigation into all matters of concern raised, inter alia, either directly with the Garda authorities or as part of the memorandum submitted by the Fullerton family's solicitors.

The Garda review is drawing to a conclusion. Outstanding matters relate to the awaited results of a mutual assistance request to the British authorities and certain police-to-police enquiries with the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

I am recently in receipt of a report from the Garda authorities on the current, incomplete status of the review. However, no final conclusions can be drawn until such time as replies from the British and Northern Ireland authorities are received, evaluated and acted upon, as appropriate, by the Garda Síochána. Nevertheless, I can state that the Garda review itself was extensive, involving the taking of more than 150 statements and the interview of more than 120 people, including a person characterised by the Fullerton family's solicitors as being a new, key witness.

I do not intend to publish the Garda report which I recently received. However, as soon as all outstanding matters are clarified by the Garda Síochána upon the receipt of responses from the British and Northern Ireland authorities, I have already undertaken to contact the Fullerton family's solicitors with a full response to their concerns, including any action that I deem appropriate or necessary by way of further investigation or inquiry.

I should add that I have no reason to believe - nor have I received any indication - that either the British or Northern Ireland authorities have failed or will fail to co-operate with the requests made of them.

It should be noted that the Garda chief superintendent in charge of the review met the Fullerton family and their solicitors last December to

provide them with and up-to-date briefing on developments with the review."ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today accused the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern of 'running scared of calling a date for the EU Constitution referendum'. Ms McDonald made her comments after the Taoiseach answered a question by Sinn Féin Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin in the Dail yesterday in regards to a specific date for the EU Constitution referendum.

Speaking from Strasbourg Ms McDonald said:

"There is much worry in pro-EU federalist circles that a No vote in the forthcoming French referendum in May could create a ripple effect in other member states, leading to further opposition to the EU Constitution across member states.

"The date for the referendum in Ireland should not be determined by referenda in other countries. I am calling on the Taoiseach to put this referendum to the people this autumn, regardless of the impending French outcome. The fact that the Taoiseach is running scared is reflected in his refusal to name a date for the EU Constitution referendum.

"The Taoiseach also stated that 'we have an obligation to pass the European Constitution here'. I want to remind Mr Ahern that people are under no obligation to do anything of the sort. They must be allowed to make their judgement on this treaty free from pressure or coercion. I would also challenge the Taoiseach to confirm that his government will not re-run the referendum if they do not get their desired outcome. The people of Ireland must have the final decision on this treaty." ENDS

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Speaking today after the Taoiseach confirmed that a referendum on the EU Constitution will be held in 2006, Sinn Féin Dáil leader, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláín TD expressed concern over the Taoiseach's unwillingness to rule out a second referendum if the people vote against the Constitution.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "After I questioned the Taoiseach today he confirmed that a referendum on the EU Constitution will be held in 2006. But he refused to rule out the possibility of a second referendum if the first one does not go the way he wishes it to go. I am quite concerned that the Taoiseach may not respect the democratic will of the people.

"Sinn Féin will be campaigning for a NO vote on the EU Constitution but if the people vote for the Constitution then we will respect their will. Unfortunately the Taoiseach has not given us any such commitment if there is a No vote.

"If the people vote against the EU Constitution then the Taoiseach must accept this as the will of the people and he must not force a second referendum as he did with the Nice referendum."ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Trade and Enterprise, Arthur Morgan TD has welcomed the announcement today by Minister Martin that he is to appoint 11 more labour inspectors but said it still falls far short of what is required to ensure the full protection of workers rights.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Deputy Morgan said there was an „urgent necessity for legislation to be brought forward to reform the work permits system in light of the litany of revelations of exploitation of migrant workers which have come to public attention in recent weeks including the cases of the Gama construction workers, the farm labourers in the South East and the Filipino women employed by Irish Ferries."

Earlier Deputy Morgan said he welcomed Minister Martin‚s announcement that he is to appoint 11 more labour inspectors who will place specific emphasis on areas of employment where there are large concentrations of migrant workers. "However, county Louth TD said, "this falls far short of what is required to ensure the full protection of workers rights.

"Sinn Féin would support the trade union call for at least 70 inspectors so that proper and thorough investigations can be carried out to root out the unscrupulous employers who are flagrantly abusing migrant workers and by extension driving down the working conditions of all workers."

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today welcomed a motion for a European Parliament resolution on the eradication of world poverty. Ms de Brún said

that 'poverty and hunger is the consequence of a political and economic system that turns its back on the world's poor'.

Speaking from Strasbourg on a report by Glenys Kinnock MEP 'on the role of the European Union in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals

(MDGs)', Ms de Brún said:

"I want to commend this report on the commitments required by member states on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In September 2000 the member states of the United Nations unanimously adopted the Millennium Declaration. One of the targets in this declaration is to halve the proportion of people living on $1(EUR0.75 approx) a day by 2015. Unless rich countries meet the very modest target of 0.7% of GNI this target cannot be reached.

"However, a number of member states have not met their commitments, whilst others have begun a process of decreasing aid levels. The EU's strong words on poverty reduction, reduction in child mortality, ensuring environmental sustainability and combating HIV and Aids must be matched with action.

"One small step towards reversing this trend would be a redirection of a significant portion of the 160 billion budget spent annually by EU states on defence. It has been estimated that 100 billion euros would halve world poverty by 2015.

"In particular I commend the report's assessment that action against poverty requires a radical change of policy in both industrialised and developing countries in order to address the structural causes of poverty, including unfair world trade rules, unaffordable debt payments and the unfair distribution of wealth. It is also important to state that EU development assistance should be promoted in the context of global justice and not merely a question of giving some money to alleviate the hardship that structural inequalities continue to create.

"We need to see the complete cancellation of developing world debt. We need to see an end to the subordination of aid to security policy and an increase in EU expenditure on combating poverty and hunger. We need to see structural barriers to progress in developing countries removed.

"I very much hope that this report will act as an incentive in a world of inequality, endless cycles of preventable poverty, hunger and disease."

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Sinn Féin Councillor for North Belfast, David Kennedy, has slammed the sectarian attacks which took place tonight in Old Throne Park in the Whitewell area. The attacks, which saw several nationalist homes targeted with bricks took place at 9pm on Tuesday night.

Speaking today Cllr Kennedy said:

"These attacks bear the hallmarks of the continued sectarian campaign by loyalists that has been ongoing in the Whitewell area. At 9pm a group of around ten loyalists were clearly seen by residents throwing bricks over the interface at Old Throne Park.

"Residents are clearly shaken and worried that attacks such as this will be repeated especially given the fact that Whitewell has seen a long list of attacks against nationalists since before Christmas.

"Clearly a pattern has emerged here and it is one that has to be brought to an end. I have appealed before, and I am appealing yet again, for those with influence in the loyalist community to do whatever is in their power to bring attacks in the Whitewell to an end." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has expressed disappointment with the proposed Immigration and Residence Bill scheme published today by the Minister for Justice and indicated that Sinn Féin will make a submission to the Minister on the party‚s proposed policy alternatives. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"As with all of his reform packages, the Minister has once again failed to address some of the main problems and injustices in the existing system. While I continue to study his proposals - and welcome a few of his plans - I have already identified some fundamental flaws.

"Firstly, he has not provided for the granting of work permits to employees instead of employers. This is essential. The current system is wide open to major exploitation of immigrants, as we have seen in the most recent case of the GAMA workers.

"The Minister has not provided for a formal system of complementary protection for those who do not meet the UN refugee definition but who are still in need of Irish protection and compassion. The present system is unfair, is too discretionary and is neither transparent nor human rights-compliant.

"His family reunification proposals, while welcome, are too minimal and do not provide sufficient guarantees of fairness.

"He also does not provide for even a temporary amnesty for illegal migrants - though his Government has asked the US to grant such an amnesty to illegal Irish migrants in America.

"He does not provide for an end to immigration detention in prisons ˆ despite criticism of this practice by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. He offers no solution to the problem that the border continues to apply to non-EU migrants - who cannot legally cross into the Six Counties. Nor does he provide for an end to mass deportations - a disastrous policy from a human rights point of view as we have recently seen.

"He also does not provide for either compulsory human rights and anti-racism training for immigration officers or for the monitoring of immigration officers for racist practice or for human rights compliance. The absence of such requirements has already caused problems.

"While the establishment of a separate Immigration and Naturalisation Service is welcome, he has failed to establish a separate Ministerial responsibility for it, and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment will continue to have responsibility for foreign workers.Therefore, incoherence in this policy area looks set to continue.

"Finally, the Minister makes a number of very problematic proposals to which Sinn Féin is opposed, including Ministerial discretionary powers to set immigration quotas, the fingerprinting of visitors, the potential outsourcing of visa application processing and decision-making to a private company, and the potential establishment of detention facilities at ports and airports."

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Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams speaking at the launch of Conor Murphy's campaign for Newry and Armagh said:

" Last week I made an appeal to the IRA to commit itself to purely political and democratic activity. But because my appeal - because the focus of my remarks were directed at the IRA - some have interpreted this as suggesting that I see the IRA as being the only problem. That is not the case.

" I made it very clear in my speech last week that there are many problems to be resolved in the time ahead. Particularly for those parties with a responsibility to implement the Good Friday Agreement. It especially has huge implications for the two governments. They face significant challenges. Not least implementing commitments they have made and not honoured.

" Demilitarisation; policing; human rights and equality are all crucial matters that are primarily the responsibility of the governments. What do they plan to do about these? Power sharing is a central tenet of the Good Friday Agreement. Will the governments deliver on these obligations or will they acquiesce again to unionism? These are key matters; key areas of responsibility for London and Dublin.

" My initiative means that there can be no possible excuse for the process to remain in stagnation.So I am looking for the widest possible support. Here in County Armagh republicans have been part of all the great changes. The people of this county have always played a pivotal role in the struggle for freedom and justice.I am sure that that will continue into the future.

" I thank you all for your leadership and I thank you all for your contribution. Good luck in all that you do." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Employment spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD while welcoming today's announcement that the minimum wage would be increased to €7.65 from May 1st, has called on the Government to take measures to ensure that this doesn't mean those on the minimum wage re-enter the tax net.

Deputy Morgan said, "I welcome the increase in the minimum wage and the acceptance by the Government of the Labour Courts ruling on this issue.

"During the announcement of the Budget last year there was much fanfare from the Minister for Finance regarding the fact that minimum wage earners were being taken out of the tax net. As we predicated would happen, even this relatively small increase in the minimum wage brings those on the minimum wage back into the tax net.

"We are calling on the government to introduce supplementary measures to ensure that this 65cent an hour increase is also exempted from tax.

"Before budget 2005 those on the minimum wage were paying €280 tax per years based on a 39 hour week. In line with the budget announcement that minimum wage earners were being exempted from the tax net they were paying nothing since January 1st. However from 1st May they will be paying tax of €252.84 a year based on a 39 hour week. This means that minimum wage earners gained an average of a measly €27.16 a year from the much heralded budget announcement last December.

"Sinn Féin is calling on the Government to keep minimum wage earners out of the tax net." ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today said that the party is in favour of 'real reform of MEPs expenses'. Ms McDonald made her comments after both she and Bairbre de Brún MEP voted in favour of a report by Ona Jukneviciene MEP in regards to the EU's general budget. Both Sinn Féin MEPs supported moves to standardise MEP salaries, greater accountability in MEPs general allowances, allowances to reflect real costs incurred by MEPs, greater transparency around secretarial assistance allowance and calling for MEPs to take the decision on where the European Parliament should sit.

Speaking from Strasbourg Ms McDonald said:

"Sinn Féin is committed to equality within the European Parliament. On this basis, both I and Bairbre de Brún voted in favour of the report by Ona Jukneviciene MEP in regards to the EU's general budget. Since the most recent enlargement of the European Union in May 2004, there has been a discrepancy between members' salaries. MEPs from the recently enlarged states are paid significantly less than many of their Western European counterparts.

"In light of this, we believe that there should be a single remuneration for members of the European Parliament. It is worth pointing out that in line with party policy, Sinn Féin MEPs receive an average industrial wage, with the remainder paid into the party for development and constituency services.

"Sinn Féin also voted in favour of a resolution that MEPs general expenditure allowances be accounted for and for secretarial assistance allowances to be made more transparent. The European Parliament has a reputation for being a 'gravy train' and clearly abuses take place. Sinn Féin is committed to making the EU accountable to the people for its actions and in how it carries out its work.

"It is hugely disappointing that a majority of MEPs voted against this motion. People in Ireland and across Europe expect their elected representatives to be accountable to them. This decision will do nothing to instil confidence in a sceptical public.

"I want to commend Mr Jukneviciene for his report. Sinn Féin will continue our work to make the EU a more accountable body both in Ireland and throughout Europe." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson and Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said the series of protests at hospitals by nurses beginning today demonstrates that Health Minister Mary Harney has failed to deliver on her promises of real improvements in Accident and Emergency units by this month. He called on Sinn Féin activists and members of the general public to support the Irish Nurses Organisation in their protest campaign.

He stated: "It is scandalous that once again nurses in our public hospitals have to take protest action to highlight the continuing crisis, especially in Accident and Emergency units. When Mary Harney took over the Health brief last autumn she acted as if she had been in opposition since 1997 and did not share collective responsibility for the mess in our health services. She promised real improvements in A&E but these have not happened. She has delivered rhetoric not results.

"The nurses protests come amid the continuing A&E crisis, the shortage of beds in acute hospitals and the serious shortage of nurses. Every day we hear more stories of people lying on trolleys or sitting on chairs for days on end waiting for a bed and/or treatment. We also hear of the pressures nursing staff are under to cope with poorly resourced and overcrowded facilities.

"The Irish Nurses Association has said 'Enough is Enough'. We in Sinn Féin agree. It is long past the time for real action. We believe that this Government will only sit up and listen when all of us - staff, patients, their relatives and the wider community come together to demand real results not rhetoric, including the provisions of extra beds.

"To bring real pressure to bear on the Government and the Minister for Health, Mary Harney, I would encourage all Sinn Féin activists and the general public to support the Irish Nurses Organisation in their lunchtime protests at hospitals around the country throughout the rest of this month."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for South Down Caitriona Ruane today challenged Eddie McGrady to answer the substance of the very serious allegations contained in a leaked NIO memo which appeared in this mornings Irish News, rather than trying to create a smokescreen by making baseless allegations about the source of the leak.

Ms Ruane said:

" I utterly refute Eddie McGrady's allegation that Sinn Féin leaked this NIO memo. This is a futile attempt by Mr McGrady to distract attention from the

substance of the document.. This document is written by a senior British Official. If there is any smear involved it is by that Official. If the author of the memo has libelled Mr McGrady then he should sue him.

" Any objective analysis of Mr McCabe's report shows that:

  • If it had been up to Mr McGrady there would be no Peace Process
  • According to Mr McGrady every one was out of step except him. This included grassroots SDLP members, John Hume and the Irish and British governments.
  • Mr McGrady was opposed to comprehensive, inclusive negotiations.
  • Mr McGrady placed narrow party political interests in front of the development of what at that time an embryonic peace process
  • Mr McGrady opposed the development of a nationalist consensus on the way forward.

" These are the allegations which Mr McGrady has to answer." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dublin South East Representative, Councillor Daithí Doolan, has today welcomed, "the establishment of a new Garda Forum for Dublin South East. It's aim is to tackle crime in a preventative & strategic manner."

Cllr. Doolan said:

"The recent Lord Mayor's Commission on Law & Order and Crime Prevention highlighted the need to tackle anti social behaviour in the city. Life for many of our residents has become a living nightmare because of the behaviour of a minority. With this in mind I proposed the establishment of a local Garda Forum for Dublin South East. It will consist of regular meetings attended by senior Gardaí, City Management and City Councillors. I am delighted that my proposal received unanimous support at yesterday's Area Committee meeting. It clearly shows that people are willing to explore new ideas to solve old problems. I firmly believe by working together we can dramatically improve the quality of lives for many residents here in Dublin. If it works I don't see why it can't be replicated across the state.

"For too long the problems have out weighed the solutions, this forum aims to bring the solutions to many of the problems to a local level. It will ensure Dublin of Gardaí, City Management and City Councillors themselves. Prevention is the best solution and this forum will be an ideal platform to work together on preventing crime before it takes hold of a community."

In conclusion Cllr. Daithí Doolan claimed, "it will take a lot of hard work to tackle the causes of crime in Dublin but this is a major step forward in the process."

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