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 Féin President Gerry Adams MP, MLA has today called on the British government to reverse its decision to "down-grade the status of the Equality Commission by advertising for a part-time Chief Commissioner".

The Sinn Féin President said the decision represented "a retrograde move by the British government away from the Good Friday Agreement".

He said; "If successful this would undermine yet another key mechanism of the Good Friday Agreement at a time when the Commission requires additional, not less support to fulfil its role in combating inequalities across our society."

Mr. Adams added:

"I have written to British Minister John Spellar calling on him to halt the current recruitment process and to re-advertise for a full-time Chief Commissioner.

"I also pointed out that British government assertions in the public advertisement - which claimed that the Equality Commission had now made „enough progress‰ to justify the post becoming part-time is totally at variance with the facts. These reveal that inequality across all the social and economic indicators continues to detrimentally affect our society, and in particular the nationalist section of our people.

"The scale and depth of inequality, sectarianism and racism are major challenges which must be confronted. While some progress has been made it is not enough to justify this disgraceful move by the British government.

"Much remains to be done to build equality and eradicate sectarianism and racism. This requires a concerted and comprehensive approach, backed by long-term strategies and sufficient resources to tackle these problems.

The British government‚s decision will be welcome news to those who see the equality agenda as a threat. It must be reversed."ENDS

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Responding to Willie O'Dea's latest outburst Sinn Féin Waterford City Councillor David Cullinane said, "Sinn Féin and true Irish Republicans the length and breadth of this island will commemorate with pride all those who have died in the pursuit of Irish freedom from 1916 on. We will not be put off by Willie O'Dea as he spews out another load of anti-republican claptrap.

"I have no doubt that his comments will be duly ignored by the tens and thousands of Irish Republicans who will join with Sinn Féin in paying honour to those who died in the fight for Irish freedom." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, referring to the decision by the Minister for Justice to allow Olunkunle Eluhanla to return to sit his leaving certificate, has said, "Just this once is not good enough minister." Deputy Ó Snodaigh has also called for an all Ireland immigration policy and for hate crime legislation to be harmonised to tackle the "alarming and unacceptable rise in racist hate crime" that we have seen across the island over the last decade.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "The recent case of Leaving Cert student Olunkunle Eluhanla highlights the very real injustices that exist in relation to the Dublin Governments policy of mass deportation of immigrants. While the Ministers U-turn is welcome it is no substitute for a fundamental review of the whole policy.

"Just this once is not good enough Minister, there were many other people deported in the last week who should also be allowed to return and have their cases reviewed on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. We need a full investigation and report on the human rights implications of this policy by the Human Rights Commission."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh went on to say, "In both parts of this island we have seen an alarming and unacceptable rise in racist hate crime over the past decade. This rise in racism is blighting our society and bringing shame on our nation. It is an island-wide problem, and it needs an island-wide solution.

"We need to significantly strengthen the hate crime legislation in both jurisdictions. We propose that it should be harmonised. Indeed, the Good Friday Agreement commitments to equivalent human rights protections north and south require this. Incitement to hatred legislation is presently under review in the 26 Counties but this has become stalled under the present Minister for Justice, for whom fighting racism is not a political priority.

"In addition, the fact that two different immigration systems operate on the island is causing all kinds of unnecessary problems and heartache. Sinn Féin also believes that the island should have one immigration policy, and this should be positive, compassionate, human rights-compliant and anti-racist." ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald, has said Minister Willie O'Dea's has some brass neck accusing anyone of hypocrisy. 'His party in government have done more to erode neutrality than any other party in the history of the state'.

Ms McDonald made her comments after a row broke out between Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea TD and Fine Gael, when clashed on the issue of neutrality. Minister O'Dea quizzed Fine Gael on whether or not they viewed the principle of neutrality as 'negotiable'.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"We all know where Fine Gael stands in regard to neutrality. They are quite happy for this state to be tied up in the military development of the EU. However Fianna Fail's approach to the issue is both contradictory and hypocritical. At least we know where we stand with Fine Gael.

"Minister Willie O'Dea's party are single handedly responsible for the erosion of the principle of neutrality in this state. I want to take this opportunity to challenge Minister O'Dea on Fianna Fail's record on Irish neutrality.

"Bertie Ahern and his merry band of Ministers have presided over a policy which has facilitated the use of our airspace and Shannon Airport by those actively involved in occupying Iraq. Recent reports have suggested that far from troop through flow decreasing, it has in effect increased dramatically in the last year. This is in direct contradiction to the principle of neutrality.

"Moreover, this government whole-heartedly supports the EU Constitution which is quite explicit that any future foreign, defence or security policy must be compatible with the common security and defence policy of NATO. It obliges member states to 'actively and unreservedly support the Unions common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty'. There is no requirement for a UN mandate for any future military interventions. While member states retain the right not to send troops to any given EU military mission, Irish taxpayers will none the less have to foot the bill while the government is constrained by the 'loyalty' clause irrespective of the views of the electorate.

"Someone should point out to Willie O'Dea that we are still a few days away from April Fool's Day. People will not be deceived by his views on neutrality." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on policing issues Gerry Kelly has accused the SDLP 'of once again acquiescing to the continuing use of plastic bullets by the PSNI'. Mr Kelly's remarks come after the Policing Board of which the SDLP are a key component voted to introduce a new plastic bullet.

Mr Kelly said:

"Plastic bullets kill that is the bottom line. They are lethal devices and have no place in an acceptable policing service. The SDLP in public have consistently claimed to be opposed to the use of plastic bullets. They told us that through membership pf the Policing Board they would ensure the removal of Plastic Bullets. Yet on the Policing Board they have previously rubber stamped the purchase of thousands of these devices. Yesterday the Policing Board voted to introduce a new plastic bullet, the SDLP made noise but were ultimately powerless to prevent this and will without doubt go along with the decision of the Board. The SDLP have once again acquiesced to the continuing use of plastic bullets by the PSNI.

"The continuing use of Plastic Bullets by the PSNI causes great anger within the broad nationalist and republican community. The Sinn Féin position on Plastic Bullets is clear and unambiguous. We are absolutely opposed to the use of plastic bullets and have campaigned to have them removed for decades. The ongoing use of plastic bullets has of course formed part of our discussions with the British government on the wider issue of trying to achieve an acceptable and accountable policing service. Nationalists and republicans want to see plastic bullets removed not re-invented or re-branded by the Policing Board or the SDLP." ENDS

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Sinn Fein MEP and former Assembly Health Minister Bairbre de Brún as today reiterated her calls for a complete ban on smoking in enclosed public places in the Six Counties. Ms de Brún said that 'the success story of the ban in the south means that its benefits are impossible to ignore'.

Ms de Brún made her comments on the final day of Angela Smith's consultation in the north and as the first anniversary of the ban in the south approaches (29.03.05) .

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"I want to urge anyone who has not yet made their views known in the smoking ban consultation in the north to do so. They can still go on line today to respond on the DHSSPS website www.dhsspsni.gov.uk

"I also want to pay tribute to all of those individuals and organisations who have worked so very hard throughout the north to keep this issue in the spotlight. There is a growing realisation amongst very many people that such legislation would be practical and extremely beneficial to the health of all workers.

"As the first anniversary of the ban approaches in the south of Ireland, it is worth reflecting upon its success. It has been estimated that 7,000 smokers have given up smoking, with many more reducing their intake of tobacco products since the introduction of the ban. The time is long overdue for an all-Ireland ban on smoking in enclosed public places.

"I want to commend the Irish Government for taking this bold initiative. I would urge the Minister for Health Mary Harney to seek a meeting with British Minister Angela Smith, to discuss the practicalities of introducing such a ban island-wide.

"Angela Smith should now move on this speedily. All the local political parties support the right of workers to work in a smoke free environment and she must take this into account and act immediately." ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today called upon the Irish Government to oppose the nomination of Paul Wolfowitz as the US nominee to lead the World Bank. It has emerged that he will meet European economy and aid ministers in Luxembourg on March 30, the day before his likely approval for the job.

Ms McDonald said today that Mr Wolfowitz was a man with 'no experience in economics, development or dealing with the eradication of poverty'.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"Sinn Féin is opposed to the appointment of Mr Wolfowitz as the next President of the World Bank. Mr Wolfowitz is a man with no experience in economics, development or dealing with the eradication of poverty. Indeed, a petition by development agencies calling on governments to reject Mr Wolfowitz was signed by over 1300 development organizations and individuals in 68 countries. There is considerable consternation amongst the NGO sector at this nomination.

"I am calling upon this government to oppose the nomination of Paul Wolfowitz. This man was one of the main architects of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. To place him at the head of the World Bank would be a further extension of US Foreign Policy, and the further politicization of that body.

"In line with our European election promise in 2004, Sinn Féin pledged to use the European Parliament to advance a global justice agenda and the advancement of a fairer world. The World Bank does not need a neo-conservative; it requires someone who is committed to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals on global poverty reduction and a long term strategy to promote a more equal world." ENDS

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North Antrim Assembly member Philip McGuigan has demanded that the BBC adopt the same policy towards the wearing of the Easter Lily as they do to the wearing of the poppy.

Mr McGuigan said:

"The BBC is a public body they expect without question nationalists and republicans to pay their wages through the licence fee yet it is an organisation hostile to their political objectives.

"Presenters are forced to wear the poppy symbol in the lead up to remembrance events in November regardless of their own political views, no such policy operates in relation to the Easter Lily. This is a clear case of political bias and discrimination. Either the BBC afford the Easter Lily the same respect as the poppy or they adopt a position of neutrality.

"The current situation of adopting a hierarchy of victims is unacceptable. The Irish Republican war dead have to be afforded the same respect as the British war dead. This is a black and white issue. The BBC can no longer be allowed to sit back and discriminate against the republican community in this fashion. To any impartial observer the BBC policy in relation to the wearing of symbols is biased and I believe flies in the face of the Good Friday Agreement demand that symbols be used sensitively." ENDS

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Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Representative Paul Butler has described the revelation that the suspected loyalist drug dealer who had assets totalling £5m frozen yesterday was a former RUC member 'as further irrefutable evidence of links between loyalist death squads and the British forces'.

Cllr. Butler said:

"Sinn Féin has been campaigning for decades on the issue of collusion between the various unionist death squads and members of the RUC. Time and again these links have resulted in the murder of innocent Catholics.

"The revelation which has now emerged is that the individual who had assets totalling almost £5m seized yesterday by a Belfast court is not only a prominent loyalist drug dealer linked to both the LVF and UVF but that he is also a former member of the RUC.

"This evidence presented in a court is further irrefutable evidence of links between loyalist death squads and the British forces. However the failure to secure a prosecution against this individual will only raise suspicions that he has enjoyed some sort of immunity due to his close connections to the PSNI." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has expressed his 'deep personal sadness at the news of the death of Irish musician Sean Maguire. The Sinn Féin President extended his 'deepest condolences to Sean's family and large circle of friends.

Mr. Adams said:

"Sean Maguire was a master musician, admired and respected throughout the country. He was a great teacher of Irish music. His love - his grá - for Irish music shone through in his teaching and his playing.

"Sean was a proud Irish man and a good personal friend. He will be greatly missed.

"He was a lifelong republican and supporter of Irish unity." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Newry and Mourne councillor Breandan Lewis, who is one of four Sinn Fein representatives on the Southern Education Library Board has said that the vote by the SELB to implement savage cuts would cause long-term damage to the education of children and young people in the area.

Cllr Lewis said:

"Sinn Fein put forward proposals to reject these cuts. Unfortunately the Board rejected these proposals.

"The SELB, like the other education library boards, was put in this impossible position by Barry Gardiner.

"This left the Sinn Fein councillors with no other option but to resign.

"I think that along with many others there is a disappointment that the Board has allowed itself to be put in the position of having to vote on a savage programme of cuts caused by Barry Gardiner. I am disappointed that the Board has allowed itself to be used in this way.

"The implementation of these cuts will have a long term impact on the education of our children and young people." ENDS

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Commenting on the decision of the Irish Medical Organisation to boycott the GP-only medical cards, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin said it showed that the Government's Health Strategy was now a shambles.

He stated:

"The Government's Health Strategy is now a complete shambles. While not condoning the action of the IMO in this matter, it shows gross political incompetence on the part of this Government that they should have brought in this scheme and now cannot deliver it. The 200,000 people who need and deserve this service as promised from April this year are now to be denied it.

"Since this Fianna Fáil/PD Coalition took office in 2002 there some 65,000 fewer people with medical cards. Well over 100,000 fewer people have cards now than in 1997 when the Ahern/Harney Coalition was formed.

"Plans for the development of primary care have been shelved. The renegotiation of the consultants' contract to ensure greater equity for public patients in our hospitals is more than two years overdue. And now we find that the Government has failed to lay the groundwork for the new GP-only medical cards and they are facing a boycott by doctors." ENDS

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Speaking today at the launch of the annual Easter Lily campaign in Stormont, Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly said that this weekend would see tens of thousands of republicans taking part in marches, commemorations and wreath laying ceremonies across the island.

Mr Kelly said:

"This year marks the 89th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. It is an important time for Irish republicans. It is a time for remembering our friends and colleagues who have given their lives in pursuit of our republican ideals and goals. It is a time for reflecting on these ideals.

"We recall the words of the 1916 Proclamation - an historic document - one of the most progressive documents ever written. The Proclamation spells out the demand for social and economic justice and democracy, of cherishing all the children of the nation equally, irrespective of colour, religion, gender, ability or race, equally.

"Easter is also a time of renewal - a time when we as Irish republicans rededicate ourselves to the legitimate and achievable goals of independence and unity for the people of this island.

"The past year has undoubtedly been both a challenging and indeed very difficult, year for republicans and the peace process. We made a massive breakthrough in the elections in the 26 counties yet ended the last year with the failure once again of unionism to agree the share power on the basis of equality and respect.

"This year Easter comes with the political establishment set once again on a course of criminalizing the republican struggle and by extension our patriot dead. This weekend provides republicans with the opportunity to send a clear message that we are rightly proud of our heritage and our struggle and will not allow it to be tarnished or criminalized.

"There are over 100 commemorations throughout the island and scores more smaller events. Internationally many Irish exiles will also take part in commemorations. I am calling on people to wear an Easter Lily and to make this years Easter Commemorations and events bigger and better than ever before." ENDS

Note to Editors

In this the 100th anniversary of Sinn Féin, republicans throughout Ireland

will gather on Easter Saturday, Sunday and Monday to honour and commemorate

Ireland's patriot dead.

Please see below for a list of the main commemorations - dates, locations

and speakers.

Main Commemorations

Easter Sunday:

Dublin City -- Assemble 1.30pm Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square and

March to GPO. Main Speaker: Martin McGuinness MP

Belfast -- Assemble 1pm, Beechmount Avenue. Main speaker: Martin Ferris TD

Derry City -- Assemble 2.30pm at the Bogside Inn, Westland Street march to

City Cemetery. Main Speaker: Gerry Adams MP

Tyrone -- (Carrickmore) Assemble 3.30pm. Main Speaker: Pat Doherty MP

County Waterford -- (Killrossanty) Assemble 3pm. Main Speaker Mary Lou

McDonald MEP

Fermanagh -- (Tempo) Assemble 2.30pm at Doon Lane. Main Speaker: Michelle

Gildernew MP

Monaghan Town -- Assemble 3pm, O'Hanlon Memorial, Clones Road. Main Speaker:

Gerry Kelly

Galway -- (Conamara) Assemble 3.30pm. Pearse's Cottage, Rosmuck. Main

Speaker: Bairbre de Brún MEP.

Armagh (Newry City) -- Assemble 12.30pm at Patrick Street. Main Speaker:

Conor Murphy

Armagh -- (Crossmaglen) -- Assemble at 10.30 am, Rangers Hall. Main Speaker:

Matt Carty

Cavan -- (Kilnavart) Assemble 12 noon Kilnavart Cemetery. Main Speaker: Sean

McManus

Cork (Bandon) -- Assemble 12.30pm, Republican Plot, St Patrick's Cemetery.

Main Speaker: Toireasa Ferris

Cork City -- Assemble 2.30pm National Monument, marching to St Finbarr's

Cemetery. Main Speaker: Sean Crowe TD

Derry - (The Loup) Assemble 2.30pm, Ballyronan Road and march to grave of

Brigadier Seán Larkin. Main Speaker: Arthur Morgan TD

Donegal -- (Drumboe) Assemble 2pm, Johnston's Corner, Stranorlar. Main

Speaker: Alex Maskey

Down -- (Castlewellan) Assemble 4pm at Lower Square march to monument. Main

Speaker: Caitriona Ruane

Drogheda -- Assemble 11am St Peter's Church to the Halpin/Moran monument,

Marsh Road. Main Speaker Martina Anderson

Dundalk -- Assemble 3pm Market Square, march to Republican Plot, St Patrick's

Cemetery. Main Speaker: Martina Anderson

Kerry -- (Tralee) Assemble 3pm, the Pike Man, Denny Street. Main Speaker:

Gearoid O hEara

Limerick City -- Assemble 12.30pm Munster Fair Tavern. March to Republican

Plot, Mount St Laurence Cemetery. Speaker: Killian Forde

Mayo -- (Achill) Assemble 10am, Dookinella. Main Speaker: Rita O'Hare

Wexford Town -- Assemble 11.45am Crescent Quay, parade to Republican Plot.

Main Speaker: John Dwyer

Easter Monday:

Armagh City -- Assemble 2pm Irish Street. Main Speaker Conor Murphy

Down -- (Downpatrick) Assemble 6pm Scotch Street, proceed to Republican

Monument. Main Speakers: Caitriona Ruane/Alex Maskey

Meath -- (Ashbourne) Assemble 11.30am at church and march to Republican Plot.

Main Speaker: Joe Reilly

Monaghan -- (Clones) Assemble 1.30pm, The Diamond. Main Speaker: Caoimhghín Ó

Caoláin TD

Easter Tuesday

Co Antrim (North Belfast-Ardoyne) Assemble 1pm Elmfield Street. Main

Speaker: Gerry Kelly

Toomebridge -- Assemble 4pm. Main Speaker: Barry McElduff

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Speaking today at the launch of the annual Easter Lily campaign in Stormont, Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly said that this weekend would see tens of thousands of republicans taking part in marches, commemorations and wreath laying ceremonies across the island.

Mr Kelly said:

"This year marks the 89th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. It is an important time for Irish republicans. It is a time for remembering our friends and colleagues who have given their lives in pursuit of our republican ideals and goals. It is a time for reflecting on these ideals.

"We recall the words of the 1916 Proclamation - an historic document - one of the most progressive documents ever written. The Proclamation spells out the demand for social and economic justice and democracy, of cherishing all the children of the nation equally, irrespective of colour, religion, gender, ability or race, equally.

"Easter is also a time of renewal - a time when we as Irish republicans rededicate ourselves to the legitimate and achievable goals of independence and unity for the people of this island.

"The past year has undoubtedly been both a challenging and indeed very difficult, year for republicans and the peace process. We made a massive breakthrough in the elections in the 26 counties yet ended the last year with the failure once again of unionism to agree the share power on the basis of equality and respect.

"This year Easter comes with the political establishment set once again on a course of criminalizing the republican struggle and by extension our patriot dead. This weekend provides republicans with the opportunity to send a clear message that we are rightly proud of our heritage and our struggle and will not allow it to be tarnished or criminalized.

"There are over 100 commemorations throughout the island and scores more smaller events. Internationally many Irish exiles will also take part in commemorations. I am calling on people to wear an Easter Lily and to make this years Easter Commemorations and events bigger and better than ever before." ENDS

Note to Editors

In this the 100th anniversary of Sinn Féin, republicans throughout Ireland

will gather on Easter Saturday, Sunday and Monday to honour and commemorate

Ireland's patriot dead.

Please see below for a list of the main commemorations - dates, locations

and speakers.

Main Commemorations

Easter Sunday:

Dublin City -- Assemble 1.30pm Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square and

March to GPO. Main Speaker: Martin McGuinness MP

Belfast -- Assemble 1pm, Beechmount Avenue. Main speaker: Martin Ferris TD

Derry City -- Assemble 2.30pm at the Bogside Inn, Westland Street march to

City Cemetery. Main Speaker: Gerry Adams MP

Tyrone -- (Carrickmore) Assemble 3.30pm. Main Speaker: Pat Doherty MP

County Waterford -- (Killrossanty) Assemble 3pm. Main Speaker Mary Lou

McDonald MEP

Fermanagh -- (Tempo) Assemble 2.30pm at Doon Lane. Main Speaker: Michelle

Gildernew MP

Monaghan Town -- Assemble 3pm, O'Hanlon Memorial, Clones Road. Main Speaker:

Gerry Kelly

Galway -- (Conamara) Assemble 3.30pm. Pearse's Cottage, Rosmuck. Main

Speaker: Bairbre de Brún MEP.

Armagh (Newry City) -- Assemble 12.30pm at Patrick Street. Main Speaker:

Conor Murphy

Armagh -- (Crossmaglen) -- Assemble at 10.30 am, Rangers Hall. Main Speaker:

Matt Carty

Cavan -- (Kilnavart) Assemble 12 noon Kilnavart Cemetery. Main Speaker: Sean

McManus

Cork (Bandon) -- Assemble 12.30pm, Republican Plot, St Patrick's Cemetery.

Main Speaker: Toireasa Ferris

Cork City -- Assemble 2.30pm National Monument, marching to St Finbarr's

Cemetery. Main Speaker: Sean Crowe TD

Derry - (The Loup) Assemble 2.30pm, Ballyronan Road and march to grave of

Brigadier Seán Larkin. Main Speaker: Arthur Morgan TD

Donegal -- (Drumboe) Assemble 2pm, Johnston's Corner, Stranorlar. Main

Speaker: Alex Maskey

Down -- (Castlewellan) Assemble 4pm at Lower Square march to monument. Main

Speaker: Caitriona Ruane

Drogheda -- Assemble 11am St Peter's Church to the Halpin/Moran monument,

Marsh Road. Main Speaker Martina Anderson

Dundalk -- Assemble 3pm Market Square, march to Republican Plot, St Patrick's

Cemetery. Main Speaker: Martina Anderson

Kerry -- (Tralee) Assemble 3pm, the Pike Man, Denny Street. Main Speaker:

Gearoid O hEara

Limerick City -- Assemble 12.30pm Munster Fair Tavern. March to Republican

Plot, Mount St Laurence Cemetery. Speaker: Killian Forde

Mayo -- (Achill) Assemble 10am, Dookinella. Main Speaker: Rita O'Hare

Wexford Town -- Assemble 11.45am Crescent Quay, parade to Republican Plot.

Main Speaker: John Dwyer

Easter Monday:

Armagh City -- Assemble 2pm Irish Street. Main Speaker Conor Murphy

Down -- (Downpatrick) Assemble 6pm Scotch Street, proceed to Republican

Monument. Main Speakers: Caitriona Ruane/Alex Maskey

Meath -- (Ashbourne) Assemble 11.30am at church and march to Republican Plot.

Main Speaker: Joe Reilly

Monaghan -- (Clones) Assemble 1.30pm, The Diamond. Main Speaker: Caoimhghín Ó

Caoláin TD

Easter Tuesday

Co Antrim (North Belfast-Ardoyne) Assemble 1pm Elmfield Street. Main

Speaker: Gerry Kelly

Toomebridge -- Assemble 4pm. Main Speaker: Barry McElduff

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Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has demanded an investigation into the deal struck to obtain the site for the Justice Minister's new superprison in north Dublin. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said that the sale of a site close to the prison site for a significantly smaller sum of money "proves that the Minister has some very serious questions to answer."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "I first called for an investigation into the prison land deal in February, after reviewing the minutes from the Mountjoy Complex Replacement Site Committee meetings, which were released following a question from myself to the Minister.

"There are a number of question marks over the purchase of the Thornton site. Reports in this morning's newspapers claim a farm four miles from the proposed prison site was sold yesterday for one-fifth of the price the Government paid, despite being significantly larger. No environmental assessment was conducted despite the vulnerable greenbelt location. The site selection process would also appear to be in breach of the standard procedures for dealing with expressions of interest or tendering for such large projects.

"I have therefore requested that the Public Accounts Committee immediately initiate an investigation into this deal, as this new information reinforces my conclusion that Minister has some very serious questions to answer. I was informed yesterday that the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee is currently considering my request."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Cavan-Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described the Government's asylum regime as operated by Minister Michael McDowell as 'travesty of justice'. While welcoming the temporary reprieve for Olunkunle Eluhanla, Deputy Ó Caoláin highlighted the deportation on the same plane of a Nigerian mother and her three children who have been living in County Monaghan for several years where the children were attending local schools.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"Because Minister McDowell came under intense political pressure, given the widespread media coverage of Olunkunlea's case, he has now given him a welcome, but only temporary reprieve. But what of the many families, including young children reared in Ireland, who have received little or no publicity and who have been deported without mercy?

"On the same plane on which Olunkunle was deported, the Okolie family were flown out of Ireland. Nkechi Okolie and her three children aged 6, 10 and 16 were forced out of the country to the consternation of the community throughout County Monaghan. The younger children have been reared here and know no other reality but Ireland.

"This family were valued members of the community. Nkechi worked in the Dochas women's centre and the Camphill Community for people with intellectual disabilities. The family were also members of the Presbyterian Church in Castleblayney and that community has expressed its shock at their deportation.

"The grief and distress of this family is no different to that of any other deportees, including Olunkunle. The schoolmates of the children have also protested at the deportation of their young friends.

"There is something wrong and rotten at the heart of a regime that can operate a system such as this."ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment Arthur Morgan T.D. called for legislation to be immediately 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 days.

Deputy Morgan said, "The cases of the construction workers employed by GAMA Construction, the farm labourers in the South East and the case of the Filipino woman employed by Irish Ferries are just the tip of the iceberg. Many more migrant workers are being exploited behind closed doors by their employers. The current work permit system is forcing them to remain in the employment of their exploitative bosses.

"I am reiterating the call made by Sinn Féin on numerous occasions for legislation to be introduced by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment MÃúcheál Martin T.D. as a priority so that the work permit would be held by the employee rather than the employer. The current system whereby workers are tied to one employer results in migrant workers being in a position not unlike bonded laborers. They have very little chance of leaving jobs where they are being exploited. There is now ample evidence that this the case.

"While this Government continues to oppose reform of the work permit system any mock concerns expressed by them regarding the plight of these workers will ring very hollow. The Government and Minister Martin's failure to act on this matter is resulting in migrants who make a huge contribution to the economy of this state continuing to be open to appalling exploitation."ENDS

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South Down Assembly Member Cllr Willie Clarke has welcomed this week's announcement by Direct Rule Minister, Barry Gardiner on the introduction of the Renewables Obligation for the North of Ireland (NIRO).

Cllr Clarke said:

"The Obligation is expected to stimulate private sector investment of around £500 million in projects to generate electricity from renewable sources over the next five years.

"The NIRO, which is being introduced with effect from 1 April 2005, will place a requirement on electricity suppliers in the six counties to provide evidence that a specified proportion of the electricity supplied to final consumers in the north has been generated from environmentally friendly renewable sources or alternatively to buy-out their obligations under the scheme.

"Ireland is lacking behind meeting its obligations to reduce Co2 omissions and this plan of action developed in partnership with DETI and the energy industry will I hope encourage everyone to rise to the challenge of mainstreaming renewable energy. An emphasis must be placed on developing technology which should harness not just wind but also geothermal, tidal stream and biomass.

"The commencement of the NIRO should help in the development of renewables in the North of Ireland and paves the way for around £500 million of private sector capital investment in the six county‚s energy system over the next five years. Local communities will gain further benefit through diversification into energy crops, energy from waste and more stable energy prices. This potentially increases the overall economic benefit of investing in renewables in the North to over £1 billion up to 2010."ENDS

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n lower prices to the end user ˆ the customer.

"Sinn Féin have argued for the creation of an all Ireland energy market. The signing of the memorandum of understanding between the energy regulators north and south should put in place the framework for the establishment of a single all Ireland energy market by 2007.

"This announcement today takes us a step closer to that reality. This must herald the emergence of a low cost energy market and the ability to access all Ireland gas supplies."ENDS

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Sinn Fein General Secretary Mitchel Mc Laughlin has accused the Belfast Electoral Office of introducing "new blocking measures to prevent people being registered to vote in May."

Mitchel Mc Laughlin said:

"In recent days 642 people from West Belfast who applied to be on the May register have received letters from the Belfast Electoral office challenging their application.

"Over the last number of months in West Belfast, Sinn Fein, the Falls Community Council and the Electoral Commission carried out an intensive registration drive. As a result of this 2000 people applied to be put on the register.

"This latest move by the Electoral Office practically undermines the efforts put into this registration drive.

"Sinn Fein has been in touch with the Office and their response has been less than satisfactory.

"We worked for many years to convince the British government to end Electoral Courts because they acted as a disincentive to people to register.

"We welcomed the British government‚s decision to end these courts but this latest development is the reintroduction of these courts through the back door.

"The Electoral Office must immediately end this new blocking measure and allow those people who have applied to be registered onto the register." ENDS

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