Sinn Féin Derry City Councillors Lynn Fleming and Barney O'Hagan accompanied by Mitchel McLaughlin MLA and Director of Elections Gary Fleming are today meeting with Denis Stanley, Chief Electoral Officer and his staff to discuss the possible closure of polling stations in Derry.
Councillor O'Hagan said:
"The Sinn Féin delegation will be meeting with Denis Stanley today to discuss the siting of polling stations in the Derry area. There has been a concern that some of these stations will be closed due to trouble that occurred at the close of polling at the last election.
"Sinn Féin will be opposing any attempt to close these stations and will be reinforcing that message to Mr Stanley
"Sinn Féin believe that the PSNI have been the root cause of the trouble when they arrive to remove the ballot boxes from the stations. The young people in several areas have developed a culture of attacking the PSNI when they arrive at close of polling. By developing alternatives to the PSNI collecting the boxes we believe we can break this cycle of violence.
"There is nothing within the current legislation that states that the PSNI needs to be involved in the polling operation unless summoned by an electoral officer. Sinn Féin will be asking Mr Stanley to explore some of these alternatives so that we can make polling stations accessible to the electorate.
"Any move to make it more difficult for people to access the democratic process can only serve to disenfranchise people. The Electoral Office should consider all solutions that protect the right of people in these areas to vote that protect the democratic process." ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has this morning urged the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern to raise the bugging of Belfast Sinn Féin offices with Paul Murphy at their meeting later today.
Ms de Brún made her comments after a Sunday newspaper revealed that the head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller admitted her organisation had bugged the Sinn Féin offices at Connolly House in Belfast. The report says that Manningham-Buller's disclosure came at a closed meeting of the Westminster intelligence and security committee before Christmas. The discovery of the device came at a critical time in the peace process.
Speaking this morning, Ms de Brún said:
"Reports of head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller's admission that MI5 bugged the Sinn Féin offices in west Belfast, including my own, will shock even those who have become hardened to the fact that the nationalist community has been spied upon and harassed for the past 35 years by these same shadowy organisations.
"We in Sinn Féin said at the time the bugging device was found that British Secretary of State Paul Murphy must have authorised the surveillance operation. In the light of this very disturbing report, I have asked Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, to raise the matter urgently with British Secretary of State Paul Murphy at today's meeting.
"Both myself and my colleague Mary Lou McDonald will also be raising this matter once again in the European Parliament at the highest levels.
"Sinn Féin raised this issue in the European Parliament back in September 2004 after the discovery of the bugging device. European Parliament President Josep Borrell raised the matter with the British Government, who gave the stock answer that they do not comment on individual cases.
"Given this highly disturbing report, the British government must now provide a satisfactory reply to the European Parliament, to the Irish government, and most importantly to the voters whose rights have been infringed.
"Time and again undercover British securocrats have created difficulties in the peace process, culminating with the closure of Stormont after unsubstantiated allegations of a spy-ring. These are the same people who have admitted responsibility for spying on republicans ten years into a peace process."ENDS
Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA Cllr John O'Dowd, has said that the recruitment of over one hundred hospital consultants across the whole range of specialist disciplines within the North's health service must become an urgent priority action for NIO minister, Angela Smith.
The Upper Bann MLA said,
"In response to a recent written question which I put to her concerning the current vacancy levels for hospital consultants across all Health Trusts in the North, I have been amazed to learn that 119 vacancies for hospital consultants presently exist within seventeen out of eighteen Trusts.
"This scandalously high level of vacancies is unquestionably contributing to unnecessary stress and additional burdens being placed upon existing medical staff. It is also a major contributory factor in relation to the high numbers on patient waiting lists for treatment.
"There is a clear responsibility and duty upon Angela Smith, as the NIO health minister, to intervene in order to ensure that immediate action is taken to address this unacceptable and totally avoidable situation. Where necessary, that intervention must include action that ensures additional funding being made available to Trusts to enable them to fill these vacancies, and should also include an immediate ending of any freeze which the Department may have imposed upon Trusts in relation to the release of recruitment and development funding.
"I have no doubt that the recruitment and placement of these 119 hospital consultants would have a major and immediate positive impact upon the provision and delivery of heath service treatment for patients across the entire range of medical specialities." ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly has urged the SDLP Assembly team meeting today in Stormont to distance themselves from weekend remarks by Eddie McGrady and Alaister McDonnell indicating that the party should accept the DUP proposal of a voluntary coalition.
Mr Kelly said:
" The DUP proposal for a voluntary coalition is about replacing the Good Friday Agreement and undermining the equality and inclusivity principles which underpin this process. That is why it was rejected out of hand in the negotiations last year and that is why Ian Paisley has given the weekend remarks by Eddie McGrady and Alaister McDonnell such a warm welcome.
" There are clearly serious leadership issues now for the SDLP. There is a lack of direction and cohesion at the top of that party. However these problems should not be allowed to damage the Good Friday Agreement project. Nationalists and republicans have stood firm with the Good Friday Agreement. They expect their political representatives to do likewise.
" It is therefore important that the SDLP Assembly team meeting today in Stormont are clearly seen to distance themselves and their party from the weekend proposal that the SDLP join with the DUP and abandon the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS
Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has said that weekend remarks by senior SDLP members Eddie McGrady and Alaister McDonnell indicating support for the DUP exclusion model of voluntary coalition showed clearly that the SDLP had departed fundamentally from the politics of the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr McLaughlin said:
" The Good Friday Agreement was based upon respect for democratic mandates and on the principle of inclusivity. The DUP has always been hostile to these principles and to the Agreement itself. That is why they proposed the notion of a voluntary coalition excluding the majority of nationalist opinion from the process.
" This idea runs completely contrary to the Good Friday Agreement and was rejected outright in the negotiations which took place late last year. It is ironic that the SDLP who at that time criticised aspects of the December proposals have now decided to abandon the Good Friday Agreement entirely and instead breathe life into the failed DUP agenda of exclusion and discrimination. This is a fundamental departure from the politics of the Good Friday Agreement and the politics of conflict resolution.
" Nationalists will be dismayed at this change in the SDLP approach and will note the warm welcome which the weekend words of Eddie McGrady and Alaister McDonnell have received from Ian Paisley. Nationalist opinion has consistently lined up with the peace process and with the Good Friday Agreement. That remains the focus of Sinn Féin. We will continue to fight for the Agreement and we will not abandon the principles which underpin it for the failed rejectionist agenda offered by the DUPs so called voluntary coalition." ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly member for South Down Caitriona Ruane has demanded that the SDLP leader Mark Durkan clarifies his party's position regarding excluding the largest nationalist party, Sinn Féin, from the current process. Ms Ruane's demand comes after the SDLP MP Eddie McGrady indicated on Inside Politics that they were considering adopting the DUP proposal for a voluntary coalition.
Ms Ruane said:
" It is of course widely acknowledged that Mr McGrady would be closer to the unionist position than to those of us wedded to the ideal of a United Ireland. Nevertheless his comments on Inside Politics today will infuriate and anger the vast majority of nationalists and republicans.
" Mr McGrady very clearly indicates that the SDLP are considering running with the DUP proposal for some sort of voluntary coalition excluding the majority of nationalist opinion. The very least Mark Durkan can do now is to clarify publicly whether or not this is now the SDLP position." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams this evening delivered the keynote address at the national launch of the Céad Bliain/Sinn Féin 100 event, in the Round Room at the Mansion House, Dublin. The event marked the beginning of a year long celebration of events to celebrate the centenary year of the foundation of Sinn Féin.
Full text of Gerry Adams speech:
An Céad - Toward a United Ireland
Let me commend all those people who, under Catriona Ruane's leadership, have organised An Cead - our year long celebrations of the centenary of our party. And let me thank you. Republicans too often take each other for granted.
So I want to launch An Cead by commending and thanking all of you and all our friends and comrades across this island, and around the world for your great commitment, idealism and contribution to our struggle. Lá Breithe shona do gach duine agaibh. Happy birthday to you all.
What is this year about? It is about education and debate. It is about the re-popularising of republicanism. It is about learning the lessons of a century of struggle. It's also about taking pride in what we are about. And what we have achieved. But most important of all this year is about Sinn Féin taking more decisive steps forward toward our goal of a united, free and independent Ireland.
Predictably enough the year begins with Sinn Féin once again under attack. Can any one here remember a time - any time - when the usual suspects weren't lined up against us. The political establishment was at it 100 years ago. The media establishment was at it 100 years ago. If those who founded Sinn Fein were alive today and watching recent events they would conclude that the more things change the more some things remain the same.
For example; the very first editorial in the Irish Independent after the 1916 Rising was entitled "Criminal Madness". It said:"No terms of denunciation that pen could indite would be too strong to apply to those responsible for the insane and criminal rising of last week."
As James Connolly lay wounded in hospital, the same paper declared: "Let the worst of the ringleaders be singled out and dealt with as they deserve." But for tonight let us ignore the begrudgers. Tonight is about our agenda - no one elses. So let us look to our vision of the future ˆ the vision of a free Ireland, united in peace and justice.
"The achieveable vision".
Over the past century Sinn Féin has been an idea, a name, a federation of political societies, a national independence movement, a republican campaigning organization.
And, in 2005, the only all-Ireland political party and the fastest growing party in the country. The words Sinn Féin have been described as "the title deeds of a revolution". And as we reflect on a century of Sinn Féin we should reflect on the meaning of those words. When the idea of Sinn Féin was conceived Ireland was awakening from the nightmare of the 19th century. There was the Great Hunger, the millions forced to emigrate and the land war. But even in the midst of these horrors some dared to dream of a different Ireland - a free Ireland.
The tragic fate of Parnell had shown the limits of a so-called constitutional nationalism that depended on the good will of British political parties or British governments to grant as concessions the inalienable rights of the Irish people. The most important principle of Sinn Féin was self-reliance. Only the people of this island can secure our liberation and mould our society to suit our unique heritage, our character, our economic needs and our place in the wider world. And that is still true today. And from the beginning Sinn Féin extended a hand of friendship to unionists, while always asserting that the end of the Union was in the interests of all the people of this island.
The Sinn Féin Policy as outlined by Arthur Griffith at the first convention in the Rotunda in November 1905 stated:
"For the Orangeman of the North, ceasing to be the blind instrument of his own as well as his fellow-countrymen's destruction, we have the greeting of brotherhood as for the Nationalist of the South, long taught to measure himself by English standards and save the face of tyranny by sending Irishmen to sit impotently in a foreign legislature whilst it forges the instruments of his oppression".
It was a time of renewal and rebirth in Ireland. Sinn Féin was the political expression of that dram, that blossomed in Conradh na Gaeilge, Cumann Lúhchleas Gael, the Trade Union movement, the Co-Operative movement, the development of Irish industries and agriculture, Inghínne na hEireann and the movement for Women's Suffrage, Irish Womens Workers Union of Ireland.
From the beginning women were centrally involved in this organisation. It was a woman, Máire de Buitléir, who first proposed the name Sinn Féin for the new political movement. Constance Markievicz, Minister for Labour in the First Dáil, was one of the first women Cabinet ministers in the world. Margaret Buckley was President of Sinn Féin from 1937 to 1950.
But too often women have been the workers in the background, the often invisible foundation of this party and this struggle. We have made progress in redressing the balance but much more needs to be done and one of our key aims in this centenary year must be to increase the number of women in Sinn Féin and the number of women in positions of leadership, including more republican women standing for elected office in winnable seats across this island.
Gan Conradh na Gaeilge ní bheadh Sinn Féin ann. Mar a dúirt Pádraig MacPiarais, nuair a bunaíodh Conradh na Gaeilge cuireadh tús le réabhlóid na hÉireann. Thug Gluaiseacht na Gaeilge féin-mheas ar ais do mhuintir na hÉireann. Ón tús bhí slánú na Gaeilge mar chuspóir ag Sinn Féin. Ba chóir dúinn deis na bliana seo a úsáid chun obair ár bpairtí ar son na Gaeilge a mhéadú, chun an pairtí féin a Ghaelú chomh fada agus is féidir agus chun plé le pobal na Gaeilge conas is féidir linn uile dul ar aghaidh sa chéad nua seo go dtí náisiún dá-theangach.
The first objective in the first Constitution of Sinn Féin was simply stated as "the re-establishment of the independence of Ireland". Political events soon required a clearer definition of what that independence would mean. The political pendulum had swung towards constitutional nationalism. Irish hopes rested once more on the good will of a British political party. The Irish Parliamentary Party at Westminster reduced the national demand for freedom to the polite request for limited Home Rule within the British Empire. But even this was not conceded as the British government acted, as always, first and last, in its own interest.
It was Tory England, in alliance with Irish Unionism, that brought the gun into Irish politics in the 20th century - not republicans, not the Irish Volunteers, not Sinn Féin. With the Tory-Unionist gun came the concept of Partition. In the words of James Connolly, the republican who most clearly defined what the dream of a free, just and equal Ireland should be, they placed Ireland upon the dissecting table. And so the political pendulum swung back towards that element in Irish politics which, since the days of the United Irishmen, had always demanded national sovereignty and an Irish Republic.
There were many Republicans involved in the formation of Sinn Féin. They played a pivotal role in founding the Irish Volunteers. Many of them actively supported the workers in the Great 1913 Lockout in Dublin. This was a great period of debate, of exchanges of ideas as leaders and thinkers and activists, dreamers all, met and influenced each other. It was the time when the tributaries of separatism, anti-sectarianism, feminism, cultural revival, socialism and the physical force tradition flowed into the river of Irish Republicanism.
The Proclamation - a promise to every Irish citizen
The result was the 1916 Rising and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, the founding document of modern Irish Republicanism and a charter of liberty with international as well as national importance. The great phrases of that document resonate around this hall 80 years after the First Dáil met here.
The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty; equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens; cherishing all the children of the nation equally. Its anti-sectarianism is evident in the words; oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past. And at a time when women in most countries did not have the vote, the government of this new republic will be elected by the suffrages of all her men and women.
Ní focail glice ná focail folaimh iad seo.
These are not just clever words or empty rhetoric. This was the dream taking shape.
Ta na focail agus na smaointí seo iontach. Tá sé mar cúram orainn ˆ mar dualgas ˆ é a chur I gcrích.
These are great words - great ideas - which it is our task - our responsibility - to see implemented. These words are a promise to every Irish citizen that she and he can share in the dignity of human kind, as equals with equal opportunity. That we can enjoy freedom, educate our children, provide for our families, and not exploit our neighbours.
The Irish people endorsed the Republic at the ballot box in 1918. Dáil Éireann was established and in this room, in this month in 1919, the Dáil declared the independence of the Republic and published its Message to the Free Nations of the World and the Democratic Programme. Maire Comerford wrote of the athmosphere in this room that day, „never was the past so near or the present so brave or the future so full of hope. We know what England's answer was. We are still living with the consequences of that British denial of Irish democracy, the unfinished business of Irish history.
From the high water mark of united national resistance, Republicans faced a counter revolution and long decades of struggle. It is a source of strength and encouragement that Republicans have survived undefeated in spite of all that has been thrown against us. We continued to dream. But we did more. We emerged as the leadership of a Risen People, that Risen People referred to by Maire Drumm, our murdered vice-president, whose words we have recalled tonight. It is not just Republican rhetoric to say that the refusal of successive British governments to recognise Irish democracy made armed conflict inevitable.
Let it not be forgotten that for decades, including all the years of the Civil Rights movement and in the most intense period of the conflict from 1969 to 1974, Sinn Féin was banned under British law in the Six Counties. Sinn Féin was censored. Sinn Féin members, elected representatives and our families were killed. We were banned from this building.
For generations of young nationalists and republicans there was a British Army roadblock at the bottom of every political route to change. And here in this state the Special Branch was busy as well. Well, those who vilified and excluded us need look no further than tonight as evidence of the failure of their strategy. We are back in the Mansion House bigger and stronger; and better than ever.
In this hall tonight are generations of activists, generations of dreamers and do-ers, who braved the reverses and hardships, the failures and the mishaps, who refused to despair and surrender and who risked life and liberty in pursuit of our republican goals.Is iad seo na daoine calma. Is iad seo na daoine a d‚fhulaing sna blianta gann agus a choinningh an tine beo- an tine saoirse. They are the stalwarts. Those who endured in the lean years and who guarded the flame of freedom.
Ta na daoine seo ó achan cearn den oileán - an tuaisceart agus an deisceart - an oirthear agus an iarrthar - cathrach agus tuathanach - sean agus óg - fir agus mná.
They are from every part of this island - north and south - east and west - urban and rural - young and old - men and women.Our bonds of comradeship and friendship have been forged in the crucible of struggle. In this centenary year we remember especially all those republicans who lived, worked and died for freedom. We remember them - we remember them all with great pride and love.
Their absence reminds us of how much we have lost in the course of this struggle. Each one was a unique, irreplaceable human being. The daughter or son of some parents. The mother or the father of some child. The beloved of some man or woman. These were ordinary men and women who in extraordinary and difficult circumstances found the inner strength, determination and courage to stand against injustice and oppression, to demand the rights and entitlements of the Irish people.
Our task - our duty - is to make their vision their dream - a reality.
Defining Republicanism today
That means defining and redefining our republicanism for today‚s world - for today's Ireland. Those who established Sinn Féin 100 years ago; those who fought on the streets of this city in 1916 and later against the might of the British Empire; and those who raised the flag of resistance in each subsequent generation, did so in circumstances that differed and changed as the years rolled past.
This is not 1905. It is 2005. It is the 21st century.
Republicanism today, and our dream, our vision, our aisling of the future reflects our contemporary experience; the inspiration provided by the heroes of this phase of struggle - Maire Drumm and Bobby Sands, Eddie Fullerton and Sheena Campbell and John Davey and many others; and by our political objectives for this time.
Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party. Our strategy to achieve a united, independent Ireland marks us out from other Irish political parties. Later this year we will be launching a campaign for the Irish government to bring forward a Green Paper on Irish Unity. Our primary political objectives are; an end to partition, an end to the union, the construction of a new national democracy ˆ a new republic ˆ on the island of Ireland, and reconciliation between orange and green. But we are not prepared to wait until we have achieved these goals for people to have their rights to a decent home, to a job and a decent wage, to decent public services like health and education, and a safer cleaner environment.
We also want change in the here and now. Irish republicanism has a vision of a new society that is democratic. That is economic as well as political. A society which is inclusive of all citizens, in which there is a redistribution of wealth for the well being of the aged, for the advancement of youth, for the liberation of women and the protection of our children.
It foresees a new relationship between these islands resting upon our mutual independence and mutual respect.
From the beginning, saving the Irish language from extinction and reviving our national language was a key aim of Sinn Féin. We should use the opportunity of this year to increase our party's work on the Irish language - to Gaelicise the party itself to the greatest extent possible and to debate with the Irish language community particularly, and the English language community generally, how we can all move forward in this new century towards a truly bilingual nation.
Our republicanism is about change - fundamental, deep-rooted change. It's about empowering people to make that change. That means we have to be agents of change. This is an enormous responsibility. It is a huge challenge.
Building political strength
Key to achieving this is the hard, tedious, difficult work of building political strength. By building that strength we will build the capacity to move both the British and the Irish governments and the unionists and to influence the political agenda. Since last year Sinn Féin took major strides forward toward achieving our goals.
Just over a year ago, in November 2003, this party became the largest pro Agreement party in the north - a significant achievement. Last June Sinn Féin broke the mould of Irish politics in the European elections by electing Mary Lou McDonald and Bairbre de Brún to the European Parliament and by electing Councillors right across the southern state. The front page of the Phoblacht then summed it up - 342,000 votes, 2 MEPs, 232 Councillors, 24 MLAs, 5TDs and 4MPs. Sinn Féin is now politically and organizationally stronger than at any time since the 1920s.
We have developed new approaches. We have taken difficult and risky decisions. We have demonstrated time and time again a preparedness to go on the political offensive, to take initiatives and go toe to toe with our political opponents in the battle of ideas, as well as in the hard job of building workable political partnerships. And all of these facts give some explanation why once again we are at the centre of a political storm. Our political opponents, and even those who should be our allies in the struggle for Irish freedom and peace, fear our growing electoral strength. It is amazing to watch the feverish efforts of parties in this part of the island rushing to claim their republican and Sinn Féin roots while attacking and condemning us.
We have no fear of that. If Labour and Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and the rest want to be republican then Sinn Féin welcomes that. The more the merrier. We have no monopoly on that. What is a republican if not someone who strives for Irish freedom and justice and end to partition? The success of our party - and the test for all other parties - has to be about how much change they secure and how much progress they make in improving the life of citizens and in achieving national freedom.
This generation will succeed. This is our time.
Tá dúthracht again I Sinn Féin agus tá fuinneamh againn. Tá idéalachas againn. Tá na stráitéisí againn. Ach tá a lán oibre le déanamh againn chomh maith. Níl muid ag cur I gcéill go bhfuil na freagraí go léir againn. Caithfidh muid an tacaíocht atá againn a úsáid chun bogadh chun tosaigh agus fás ar fud an oileáin. Caithfidh muid I Sinn Féin bheith mar gluaiseacht ar fud an náisiún uile.Sinn Féin has dedication and we have commitment. We have idealism. We have a dream. And we have strategies. We also have a lot of work to do. We don't pretend to have all the answers.
We must use our present mandate as a launching pad to grow an island wide, a nation wide mass Sinn Féin movement. Our goal is to have a Sinn Féin cumann in every electoral ward across Ireland. We have to open our party up to women comrades and to people who will bring their own life experiences and values. I particularly want to commend Ógra Sinn Féin for their dedicated work and enormous contribution. We also have to work in partnership with other parties, and people of a like mind, to construct a network ˆ an alliance for unity which will act as a catalyst for real change - a coalition for unity which brings people and parties with a similar vision of the future together.
Irish republicans have demonstrated time and time again our capacity to overcome adversity and advance our struggle for freedom and justice against enormous odds. It is not enough to sloganise. We are not verbalised republicans or rhetorical revolutionaries.We are not merely dreamers, though that is important. We are the generation which will win the freedom and independence that those before us struggled hard to achieve.
We in this historic hall, and thousands more throughout this island, are carrying the honoured name of Sinn Féin into the 21st century. And after a century of struggle, we are preparing for success. When will we get our United Ireland? When will Ireland have independence? There's only one answer to that. We will get it when our combined efforts, our combined strength, our determination make its achievement unstoppable. We will not settle for less. And the greater our efforts - the more quickly we will achieve our goals.
So, let us move the struggle forward. Let us continue, despite the difficulties - to reach out to unionism to build a just and lasting peace on our island. Let us continue with our efforts to make the peace process work.
We want to see and end to conflict on our island. We want to see the political institutions re-instituted. We want to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented. We know as the leading nationalist party in the north and the largest pro-Agreement party, that there are huge responsibilities on us. We are up to the task. But we cannot achieve this alone.
So, let us join with those in other parties and none, who share our vision of a new Ireland. Let us ask them to walk with us; to work with us; to move forward with us toward the republican and democratic goals of unity and freedom and equality.
In the course of these remarks I made mention of the dream that motivates us. Anyone who wants to win a struggle has to have a dream. The dream that things can be different. That they can be better. But we are not only dreamers. We are do-ers. We know we can make the difference.
So, let us leave here tonight renewed, reinvigorated, and determined to fulfill the promise of the Proclamation, and the objective for which Sinn Féin was founded - a free, independent, sovereign Ireland.
Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.
Sinn Féin North Kerry TD Martin Ferris has called for immediate government action to tackle the recent spate of job losses in Kerry. The North Kerry Deputy was commenting following the news that 120 jobs were going to be lost between Killarney and Tralee. 28 workers at Tralee‚s Sheet Metal Industries Ltd are to finish this evening and a further 92 jobs are to go at Killarney's underwear manufacturer Sara Lee.
Speaking from Tralee today Deputy Ferris said:
"Not long after the IDA described as a 'quality year' for job creation in Kerry, we have the news that another 120 workers in Tralee and Killarney are to lose their jobs. This is a serious blow to the local community. Sheet Metal Industries has provided secure employment for several generations of people in Tralee. Many families will be affected by this news and everything possible most be done to assist them.
"These job losses along with the job losses in the textile industry in Killarney are another bitter blow to Kerry. There needs to be a coordinated strategy to tackle unemployment and ensure that investment into the county is prioritised by the government. I have in the past called for a Jobs Task Force to be set up in Kerry to deal with the crisis and I think now is the time to take an imaginative initiative like this." ENDS
Sinn Féin Councillor Billy Page has said that unless the homeless situation is addressed in Derry it is only a matter of time before we have a tragedy similar to that, which occurred in Coleraine.
Councillor Page said:
"The tragedy in Coleraine where a young woman lost her legs from hypothermia due to sleeping on the street could happen at any time in this city."
"Every night homeless people are sleeping under the lower deck of Craigavon Bridge or in cardboard boxes along Foyle Street".
"A lot of these people suffer from mental health problems or alcoholic dependency and have been excluded by the statutory agencies".
"These people are very vulnerable and unless action is taken immediately then the tragedy that occurred in Coleraine will be repeated in Derry. We cannot allow them to be discarded by society and literally tossed onto the street because they have an illness".
"While the charitable nature of the people of Derry to problems abroad is renown it seems that we are content to ignore similar problems in our own city".
"To address this problem we will need a co-ordinated approach from all the statutory groups including GP's, the Housing Executive, Housing Associations and the DHSS. We need to solve this problem immediately before the area from Foyleside to Craigavon Bridge becomes Derry's cardboard city". ENDS
West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has challenged those behind the latest hoax bomb attack on Eugene Mc Menamin to explain to what on earth they are trying to achieve.
"Everyone has the right to their political opinion and Eugene Mc Menamin and his family should not be the subject of such a squalid campaign of intimidation.
"At a political level, people are at a complete loss as to what the people behind these attacks on Eugene Mc Menamin and other DPP members are hoping to achieve -
"In terms of nationalist/republican demands for the creation of a policing service which is free from partisan political control, accountable, representative and all-Ireland in structure, these attacks are not only futile, but also completely counter-productive.
"They divert the focus of attention away from the core issue of the continued control of and manipulation of policing in the six counties by an assortment of securocrat agencies." ENDS
Sinn Féin Representative for Dublin South East, Councillor Daithí Doolan, speaking after this morning's Anti Bin Charges Protest in Ringsend, congratulated local residents who "came out and ensured that all rubbish was collected despite City Management attempts to do otherwise."
Cllr. Doolan said:
"This morning's protest has once again shown how a local community can rally together and challenge the powers that be. Local residents came out and ensured that all rubbish was collected despite City Management attempts to do otherwise. Here in Ringsend, we have decided to make a stand against the bully boy tactics of City Management and, with my full support, residents will continue to campaign against this unjust double tax."
In conclusion Cllr. Doolan called on, "City Council Management to abandon this disgraceful policy of leaving rubbish pile up in an attempt to force people into paying this double tax. This morning has proven that this tactic will not work, yet it has the potential to create a health crisis in our communities which can and should be avoided." ENDS
Sinn Féin MEPs Mary Lou McDonald and Bairbre de Brún have voted in favour of a European Parliament resolution calling for the cancellation of developing world debt. The motion was proposed by the GUE/NGL group. The resolution comes in the wake of the reduction of Iraqi debt.
Speaking this morning Ms McDonald said:
"Four years ago the Jubilee 2000 petition calling for the cancellation of developing world debt was signed by 24 million people world wide.
"Last year the Africa Social Forum in Lusaka called for the cancellation of 100% of the debt of developing countries.
"The continued burden of servicing debt is actively preventing many countries from countering the devastating impact of poverty, disease, post-conflict reconstruction and development of much needed infrastructure, economic development and public service provision.
"To date the response of the major powers within the international community has been wholly inadequate. In 2003 low-income countries paid $39 billion in servicing their debt. In the same year the same countries received only $27 billion in aid. Such a situation is ludicrous.
"Sinn Féin has long called for the cancellation of developing world debt. Today we are calling on the European Commission and the Member States to pursue an active and coordinated policy, both within multilateral institutions and on a bilateral basis, for the full cancellation of the foreign debt of all developing countries.
"We also believe that the target of 0.7% of GNP for development aid must be met as soon as possible in order to attain the Millennium Development Goals. The Irish government must reconsider its position on this matter and honour its previous commitment to meet this target.
"In addition Sinn Féin believes that the policies of deregulating and liberalising the economies of indebted developing countries, as promoted by the World Trade Organisation, adversely affect the economies of those countries.
"Any future economic partnership agreements, including the EU-African Caribbean and Pacific free trade agreement, must be linked to the cancellation of foreign debt, if these trends are to be reversed." ENDS
Mid-Ulster MP Martin McGuinness was reselected at his Party's selection Convention on Thursday Night. Following his unanimous endorsement Mr McGuinness thanked the delegates for once more choosing him to represent the constituency.
The Mid-Ulster MP said:
"I am honoured to be once more selected by the Sinn Féin membership of Mid-Ulster to go forward as their representative in the forthcoming Westminster election. Mid-Ulster has a long, proud and honourable republican tradition and since entering the electoral arena Sinn Féin has gone from strength to strength in this constituency. Always, when the republican ethos and strategy was under attack the people of Mid-Ulster responded with increased support for our analysis and gave us the encouragement to carry on.
"Well, I can assure you that the conduct of this election will see us come under a full frontal attack from all quarters. The last couple of weeks is only a sample of what our political opponents in both Britain and Ireland will throw at us between now and May. But we will go toe-to-toe with them and they will not defeat the republican Peace Strategy. Nor will they stop the march towards a United Ireland.
"Joe Pilling, the Chief British intelligence Officer at the NIO said in the United States recently that the worst-case scenario - from the British point of view - would be for Sinn Féin to become the largest party in the North. Well Joe, we are well on our way to giving you your worst nightmare. After the Westminster and Local government elections in May we will be one more step closer to that goal.
"I know that I can depend on the Sinn Féin activists and the electorate of this proud constituency to make a major contribution to that eventuality.
"I understand that many within the unionist community fear the implications of change but they are wrong to resist change, they should be a part of managing it to protect their interests in the process of change. Change is as inevitable as it is necessary, equality threatens no one, a United Ireland threatens no one except those that prosper on continued conflict and division. I will continue to work for the necessary change and to ensure that equality is delivered for all irrespective of political allegiance." ENDS
Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has welcomed the announcement that EasyJet is to begin direct air services from Belfast to Berlin and Rome in the summer.
Mr McLaughlin said:
"Opening up these route could potentially bring thousands of visitors to the six counties. It has the potential to support the development of our tourist industry, to attract inward investment and to support overall economic growth.
"The success of the Air Route Development Fund in bringing new air routes to the north is helping to put us on the international business map, as well as contributing to the growth of the tourism.
"These new air route between Belfast and Rome and Berlin are good news for the local economy both in terms of the potential to directly create jobs and also in terms of developing trans European trade and tourism.
"The decision of easyJet to increase its services points to confidence in both the tourism market and a potential to build upon existing Euro trade. We need more direct strategic intervention to ensure that this potential is built upon by increasing support for local businesses in targeting European markets and a stronger focus on developing our tourist potential through strengthening the remit of Tourism Ireland.
"It is also vital that we put in place a regional transport strategy that maximises the benefits of expanding air travel routes beyond the Belfast Metropolitan Area and brings people up to Derry, into Fermanagh and Tyrone, down to Armagh and on across the border to the rest of Ireland. It is also important that we see greater support to the City of Derry Airport as a regional hub within the North West.
"Investment in our transport infrastructure, particularly in our rail and public transport networks, in a way that links us together with the rest of Ireland is essential if we are to make the most out of developments such as this." ENDS
Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP, Michelle Gildernew, has offered to help Dungannon Meats work on developing new contracts in an attempt to stave off threatened job losses.
Responding to the possibility of job losses Michelle Gildernew said:
"With the loss of Sainsburys as a key contract, Dungannon meats have found themselves in the position were they feel they are forced to consider redundancies. I would appeal to Dungannon meats not to overreact and to offer my services and those of key advisers to approach alternative supermarkets if Dungannon Meats believe that our assistance would be of help.
"We believe that the current recession in the meat industry is in large part caused by the continuing beef ban. Sinn Féin has worked tirelessly to ensure the beef export ban is lifted. In fact, we have a commitment from Tony Blair that he will intensify efforts to have the ban lifted and we would like to see that achieved as soon as possible.
"At the moment the meat industry here is much too reliant on British supermarket chains because we cannot sell our beef to the rest of the world. We believe however that in the short term the meat industry can survive this setback in light of the fact that in the longer term more markets will be available.
"This January, bearing in mind the bills and loans that we are all paying off, our thoughts are very much with the workers in Dungannon Meats and our efforts are targeted at ensuring their financial security in the New Year." ENDS
Dublin Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has lent her support to residents and parents concerned about mobile phone and broadband masts erected at sites that may pose health risks to children.
Residents in Baldoyle, Dublin are protesting at the presence of a broadband mast on the top of Baldoyle United Foot ball Club which is adjacent to the local school. The mast appeared on top of football club‚s building last year and follows legislation in 2001, which did away with necessity for planning permission in relation to phone and broadband masts as long as they are erected on "public buildings".
Sinn Fein Dublin City Councillor Larry O‚Toole who is supporting the Baldoyle residents who want the mast removed said: "This mast is smack bang next to a primary school. In light of the publication of findings only this week, which shows that children are at risk when exposed to mobile phones this, is not acceptable. This mast has got to be removed and removed immediately.
"There is also an issue about what actually constitutes a public building in relation to the legislation around these masts. Most reasonable people would have interpreted this as meaning Garda stations and the like, not necessarily football or youth clubs which may have a large degree of young people present, and certainly not so close to a school."
"Only yesterday, we seen a report in Britain which shows that youngsters are at greatest risk from the potentially damaging health effects of mobile phone emissions. One scientist leading the investigation even said that children aged eight and under should not use handsets at all. Kids are at higher risk from radiation because their nervous system is still developing, they absorb more energy though their head and are likely to be exposed to emissions for more years. This has heightened the concerns of parents such as those of the children in Baldoyle who are exposed at school to the effects of the broadband mast. Those concerns need to be addressed."
Mary Lou McDonald, who has been contacted by parents and residents concerned about the siting of masts, has said that the location of all such phone and broadband masts should be reviewed in light of the latest scientific findings and that if necessary the legislation should be tightened up. ENDS
Sinn Féin's submission to the health budget announced by NIO finance minister Ian Pearson MP in December has been vindicated by one of the North's most senior civil servants, according to the Party's health spokesperson, Cllr John O'Dowd MLA.
Mr O'Dowd said, "The comments made by the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, Clive Gowdy, in a newspaper article that the health service in the Six Counties would need an additional annual investment of between £400m to £500 million is an indictment of the failed policies pursued by successive British Governments. It is quite clear that people in the Six Counties are being denied proper access to the high quality health service they deserve through continuous and substantial under-investment in facilities, doctors and nurses and in social services staff as well.
"Sinn Féin warned that the budget announced by Ian Pearson in December would do little to enhance the health service and would, in fact, lead to a serious reversal of the quality and standards of health care over the next number of years. That warning was issued, not as an attempt to gain headline space, but as result of a series of discussions that Sinn Féin had with those involved in the commissioning and delivery of the entire range of health services in the lead-up to December's budget. Those we met included health board chiefs, senior management representatives, professional organisations, trades unions and user groups."
The Sinn Féin health spokesperson added, "However, given Clive Gowdy's comments, two very obvious questions arise. Firstly, exactly what kind of advice did senior civil servants give to Ian Pearson and his British Labour colleagues in relation to the North's needs in the run-up to the budget, as I have no doubt that those same bodies and organisations, with whom I and other party colleagues had met, would also have been making their views known very strongly at that level. Secondly, if senior civil servants did give British ministers an accurate picture of the state of under-investment within the health service, why did those ministers chose to ignore such advice? I have no doubt that many people will be of the view that the incredible extent of health service under-funding almost amounts to a case of criminal irresponsibility and neglect." ENDS
Sinn Féin Council Group leader on Lisburn Council Paul Butler has said that people will be amazed that Lisburn council with such an appalling record of discrimination has slashed its budget for equality schemes in half.
Cllr. Butler said:
" At last nights meeting of the Council it was decided that the budget for 'City Promotions' would be increased by £80,000. This is the group which produces the glossy advertisements proclaiming Lisburn as a 'City for All'. In order to fund this PR exercise it has been decided to slash the money set aside to promote equality schemes in the area from £40,000 to £20,000. This in the Council area with one of the worst records of discrimination in the six counties.
" Nationalists living in the Lisburn Council area will be amazed at this turn of events. Instead of bolstering efforts to actually tackle the problems of inequality and discrimination the Councillors in Lisburn have decided instead to spend scarce resources in promoting a campaign pretending that all is well in the borough.
" All is not well in Lisburn. No amount of glossy adverts will change this reality. This sort of approach is typical of the head in the sand attitude of unionists in Lisburn to the issue of equality." ENDS
A meeting will take place today of the Sinn Féin Assembly Group in Stormont.
During a break in the meeting Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will be available to speak to the media at 12.30pm in the foyer in Stormont.
Sinn Féin Representative for Dublin South East Councillor Daithí Doolan will be supporting tomorrow morning's Anti Bin Charges Protest, "to ensure that all rubbish is collected here in Ringsend."
Cllr. Doolan, speaking in Ringsend today said:
"The City Council Management continues in their attempt to bully us into submitting to their bin charges. This week, as part of their tactics, they have implemented a disgraceful policy of non collection of household waste that do not have pre paid tags attached. This has created a situation where rubbish is piling up on Dublin's streets.
"Here in Ringsend, we have decided to make a stand and tomorrow, with my full support, residents will hold a protest at 8am on South Lotts Road. The protest is being held to ensure that all rubbish will be collected and to avoid a health and safety crisis in our communities."
In conclusion Cllr. Doolan called on, "City Council Management to abandon this disgraceful policy of leaving rubbish pile up in an attempt to force people into paying this double tax. The charges have proven to be unjust and unworkable." ENDS
The protest will take place tomorrow, Friday 14th, 8am, Shelbourne Dog Track, South Lotts Road, Ringsend.