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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has called on the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney to proceed with public-only contracts for hospital consultants. He said people should not be taken in by the "bluff on the part of both the Tánaiste and the consultants as talks on a new contract continue". He stated:

"The Government's Health Strategy of 2001 promised a new contract for hospital consultants to ensure equity for public patients in our hospitals. The consultants refused to enter talks during that time and the Government also dragged its feet. Meanwhile the totally inequitable system whereby consultants can work in both the public and private system with little accountability for their work for public patients has continued. This is central to our grossly unfair two-tier health system.

"The Government should proceed with establishing public-only working for consultants in the public hospital system. If the Tánaiste believes that this would be a fairer way forward - as it is - then she is obliged to take this route. But people should not be taken in by the bluff on the part of both the Tánaiste and the consultants as talks on a new contract continue.

"We need a new health system that ends the apartheid in our hospital services and provides care on the basis of need alone. All the Tánaiste's words about equity are meaningless unless she dismantles the two-tier system." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún will today speak in a debate in the European Parliament in favour of a report on preventing the 'trafficking of women and children who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation.'

Ms de Brún today called upon her fellow MEPs to 'give their support in this critical vote'.

The report by Christa Prets MEP is due to be voted upon in the Parliament this coming Thursday.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"A 2005 'Trafficking in Persons' report has estimated that approximately 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders each year. Approximately 80 percent are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. These shocking statistics do not fully convey the suffering of each individual, their families and friends.

" Ba mhaith liom fáilte ó chroí a chur roimh an tuairisc seo a phléann le cosc a chur le 'mná agus páistí a thrádáil agus iad soghonta don dúshaothrú gnéasach'. Is gránna an gnó é an trádáil daonna, go mórmhór daofa siúd atá soghonta don dúshaothrú gnéasach. Is iomaí áit ar fud na cruinne a bhfuil boradh agus fás ar an trádáil seo. Is sampla neamhnáireach é de chearta bunúsacha daonna a dhiúltú do dhaoine agus caithfear dul i ngleic go héifeachtach leis.

"People-trafficking is an abhorrent practice particularly for those who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation. In many parts of the globe this is a flourishing trade and represents a flagrant example of the denial of fundamental rights to a human being which needs to be effectively addressed. That is why I want to wholeheartedly welcome this report and call for its proposals to be implemented.

"Caithfidh sé a bheith ina phriaracht iomlán ag an AE daoine soghonta a chosaint. Ni féidir an tsúil a dhúnadh ar an an dá cheist seo - an trádáil daonna agus an dúshaothrú gnéasach - agus ní féidir breathnú orthu mar cheist a bhaineann le háit éigin eile ar an domhan.

"Fáiltím roimh bhéim na tuairisce ar spriocanna a leagan síos chun gearradh siar ar líon na n-íobartach laistigh de roinnt bliana agus súil aici deireadh iomlán a chur leis an chleachtas.

"I welcome the report's emphasis on setting defined targets to tackle trafficking in the coming years, with a view to its total eradication. Effective prevention strategies include addressing the triangle of the trafficking market - the victim, trafficker and client.

"The protections of vulnerable human beings must be an absolute priority for the EU. This report builds on past initiatives to eradicate both people-trafficking and sexual exploitation, particularly of women and children. Trafficking must not be seen as a problem faced elsewhere in the world. It is happening both inside and outside the EU.

"Practical support must be provided for those who have been trafficked into or within the EU. Allowing those who come forward to remain in the country would be one way of helping them to get out of the situation they find themselves in.

"I would caution the EU against approaching this problem with a 'Fortress Europe' mentality, where the victims of trafficking are criminalised and held in detention.

"I call upon all those with a genuine interest in ending such exploitation to support the very practical recommendations contained in this report." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described as "outrageous" plans by the British government to impose compulsory State identity cards on all residents of the Six Counties and for the Irish Government to follow suit in its jurisdiction. Commenting on news that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Michael McDowell is to meet his British counterpart on this issue, Ó Caoláin said:

"The Irish Government must stand up to Britain on the outrageous proposal by the British government to impose compulsory identity cards in the Six Counties. Minister McDowell is due to meet his British counterpart Charles Clarke on this issue soon.

"Unbelievably, Minister McDowell has said that if the British introduce this card then the Irish Government will bring in a similar card in its own jurisdiction.

"Given the common travel area, the information on any 26-County data base would end up being shared with the British authorities. The British must be told that it is totally unacceptable for their state to impose these cards in any part of Ireland. Given the record of British state forces in passing information to loyalist murder gangs we can only imagine how they would misuse such a massive data base on all residents not only in the Six Counties but throughout Ireland. Sinn Féin will strongly oppose this effort to impose, at massive cost in public money, compulsory police-state style identity cards in this country, North or South."

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Ba mhaith liom failte a chur roimh gach duine anseo inniu.

I would like to welcome everyone here today to this conference, hosted by Cuige na Se Chondae and supported by our European Department.

Let me begin by thanking the speakers who have come along here to address this conference on the subject of ‘Developing an All-Ireland vision for Policing and Justice’. Sinn Fein has invited those speakers to engage with us as practitioners or experts in their own fields.

Republicans don’t pretend to have a monopoly on ideas in relation to justice and policing. Neither can we ignore the experience of the community from which we come and whom we serve. As an Irish republican party with a national and democratic agenda, Sinn Fein welcomes new ideas and is eager for new challenges. Ours is the battle of ideas and the politics of change.

Ultimately, as a political party, Sinn Fein will form its own view on these matters. As party members, you will be the people upon whom that responsibility will finally rest.

And it is of course important that you do that on the basis of the maximum information, a full discussion and in the context of overall strategy considerations.

Leading the all-Ireland agenda

Sinn Fein’s Ard Fheis last year agreed that party policy in relation to justice and policing should be developed. The purpose of this event today is to discuss this and build on the work done since. It is about envisioning the kind of agenda, in relation to justice, which will better serve communities throughout the 32 counties. And the reason we need to do that is very simple:

No other political party on this island is an all-Ireland party.

No other party has an agenda to build an Ireland of equals.

No other political party will champion the rights of the poor and the oppressed better than Sinn Fein.

No other party will confront the inefficiency and corruption of aspects of the justice and policing systems on this island, better than Sinn Fein.

No other party will agitate and articulate at grassroots level in every part of this country for accountable, representative, community-based, civic policing and justice programmes better than Sinn Fein.

The fact is that the overwhelming majority of nationalists in the north and people throughout this island are looking to this party for leadership on policing and justice. They expect us to do our best to secure acceptable civic policing. Today’s event is evidence of our determination to give leadership and achieve acceptable arrangements for policing and justice.

A truly new beginning

Republicans will not be badgered or forced into accepting less than the new beginning to policing promised in the Good Friday Agreement. This is a fundamental requirement. This Agreement addressed the issue of policing for a very good reason.

The RUC was never a police service. It was a unionist paramilitary militia, which engaged in the most disgraceful sectarianism and abuse of human rights, including torture and murder.

Those who were at the heart of this malign force – the RUC Special Branch – are still active within the PSNI. Their planned overthrow of a democratically elected Assembly three years ago is the evidence of this writ large. They are opposed to change of all kinds and not just the change in policing.

Because of this and as a means to confront and face it down Sinn Féin is determined to achieve the reconstruction of the power sharing Assembly and all Ireland institutions required by the Good Friday Agreement. The historic decisions taken by the IRA in recent months, the ending of its armed campaign and the putting of arms beyond use have removed any excuse or pretext for further delay. Sinn Fein has made it clear to the two governments that the institutions need to be restored. The British and Irish Governments have said that they intend making a serious effort to resurrect the political institutions. We are also committed to achieving and being part of the new policing dispensation. No half measures or three quarter measures will do.

Looking forward

In December 2004 – just over a year ago we had agreement on a sequence of events including the transfer of powers on policing and justice from London to Belfast. But it fell apart because the DUP reneged at the last moment.

Essentially we agreed that in the context of: -

Agreement between the parties on the departmental model and the powers to be transferred;

The enactment by the British government of the legislation to give full expression to this transfer of powers; and

A DUP commitment to a short timeframe for the actual transfer of powers on policing and justice.

Then the party president would propose to the Ard Comhairle that it calls a special Ard Fheis to decide Sinn Féins position on new policing arrangements.

That situation has not changed. It is not Sinn Féin but others who are delaying progress.

Nationalists want a policing service

It has been opportunistically and cynically argued by Sinn Féin’s opponents that our position on policing is assisting criminality. Remember former SDLP Chief Seamus Mallon? Last year he said, "The people of West Belfast, West Tyrone and South Armagh do not want policing because if you have policing, you don't have criminality".

What nonsense.

There is no "rampant crime" in nationalist or republican communities. On the contrary the nationalist and republican people are good, decent people who despite not having had a proper police service for generations have a deep sense of justice, are civic-minded and are eager to embrace proper policing and justice systems.

No one wants a new beginning to policing and justice more than the nationalist and republican people of West Belfast, West Tyrone and South Armagh. I commend all of those who work on the ground to create safer communities through anti-car crime schemes; youth outreach programmes, and especially, Community Restorative Justice projects. They are doing a great service to working class areas.

On restorative justice, since it is being attacked in the media let me make a few points:

1/ restorative justice as a concept is of a global nature. It operates and is working in many societies. Australia and New Zealand to name but two.

2/ republicans do not seek the ownership of the restorative justice concept in an Irish context

3/ restorative justice is not an alternative nor has it ever masqueraded as an alternative to acceptable and accountable policing arrangements

That said, Sinn Fein has been and remains supportive of efforts by the community to establish and operate restorative projects across the north. Equally, there are those in the unionist community who are striving to develop a restorative vision within their own community. Sinn Fein commends all those genuinely working to promote restorative justice at community level. The further development of the Irish model of restorative justice is something which deserves informed debate on a national basis.

Meanwhile, we must acknowledge that there is a real anxiety about the extent and effects of criminality in Irish society today which, we ignore at our peril. We must continue discussions with our communities on how to respond to the challenges and the harm associated with criminality and anti-social activity.

Political policing

As I said earlier political policing continues apace within the PSNI.

Since last summer alone, the evidence of political policing has been irrefutable. This includes the political policing of loyalist marches; the revelations about former RUC members stealing information and thwarting murder investigations; the discovery that files on dozens of republicans including Sinn Fein elected representatives are kept in the PSNI’s Castlereagh barracks; the fact that these files had been passed onto unionist paramilitaries; politically motivated houseraids in Tyrone, Belfast and Down; trumped up charges and media misinformation orchestrated by sections of the PSNI; the high-profile arrest and false accusations against Sinn Fein MLA Francie Brolly; and the PSNI raid on the Casement Park home of the County Antrim GAA.

Let’s be clear about their agenda. Our political enemies, in the institutions of this state, do not want a Shinner about the place. They don’t want the Good Friday Agreement. They don’t want change. They don’t want acceptable policing institutions and practices which would see Sinn Féin in there policing the police; all of this is anathema to our political enemies. This is the objective of political policing; the self-perpetuation of their power and their failures.

Our political opponents who accepted too little, jumped too soon and endorsed the existing policing arrangements must carry some of the blame. In four years on the Policing Board, they have failed to hold the political detectives publicly to account and failed to end collusion and political policing. Instead, SDLP MPs have gone to Westminster and voted to reintroduce 28-day detention orders, taking us back to the days of the old Special Powers Act so opposed by the Civil Rights Movement.

In reality, they are now part of the police establishment. In that role and in an effort to save political face, they also stand against further change on policing and justice because they believe it will further compromise the positions they took up.

In the poisoned atmosphere created by political policing which I have just listed; the question is; is it possible to achieve a new policing dispensation. The answer to that is yes.

Let me repeat what I said at last years Ard Fheis. The job given to the negotiations team is to achieve a new beginning to policing and justice. We won the argument that the status quo on policing and justice had failed.

We have made significant progress especially through new legislation. Even when the SDLP and Irish government jumped ship, Sinn Féin was able to achieve more necessary change.

We won the argument for further amending legislation.

Next steps

It is not an impossible task and republicans need to be acutely aware that if and when the Sinn Fein Leadership achieves the objectives set in this area then this in turn will present further challenges for all activists. There is a public commitment if we reach that point to then put proposals to our membership and nationalism as a whole. While we are not at that point yet, activists need to realise that we can achieve it and with achievement there comes further responsibility.

I make no apologises for fighting for an all Ireland justice system as I make no apologises in continuing the struggle for a United Ireland. Equally, in the interim, we need to achieve a new beginning to policing and justice in the North, in the present, which will impact on the everyday lives of people and also impact on the all Ireland policing and justice systems.

Negotiations herald change. Change brings turmoil and soul searching. It also means breaking moulds. If we accept that the political changes over the last decade have caused massive upheaval for the Unionist and British system which has misruled the North for so many years let us also accept that Republicans have had to face and deal with the challenges the political and emotional rollercoaster of change brings.

Nobody said it would be easy. Here is the challenge facing us. As political activists we must think strategically, debate strategically and decide what is best for our party, for the cause we represent and most importantly for the people we represent. We must do that in partnership and in dialogue with our community.

Policing and justice cannot be viewed in isolation from other key issues such as the stability of the interdependent institutions, equality and human rights, demilitarisation, the ending of discrimination, collusion and so on. But we will pursue proper policing and justice with all our energy.

Last December in theory at least, we were within months of having a decisive debate on this issue. Delegates were encouraged to go back to their areas and open up the debate within Sinn Fein and their communities. I repeat that call today. Keep that discussion going.

Our opposition to the present policing arrangements is not a matter of timing. It is not merely a question of tactics. It is a matter of integrity, entitlements and our inalienable rights. At the core of our position is the establishment of a threshold which enables the creation of democratically accountable representative civic policing and the consignment of political policing to the dustbin of history along with the other failures of the past.

That is why Sinn Fein has made this issue a core part of negotiations. In those negotiations, the key outstanding matter is the transfer of powers on policing and justice away from London and out of the hands of British securocrats, into restored local Assembly and all-Ireland institutions. Next month, the British government is pledged to publish enabling legislation and a detailed consultation paper on transfer of powers. Both governments know that this will not be enough on its own to honour the commitments given. The devil as they say is in the detail. That will be where the battle will become most fierce. Because this is not some sham fight or academic debate about the number of clauses in a piece of legislation or the sequence in which they run. This is about giving expression in law to the transfer of powers – taking powers – away from London and out of the hands of the British securocrats. It is about sovereignty, accountability and political change.

All-Ireland issues

It is perhaps inevitable that the key focus publicly is on policing in the North. However, our work today is about developing an all Ireland vision for the future. In that respect, there are many questions to be answered.

Are the people of Ireland North and South well-served by those in government today, those with responsibility for policing and justice?

Is the huge industry created by the policing and justice system meeting the needs of local communities? What are the social and economic benefits of this system for those in deprived and marginalised communities?

How do we ensure that the price for safety and security is not our liberty and rights? In whose interest are these decisions made? And with European directives on some of these areas affecting our laws too, how can we influence such decisions?

Is there justice in the courts? Or is there inherent chauvinism, racism and sectarianism in the administration of justice on this island?

What about those who are imprisoned? Is it right to imprison people seeking asylum? Is it just to keep men and women locked up for 23 hours a day?

Has the more humane regime in jails won by the sacrifice of republican POW’s been replaced by oppressive regimes.

And who polices the Gardai? Why has the police ombudsman in the South not got equal powers to that of the ombudsman in the North?

What lessons have been learned from the McBrearty family and others.

There are questions about the future development of policing and justice on this island which we must consider as a party, and as a society. These questions are not limited to the negotiations for transfer of powers on policing and justice.

This is a critical year in the peace process and political process.

Whatever happens in negotiations, key issues such as policing and justice cannot be put on the shelf to be dusted down when we achieve a united Ireland. People want us to deal with the everyday issues as well as the big picture. Today is about developing an all Ireland vision for justice and policing let us look at this nationally and locally in the big picture and the small picture.

Have a good conference.

Go raibh maith agaibh

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Speaking this morning, at the opening of a Sinn Féin party conference on an all-Ireland  enterprise  and  job  creation  discussion  document,  General Secretary  of  the party Mitchell McLaughlin said, Sinn Féin’s “priority is to  build  a  just  economy,  dynamic public services and a real enterprise culture that can deliver high skilled and high paid jobs.”

Mr.  McLaughlin said, “The document before you today introduces Sinn Féin’s vision  of  the  economics  of  a United Ireland of Equals. Central to this vision is a clear understanding of the kind of economy we want – that is, a strong  economy  based  on equality and social justice. We are committed to rights-based  governance  and a rights-based economic policy.  Our priority is  to  build a just economy, dynamic public services and a real enterprise culture  that  can deliver high skilled and high paid jobs. We want to work with others to bring about the realisation of this vision.

“Sinn  Féin  wants  to  build  a  strong,  stable all-Ireland economy where everyone  can  have  a dignified and productive working life, a fair income and  a  good  quality  of  life  – an economy characterised by the positive redistribution of resources to eradicate poverty and social exclusion.

Speaking at the conference Sinn Féin Enterprise and Employment spokesperson Arthur  Morgan  TD  said,  “We  reject many mainstream market orthodoxies, including  ‘trickle  down’  theory,  the  theory  of supply and demand, the correlation  of low taxation and low wages with competitiveness, the belief that  inward  investment  is  the  panacea  for  economic problems, and the oversimplified equation of growth with well-being and social progress. 

“We  argue  GDP  and  GNP  alone  are not reliable indicators of social and economic  advancement  and that alternative indicators should be used, that the fairer distribution of wealth and income is a far more effective way of dealing  with poverty than the present dependence on economic growth alone, that  equality  pays  for itself in the long-term but it costs up front and that  a  stable, strong economy and society requires balance between growth and socio-economic rights.” 

“In-line  with  Sinn  Féin’s rights-based approach and our reference to the Nordic model for economic success, we argue that a well-developed system of rights  to  further  one’s education, including training and retraining, is the key to future competitiveness and reaching our goal of full employment. Such education and training should not be confined to re-skilling redundant workers  but  should support a comprehensive strategy for lifelong learning and  skills  development  to  enable  all  workers  to  achieve  their full potential.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children and MLA for West Belfast Sue Ramsey has today said that the 'protection of children from harm must come above all other considerations.'

Ms Ramsey made her comments as the British Department of Education said it would tighten laws on the employment of sex offenders after it emerged that an unknown number of convicted offenders had Ministerial clearance to work with children.

Speaking today Ms Ramsey said:

"Last October both I and Bairbre de Brún MEP accompanied a delegation representing children's organisations including the NSPCC, the ISPCC and Barnardos to meet with the British Direct Rule Health Minister Shaun Woodward regarding child protection. The meeting was essentially about seeking ways to ensure that children are protected across the island.

"In light of the recent development that British Ministers had cleared an unknown number of sex offenders to work in English schools, it is imperative that pressure is brought to bear on the Departments with responsibility for children, North and South to ensure that such a scenario is not allowed to develop in Ireland.

"Despite assurances that no sex offenders are working in schools in the Six Counties, there have been warnings that there are no guarantees it will not happen in the future. Protecting children from harm must come above all other considerations. It is imperative that the British Government give a commitment that the same situation will not be allowed to happen as the one which has been allowed to develop in Britain.

"In light of the Ferns report on sexual abuse in the 26 Counties, stringent child protection measures are more important and necessary than ever. It is wholly unacceptable that those who volunteer to work with children are not required to be vetted and this situation must be addressed immediately.

"Sinn Féin has long called for the upward harmonization of child protection measures right throughout the island to prevent those intending to abuse children from exploiting loopholes and anomalies from gaining employment working with children. For example, at present there is nothing to prevent a convicted offender from the north from seeking similar employment in the south. All of these matters need addressed as a matter of urgency." ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today urged trade union representatives to prioritise the rejection of the EU Services Directive in future talks with the government on social partnership.

Ms McDonald made her comments after the Irish Government invited trade union representatives to enter into new negotiations on employment standards and the protection of workers' rights.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"There has been a gradual EU wide drive to erode the conditions in which workers are employed. All across Europe Governments and industry are keen to pit workers against each other ensuring a "race to the bottom" with regard to pay and conditions.

"The controversial EU Services Directive will compound the 'bargain basement approach' to workers' rights in the EU. The directive in its present form would allow private companies to undercut public service providers by employing people on the salaries of their country of origin and under the employment conditions of their country of origin. This could lead to massive redundancies of public sector workers across Ireland, and the creation of a new underclass of migrant workers, whose rights would not be protected by employment law in Ireland.

"It is on this basis that I would call upon SIPTU to prioritise the issue of the EU Services Directive in any future talks with the Government in a new round of Social Partnership discussions.

"The Taoiseach has recently stated that the protection of workers' rights is a key priority for the government and it is imperative that Bertie Ahern keeps to this promise. In the current 'privatise any thing that moves' climate, the Government must reject the directive if and when it comes before them for ratification.

"Sinn Féin believes that the government, European Commission and Council need to get the message loud and clear that our public services are not for sale or negotiation." ENDS

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Sinn Féin will hold an internal party conference on the draft Sinn Féin all-Ireland enterprise and job creation discussion document in Dublin tomorrow, Saturday 14 January 2006.

Media are invited to attend the opening address and presentation on the discussion document by Mitchel McLaughlin at 10:30am in the Writers' Museum on Parnell Square.

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Sinn Féin International Affairs spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on MEPs across the EU to vote to reject the proposed services directive in February.

Speaking at a SIPTU seminar on the proposed services directive in Liberty Hall today deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "The text of the directive following the lead committee's vote last November leaves the problems at the heart of the commission's proposal unchanged. The controversial country of origin principle remains. The Government is supportive of this principle. However, it is widely recognised by European trade unions and civil society groups including Sinn Féin that the country of origin principle will lead to social dumping and the encouragement of downward regulatory competition between member states.

"The main thrust of the services directive is still one of deregulation. This includes deregulation relating to authorisation schemes, monitoring procedures and provisions aimed at ensuring service quality and access. The ability to regulate service provision in the public interest is an essential tool that every elected authority must be allowed to hold on to.

"The directive in the form proposed by the internal market committee would have a grave and negative impact on a broad range of policy efforts to protect workers, service users and the environment alike.

"Sinn Féin have been active on this issue engaging with others across Europe in a campaign to defeat the directive. Earlier this week four Sinn Féin representatives were accompanied to Brussels by three Irish trade unionists to a meeting on the directive in the European parliament. I welcome this initiative on the part of SIPTU to raise awareness around this little-discussed directive which has potentially massive implications and I would call on all MEPs to reject the directive when it goes to a vote in February." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Disability, Mid Ulster MLA Geraldine Dougan has welcomes the news that an additional £400,000 is to be allocated to specifically deal with respite services.

Ms Dougan said:

"Any additional money allocated to the expansion of Respite services must be welcomed. For too long the issue of Respite provision had received little attention and families and carers that have made the decision to care for their loved ones at home have not received the adequate assistance they needed.

"I am glad that the Department has recognised the important work that carers do on a daily basis. Respite is a much-needed facility. However, while I welcome any attempt to rectify the deficit in adequate respite care there is much work still to do in this field. These additional funds need to be used where there is the greatest need. Boards and Trusts need to work with individual carers to agree the best respite provision and the timing of such provision. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Truth, North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan has challenged British Secretary of State Peter Hain to state clearly his Government's approach to the issues of truth, healing and closure.

Mr McGuigan said:

"Sinn Féin wants a full, open and honest debate about truth recovery and dealing with the past. The British Government is hiding from this.

"Any objective examination of the British Government's approach to date on this question will show that its overriding concern has consistently been to hide the truth about its own role in the conflict.

"Over the past two years the British Government has introduced The Inquiries Act, established the Historical Enquiries Team and appointed a DUP nominated Victims' Commissioner. All cynical, tactical measures designed to postpone and frustrate the search for truth.

"It is only the relentless efforts of victims' families and campaign groups which have kept the issues of truth recovery and justice live political issues.

"Sinn Féin is quite clear about this - the past is not going to simply go away and the British government cannot close the door on it.

"Peter Hain should set himself the task of becoming the first British Secretary of State to tell the truth about his government's role in Ireland.

"As a first step, Peter Hain should encourage his government to acknowledge its role as a central protagonist in the conflict. Its attempts to maintain the pretence that it is or was some sort of honest broker are the single greatest obstacle to finding a way of dealing with the past." ENDS



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Sinn Féin will this weekend host an internal conference in Belfast entitled ‘Developing an all-Ireland vision for justice and policing‘.

The conference organised by Sinn Féin will be held in the Balmoral Hotel on Saturday 14th January and will feature a key note address by Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing and Justice issues Gerry Kelly along with contributions from Sinn Féin TD Aengus O’Snodaigh and a variety of outside groups and individuals.

Amongst those addressing the conference will be academics Paul O’Mahoney (Trinity), Paddy Hilliard (QUB) and Phil Scranton (QUB).

Speakers from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), the Campaign for the Administration of Justice (CAJ), the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) and an expert on ethnic minority issues across the island will also speak to the party members present.

Speaking today in advance of the event Sinn Féin spokesperson on policing and justice Gerry Kelly said:

“This weekends conference will provide an opportunity for party members both to take stock of the current point of development in policing and to debate issues of concern around policing and justice and also to listen to contributions from outside experts and organisations.

“ Sinn Féin have a clear vision of the sort of rights based society we want to see developed across the entire island. Central to this is achieving the highest standards in policing and justice. Civic policing must prevail. Political detectives must go. This is a requirement of a new beginning to policing. These are issues which affect every citizen but given the experience of republicans over the past thirty years these issues become all of the more important to us.

“ This weekends conference is about more than a debate around policing structures in the six counties. It is about developing an all-Ireland approach to the issues of policing and justice and developing a strategy to drive forward that all-Ireland agenda.

“ The conference will allow Sinn Féin activists to engage internally and with others on these issues and set out principles and priorities for further policy development in this area.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has this morning welcomed a delegation of party colleagues to the European Parliament for a conference to discuss the controversial 'Bolkestein Directive' which aims to promote privatisation.

Dublin City Councillor Daithi Doolan and Wexford Councillor John Dwyer have joined the six county MEP to voice their concerns about the proposals which are due to be voted on in the coming weeks.

Trade Union representatives have also travelled from Belgium, The Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Britain to participate in today's conference.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"Today's conference is about seeking ways to defeat this controversial proposal. Privatisation, deregulation, the destruction of services, and the undermining of workers rights, salaries and conditions have become part the new political consensus across Europe.

"If passed by the European Parliament it will have a profound impact on the rights of workers across the EU. The Directive includes the "country of origin" principle which would allow  companies established in one country to provide services in another country  using the standards of the first country rather than those of the country in  which they are operating. Under this Directive companies will inevitably establish themselves in the EU
country with the lowest standards of workers' rights.

"In addition there is much concern that the essential sectors of health and education will be at the mercy of privatization, if the directive is passed.

"I am pleased to see the larges numbers of people who have travelled to the conference from the trade union movement and particularly those from Ireland in SIPTU, Unison and the IWU. We believe that large-scale public opposition to the Directive can achieve results. We call on trade unionists to increase their pressure on MEPs, TDs and national governments to vote against this Directive." ENDS



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Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor has travelled to the European Parliament in Brussels today to participate in a major conference to discuss ways in which the controversial 'Bolkestein Directive' can be defeated in Ireland
and across Europe. The directive aims to open up the services market to further privatization.

Mr Doolan joined party colleagues Bairbre de Brún MEP and Wexford Councillor John Dwyer at the event, which also attracted large numbers of trade union activists from across Europe including Irish representatives from SIPTU, Unison and the IWU.

Speaking from Brussels Mr Doolan said:

"Today's conference is about seeking ways to defeat this controversial proposal. Privatisation, deregulation, the destruction of services, and the undermining of workers rights, salaries and conditions have become part the new political consensus across Europe. If passed by the European Parliament the Directive will have a profound impact on the rights of workers across the EU.

"As the European Commissioner responsible for the EUs Internal Market, Charlie McCreevy bears a huge amount of responsibility for the current status of this wholly inappropriate directive. His anti-worker agenda is well known in Ireland and is increasingly being recognized across Europe. His approach is reflected right across the EU where governments are moving increasingly to the right. In turn, their nominees to the European Commission have shifted it to the right.

"I am particularly pleased at the trade union representation from Ireland here today. Their presence underpins the commitment from the workers' movement in Ireland to stand against the unbridled ethos of privatization which is currently sweeping across the EU. During the course of the day I have had a number of positive conversations with the trade union reps on this issue.

"In the coming weeks and months Sinn Féin will stand shoulder to shoulder with all of those who oppose this directive

"The Irish Government must signal its intention to oppose the Bolkestein Directive. The people of Rossport, the GAMA workers and the thousands who marched in support of the Irish Ferries workers are all proof that the
Irish people have started a fight back to reclaim their rights and entitlements." ENDS




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Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP today said today that his party would be pursuing with the two governments in the coming weeks the need for progress to be made in restoring the political institutions.

Mr Doherty said:

“ In recent weeks both governments have indicated a willingness to see urgent progress made in restoring the political institutions. Yesterday the British Secretary of State Peter Hain said that he wished to see dialogue been early next month.

“ Sinn Fein has been pressing for early progress to be made since the historic IRA initiative of last July. We are keen to see the process advanced and believe that the potential to see such progress does exist and we will be pursuing this with the two governments over coming weeks.

“ But the DUP need to begin to play their part in all of this. They need to finally show real political leadership. They need to begin to demonstrate an ability to share power with nationalists and republicans on the basis of equality and respect.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MP Martin McGuinness today expressed his shock at the death of former party Councillor Brendan Doris and extended his sympathies to the Doris family.

Mr McGuinness said:

“Brendan Doris served the people of East Tyrone as a Sinn Féin Councillor for many years. He was a deeply committed Irish Republican and his death will be mourned by republicans far beyond Tyrone.

“The Doris family are a well known and respected republican family and have played a significant role in the republican struggle for many years.

“Brendan’s daughter Michelle was elected to Dungannon Council at the last election when Brendan decided not to seek re-election and his brother Paul has been a leading figure in NORAID in the United States for many years.

“On behalf of Sinn Féin and republicans across the island I would extend our sympathy to the Doris family at this difficult time. Brendan‘s death is a tragic loss to his family and to the wider republican struggle.” ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Human Rights and Equality has welcomed the launch
of an investigation into the detention of Asylum seekers by the Human Rights
Commission and suggested that today's series of visits should be followed up
by a cross party delegation.

Ms Ruane said:

"Sinn Féin have long-standing concerns about the detention of Asylum Seekers
in prisons here and the conditions in which they are housed. It is clear
that Asylum Seekers should not be detained in prison. Their detention is
nothing less than internment. Republicans know only too well the impact that
this has on individuals and families. It only serves to increase the
uncertainty and hardship that Asylum Seekers face.

"Central to the Peace Process and the Good Friday Agreement is the
vindication and protection of the Human Rights of all. This must include the
Human Rights of Asylum Seekers. Over 5 years ago Sinn Féin brought this
issue to the Assembly and called for the implementation of the
recommendations of the Law Centre report 'Sanctuary in a Cell'.

"Yet despite a political mandate for action - including the ending of the
unnecessary detention of Asylum Seekers, the creation of non-custodial
alternatives, the designation of the British Home Office under section 75
and full access to free legal advice and welfare and community services - 5
years on the NIO have done nothing to end this disgrace.

"Fifteen months ago a Sinn Féin delegation met with Asylum Seekers being
held in Crumlin Road Prison as part of a fact finding mission. Before
Christmas Sinn Féin meet with Shaun Woodward to again voice our serious
concerns about a number of issues surrounding our prisons, particularly in
relation to the conditions faced by women in Hydebank and the imprisonment
of Asylum Seekers.

"The recent ruling that slopping out violated the rights of prisoners
highlights some of the difficulties and the need to ensure a human rights
ethos, both for Asylum Seekers who should not even be detained in prison and
for prisoners." ENDS



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Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said the Government needs to "get real" about the serious cocaine problem ravaging this country. Deputy Ó Snodaigh was commenting today after it was revealed that 3% of people in the 26 Counties have tried cocaine.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "This Government seems to be under the illusion that the drug problem in Ireland is only minor and that paying lip service to the problem will suffice to deal with it. It is time for them to get real. Cocaine and is ravaging the length and breath of this country, especially in urban areas, leading to increased crime and growing patterns of anti-social behaviour.

"The Government urgently needs to produce and resource a coherent plan to deal with the rising level of cocaine dealing and abuse in this state. We need to see the doubling in size of the Drugs Task Force and of the Garda Drug squad.

"Above all the Government needs to learn the lesson of the eighties and nineties when heroine was allowed to get a foothold in this country. We all know the devastating consequences of that period." ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today held the first in a series of meetings with groups across the Dublin Central constituency.

Today's event was also attended by Party President Gerry Adams and city councillor Christy Burke.

A number of community organizations including anti-drugs projects, parent and children's groups and employment schemes attended the event at Jury's Croke Park Hotel.

Speaking after the event Ms McDonald said:

"Today's event was about meeting with key people in the community sector to discuss issues of common concern. As part of the engagement I also met with some of the women community activists who were part of a broader delegation to the European Parliament late last year.

"Many of the people we met with today are working at the coalface of the anti-drugs movement, tackling crime, providing adult education and youth provision. They are working tirelessly to improve the standard of living for people in local areas.

"It was clear from today's discussions that there are many people who have been left behind by Celtic Tiger Ireland, let down by the health system and unable to find affordable housing. But I do sense a fight back in local communities, people across Ireland are prepared to stand up and protect worker's rights and whole communities - the Rossport and Irish Ferries campaigns are a testament to this.

"Today's event is the first in a series of meetings by me designed to proactively listen to the concerns of local communities and work with them to help resolve many of their issues and concerns. I also want to pay tribute to the work of local Sinn Féin councilors Christy Burke and Nicky Kehoe who have worked tirelessly in their local areas over this past number of years." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson who has been campaigning for the delivery of the establishment of the Autism Centre of Excellence at Middletown Co. Armagh an initiative launched by Martin Mc Guinness while Education Minister has been given a timeframe for the centre to finally commence.

The project was one which Martin Mc Guinness secured cross party support for through the Cross Border Institutions gained momentum in 2004 when the property and site was purchased jointly be DE and DES.

It was agreed that a comprehensive range of programmes would be put in place to deliver a learning support service, educational assessment service as well as a training and advisory service and an autism research and information service.

Following a lobbying campaign on the back of work carried out by Martin Mc Guinness, Michael Ferguson has been informed that the Œtraining and advisory service‚ should begin later this year. This is news that will be a relief to the families‚ relatives, and Autism spectrum support groups.

Commenting upon the news Michael Ferguson said,

„ This is very welcome news. Centre is expected to deliver a multidisciplinary service including support, research, assessment and training and information to backup local education provision.

Those living and working hard to support the range of needs associated with autism will also welcome this news. The training and advisory service which is the first to become operational is expected to be followed by an educational assessment service and it is also crucial that these efforts are reinforced by the academic and training institutions.

I will be meeting with the Minister for Education Angela Smith to discuss the detail of this breakthrough in the near future.‰

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