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


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Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has welcomed the
progress on the hospital for Enniskillen and called for the maximum
development of services across the West of the Bann area to ensure equal
access to services.

Ms Gildernew said:

"I welcome news that the purchase of the site for the new £175 million
hospital to the north of Enniskillen has now been agreed and that a
planning application will be submitted tomorrow (Friday 5th August).

"It is particularly important that there are now firm commitments for wide
range of acute services at the new Enniskillen Hospital including 24/7
Accident and Emergency (A&E), inpatient medicine, inpatient surgery,
critical care and inpatient maternity services.

"However, it is vital that we get the maximum development of services not
just in Enniskillen but also in the Tyrone County in Omagh as well as
development of services at the South Tyrone in Dungannon. We also need to
see further development of ambulance services, primary care services and
out-of-hours GP services as well.

"Sinn Féin are committed to ensuring that the imbalance in services
between the East and West of the Bann is finally addressed.

"I will also press direct rule Ministers to ensure that the timetable is
adhered to, if not expedited and that there are no delays." ENDS


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Sinn Fein Councillor Killian Forde has described as "disturbing" the revelation that Overseas Aid Minister Conor Lenihan ignored at least four separate requests by the UN's food aid section for funding of famine relief in Niger over the past 10 months. He said if Minister Lenihan wasn't capable of managing his overseas aid brief he should be dismissed.

Councillor Forde said, "Two of these requests were made when Ireland was an Executive Board member of the UN World Food Programme, a position they were elected onto and entrusted by other UN members to prevent food shortages becoming famines. This they failed utterly to do."

Councillor Forde, a former overseas aid worker, said "The Ethiopian famine of the mid 80's caught the world by surprise, since then millions has rightfully been spent developing sophisticated tracking mechanisms to forewarn on impending food crisis's. The news that four specific requests for assistance by the UN's World Food Programme were ignored by Minister Lenihan is disturbing and makes a mockery of the hard work and money that has been incurred developing 'Early Warning Systems' to prevent occurrences of starving kids as we have seen from Niger.

"The fact that Ireland had a seat on the Board and therefore a unique viewpoint on the long lead in time of this famine only compounds this scandal." Killian also pointed out that, "under the Conor Lenihans tenure Irelands donation for famine prevention to the UN has slipped and in 2004 Ireland lagged far behind smaller European countries with even the impoverished African State of Malawi contributing more."

Councillor Forde added that, "Ireland has a long and proud tradition of delivering great aid programmes, being generous and swift in our response. This Government has a clear choice - it can either allow that proud tradition to be sullied by its current policies under Minister Lenihan or the Taoiseach should dismiss Minister Lenihan if he has been acting alone in his mismanagement of his overseas aid brief." ENDS

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Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Disability, Mid Ulster MLA Geraldine Dougan has
said that the research published by the University of Ulster today revealing
that over 50% of households containing disabled people are living with
poverty is both shocking and highlights the failure of government to address
problems created by weak enforcement and legislation and a lack of financial
commitment to ensure the right to full participation is protected and
promoted.

Ms Dougan said:

"Not enough is being done to ensure that the rights of disabled people and
their carers to live as equal citizens in our society are protected and
promoted.

"Creating an equal society means recognising that people with disability
need support.

"People with disabilities are far more likely to be unemployed than people
without disabilities. This transfers into increased poverty rates.

We need to see action in a number of areas including:
· Meaningful employment targets within the public sector.
· Strengthening and full implementation of Disability Discrimination Act
· Increased support services to help people with disability to get a job and
stay in employment
· A time limited programme to make all public transport accessible and free
off-peak travel to promote mobility and reduce social inclusion
· Review of benefit levels
· Provision of respite care

"More must be done to support families living with disability.

"Living with poverty makes living with disability even harder, particularly
as there are many higher costs associated with disability. It is vital more
is done to support carers particularly in making people aware of the
benefits and services that exist and in the provision of respite care. There
also needs to be an honest analysis about the gap between current benefit
levels and the actually costs faced households containing disabled people
that are dependent on benefits." ENDS



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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness,
Assembly member Caitriona Ruane and party chariperson Mary Lou McDonald MEP
will meet with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair tomorrow morning
(Thursday 4th August) at 11.30am in Dowwning Street.




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Dublin  Sinn  Féin  Councillor  Dáithi Doolan has slammed the privatisation
ideology  of the Fianna Fáil/PD Government after the Minister for Transport
Martin  Cullen  proposed  the  privatisation  of  15% of Dublin Bus routes.
Councillor  Doolan  said,  “It is an ideology that disregards the rights of
the marginalised and the elderly.”

Speaking  in Dublin this morning he said, “The proposed privatisation of up
to  15%  of Dublin Bus routes this year and next year is the thin edge of a
very  malignant  wedge.  Public transport is a service which belongs to the
people as a right.  The notion that it should be run on the basis of profit
is  a  dangerous one which will leave individuals and communities isolated.
Experience  has shown that once public transport is privatised the logic of
profit  overrides  all  other  considerations.   What  this  will mean is a
reduction  in  services  for  areas  that cannot provide a frequency of use
suitable  to the companies need for profit.  In practical terms people will
be  left  standing  at the bus stop until the company is sure it can fill a
bus.  They will regard it as inefficient to run a bus at anything less than
full capacity.

“The  logic  of  the  above  also  mean that there will be no incentive for
people  to  stop using their cars with all the congestion and environmental
issues  that  entails.   The  Governments withholding of the finance for an
extra  150  buses  contingent on an agreement is therefore contradictory to
their  oft-stated  objective  of  reducing  the number of cars on the road.
This is illogical unless you see it in ideological terms where both parties
in  Government  see  privatisation in terms of ideology.  It is an ideology
that  disregards  the  rights  of the marginalized and the elderly but lets
face it this is a Government that has shown scant regard for those sections
of society.

“Finally  the evidence from the privatisation of public transport in London
has shown that it has a negative effect on safety with every safety measure
being  measured  against  its  impact on profit.  New Labour were forced to
re-purchase  recently  privatised  rail  services  after  a series of fatal
crashes.  It is to be hoped that things will not have to go this far before
the Government is forced to reverse this disastrous policy”

Councillor Doolan concluded by saying, "Sinn Féin delegations have met with
the   NBRU,  SIPTU  and  other  unions  to  express  our  concerns  at  the
privatisation  of  agenda  of this government. We will continue to meet and
work  with  the  trade  union  movement and others in our opposition to the
privatisation of our public services." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey today urged the DUP to stop grand
standing  and face up to the new political challenges created by the
historic IRA statement of last week. Mr Maskey's remarks came after a
meeting in London between the DUP and the British Secretary of State Peter
Hain.

Mr Maskey said:

" Nationalists and republicans have been listening to Ian Paisley's rants
for decades. The reality is that nationalists and republicans are more
confident and more determined to see progress made that at any time since
partition. The days of second class citizenship and discrimination are over
and are not coming back.

" The DUP have been playing catch up with the political process here since
the first IRA cessation in 1994. Last weeks historic initiative by the IRA
creates a new political dynamic on the island and presents new political
challenges and realities for all of us. Retreating to the certainties of
conflict and sectarianism is not an option if this new opportunity is to be
fully grasped.

" There remains no excuse for the two governments in implementing the
outstanding aspects of the Good Friday Agreement. These are not concessions
or bargaining chips. They are basic rights and entitlements designed to
create for the first time a level political playing field.

" Sinn Féin are keen to see this business completed speedily and the early
restoration of the all-Ireland power sharing institutions. Even the DUP must
now accept that the only situation in which they will have executive power
will be in the Good Friday Agreement institutions alongside Sinn Féín." ENDS




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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has today urged her fellow MEPS in the Six
Counties, Jim Nicholson and Jim Allister to 'think outside the box and
embrace the dynamics of all-Ireland politics'.

Ms de Brún made her comments after Jim Nicholson opposed future speaking
rights for northern MPs and MEPs to participate in Dail debates.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"Sinn Féin would welcome moves by the Irish Government to secure the
rights of Six County political representatives to participate in the Dáil.
Sinn Féin has consistently raised the question of participation of northern
representatives to the Dáil and we would welcome any move by the Irish
government to give effect to these commitments.

"I would welcome the opportunity to debate with both Jim Nicholson MEP and
Jim Allister MEP on local, national and international issues in the Dáil.
Partition has failed both the nationalist and unionist communities. I
would call upon unionists political representatives to think outside the
box and embrace the dynamics of all-Ireland politics.

"I look forward to the day when I can address other political
representatives from north and south in the Dáil." ENDS


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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Poverty, North Belfast MLA Kathy Stanton has
criticised the refusal of British direct rule Ministers to extend the
deadline for consultation on a key Equality policy - New Targeting Social
Need and said that it flies in the face of the recommendations of its two of
own experts dealing with equality.

Ms Stanton said:

"Sinn Féin formally requested that British Ministers extend the deadline for
the consultation on New Targeting Social Need until after the summer holiday
period.

"The summer months represent a very busy time for community activists,
particularly in North Belfast. These are people who are best placed to give
an informed first hand contribution on how we need to take forward New TSN
policy.

"The British government has failed, to date, to deliver on its commitments
to advance the Equality Agenda. This is because there has not been effective
implementation of existing equality approaches, such as New TSN. The has
resulted in little impact on the ground in tackling inequality,
disadvantage, discrimination and poverty.

"The refusal to extend the consultation on this crucial equality policy
further highlights the lack of political will on the part of the British
government and its civil servants to take its commitments on delivery
seriously.

"It also flies in the face of the recommendations of the governments' own
appointed reviewers of section 75, Professor Eithne McLaughlin and Neil
Faris, that major consultations like New TSN should not be carried out
during the summer months when key stakeholders are scarce on the ground.

"There is a clear onus now on the British government to begin to take
forward its responsibility to deliver on the Equality Agenda. There can be
no excuses and no half measures. The Equality Agenda has not been a success
because of a lack of political will and because the policies meant to take
it forward have not been effectively implemented. There is now, more than at
any other period in the peace process, a compelling expectation that there
will be a new emphasis on delivering this part of the Good Friday
Agreement." ENDS



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Sinn Féin’s Dublin Spokesperson on the Environment & Dublin South East Representative, Councillor Daithí Doolan, today called on, “Minister for Natural Resources, Noel Dempsey, to add his weight to the campaign to have 5 Mayo men released from jail."

Speaking ahead of today’s protest at the Shell Garage Donnybrook, Dublin, Cllr. Doolan said:

"I will be supporting today’s protest called by the Shelltosea Campaign. It is a total disgrace that these 5 men from Rossport, Co. Mayo are still languishing in a Dublin jail while the Minister himself has admitted that Shell did not have the proper planning permission for the construction of the controversial pipe line. These men are in jail at the request of Shell Oil for simply highlighting the fact that the pipeline bringing the oil in from the Corrib gas field is dangerous and poses a real threat to the community of Rossport.     

“The sale of Corrib by our government was a travesty. We are now reaping the sorry harvest that was sown by previous Fianna Fáil government ministers. The nation’s natural resources belong to the nation and must be used to benefit the people on this island. Resources should never be simply sold and stripped for private gain, which is exactly what is happening in Mayo.”

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan, demanded the Minister Noel Dempsey, “to intervene and support the call for the men’s immediate release.”


The protest takes place today, 5:30pm at the Shell Petrol Station, Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

 

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams was today joined by West Belfast Assembly member Fra McCann and MEP Bairbre deBrún as they met with residents of Divis Tower as work began to dismantle the spy post on the roof of the tower block.

Speaking to reporters outside Mr Adams said:

"This spy post served no useful purpose over the years it was positioned on the roof of Divis tower.

"We are told that it was there for our protection but people were killed in my constituency office, people were killed in this neighbourhood, all within sight of the squaddies on this tower. Local people will warmly welcome the work which commenced today to remove this spy post from this community."

Addressing the challenges which lie ahead in the peace process Mr Adams said:

" Given the reaction of the DUP in the days since the IRA announcement it appears to many as if Mr Paisley would have preferred that the IRA had not made its move at all.

" But it is time to move on with the peace process and restore the political institutions. There is a challenge for Mr Blair to advise the DUP that the Good Friday Agreement is going to be delivered and that the opportunities presented by last weeks IRA initiative have to be seized."ENDS

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Sinn Féin National Chairperson and MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today reacted to the news that the state almost lost out on 280 million euros of EU funding in 2003.

It has emerged that a number of government departments were weeks away from losing almost 300 million euros in EU Structural Funding in March 2003. In light of this, Ms McDonald has called for an "urgent review of the way in which government administers funding".

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"Had this state lost out on nearly 300 million euros of EU funding it would have had disastrous consequences for infrastructure and sustainable development in the 26 Counties. The news that then Minister Charlie McCreevy sent a letter to ministerial colleagues in January of 2003, warning that if money was not drawn down by March 03 then the funding would be lost, is a startling admission of government complacency and incompetence.

"This approach leads to the assumption that if the government were weeks away from losing this money, then they obviously had no thought out strategic plans as to how the money would be allocated or used for essential projects.

"Can we afford to have such a blasé attitude to the drawing down of EU Structural Funding? Thankfully, the funding was claimed in the end but this admission raises some very serious questions and should act as the impetus for an urgent review of the way in which government, and individual departments administer funding." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice President, West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty has said that there
should be 'no guarantees' about the long-term future of Invest NI given its
failure to meet minimum targets to tackle inequality through strategic
investment West of the Bann and in Border counties.

Mr Doherty said:

"Sinn Féin have exposed the bias of Invest NI that favours of the more
affluent East Coast and parts of Belfast over areas West of the Bann and
Border communities. The current planned investment strategy replicates
failures of the past.

"Invest NI is part of the problem. The failure to meet even minimum targets
to tackle and eradicate inequality is unacceptable.

"The British government has clear commitments to deliver on the equality
agenda. This means that there can be no excuses. Attempts to exempt
so-called 'high level' policy from the equality agenda are also unacceptable
because it is exactly these polices, particularly in relation to investment
strategy, that should be the instruments of change.

"The British government, its direct rule ministers, the government
departments and their agencies need to recognise that they must go back to
the drawing board in ensuring that they live up to their commitment to
deliver on the equality agenda.

"We have seen progress on demilitarisation in recent days, we still need to
see progress on policing and we also need to see equality commitments
delivered upon.

"Sinn Féin have consistently argued that future investment strategy should
be driven forward within the all-Ireland framework. We have argued for the
creation of a single all-Ireland body subsuming both Invest NI and the IDB
to drive forward economic development through a balanced inward investment
strategy and support for the growth of indigenous business.

"There should be no guarantees about the long-term future of Invest NI. Sinn
Fein have exposed its investment bias and there is a strong rationale for
movement towards a single economic development agency for the island." ENDS

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Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty commenting on speculation that the
Irish government is set to move on the rights of Sic County political
representative to participate in the Dail has said that this is a
recognition of the rights of northern nationalists to participate in the
political life of the nation.

Mr Doherty said:

"Sinn Féin have consistently raised the issue of the participation of Six
County elected representatives in the Dail. The Irish government have given
commitments to facilitate this, as an expression of the right of northern
nationalists, of Irish citizens, to participation in the political life of
the nation.

"I welcome any move by the Irish government to give effect to these
commitments." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy today welcomed the announcement from the British government regarding a strategy to demilitarise society including the disbandment of the RIR. The announcement came after a meeting this morning between Mr Murphy and the British Secretary of State Peter Hain who was accompanied by the PSNI Chief constable Hugh Orde.

Mr Murphy said:

" Sinn Féin have been the only party who has consistently demanded that the British government remove its war apparatus from the north.

" It has always been a key element of our discussions with the British government. This morning I met with the British Secretary of State Peter Hain who was accompanied by the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde to discuss this issue in detail.

" We have consistently called for the British government to produce a comprehensive strategy to achieve the demilitarisation of our society. Any such strategy would have to include the future of the RIR. Sinn Féin have consistently raised the issue of the continuing role of the RIR, its sectarian composition and its collusion with the unionist paramilitaries and today's announcement deals with this issue.

" I welcomed the start that the British government made last week to the demilitarisation process and today's moves advance that process further. I now want to see the job completed as quickly as possible." ENDS

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Sinn Féin 's Sean Crowe TD (Member of the Irish Parliament), will visit Toronto and Montreal from Monday, August 1 to Friday, August 5. The purpose of the visit is to brief Canadians on the Irish peace process after the historic IRA statement of July 28.

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Sinn Féin Dungannon Mayor, Francie Molloy MLA, the current President of
NILGA has warned of a total breakdown in the operation of local bodies
responsible for distributing EU PEACE funding because of a legal loophole.

Following concerns raised by the auditor about the legal cover for council
appointees to certain outside bodies that are companies, legal advice has
been issued by the Department of Environment that means that local
government councillors are not legally entitled to represent their council
on outside bodies such as the Local Strategic Partnerships and LEADER
companies that distribute the bulk of EU Peace monies.

Local government representatives play a significant role as directors on the
Boards of LSP and LEADER companies.

EU regulations require specific representatives on the boards of the
companies that distribute EU funds including community and business
representatives, statutory agencies representatives and elected local
government representatives.

Commenting on the situation Cllr Molloy said:

"The legal advice indicates that councils have no power to set up or
participate in a limited company such as those set up to deliver EU Peace
funding.

"Literally millions and millions of pounds are at stake. Unless the
situation is rectified and rectified immediately, LSP and LEADER companies
will have to be wound up. There will be total breakdown in the allocation of
EU PEACE funding.

"The impact on the ground will be devastating. Jobs will be lost and much of
the work in building peace and reconciliation, in regeneration and in
fostering better educational and work opportunities will just be thrown
away.

"The fact that there is no legal cover for councillors to discharge their
democratic duties by providing representation on outside bodies is a
scandal. It is made worse when the rules governing the distribution of EU
funding demand it.

"Whether it is incompetence in drafting the legislation or a more direct
attempt to undermine democratic accountability the fact is that if
councillors are forced off these companies then they will be forced to close
because they will not be able to operate legally.

"The direct rule minister with responsibility for this, Jeff Rooker, needs
to take immediate steps to rectify this legislative gap.

"For decades there has been a democratic deficit created by the over
dependence on quangoes. The role that councillors have played in
regeneration and reconciliation through these companies has been vital. This
is a step backwards. It is an attack on democratic participation in decision
making and on democratic accountability.

"The swift drafting and implementation of adequate statutory provision can
remedy the situation. In the first instance, the government departments that
are responsible for this situation should be instructed to issue councils
with letters of cover that will enable them to legally appoint
representatives to outside bodies." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness has arrived back in Ireland following his three day trip to the United States where he met with US Envoy Mitchell Reiss, members of Congress, Cardinal Egan, Bill Flynn of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and many in Irish America who have been long supporters of the peace process. During the visit Mr. McGuinness also spoke with Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Leahey.

Speaking on his return to Ireland Mr. McGuinness said:

"Over the last three days I met with US Envoy Mitchell Reiss, members of Congress, Cardinal Egan, Bill Flynn of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and many in Irish America who have been long supporters of the Irish peace process. There was widespread support for the IRAs decision to ends its armed campaign and recognition, not just of the historic nature of the move, but also the need for momentum to be maintained.

"This means that the Irish and British governments need to push forward with the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the restoration of the political institutions. It also means that the days when the DUP were allowed to prevent progress have come to an end.

"It is time for the DUP to step up to the plate and represent the interests of those who vote for them. It is time that they sit down face-to-face with Irish Republicans."ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP was today joined by party Assembly group leader John O'Dowd and Assembly members Philip McGuigan and Sue Ramsey at a press conference in Belfast. Mr Adams said that 'Sinn Féin is looking for full delivery of all aspects of the Agreement, including equality, human rights, and policing'.

Mr Adams said:

" Yesterday's announcement by the IRA is a landmark decision which will shape politics on this island for the time ahead.

" It represents an unparalleled opportunity which must be grasped by all sensible people.

" Republicans are up to this challenge. I know that it presents difficulties. I know that there are those who will need time to absorb the decisions made. But I also firmly believe that republicans understand and appreciate the importance of yesterday and the opportunity it creates to advance and secure the republican goals of unity and independence. This puts an enormous responsibility on Sinn Féin and others who support this position. There is a need for all of us to find ways of working together to advance these goals.

" I welcome yesterday's public commitments by the governments to deliver on their obligations and responsibilities under the Good Friday Agreement. Of course, people will judge this on how the two governments deliver.

" Sinn Féin is looking for full delivery of all aspects of the Agreement, including equality, human rights, and policing. I welcome the efforts to bring demilitarisation to completion. We want to see this proceeding as quickly as possible.

" But unionists too have their responsibilities. It is clear that many unionists broadly welcome these developments. They need decisive leadership. That's for Mr. Paisley and his colleagues especially to come to terms with.

" I believe now is the time for dialogue between us. Has the DUP the confidence it claims to have? If they do there is no reason why our parties cannot be talking now to plan the next steps in the rebuilding of the political institutions. " ENDS

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Commenting on the announcement that work to remove a spy post in South Armagh is to commence today Sinn Féin MP for Newry & Armagh Conor Murphy said:

"It is obviously welcome for those people living under this spy post that it is to be removed. People living in areas like South Armagh have lived with the negative effects of military occupation for too long. We are now well over ten years into this process.

"The start made today must be built upon in the days and weeks ahead, not just in South Armagh but across the six counties. The demilitarisation of communities is an important element in consolidating the progress already made and ensuring that we build a new future free from conflict and division." ENDS

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At a meeting of the Southern Education & Library Board Meeting Sinn Fein
Education Board Member Brendan Lewis proposed that the 2pm Bus Service be
immediately reinstated and this was seconded by Cllr Pat Mc Ginn. The SDLP
member Pat Branningan voted against the proposal while Karen Mc Kevitt SDLP
who had handed in a petition looking for an immediate reinstatement of the
bus service in her local school abstained.

Commenting upon this Brendan Lewis and Pat Mc Ginn said,

" It is now clear that the SDLP opposition to cuts was a pre-election stunt
and post elections they are back to supporting a status quo that is prepared
to facilitate cuts to school jobs and school services.

Sinn Fein will not be policing an inadequate budget set by the British
Government and the SDLP should be ashamed of themselves for supporting such
cuts especially children's bus services.

We have informed the SELB that we will not support any cuts and we are
demanding that the Government get real about education with a real budget to
support education and learning".

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