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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 spokesperson on Human Rights Issues Caitriona Ruane has accused PSNI Chief Hugh Orde of 'deliberately and very cynically entering a debate around truth recovery and inquiries in a bid to protect senior members of the PSNI from having their past role within the RUC investigated'.

Ms Ruane said:

"Hugh Orde is well aware that there are many of his senior colleagues who formally occupied central roles within the RUC and the RUC Special Branch. He knows that many of these individuals are human rights abusers and were centrally involved in organising a campaign of genocide against the nationalist population.

"He knows that the presence of human rights abusers at the core of the new policing arrangements undermines confidence and sustains the widely held belief that the PSNI is not an accountable and acceptable policing service.

"Recent attempts by Mr Orde to scupper the demands of families for inquiries into the murders of their loved ones through the collusion policy is a very cynical and political move being made in an attempt to protect his senior colleagues who were in the past central to this policy.

"The political interventions being made by Mr Orde in recent times mirror the sort of political policing which we became accustomed to under the various Chief Constables of the RUC and which if we had a truly new beginning to policing would have come to an end by now." ENDS

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Chuir Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, úrlabhrai Sinn Féin ar Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta, fáilte roimh cheapadh an chéad Choimisinéir Teanga Seán Ó Curreáin ag an Uachtárán Máire Mhic Giolla Iosa in Áras an Uachtaráin inniu.

Dúirt an Teachta Ó Snodaigh:

"Is céim tábhachtach chun tosaigh é do phobal na Gaeilge. Ba chóir anois Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga a chur ag obair gan moill agus é a mhaoiniú i gceart. Bhi moill fada ar obair an Choimisiúin um Chearta Daonna mar nior tugadh an foireann dóibh.

"Tá sé deimhnithe ag an Rialtas nach raibh sé i gceist riamh go bhfostófai daoine nua in Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga. Tá súil agam go mbeidh a dhóthain stát-seirbhisigh ag an Coimisinéir nua chun dul ar aghaidh leis an obair." DEIREADH

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In the course of a wide ranging speech today in Dunloy, County Antrim, at a commemoration to mark the 20th anniversary of the deaths of IRA Volunteers Henry Hogan and Declan Martin, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP expressed his condolences to the families of those killed and injured in yesterdays bus tragedy in Dublin.

The Sinn Féin leader also spoke about his concerns for the future of the political process, the responsibilities of the two governments, Sinn Féin's willingness to engage with the DUP and the events of Friday night in Belfast.

Mr. Adams said:

The current disposition of the political process remains untenable in the longer term. It is not enough for the two governments to verbalise about their commitments to the process and to the changes they are obliged to bring in under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, delivery of those obligations is essential.

On Thursday I welcomed the Taoiseach's reiteration of 'the Governments role as co-guarantor with the British Government of the Good Friday Agreement.'

But Republicans and Nationalists, particularly here in the North, want to know what does that mean in terms of their lives, and their rights and entitlements as Irish citizens?

They want delivery on these matters, promised almost six years ago under the Agreement, and they look to our government, as a co-guarantor, to ensure that delivery. The responsibility for this rests exclusively with the British and Irish governments."

The Sinn Féin leader also went on the challenge the DUP's Ian Paisley:

"If you have the courage of your convictions then enter into dialogue with Sinn Féin. There can be no doubt that such dialogue will take place. Ian Paisley's public position is simply delaying this. That is not acceptable.

The logic of the DUP position is that they should be in government with Sinn Féin. The objective reality at this time is that Sinn Féin is the largest pro-Agreement party. This is not going to change in the time ahead.

Republicans are not naïve about the DUP. We know that they want to minimise the process of change. But the DUP also knows that if it wants a return to devolved administration that it will be with Sinn Fein in government and it will be with the all-Ireland model contained in the Good Friday Agreement template.

So our party is prepared to explore the DUP position, not because we have any illusions about Mr. Paisley's position, but because we have a confidence in our own position and because one of our objectives is for a strategic alliance with unionism for the benefit of all our people.

We recognise and respect the mandate of the DUP, they must recognise and respect our mandate."

Mr. Adams paid tribute to the families of Volunteers Henry Hogan and Declan Martin. He said that; "One of the challenges facing everyone in the peace process is to recognise that there can be no hierarchy of victims. All sides have suffered and while republicans are very mindful of the hurt we have inflicted, we also take considerable pride in the courage and unselfishness of those who have died in the republican cause."

Finally, the Sinn Féin President attacked those critics who have been seeking to use Friday evening's events in Belfast City Centre to criticise Sinn Féin:

"The PSNI have claimed that this was an abduction by the IRA. There have been such claims about the IRA before. They have proven to be without foundation. But Hugh Orde's speedy allegation follows a pattern going back to the old RUC which was also quick to point the finger at republicans while turning a blind eye to others.

What value the rights of those arrested? What chance that they will receive a fair hearing?

There has also been an unholy haste by a range of politicians eager to seize upon Hugh Orde's statement and an eagerness by sections of the media to repeat his allegation without question or to embroider it.

All of those involved need to catch themselves on. The threat to the peace process does not come from republicans, it comes from others including those who have failed or refuse to make politics work.

Whatever the truth behind Friday nights incident Sinn Féin will not be made a whipping boy, especially by those who have no interest in making this process work.

Our position is clear. Last October I reiterated our commitment to democratic and peaceful politics. I also pointed to a peaceful direction for all republicans to follow. That remains my position and the endeavour and the focus of Sinn Féin. So there is a choice for those who are quick to pass judgement on these matters.

Do they value the Sinn Féin peace strategy and our contribution to the peace process, including our on going efforts to bring an end to physical force republicanism, or do they not? If they do not and prefer instead to stick with the old agenda then it is they who undermine the peace process not Sinn Féin."ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has expressed his sympathy to the families of those who were tragically killed in Dublin City Centre this afternoon and to those who were injured.

Mr. Adams said:

"I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the families of those who were tragically killed in Dublin City Centre this afternoon and to those who were injured.

"There is a deep sense of shock at what has happened and our thoughts are with them this evening."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Representative for Dublin South East Daithí Doolan attending today's official opening of a recycling centre in Ringsend slammed the government's approach to the waste management crisis as "wholly inadequate".

Mr. Doolan said:

"While the opening of this household waste recycling centre is to be welcomed, it is like putting a band aid on an open wound, something which makes it like almost every other government policy. Even the government must see the irony of opening a recycling centre in a community into which it is trying to foist a massive incinerator.

"This a government who feel it necessary to bring in draconian legislation to assist them in their plan to impose hazardous incinerators in our cities and towns. The people will not be fooled by their cynical attempt to dodge their responsibility for properly dealing with the waste management crisis.

"The real solution is to deal with the crisis in a holistic way that addresses the causes and not just the consequences of the waste crisis.

"Sinn Féin's recently released Waste Management Charter outlines our campaign for a viable, sustainable and responsible response to our waste crisis. We are taking it to community groups, environmental groups, the business community and the farming sector. We aim to enlist their support so as the charter will become all inclusive and not restricted to any one section of our society." ENDS

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Sinn Féin leader in the Dáil, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD today criticised the Government for failing to protect the consumer in relation insurance charges. Speaking during Order of Business he said the latest report from the Competition Authority made it clear that people were being ripped off "left, right and centre".

Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "The latest report of the Competition Authority has highlighted once more how people are being ripped off left right and centre with insurance charges. We urgently need legislation on foot of this Report and we need the government to agree to an early debate here in the House so that we can identify exactly what needs to be done now to protect the consumer. Unfortunately that is something this Government and Tanaiste has signally failed to do so far?" ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for North Kerry today criticised the Maternity Protection Bill for not going far enough in facilitating women who wish to combine work with caring for their children. Deputy Ferris was speaking during a debate on the Bill in the Dáil this afternoon.

Deputy Ferris said: "While I welcome the introduction of any bill which seeks to ameliorate the rights and employment conditions of workers, it is disappointing that this Bill actually delivers very little for women seeking to combine motherhood with work. All the provisions contained within it are minimal and do not seek to make any real difference to the lives of working women.

"Once again we have a Bill before us which is being sold as an achievement of social partnership whereas in actuality we are simply belatedly giving working women what are basic rights. Maternity protection is at the forefront of the battle to bring about a better work-life balance for workers. It is also vital in the battle to combat social exclusion and poverty.

"The necessity for Maternity protection legislation is a recognition that in the workplace pregnant women and new mothers face many barriers and indeed the number of pregnancy discrimination cases which have come before the Equality Authority and the courts in recent years is evidence that many employers have yet to accept the basic principles of maternity protection.

"Maternity policy needs to be centred on the needs of parents and children first and then on the needs of the employer. Many employers are hanging on to outdated 19th century industrialist attitudes which viewed the worker as merely another cog in the machinery of their factory. Sinn Fein does not believe that the maternity leave provided for in this legislation is adequate. We are calling for the pre-confinement period of maternity leave to be left at four weeks and for the total period of leave to be increased to 26 weeks to allow a greater period of leave after childbirth. This is absolutely necessary given the difficulties in terms of childminding faced by working mothers today. If we do not facilitate such an increase in maternity leave we will end up forcing working mothers to leave their employment." ENDS

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Sinn Féin East EU Candidate and European Spokesperson on Privatisation, John Dwyer, reacted angrily to a EU meeting, which is taking place at Dublin Castle today. The 'Article 133 Committee' is meeting to discuss trade deals, and formulate policy for the controversial GATS negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Speaking today, Dwyer said:

"Today's negotiations could have a profound effect upon our most essential public services, including health and education services. This meeting is taking place behind closed doors to consider which services should be open to commercial competition. Sinn Féin is totally opposed to the buying and selling of our public services to the highest bidders.

"Along with all of the Sinn Féin TDs and my fellow EU Candidates, I have signed a letter to the Irish Government, calling for a greater transparency and accountability, and demanding that concerned parties have access to the documents being presented by the Irish Government to the meeting. This meeting encapsulates much of what is wrong with the EU secrecy, unaccountability and an unrelenting drive toward privatising our most essential public services". ENDS

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Sinn Féin's EU candidate Mary Lou McDonald today welcomed the ruling in Dublin District Court that Portmarnock Golf Club was in breach of the Equal Status Act 2000 by banning female members, saying it was "high time women were treated as equal citizens in all areas of Irish life."

Ms. McDonald said:

"It seems almost Victorian to think that women who wished to be members of this golf club were refused on the grounds of gender and that even a leisure pursuit could cause discrimination by operating a 'men-only' policy. I hope this sends out a strong message that women should be entitled to the same privileges as men whether in business or leisure pursuits as it is high time women were treated as equal citizens in all areas of Irish life.

"Discrimination of any type whether on grounds of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity should not be tolerated by anyone and I commend the Equality Authority for taking this case which will hopefully set a precedent."ENDS

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North Antrim Sinn Féin Assembly member Philip McGuigan has claimed that PSNI policy in the area is being decided by the Orange Order. Mr McGuigan's comments come after local PSNI Commanders confirmed to residents in Dunloy that they would be sealing off the town during this Sunday's Republican parade as a result of demands being made by the Orange Order.

Mr McGuigan said:

"This weekend in Dunloy a series of events are being held to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the killing of IRA Volunteers Henry Hogan and Declan Martin by the SAS in the town. These will culminate with a parade through the town on Sunday.

"The parade has the support of the local community and will pass off without incident. The PSNI are aware of this yet they are insisting on placing a ring of steal around the town on Sunday. When pressed about this by march organisers the local PSNI Commander said that the decision to mount this offensive operation came about as a result of pressure being applied by the Orange Order.

"It seems that policing policy in this area is being dictated by the demands of a secret anti-Catholic society. So much for the supposed accountability of the PSNI. This revelation poses very serious questions for the PSNI and for those nationalists who continue to argue support for the current flawed policing arrangements" ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has added his voice to those demanding that the British Direct Rule Minister Ian Pearson ends the bullying of the Nipsa workers engaged in industrial action and instead sits down with union representatives and resolves the dispute.

Mr Adams said:

"The bullying attitude being adopted by the Minister Ian Pearson regarding the Civil Service workers currently engaged in industrial action is unacceptable. This sort of Thatcherite, cavalier approach to industrial relations will not work.

"Mr Pearson needs to sit down with Nipsa and find an equitable solution to this dispute through dialogue. Threatening or suspending workers involved in this action does not contribute to an environment in which this dispute can be resolved." ENDS

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Sinn Fein President and West Belfast MP Gerry Adams speaking this evening at an event in West Belfast attended by the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said:

"I welcome the Taoiseach's visit here. I have read his remarks in Coleraine and I welcome these also. I am broadly in agreement with the broad thrust of his comments, especially his reiteration of 'the Government's role as co-guarantor with the British Government of the Good Friday Agreement'.

"But the Taoiseach should know that Republicans and Nationalists, particularly here in the North will ask what does that mean in terms of their lives and their rights and entitlements as Irish citizens. They want delivery on these issues and they look to our government, as a co-guarantor, to ensure that delivery.

"So what are the issues that require delivery? I won't rehearse all of them here but they include crucially the suspension by the British Government of the institutions, they include the gutting of the electoral register and the denial to citizens of the right to vote.

"There is also huge dissatisfaction at the British Government's refusal to publish the Cory Report despite commitments to the families involved that this would be done. In fact the Taoiseach should be aware that the issue of collusion remains a huge issue.

"Attacks by loyalist elements continue. Last night's attack on a woman of 105 and others in the north of this city are sad proof of that. There are also issues which are directly the responsibility of the Irish Government. This includes the status of the Irish language and proper funding and resourcing for it. It includes the issue of prisoners and most importantly the right of Northerners to have representation and participation in political institutions in Dublin.

" I note Taoiseach you are aware of all these issues and others. Your visit today gives you the chance to discuss at first hand the concerns and hopes of people here. It also gives you the opportunity to hear the details of the social and economic needs of the citizens in the West Belfast partnership board area".

The Sinn Fein West Belfast MP also spoke about the Partnership Board and the problems faced by the people of WB.

" The level of deprivation and social need outlined in the report is an urgent call to action. Many of the problems faced by West Belfast can be found in communities across Ireland. We have much to share and learn from these communities. The difficulties facing West Belfast have been exasperated by decades of structured political discrimination and conflict. There is a need to address all of this, as well as the socio-economic issues on an all Ireland level. And so it is welcome that the Taoiseach is here today

"The 'statement of need' demonstrates the scale of resources required to address need in West Belfast and a new way of delivering public services. This will require public services, government departments, community representatives and the private sector working to redress decades of discrimination and disadvantage.

"These issues can be resolved by True Partnerships.Partnership at the Governmental/Executive level, Partnership at a city and

constituency level and partnerships delivering local public services. The experience of the West Belfast Economic Taskforce shows that the

Partnership approach can deliver. Following our lobby the Executive sponsored the initiative and established a partnership of departments, community representatives and private business.

"This process allowed everyone to think outside their respective boxes and address complex interrelated problems.Through this process, the Taskforce developed creative solutions to the economic problems across all of West Belfast.

"While there was a delay in delivering these recommendations we have now secured £8 million for Job Assist Centres, £27 million for redevelopment of Mackies and we are currently completing a bid in excess of £20million from the new Integrated Development Fund.

"While theses are large scale interventions more needs to be done. We need £30million over the next 3rys to deal with educational underachievement (figures from BELB). We need 4200 new houses over the next 5 years. (NIHE)

"The Taskforce process demonstrates the ability of partnerships to create solution and oversee change.However for a partnership to be successful we now know that we require to departments willing to truly engage and must have budgets to allow for the implementation of their recommendations.

"For the power of partnerships to be unleashed will require a change in the delivery of public services. A change which I believe is happening. And it will require the allocation of additional resources to meet the challenge of regeneration.

"A first step would be to resource the West Belfast Partnership Board and its member groups so, along with political representatives, the communities view for can be heard.

"I would hope that the production of the statement of need is another step in addressing the multiple deprivation experienced in West Belfast.

Thanks to the West Belfast Partnership Board".ENDS

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Speaking today at the Queens University sponsored European Liaison Seminar Series, Sinn Féin spokesperson on European Affairs Bairbre de Brún has called for a greater focus on the impact of the EU on the day-to-day lives of people across the Six Counties.

Speakers in the debate include Evelyn Collins from the Equality Commission and Seamus McAleavey of NICVA.

Ms de Brún called on politicians, statutory and voluntary bodies and the media to do more to ensure that people here have a real voice in EU affairs.

Ms de Brún said:

"Up to 70% of all legislation affecting the North of Ireland originates in the EU. Despite this fact, many organisations and people only come to understand the impact of this when it comes to implementing the legislation locally. In other parts of the EU there is a substantial and lively engagement with EU issues well before the eventual passing of laws in national or regional parliaments.

"There is a great need for a more open and democratic engagement with the role played by the EU in the lives of ordinary people here. Politicians have a crucial role in advocating and publicising key issues which affect the ordinary citizen, whether they be the future of structural or community support funding, equality measures or the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

"Equally the media have a valuable contribution to make, by giving greater prominence to EU issues. We need to be discussing issues while they are in the early stages of development, rather than after the decision has been made. This will enable citizens to input into policy making in a more meaningful way.

"The Women's Sector and the Farming Community here are clearly ahead of other sectors in their level of engagement, and offer a model for others to follow. However this kind of activity requires support and resourcing if the interests of communities are to be promoted and protected in Brussels and Strasbourg.

"For too long, people here have paid too little attention to the impact of the EU locally. In light of the ongoing negotiations on the EU constitution and the impact of enlargement this attitude needs to change." ENDS

Note to Editors: The seminar is organised by the QUB Centre for European Studies, will take place on Thursday 19th Feburary in the Senate Room, QUB, Belfast from 11am.

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North Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly has said that last nights sectarian attacks in Cliftondene Gardens and Cresent and in Cliftonpark Avenue were carried out by loyalists and mark a very worrying development.

Mr Kelly said:

"Last night homes in Cliftondene Gardens and Cresent were attacked with bricks and paint, including the home of a 105 year old woman, and in Cliftonpark Avenue homes were attacked with petrol bombs. The attackers were seen running back into the Glenbryn estate.

"I have no doubt that loyalists were behind these attacks and they mirror almost exactly attacks carried out by the UDA in this area 12 months ago.

"Last nights attacks are clearly a very worrying development and I hope that this does not mark the commencement of another wave of sectarian attacks on Catholic homes in North Belfast by loyalist groupings." ENDS

Editors Note: Mr Kelly is available for interview at 12 noon at the corner of Cliftendene Gardens and Oldpark Road (Corner after Alliance Avenue)

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Sinn Fein's EU Candidate for Dublin, Mary Lou McDonald today accused the Irish Government of having "no backbone over the 'Big Three Summit' meeting in Berlin". Germany, France and Britain are holding the summit meeting today (18.02.04), to discuss a range of European issues. This meeting will take place just in advance of a major meeting of the European Council in March.

Responding to the Berlin Summit, Ms McDonald said:

"Sinn Fein is concerned that the three most powerful nations in Europe - Germany, France and Britain, are holding a meeting regarding key European issues such as economic growth, immigration and the European constitution. This meeting will be held behind closed doors, and without consultation with the other member states".

"The very fact that the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern does not seem unduly concerned by this meeting, serves to highlight the attitude of the Irish government towards the increasingly elitist and exclusive private club that the EU is being transformed into. Indeed, his lack of concern is not shared by many of his EU counterparts, as both the Spanish and Italian Premiers have protested about their exclusion from the talks. During the Irish Presidency, Mr Ahern should be ensuring a more inclusive dialogue between member states, rather than supporting exclusive meetings by powerful nations. It has become quite clear that Mr Ahern has shown no backbone over the 'Big Three Summit‚ in Berlin, nor indeed any compulsion to try to halt the emerging two-speed‚ Europe.

"This is not the first time that such meetings with selective agendas and selective invitees have occurred. The changing structures of the EU, through the Draft Constitution, facilitate and indeed, encourage such elitist activities by the larger nations. Sinn Fein is concerned that the two tier Europe which we have consistently argued against, is increasingly becoming a reality." ENDS

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Reacting to proposals from Policing Board Chairperson Des Rea and the Vice Chair Denis Bradley regarding the issue of truth recovery, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice issues Gerry Kelly said:

"In a sense there are two issues raised by Des Rea's comments. There is the issue of human rights abusers within the current policing structures and then there is the separate issue of developing a truth recovery process.

"Des Rea is the Chairperson of the Policing Board. The fact is that the RUC moved en masse into the PSNI. This means that at the heart of the current policing arrangements are those human rights abusers who organised and participated in a campaign of terror against the nationalist community. These people should not be involved in the current policing arrangements. If Des Rea's announcement today is about protecting these people and maintaining their role within existing policing structures then that is totally unacceptable.

"The proposal for a commission to report on this issue will in effect become another stalling mechanism. In the case of Pat Finucane all of the key people involved were British agents and we have already had 15 years of stalling aimed at preventing the truth emerging. The British State is desperately trying to hide the truth. Are the senior figures in the Policing Board including Denis Bradley now telling the Finucane family and others that they support continued stalling.

"Last September Sinn Féin attempted to begin a debate around the issue of truth when we published a consultation document on the issue. That work is continuing under my colleague Philip McGuigan.

"Different families of those killed throughout the past three decades have different models in mind to find the truth or closure. Some families want inquires and others want prosecutions. Many of the families I have spoken to want to know who was politically responsible for orchestrating and developing a campaign of State sponsored murder in the North.

"Sinn Féin has consistently supported families and we will continue to do this.

"Sinn Féin's position is that we want to see the truth and the development of a victim based process to achieve this." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly Group leader Conor Murphy has said that a report by the Police Ombudsman finding no evidence of wrongdoing regarding the PSNI political raid on the Sinn Féin Offices in Stormont was flawed.

Mr Murphy said:

"In my opinion this determination from the Police Ombudsman is deeply flawed. It simply repeats information given to it by the PSNI and passes no judgement on its reliability.

"The Ombudsman seems content to believe a cock and bull story from the PSNI that hundreds of PSNI personnel happened to be wearing riot gear at 9am in the morning when they were supposedly drafted in at the last minute to take part in the raid.

"They quote the apology from Hugh Orde but fail to identify the wrongdoing for which Mr Orde was publicly apologising.

"The fact is that the raid on Stormont was part of a politically motivated operation carried out by Special Branch to undermine the political process. The street theatre at Stormont with armoured jeeps and riot police was an essential part of the overall operation.

"I will be taking this matter back to the party's legal advisers and I intend to proceed further with this case." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MLAs Bairbre de Brún and Alex Maskey this afternoon met with US Congressman Jim Walsh at the US Consulate in Belfast. Speaking after the meeting Ms de Brún said that the meeting provided 'a valuable opportunity to update Congressman Walsh on the current state of the Peace Process and present him with a briefing document on the shredding of the electoral Register here in the North'.

Ms de Brún said:

"As the Chairperson of the US Congress Friends of Ireland Group Congressman Walsh has been a strong supporter of the development of the Irish Peace Process over many years. Today's meeting provided us with an opportunity to update Congressman Walsh on the current state of the peace process.

"We impressed upon him our belief that there is an effort being made to present the current difficulties as a problem of IRA violence and of the parties refusing to share power. This is false. Sinn Féin has set our face against violence, and the parties which refuse to share power are the unionists.

"An added difficulty is the refusal by the governments, especially the British, to deliver on their commitments and we again raised the issue of collusion and the failure to act on the Cory Report at today's meeting.

"We presented Congressman Walsh with a briefing document detailing the decimation of the Electoral Register and the damaging effect this has had in undermining confidence in the electoral process at a time when all of our efforts have been on establishing the primacy of politics in the North." ENDS

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Speaking during the Report stage of the Aer Lingus Bill 2003 Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport Seán Crowe TD accused the Minister for Transport of blindly pursuing a privatisation agenda in relation to the sell off of Aer Lingus and of deliberately initiating confrontations with public sector unions. Deputy Crowe said:

"Sinn Féin is completely opposed to plans to sell off Aer Lingus. This Government, and the Minister himself in particular, present a clear danger to semi-State companies with their blind faith in market forces and in privatisation and sell-off as the solution to our economic problems. In less than two years the Minister has managed to initiate confrontations with a variety of public sector unions and exacerbate the situation by refusing to negotiate except through media soundbites.

"The legislation gives the Minister for Finance the power to sell off the company any time he sees fit. When the decision is made, the general principles of the Bill, which could be as vague as the Minister desires, and judging by his proposals to break up Aer Rianta and CIE we can expect a high level of vagueness, will be voted through by the voting fodder on the Government backbenches after the Opposition is allowed some time to talk about what a bad deal it is.

"It is because the amendment made no real difference to the ability of the Government to sell off the company that Minister Brennan had no difficulty accepting it. Whether the Minister for Finance can sell shares at the drop of a hat or has to come to the Dáil for a rubber stamp does not make a great deal of difference in the end of the day. This Bill is still primarily about the desire of the Government to sell off Aer Lingus, using the employee share ownership plan as a cover.

"Aer Lingus is an extremely successful, and profitable, company and a valuable state asset. This Government is not capable of exercising the powers that would be granted it under this legislation and so my amendments are designed to restrict its abilities to do so." ENDS

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Speaking during the report and final stages of the Industrial Relations (miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2003, Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on Enterprise Arthur Morgan criticised the Social Partnership Process for failing to deliver any real improvements to the lives of the workers of the State.

Deputy Morgan said:

"As I have said in this house on previous occasions, this government is anti-union and it is no surprise that it is anti-union in that it is presided over by the man responsible for the introduction of the most vicious piece of anti-union legislation on the statute books - the Industrial Relations Act 1990 which was designed to crack down on Union activity. This Bill merely represents the scraps from the IBEC table thrown to workers during the most recent round of Social Partnership talks.

"The Government and employers' organisations are making workers bargain or more accurately beg for rights, which are justly theirs, as part of the wider social partnership deal. These are not concessions. Employer recognition of unions, compliance with labour legislation and the fulfilling of statutory redundancy rights are all basic workplace rights. These should not even be on the negotiating table. Legislation to enshrine Union recognition in law is long overdue and many will draw their own conclusions from the fact that Social Partnership has failed to deliver this most fundamental workers' right. This Government must do more to tackle low pay and ensure that workers in this State receive a living wage.

"This Bill should have been used as an opportunity to enshrine Union recognition in law. That it has not done so is profoundly unsatisfactory. This Bill makes no meaningful change to existing legislation." ENDS

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