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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Equality and Justice Bairbre de Brún, speaking at the beginning of Slógadh Shinn Féin in Armagh this afternoon, criticised the closing down of the Basque language newspaper Egunkaria by the Spanish authorities. She called on the Spanish to bring an end to repression and open dialogue. Ms. de Brun said:

"There is growing concern at the deterioration of the situation and the absence of any dialogue or process to move the situation forward. The banning of Batasuna and a whole range of Basque language and culture organisations and the wide-ranging measures of repression and censorship in force right across Basque society are wrong and should end immediately.

"Our experience of conflict resolution has shown that the only way that progress will occur is on the basis of inclusive dialogue based on equality and respect.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this morning opened Slógadh Shinn Féin in the Slieve Gullion Courtyard in South Armagh. Before the opening Mr. Adams took part in a puc fada competition with local children. Speaking at the opening Mr. Adams said 'Sinn Féin has made the question of the Irish language a central concern in the ongoing talks with the Irish and British Governments. Our task is to turn people's love of Irish into active support and active use of the language.' Mr. Adams said:

"It is a great pleasure for me to be back at the Sinn Féin Slógadh. I want to extend a warm welcome to all of you. Slógadh is an important opportunity for Gaeilgeoirí to come together and discuss the vital issues that affect us; issues of a general political nature but more importantly issues around the Language. It is through such debates and discussions that we will develop and strengthen our ideas.

"For Sinn Féin the Irish language has long been an issue of central importance and over the years Republicans have been active in its promotion. We see the Irish language as a question of central importance and have sought to promote it at every level we can. On the ground our members have been active for years both within the Irish language movement and in our own right, organising Irish language classes, helping to start and support gaelscoileanna , campaigning for rights for Irish speakers and speaking the language in public forums when possible.

"Inside the prisons the Irish language played a central role in the daily lives of many republican prisoners, most notably perhaps during those dark and sorrowful days of the prison protests when the Irish language was one of the few aspects of prison life that helped the prisoners lift their spirits above the horror that was all around them and helped them resist the brutal oppression that was being inflicted upon them. And today the language is still central to our political project. We have made the question of the Irish language a central concern in the ongoing talks with the Irish and British Governments.

"Martin McGuinness when he was Minister of Education introduced legislation and established Comhairle na Gaelscoilíochta and Iontaobhas na Gaelscoilíochta to put Irish medium education in the North on a firm secure footing. Bairbre de Brún, a long-time and committed Gaeilgeoir, ensured, when she was Minister of Health in the North that the status and public visibility of the language was raised by promoting bi-lingualism in her departments' publications. And within the Dáil and the Assembly and on local councils and other public bodies our members use the Irish language as often as they can, according to our ability.

" In survey after survey the Irish people have shown their high regard for the language. The growth of the Gaelscoileanna movement is living testimony to this fact. Despite years of failed government policies regarding the language in the south and outright hostility by the government in the north and despite the best efforts and endless attempts to marginalise the Irish language, the Irish people still maintain a grá and a support for the language. Our task is to turn this into active support and active use of the language.

"This means in reality that the first and most important priority must be the enabling and encouraging of people to speak the Irish language. It means Irish classes, Irish courses and gaelscoileanna wherever possible.

"Behind the arguments about funding and rights and resources and equality for the Irish language and the Irish speaking community, there is a fundamental fact that we must never lose sight of: the Irish language belongs to the people of Ireland, all the people of Ireland irrespective of class or creed or background. Our priority is to give the language back to the people of Ireland, to relearn our own language, and to put that language back in the mouths of the people."ENDS

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Belfast Mayor Alex Maskey, who is in the US on a coast-to-coast tour to meet with Mayors, civic leaders and business people in eleven cities, this week met with Mayor Bloomberg in New York. The two Mayors discussed the difficulties in the peace process and the need for inward investment and job creation in Belfast.

Mayor Maskey has also met with Mayor Williams in Washington and Mayor O'Malley in Baltimore. Next week he will be travelling onto Philadelphia, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle.

Mayor Maskey said:

"Despite the difficulties caused by heavy snowfall on the east coast of the United States I have been continuing with my tour around the themes of peace, inward investment and job creation. There is a lot of goodwill in New York towards the people of Ireland, particularly those in Belfast and a keen interest to help the peace process and to support economic development across the country.

"My meeting with Mayor Bloomberg in New York was very productive. We discussed the current difficulties in the peace process and the need for inward investment and job creation in Ireland's second largest city, Belfast. While our cities are very different there are many experiences, which we share as Mayors."

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development Martin Ferris TD is to address a conference organised by South Leinster Sinn Féin in New Ross this Saturday. The conference is the latest in a series of meetings held by the party throughout the country to update its policies on agriculture and rural development. This will culminate in a wide-ranging debate at the party's Ard Fheis at the end of March, and the preparation of a new policy document.

Deputy Ferris said:

"I am delighted to have been asked to speak at this conference which will be attended by dozens of Sinn Féin representatives and activists from the South Leinster area. The plight of rural communities is one of the key problems facing us at this present time, and Sinn Féin is at the forefront of the fight against the erosion of family farming, the running down of schools and public services and the poverty and isolation that follows from this.

"For too long the political establishment has taken the political allegiances of people in rural Ireland for granted. Now, after generations of neglect, they are being forced to take notice because of the election of Sinn Féin TDs and Councillors and of a large number of independents. What underlies this sea change is the realisation that not only have the majority of people in rural Ireland not benefited from the so-called Celtic Tiger, but that they, along with working class communities in the cities and towns, are now going to be made bear the brunt of Government cut backs.

"Republicans have always stood in the vanguard of the fight for a decent life for rural communities. Now, as the fastest growi rural communities have the right to expect to be able to live and work where they were born if that is their wish and it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that they are given the same level of provision of services as any other citizen."ENDS

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Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Butler has said that he is in no doubt that unionist paramilitaries were behind last nights arson attack on St. Colmans Catholic Church in Lambeg. Cllr Butler said:

"In the past week unionist paramilitaries in this area have sent a live bullet to my home, attacked a Catholic school and now attempted to burn down a Catholic Church.

"This increase in the ongoing sectarian campaign against the Catholic community was the predictable result of the ending of the UDA feud. In the past these groupings have sought to overcome their differences by engaging themselves in the one activity which unites them, attacks upon the nationalist community.

"Unfortunately this has once again proved itself to be the case. I would urge nationalists to be particularly vigilant and would call upon those with influence within the unionist community to do all in their power to help bring these attacks to an end."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Mid-Ulster MLA Francie Molloy, former Chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee has said that the issue of accountability must be the central issue to the functioning of the Strategic Investment Body announced today by British direct rule Finance Minister Ian Pearson.

Mr Molloy said:

"Many people will be concerned at the apparent lack of accountability built into the Strategic Investment Body announced today by Ian Pearson. There is a danger that this body will not deliver best value for people living here but will be too heavily weighted in favour of big business interests that potential by the British government by Mark Durkan and David Trimble because it was likely to be defeated. When Ian Pearson announced his intention to push ahead with this legislation through Westminster Sinn Féin warned him against rushing the legislation.

"Sinn Féin also made it clear to Ian Pearson, in both written submissions and directly, that while we welcome any initiative that can redress the infrastructural investment deficit within the North that such proposals must contain clear linkages to the democratic process and that accountability and full scrutiny must central.

"Sinn Féin support the concept of a Strategic Investment Body that can generate change and deliver of the infrastructural deficit. But if it becomes a device to centralise power; that takes unaccountable decisions outside of departmental priorities or that don't target social need then it becomes a very dangerous vehicle for replicating and reinforcing patterns of divisions and discrimination witnessed under previous British direct rule administrations.

ensure that in recruiting a permanent chief to ensure that he fully engages with not just local political parties but also the trade unions and the community and voluntary sectors.

"The apparent use of the SIB announcement as a cover for further commitments to PFI and PPP disguises the fact that we have yet to hear satisfactory arguments against the use of alternative sources of funding." ENDS

Sinn Féin Mid-Ulster MLA Francie Molloy, former Chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee has said that the issue of accountability must be the central issue to the functioning of the Strategic Investment Body announced today by British direct rule Finance Minister Ian Pearson.

Mr Molloy said:

"Many people will be concerned at the apparent lack of accountability built into theentially stand to make millions out the function of the SIB.

"We should not forget that the legislation to set up this body was pulled on the last sitting day of the Assembly before the institutions were suspended by the British government by Mark Durkan and David Trimble because it was likely to be defeated. When Ian Pearson announced his intention to push ahead with this legislation through Westminster Sinn Féin warned him against rushing the legislation.

"Sinn Féin also made it clear to Ian Pearson, in both written submissions and directly, that while we welcome any initiative that can redress the infrastructural investment deficit within the North that such proposals must contain clear linkages to the democratic process and that accountability and full scrutiny must central.

"Sinn Féin support the concept of a Strategic Investment Body that can generate change and deliver of the infrastructural deficit. But if it becomes a device to centralise power; that takes unaccountable decisions outside of departmental prioritieIan Pearson to ensure that in recruiting a permanent chief to ensure that he fully engages with not just local political parties but also the trade unions and the community and voluntary sectors.

"The apparent use of the SIB announcement as a cover for further commitments to PFI and PPP disguises the fact that we have yet to hear satisfactory arguments against the use of alternative sources of funding." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has again challenged the SDLP to explain the differing public statements being made by senior party members regarding the transfer of powers on policing and justice. Ms Gildernew's call comes after Patricia Lewsley again ignored the comments made on the issue by Seamus Mallon in the British House of Commons.

Ms Gildernew said:

" I challenged the SDLP to explain the different public positions being adopted by Mark Durkan, Alex Attwood and Seamus Mallon. Patricia Lewsley in reply choose to ignore entirely the comments made in the British House of Commons by Seamus Mallon.

" Is Patricia Lewsley saying that Seamus Mallon is out of step with party policy? Is she saying that Mark Durkan's belief that the time was not right to transfer powers is out of step with party policy? If so she should say this, instead of simply articulating the view already given publicly by Alex Attwood.

" Patricia Lewsley's response simply adds to the confusion surrounding the position of the SDLP on this matter. I am again challenging the SDLP to clarify the situation and explain exactly which senior party member is articulating SDLP policy. Otherwise the confusion surrounding their position on this crucial matter will continue to reign." ENDS

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Sinn Féin will kick off a series of public meetings across the 26 Counties today, Tuesday 18th February, in defence of the Good Friday Agreement. Among the counties where members of the Sinn Féin leadership will speak are Cork, Wexford, Limerick, Monaghan, Galway, Kilkenny and Waterford and the series of meetings will culminate with a meeting in Dublin in March to be addressed by Martin McGuinness MP.

Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy is speaking in Murphy Floods Hotel in Enniscorthy at 8pm tonight and party Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin is speaking in Limerick tomorrow and Cork City on Thursday. Speaking in Derry today Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"The past year has been a difficult one for the peace process with the institutions brought down by the British government and catholic communities living under siege from unionist paramilitaries but despite these problems I think it is worth remembering just how far we have come in the last ten years. At that time many thought that we could not have successful negotiations. But we did, and we reached an Agreement, and we saw that Agreement ratified overwhelmingly by the people of this island?

"There are many challn full but we cannot do it alone. Over the next four weeks Sinn Féin leaders will be speaking throughout the 26 Counties. We will be calling on people to come out in defence of the Agreement and to save the peace process."ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness along with party President Gerry Adams MP will meet with a US Congressional delegation tomorrow afternoon. Among the items they will raise with the delegation is the ongoing demand for an international public judicial inquiry into British collusion with loyalist death squads.

Speaking today Mr. McGuinness said:

"In light of the Stevens recommendation that senior British Military Agents and senior RUC Special Branch Offices matter is through an international public judicial inquiry.

"Collusion between the British and the loyalist death squads spanned all of their organisations - the RUC, the UDR/RIR, MI5, UDA, UVF, Ulster Resistance and others. And the British Army, through FRU, actually directed these organisations and was directly involved in the murder of citizens.

"In the case of Pat Finucane, the UFF were the flag of convenience for the British State. Tommy Lyttle the head of the UDA in West Belfast was an RUC Special Branch Agent. William Stobie, who supplied the weapons, was an RUC Special Branch Agent. Ken Barrett, the self confessed gunman, was an RUC Special Branch Agent and Brian Nelson who set the operation up was working for the FRU.

"At Brian Nelson's trial the head of FRU gave evidence in his support and the British Defence Secretary and former Secretary of State Tom King submitted a mitigation plea to the Nelson trial in 1992 on behalf of Nelson who he described as a 'valuable agent.'

"Sinn Féin fully supports the families of victims who are calling for international public judicial inquiries into the deaths of their loved ones.

"We have consistently raised these matters with both the British and Irish governments.

"Sinn Féin presented Tony Blair with a document on collusion and the role of Brian Nelson over five years ago. I am sure he has also read the varilling citizens through their agents would be brought down. In this case the British government is still actively resisting the demands of the families of those killed, for the truth."ENDS

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness will meet the US Congressional delegation at 2pm tomorrow, Wednesday 19th, in the party's offices at Sevastopol Street in Belfast and will be available to talk to the media.

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Sinn Féin Policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly MLA has accused the SDLP's Alex Attwood of living in a political fantasy world. Mr. Kelly said:

"The issue of policing is crucial and is at the core of Sinn Féin's current negotiations with both governments. That negotiation is made all the more difficult because the SDLP have already accepted policing arrangements that fall far short of the Patten recommendations. As so often in the past, the SDLP settled for too little. The reality is that the majority of the nationalist community, represented by Sinn Féin, do not have confidence in the present policing arrangements.

"Sinn Féin wants to see a policing service that is:

*representative

*accountable

*free from partisan political control

* imbued with a human rights ethos

* civic rather than military in nature

* routinely unarmed

"We would have liked the Patten recommendations to go further. But we believe that Patten, implemented in full, could provide a minimum threshold from which to achieve acceptable policing.

"The current draft legislation is an improvement on the Police Act 2000. These changes were hard won. Sinn Féin argued for new legislation while the SDLP at the time said that this was unachievable. It is bizarre that they are now claiming the legislation which they said at the tich a situation of acceptable policing. We believe that it is achievable. The British government has already been moved significantly, not by the pretence that what we have is Patten but by the rejection by the nationalist community of arrangements.

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Belfast Mayor Alex Maskey is leaving for the US on Sunday on a coast to coast tour. The unprecedented tour will cover eleven cities including Boston, New York, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle. Among those that he will meet are Mayors, civil leaderships and business people.

Speaking prior to his departure Mayor Maskey said:

"I am delighted to be going on this coast to coast tour of the United States. It is unprecedented for a Mayor from Belfast to embark on such a project.

"There is a lot of goodwill across North America for the people of Ireland and particularly for the people of Belfast. I will be tapping into that goodwill.

"My message to the Mayors, the civic leaderships and the business people is simple and straightforward offer.

"I will be looking to build on the trade links that already exist between Belfast and many of the cities that I will be visiting. The people there already know that Belfast is a city worth investing in.

"I will be carrying forward the City Council's economic plan and this week I met with 'Invest Northern Ireland' to get an economic briefing from them. My intention is to lobby as widely as I can on behalf of both agencies.

"For me it is a case of all shoulders to the wheel to generate prosperity in Belfast and I will be doing my best while in the US to promote this city and its people."ENDS

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West Belfast Sinn Féin MLA and Party Spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights, Bairbre deBrún, has re-iterated the demand for a fully independent judicial inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane following the revelatitary intelligence and Special Branch played a major role in the murder of the prominent human rights lawyer Pat Finucane.

" The cover up of the involvement of British military intelligence and Special Branch has been going on for a decade. The revelation that new documentation is now only coming to light in the third Stevens Investigation does little to inspire confidence that the current approach can deliver the full truth in this case. The magnitude and implications of Pat Finucane's murder demand a full and independent investigation.

The involvement of British military intelligence and the Special Branch in Pat Finucane's death, their manipulation of the loyalist death squads and the political authorisation of these activities, must be properly investigated and exposed.

" The Finucane case will not go away. Only a fully independent, judicial inquiry into this killing will uncover the truth". ENDS

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Speaking at a Sinn Féin anti-war press conference in Dublin today the party's president Gerry Adams criticised the failure of the Irish government to use it's influence in the UN to put a halt to the US and British drive towards war with Iraq.

And while calling for tens of thousands of people to join the demonstrations taking place in Belfast and Dublin on Saturday next Mr Adams said there was no justification for the war which would have "catastrophic consequences not only in Iraq itself but throughout the Middle East". He said:

"This weekend, tens of thousands of Irish people on the streets of Dublin and Belfast will join millions in demonstrations throughout the world to demand that the governments of the United States and Britain stop their drive to war and to halt their planned full-scale invasion of Iraq. They will also be there to protest at the Irish governments role in the build up to that war.

"Sinn Féin is to the fore in the campaign against this war because we do not believe it is justified. If war is to be declared it should be a war against poverty and for equality.

"As an Irish Republican Party we support a strong independent foreign policy and military neutrality for Ireland.

"Our experience of the Irish Peace Process has shown us in a very real way that dialogue and negotiation is the best way to achieve the peaceful resolution of conflicts. It is regrettable that the Irish government is not promoting this in the UN.

"Almost everyone is in agreement that a military attack would have catastrophic consequences not only in Iraq itself but throughout the Middle East. The last war shows us that it is the innocent civilian population of Iraq who will suffer the most.

"We believe that the UN inspectors should be allowed to continue their work. This requires on the one hand that they are supported by the US and Britain and on the other hand the full co-operation of Sadaam Hussein and his regime.

"I am calling on people from across all 32 counties to join the protest rallies in Dublin and Belfast next Saturday and to use your voice for peace and justice." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education, Seán Crowe, will be attending the launch of Tuismitheiorí/Teagascoirí Le Chéile (TLC) in the Mansion House at 8pm this evening.

Séan Crowe, Sinn Féin South-West TD said: "The simple truth is that the government has not delivered on capital investment on schools. While I welcome the amount of money put in over the last few years it must be understood that the schools sector has been underfunded for decades.

"TLC is asking for a once-off payment of 400 million Euros to bring 600 primary schools out of the overcrowded and sub-standard conditions they have fallen into. Considering the government was more than willing to give a tax-cut costing 350 million Euros surely the money can be found to take care of the children of this state.

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Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe speaking on his departure from Colombia, where he has been attending the trial of three Irishmen, as part of a team of international observers, has described the trial process as a sham and said there is no possibility of the three men getting a fair trial. He further described comments from Fiona O'Malley over the weekend as ill informed, petty and vindictive. Deputy Crowe said:

"We are now at a very critical stage in the trial but instead of matters improving the process has become a complete sham. Political interference in the trial has continued unabated and this week speaking in Newsweek Colombian President Uriba has put the final nail in the coffin when he said that the men are guilty. This is a complete violation of the presumption of innocent until proven guilty and gross political interference in an already contaminated process.

"I have now attended two sessions of this trial as part of an international team of observers and I firmly believe that there is absolutely no possibility of Jim Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly getting a fair trial. And as time goes on it is increasingly difficult for those attending the trial as observers, due to constant pressure and threats, both around the court and getting in and out of the country.

"We will be seeking an urgent meeting with Brian Cowen on our return to voice our deep concerns about this trial and to call on the government to urgently act for the rights for these three Irishmen and to secure their immediate release. This is a simply matter of justice which the government must vigorously pursue with the Colombia authorities."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chairperson and Foyle MLA Mitchel McLaughlin speaking in Derry this morning said that he welcomed the decision of Fianna Fáil to investigate the possibility of becoming an all Ireland party. He said that all Ireland progress represents the present and the future for all of us on the island. Mr McLaughlin said:

"Despite the difficulties which we now face the Good Friday Agreement changed politics on the island forever. Not only did it recognise that partition had failed it agreed to establish a series of political institutions to allow us to move forward on an all island basis. These include the North South Ministerial Council and the All Ireland Implementation Bodies which are now functioning and the all Ireland Civic Forum, all Ireland Parliamentary Forum and of course northern representation in the Oireachtas which have yet to come into being.

"It is broadly accepted that an all Ireland approach across a whole range of issues makes sense. Whether it is sport, the economy or politics there are hundreds of successful working examples eg: rugby, tourism and of course, the development of my own party.

"It is clear that even while we are working towards Irish unity there will be many more all Ireland initiatives and developments. And in this changing political situation it makes absolute sense for all parties on the island, sooner rather than later, to examine how this will impact on their structures."ENDS

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Speaking at the annual Coen/Mac Manus Memorial Lecture in Sligo, Sinn Féin Equality and Human Rights Spokesperson has said that the Irish government must demonstrate its commitment to the rights of every Irish citizen. S peaking in Sligo today Ms de Brún said:

"The Irish government has two opportunities next week to demonstrate that they will uphold the rights of all Irish citizens. One opportunity will be at the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which will discuss the package of measures submitted by the British government in response to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights on 4 May 2001. It is a package of measures that is wholly inadequate.

"The Irish government has a duty of responsibility towards its citizens in this regard, and must stand by the families of those killed at Loughgall, the family of Patrick Shanaghan, the family of Pearse Jordan and the family of Gervaise McKerr.

I am calling on Minister Brian Cowen to ensure that the Irish government

- Makes it clear at the Committee of Ministers that the package of measures is inadequate.

- Contacts other governments about this

- Does not under any circumstances accept the package of measures and

- Meets the families following the 11/12 February meeting of the Committee of Ministers to brief them on the contribution, which the Irish government made at that meeting.

"The other opportunity in this coming week will be at the talks, where they must remind the British government and Unionists of their commitments and impress upon them the need to defend and implement the Good Friday Agreement.

"For many nationalists and republicans there is a serious question mark over David Trimble's willingness, or indeed ability to lead Unionism in support of the Good Friday Agreement. What is clear however is that resistance to change has created yet another crisis in the process. "The present talks Sinn Féin are seeking the full implementation of the GFA as agreed by the British government and the unionists. Yet those same people are seeking more than was agreed, while commitments they have already entered into have not been honoured.

"We neither have the new beginning to policing, nor a criminal justice system that has the support of the whole community. The British government has put in place no rolling programme of demilitarisation. We do not have equality have or the promotion and protection of human rights. Vulnerable communities cannot live free from sectarian harassment as we saw once again in North Belfast last night.

"While loyalist death squads wage war on the catholic community and each other, the British government and the UUP continue to focus on the IRA.

While we hear much speculation in the media, therefore about significant moves by the IRA, this is hardly the climate in which such moves could be expected.

Sinn Fein will continue to play our part in implementing the Good Friday Agreement, but others must play their part also. The two governments must defend the Agreement they signed up to and all aspects of that Agreement must be implemented.

In a specific reference to recent media speculation about a possible move from the IRA, Ms de Brún added:

As Gerry Adams said in Belfast yesterday - Is this the climate for a significant move by the IRA? I hardly think so. Does any one think there will be movement unless everyone moves? Unless the British government honours its obligations?" ENDS

Note to Editors

The European Court of Human Rights delivered judgement on 4th May 2001 in the cases of Jordan v UK, McKerr v UK, Kelly and others v UK and Shanaghan v UK. The Strasbourg court found that in all 4 cases the British government had violated Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights because of its failure to carry out proper investigations into these deaths.

This week on the 11th and 12th of February the Committee of Ministers will meet to discuss the package of measures put forward by the British government in response to this judgement.

Sinn Féin will hold a Press Conference on Monday 10th February in the Press Conference suite at Stormont to highlight the issues raised by the judgement against the British government and the forth-coming meeting of the European Committee of Ministers. Members of the Jordan, McKerr and Mallon family will also be available to talk to the media.

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nto this crisis there is no sign so far that the British government are willing to move effectively to deal with this.'

He went on, 'the current crisis in the peace process is not about the IRA. It is about resistance to change and the growth of Sinn Fein as an engine for change. It is about delaying the equality agenda. It is about the growth of republicanism across this island."

Mr. Adams said:

Sinn Fein has been at the heart of the peace process, of the negotiations and the Good Friday Agreement, and at the heart of the changes which have resulted from all of this.

We continue to drive the process of change. We are committed to achieving the new beginning which was agreed on Good Fridarimble's approach has not changed over the last 5 years.

Over the last five years on several occasions he has sought to have Sinn Féin expelled from the Executive. He has not been successful.

But what he did succeed in doing was to get the British government to act outside the terms of the Agreement and to unilaterally introduce suspension legislation. It is apparent that the British government are pursuing a strategy whereby the survival of David Trimble as leader of the UUP is more important than the survival of the Agreement itself.

And Mr. Trimble has successfully exploited this willingness on the part of London. This approach has been aided by other elements of the British system who are still waging war against republicans.

In the almost 5 years since Good Friday 1998 the political institutions, in a clear breach of the agreement, have been functioning for less than half of that time. On 4 separate occasions, at the behest.

But for many nationalists and republicans there is a serious question mark over whether Mr. Trimble is willing or able to lead Unionism in support of the Good Friday Agreement.

What is clear is that resistance to change has created yet another crisis in the process. And four months into this crisis there is no sign so far that the British government are willing to move effectively to deal with this.

Accordingly we have seen much speculation in the media about a possible move by the IRA.

Let's put all of this into some sort of perspective. In the negotiations Sinn Féin are seeking the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement as agreed by the British government and the unionistcontinue to target republicans.

While Loyalist death squads wage war on the catholic community and each other and their actions temporarily fill our TV screens, the focus continues to be on the Irish Republican Army. Is this the climate for a significant move by the IRA? I hardly think so. Does any one think there will be movement unless everyone moves? Unless the British government honours its obligations?

The current crisis in the peace process is not about the IRA. Of course the existence of the IRA is an affront to its enemies. But this process is about changing all that in a way which will bring an end to all the armed groups. Can that be achieved by ganging up on republicans? Or making movement towards basic rights conditional on movement by the IRA? Or by punishing Sinn Fein voters and other citizens if the IRA doesn't comply with unionist demands.

The underlying problems in the process and the current crisis is about resistance togislation was brought in to deal with the registration of voters here. This legislation has wiped tens of thousands of voters from the register. Every political party is affected by this, but the areas and people most affected are those where Sinn Fein is strongest. Nationalist, working class and young voters have been particularly disenfranchised.This is an issue of democratic rights. Every political party should be concerned about the fact that people are being disenfranchised. It is my very firm view that the motivation behind this legislation is designed to limit Sinn Fein's growth as a political party.

The focus for us must be to thwart the efforts to prevent the process of change. We must continue to build our political strength, and to defend the Good Friday Agreement.

Our party will not dodge our responsibilities in the times ahead. There is no way forward except through negotiations. We are agents of change and our commitment is to play a full role in meeting every challenge in the time ahead.

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Sinn Féin Chairperson, Mitchel Mc Laughlin MLA for Foyle has called for an investigation into banking practices here following the latest claims by consumer magazine 'Which' that banks here are on occasion charging up to ten times more than their counterparts in Britain.

Mr Mc Laughlin said:

"It has long been claimed by clients and consumer groups that banks here are a law unto themselves. There have been accusations that some penalties imposed by Banks here is nothing short of unscrupulous profiteering by an establishment that has no consideration for its clientele.

The average client does not possess the expertise to compare the myriad of charges that are levied by the various banks. The client is left in a situation in which they believe that they have no choice but to pay whatever charges imposed however unjust theyom banking interests to participate in other schemes being offered by the bank. Unless stringently regulated those least able to afford it will become prey to unregulated banking practices devised by people that have no conception of the difficulties of living on a fixed income.

I am calling on government to set up an independent investigatory body to scrutinise banking practices and if necessary a regulatory body.

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Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP today led a party delegation to meet with the Electoral Commission to discuss the serious shortfall in the Electoral Register. Speaking after the meeting Mr. Doherty said:

"It was reported this week by the Electoral Office that 18,000 people have been added to the register. This is a mere drop in the ocean when you consider that around 180,000 are missing.

"Sinn Féin have serious concerns about the ability of the Electoral Office to deal effectively with this matter. We need to see from the Commission and the Electoral Office serious, radical and detailed plans to bridge the massive gap between the numbers on the register and the numbers identified by the census returns.

"We also have concerns which we raised with the Commission today about the ability of the current system to deliver on the issue of photographic ID.

There are no indications that the system will be able to cope with demand and have the necessary ID issued before a May election.

"Sinn Féin will return to these matters when the party President Gerry Adams MP meets with the Chief Electoral Officer Denis Stanley on Monday morning."ENDS

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