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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 the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Arthur Morgan T.D. has sharply criticised the Minister of State with responsibility for Housing, Noel Ahern T.D. for misleading the Dáil during Minister's question time yesterday. Minister of State Ahern was responding to a challenge from Deputy Morgan regarding Mr. Ahern's refusal to meet him to discuss proposals from Dublin City Council in relation to the sale of Local Authority flats. The Minister of State told the Dáil that the proposal in question was submitted by members of Dublin City Council, not the management when the opposite is in fact the case.

Deputy Morgan said, "It is totally unacceptable that any Minister can come in and mislead the Dáil. I was asking the Minister of State, Noel Ahern to explain his decision not to meet with me regarding the submission made by Dublin City Council on the sale of flats to tenants. Sinn Féin has a number of serious concerns regarding this proposal including the effect it will have in diminishing the level of social rental housing stock in Dublin if replacement stock is not built, and if the revenue raised through the sales will be ring-fenced for the construction of social housing.

"In reply Noel Ahern said "A submission by Dublin City Council has been received by my Department but it has not reached my desk. It was made by the members, a number of which represent the Deputy's party, not the manager." This is blatantly untrue as the submission was made by the Assistant City Manager, Brendan Kenny and the submission has not even been made available to the elected members of the City Council. The proposals by City Council will have a potentially massive impact on social housing stock in the Capital unless the Minister ensures that the proposal is accompanied by a plan for the construction of replacement stock. Why has the Minister of State not even read the report? Noel Ahern must take his responsibilities for housing far more seriously and he must cease misleading the Dáil on crucial issues such as this." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has said that "Sinn Féin is totally opposed to a self centred and insular European Union".

Ms McDonald made her comments before an informal meeting of interior ministers in the Netherlands today, where a controversial plan to create asylum camps in North Africa is expected to be tabled.

Speaking this morning Ms McDonald said:

"I await the outcome of today's meeting in the Netherlands with both interest and concern. The plans to create detention centres in North Africa to process asylum claims are not new. Indeed the idea was originally mooted by Britain in 2003. However, at today's meeting, German interior minister Otto Schily is expected to formally present the proposals to other member states.

"A North African clearing house for those seeking asylum is unacceptable. For a number of years we have witnessed the emergence of a self-centred and self-obsessed European Union. Moreover, a number of human rights groups have expressed concern that some of the countries cited as potential locations for these detention centre, have questionable human rights records.

"Let me make it crystal clear, Sinn Féin is totally opposed to the ŒFortress Europe‚ school of thought that is now not only guiding EU migration policy but is also becoming progressively institutionalised. This must be challenged by all of us who care about human rights and expect the highest standards of human rights compliance by the EU.

"The 'out of sight' out of mind‚ approach to the issue of asylum camps which is prevalent, does nothing to instil confidence in those who are concerned about the current direction of the European Union. Sinn Féin calls for these proposals to be defeated and replaced with Common Migration and Asylum policies that are fully compliant with human rights instruments, that bring rights protections up to the highest standard, and that make the EU more open, inclusive and anti-racist." ENDS

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An Fhirinne, the campaign group made up of families of those killed through British State murder in Ireland are this weekend taking part in a major Human Rights conference in Exeter in England. Two members of the group Sharon Pickering and Mark Sykes will speak at the weekend event.

Speaking from Exeter Mark Sykes who was seriously injured in the Sean Graham Bookies shooting said:

" This weekend campaigners from a wide range of human rights causes are coming together in Exeter. These include those campaigning for justice for the family of Steven Lawrence. This will provide another opportunity from An Fhirinne campaigners to bring our campaign for the truth about collusion into the heart of the British system.

" Over the next number of weeks An Fhirinne will be intensifying our lobbying and will be travelling to Brussels to meet with MEPs as we seek to ensure that the British government end their campaign of concealment and come clean on their involvement in a campaign of state sanctioned murder." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Disability, Mid Ulster Assembly member Geraldine Dougan has welcomed the coming into force today of the final part of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) that requires all businesses to be accessible to disabled people but added that more support is required to enable businesses to respond properly to the legislation.

Ms Dougan said:

"This piece of legislation is very welcome. It places the legal responsibility on businesses to become accessible to disabled people. Firms that deliberately ignore the new law risk heavy fines.

"This should be looked as an opportunity for businesses to open up to the many disabled people who have difficulty in accessing services. This is a huge number of people who have not been able to access services and businesses. A huge number of people who have been denied the right to full and active participation in society.

"However, it is clear that direct rule ministers should have listened to business leaders who made calls for support to help them implement this new legislation. For example there have been calls for tax breaks for businesses that invest in disabled access or for more grant aid.

"Any legislation is only as effective as its implementation. My concern is that businesses will miss out on the opportunity this legislation creates and, more importantly, that the intention to open up access to businesses, shops and services will not be fully carried forward." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has welcomed the announcement that the EU is to support the development of the Fermanagh caves with £1 million.

Ms Gildernew said:

"This is fantastic news for Fermanagh. The tourist potential of the caves, the lakes and indeed the history of Fermanagh have never been given the level of investment it deserves. This investment will benefit the entire local economy.

"It is vital that at local council level and within an All Ireland strategy that Fermanagh gets its fair share of investment. We also need to see significant investment in the transport infrastructure and in the capacity of the hospitality industry.

"Fermanagh has the product. With this investment we are in an even stronger position to sell the area as a key destination for both tourist visitors and crucially as a great place for investment." ENDS

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Sinn Féin South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey has accused DUP MEP Jim Allister of pursuing a sectarian agenda after his outburst against the allocation of EU peace and reconciliation funds by the Special EU Programme Body.

Mr Maskey said:

"Thousands of individuals and hundreds of community groups have benefited because of funding through the EU peace and reconciliation programme.

"The allocation of funds through peace II, just as it was in Peace I, and hopefully how it will continue in a Peace III programme must be based on objective criteria. This means that EU peace and reconciliation funding must be targeted and focused. It should be allocated on the basis of objective need and it must support those communities that have suffered as a result of the conflict.

"This means that all sections of our society who have suffered as a result of the conflict should benefit, this includes ex-prisoners and victims of violence. It also means resources are targeted towards communities that have suffered institutionalised discrimination, that live with multiple disadvantage and also border communities that have had to put up with the negative impact of partition.

"Jim Allister's attack on both the Special EU Programme Body and the allocation of EU Peace funding along with his call for 'positive discrimination' towards the unionist population is nothing less than part of his naked sectarian agenda. Under Peace I it is true that analysis shows that the Catholic/Protestant split of funding was 56% to 44%. But this is itself only evidence of the comparative levels of poverty within both communities. Many unionists try to deny that greater poverty exists within the nationalist community but all objective statistic confirm the reality that nationalist communities are still suffering from the legacy of systematic discrimination and disadvantage resulting from decades of unionist misrule and direct rule policy." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Lisburn Council group leader, councillor Paul Butler has said that the refusal of DUP mayor Cecil Calvert to extend the invitation to this years mayor banquet to Sinn Féin councillors not only breaches council protocol it also highlights the inability of the DUP to take even the first steps towards sharing power with nationalists and republicans.

Cllr Butler said:

"This is a breach of council protocol that states clearly that all councillors should be invited to the major council events.

"This decisions only reinforces the reputation of Lisburn Council as a cold house for nationalist and republicans.

"It demonstrates the reality that the DUP are unwilling or incapable of even beginning to share power with nationalists and republicans when they can't even bring themselves to accept standard council protocol.

"The DUP are going to have to do an awful lot more if they are going to convince nationalists that they accept the democratic process and are willing to share power with nationalist and republicans on an equal and inclusive basis.

"The DUP want nationalists and republicans to trust them. Yet the track record of unionism in the Assembly, and tellingly in unionist-dominated councils is one of exclusion, discrimination and refusal to share power. This is why there can be no dilution of the principles of the all Ireland, power sharing and equality aspects of the agreement." ENDS

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Sinn Féin's spokesperson on Tourism, North Antrim MLA, Philip McGuigan, has said that the marketing of Ireland as a unitary tourist product has made a significant contribution to the Tourist Industry in the North.

Mr McGuigan said:

"The opening of a direct link between New York and Belfast would be a progressive and much-welcomed boost to tourism here in the north of Ireland.

"There is no doubt that the Tourism Industry has been one of the major beneficiaries of the Peace Process, and that it offers great potential for local community development in our most disadvantaged areas.

"Tourism Ireland, which markets and promotes Ireland as a single entity abroad, and which was set up as part of the Good Friday Agreement has obviously brought benefits to the industry here. A more integrated approach to tourism on an All-Ireland basis will bring even more benefits to the economy.

This demonstrates the effectiveness of the All-Ireland institutions. However, Tourism Ireland still has an extremely limited remit that, if widened, could warrant even more success for the Industry.

"The new international routes that have opened up this year, to destinations such as Spain and the Czech Republic, highlight the need to invest much more into the underdeveloped tourism infrastructure here in the north.

"I would urge Barry Gardiner to waste no further time in starting to implement the Tourist Masterplan on the North Coast. This document holds great potential for the indigenous tourist industry in areas like the Glens and Ballycastle where the tourism potential has yet to be fully realised.

"The increase of flights into Belfast and the announcement that the Ramada Group are to build 30 more hotels throughout Ireland come during a period when Ireland is increasingly being marketed as a unitary tourist product. It makes little sense for this industry to be continually marketed by two separate bureaucratic agencies that can only be of further detriment to the industry." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on demilitarisation Tom Reilly MLA has dismissed remarks by the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde this afternoon claiming that he is seeking extra resources to demilitarise certain PSNI barracks. Mr Orde's remarks came after a meeting with the SDLP.

Mr Reilly said:

" It is six years on from the Good Friday Agreement and ten years on from the first IRA cessation. The continuing levels of militarisation and patrolling by the PSNI and British Army are simply not acceptable.

" In the past the PSNI and British Army have often dressed up their own requirements for rationalisation as a process of demilitarisation. That is the agenda which the Chief Constable and the SDLP are now on again.

" Nationalists and republicans will not accept tinkering with the facades of military bases or the closure of parts of bases as the sort of demilitarisation process that the British committed themselves to six years ago.

" The SDLP are foolish if they believe that providing political cover for this sort of approach to a key Good Friday Agreement commitment will wash with communities still blighted by the ongoing presence of the British war machine in Ireland." ENDS

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Speaking as the DUP leader Ian Paisley led a party delegation to meet with the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Dublin, Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP said that it was important that the Irish government made it clear to the DUP that they would not be compromising the fundamental principles which underpin the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Doherty said:

" While we obviously welcome the visit of the DUP to Dublin and the engagement with the Irish government today it is important that the DUP follow this change of direction up with direct dialogue with Sinn Féin. Direct and meaningful dialogue is the best way to ensure progress and forward movement in the time ahead.

" However since the Assembly election last year and during the recent talks at Leeds Castle the DUP have failed to convince any of the major pro-Agreement parities of the merits in their anti-Agreement position.

" The DUP are on record as stating that they wish to destroy the Good Friday Agreement. The Irish government are with the British government the co-guarantors of that Agreement and it is crucial that they make it clear to the DUP this afternoon that none of the fundamental principles which underpin the Good Friday Agreement are up for negotiation. Sinn Féin will not countenance changes to the Agreement which are aimed at diluting the power sharing and all-Ireland provisions and providing a basis for the return to unionist rule.

" It is important that the momentum created at Leeds Castle is built upon. The DUP are currently preventing this from happening. The two governments cannot allow this to continue and must move on. There can be no longer any excuse for delay and this must be made clear to the DUP." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Culture Spokesperson, East Derry MLA Francie Brolly has welcomed the indication that new digital broadcasting, based in Divis Mountain, will open the way for the roll out of TG4 coverage throughout the Six Counties.

Mr Brolly said:

"The commitment to roll out access to TG4 has been an issue for Sinn Fein every since the Good Friday Agreement was signed. At every discussion we have had with the two governments about their failure to deliver on commitments to Irish language rights Sinn Fein have pressed the governments for action.

"Hopefully the with the extension of digital broadcasting, based at Divis Mountain, the opportunity to deliver full coverage for every household throughout the Six Counties to TG4 will be taken.

"The Irish language community is growing and thriving throughout the Six Counties, particularly in our Irish medium schools and through the rich and diverse Irish culture community." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has called upon the Dutch Presidency of the EU, to 'revise immediately the EU Code of Conduct on arms export' after the publication of a report by a coalition of NGOs entitled 'Taking Control: The Case for a More Effective EU Code of Conduct' which concluded that European arms suppliers had used loopholes in the Code of Conduct to export arms to human rights abusing regimes such as Burma.

A coalition of 55 European NGOs including Amnesty International said that their research had shown that the EU Code of Conduct on the export of arms and military equipment had been breached, due to ambiguous wording within the Code of Conduct.

Speaking from Brussels, Ms McDonald said:

"I am calling upon the Dutch Presidency of the EU as a matter of urgency, to immediately revise the EU Code of Conduct on arms export. The research conducted by NGOs throughout the European Union have revealed that the present Code of Conduct contains loopholes, allowing arms manufacturers to export weaponry and component parts to some of the most undemocratic regimes in the world.

"These latest revelations bring the debate about the international arms trade back into sharp focus. The 26 Counties have been complicit in the arms trade. Since 1997, the 26-Counties has exported €240 million of military goods and €23.7 billion of dual-use goods (which have both military and civilian applications), including technology used by the French and US nuclear programmes. Ireland exported over €2.5 billion worth of military and dual-use goods in 2003 alone.

"One of the major recommendations in the report calls for the publication of an annual report by EU member states showing exactly where exports have been made. Sinn Féin believes this will enhance transparency and place pressure upon member states from exporting deadly components and weaponry to internationally discredited regimes. Sinn Féin supports such a measure.

"Sinn Féin is also calling upon the Irish government to support an International Arms Trade Treaty to prevent arms exports to destinations where they are likely to be used to commit grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. There is also an onus on the Irish government to raise this latest matter with the Dutch Presidency, to ensure the strengthening of the EU Code of Conduct on the export of arms and component parts." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams this afternoon appealed to those holding Ken Bigley in Iraq to release him.

The Sinn Féin leader was in London with party Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness for a series of meetings.

In an interview with the Arabic TV channel Al-Jazeera Mr Adams said:

" I was approached by campaigners seeking the release of Ken Bigley. I spoke yesterday to Paul, Ken's brother. Mr Bigley's mother is from Ireland and this gives us a special interest.

" The majority of people in Ireland were against the invasion of Iraq and are against the war in Iraq.

" The Taoiseach and other Irish politicians have called for the release of Ken Bigley. I am not here to lecture to people or to dictate to people, but I believe that the cause of those who hold Mr Bigley can be better advanced if they are magnanimous and generous and release him." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Representative for Dublin South East, Councillor Daithí Doolan, speaking ahead of tonight's major anti incineration public meeting in Ringsend, has urged "the new Minister for Environment Dick Roche to take up our invitation to attend this meeting."

Councillor Doolan said:

"The Poolbeg Peninsula is the proposed site for the controversial, hazardous incinerator for Dublin yet no Minister has even outlined to us why this site was chosen or what the criteria was. Tonight's meeting will give the minister a unique opportunity to listen to the concerns of the local community and other campaigning groups. It will also afford us the opportunity to demand that the minister upholds the democratic decision of Dublin City Council to rezone the Poolbeg Peninsula ensuring that no incinerator can be built here in Ringsend.

"The proposed incinerator has little to do with waste management and everything to do with increasing profits of private companies. No one doubts that we face a major waste crisis in the city but what we must do is to apply ourselves to tackling the problem at source. Sinn Féin have provided such a strategy 'A Zero Waste Strategy' one that is based on reducing the demand to produce and consume waste, reuse where appropriate and the investment in our fledgling recycling industry. It is a strategy that goes to the source of our waste crisis rather than becoming dependant on landfill or incineration. Incineration will only force us to produce and consume more waste."

Cllr. Doolan concluded by calling on Minister Roche "not to repeat the mistakes of your predecessors. Break the link with incineration and implement a real waste management strategy that benefits everyone not just the private sector." ENDS

Anti incineration public meeting tonight Thursday September 30th 8pm Ringsend Community Centre, Thorncastle Street, Ringsend. Speakers include Cllr. Daithí Doolan & Arthur Morgan TD.

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Human Rights Caitriona Ruane has said that people will be amazed by the hypocrisy of the SDLP in meeting with Hugh Orde today to demand an end of the use of plastic bullets given their role in purchasing these lethal devices on the Policing Board.

Ms Ruane said:

" Since the SDLP joined the Policing Board they have overseen the purchase of 120,000 plastic bullets by the PSNI. Each one of these devices is a potential killer. The SDLP supported the Policing Board in purchasing these weapons.

" Given this reality many people will be amazed by the hypocrisy of the SDLP in meeting with Hugh Orde today to demand an end to the use of plastic bullets. The reality is that their members of the Policing Board were involved in the purchase of the weapons that the SDLP are now seeking to ban. The double standards in the SDLP position are obvious. It seems that the SDLP have adopted one position in the privacy of the Policing Board and another in public.

" Sinn Féin have for decades demanded the end to the use of these killer devices. In all of our negotiations with the British government over the past number of years we have raised the issue of plastic bullets and the obstacle their continuing purchase and use provides to achieving an acceptable policing service. We will continue to do this until we achieve a policing service which does not use these killer devices. " ENDS

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West Belfast MP Gerry Adams has welcomed the statement from the union representing Interbrew workers at the Glen Road Brewery, that the company has honoured pledges regarding the redundancy packages being offered to workers after the closure of the brewery. This ove has averted the prospect of industrial action at the Glen Road site.

Mr Adams said:

" I am pleased that the matter has been resolved without recourse to industrial action. Over the past number of weeks I have pressed Interbrew to do the right thing by the workers, many of whom have spent their working lives in the brewery and met the challenges set by Interbrew over the past two years to reduce costs and introduce flexible working practices.

" I was extremely disappointed when Interbrew announced the ending of production at the Glen Road site. Beer had been brewed on the site for over one hundred years and eighty jobs depended on production. These jobs, skills and traditions were lost with the decision by Interbrew to end production.

" I am pleased that the offer made by Interbrew has been accepted by the workforce and I would hope that this will safeguard the remaining jobs on the site." ENDS

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Sinn Féin representative for Dublin South East, Councillor Daithí Doolan has invited newly appointed Environment Minister Dick Roche to attend a public meeting in Ringsend to discuss the community's opposition to the proposed incinerator for Poolbeg Peninsula. The meeting will take place Thursday at the Ringsend Community Centre at 8:00PM.

Councillor Doolan said:

"I would like to invite Minister Roche to come to Ringsend tomorrow night to hear at first hand the community‚s overwhelming opposition to the proposed incinerator. The Minister has a unique opportunity to use his new portfolio to reverse the tide of disastrous policies from his predecessors, especially in relation to forcing incineration on a community that clearly oppose it.

"There is a waste management crisis in this city but we must deal with it in an integrated, holistic way. Sinn Féin have provided one such strategy in our document 'A Zero Waste Strategy for the Dublin Region' This is based on reducing the demand to produce and consume waste, reuse where appropriate and the investment in our fledgling recycling industry. To simply build incineration into any waste management plan contradicts what we aim to do.

"I urge the Minister to attend this public meeting and to bring a new, progressive, community focused approach to the waste management crisis." ENDS

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Speaking during the course of the debate in the Dáil on the Cabinet Reshuffle, Sinn Féin whip, Aengus Ó Snodaigh said the reappointment of Michael McDowell to the post of Minister for Justice demonstrated that "this Government has no commitment whatsoever to building a rights-based society". Deputy Ó Snodaigh went on to say that in his reappointment by the Taoiseach "Minister McDowell is not just the medium - Minister McDowell is the message."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "The reappointment of Deputy McDowell sends a clear message from this Government to the people. It says that this Government does not expect its Minister for Justice to tackle the growing insecurity in working class areas caused by the concentration of increased street crime and the illegal drugs trade. Instead this Government is content to indulge a vicious anti-republican ideologue who would prefer to concentrate available resources on scapegoating more vulnerable people in our society like refugees, travellers, or children. The reappointment of Deputy McDowell says that this Government has no commitment whatsoever to building a rights-based society, but actually reaffirms the Deputy in his view that social and economic inequality should persist.

"But the real significance in the reappointment of Minister McDowell is this. It reconfirms for the voters NOT that the PDs dominate the coalition Government, but rather that Minister McDowell is nothing more than a handy tool for the dirty work the senior partner's leadership want done but are not willing to take responsibility for themselves. All we need to know to decode the Government's real agenda is in the reappointment of their Ministerial thug. Minister McDowell is not just the medium. Minister McDowell is the message." ENDS

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Speaking during the debate on the Cabinet Reshuffle in the Dáil today Sinn Féin Dáil group leader, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD said: "What we have been presented with here today is a change of faces. It is a shuffling of the deck of cards. This is still the same Fianna Fáil/PD Government that has been in office for seven long years.

"This has been the longest drawn out Cabinet reshuffle in history. It has been a summer-long effort on the part of this Government to take the focus off the miserable failure of its policies and to fill the media with endless speculation about who will be in and who will be out.

"This reshuffle is about change of image. I do not believe it is about change of substance but I hope I can be proved wrong and that the Government will deliver on some its broken promises. I remind the Taoiseach of what he said after the EU and local elections in June: "We lost this election, there is no doubt about that. Sinn Féin won it."

"If the Government delivers on some of its broken promises because they fear the rise of Sinn Féin I say well and good. All the more reason for people to continue to support Sinn Féin.

"On the other hand this reshuffle has increased the power in Cabinet of the PDs. This is the party that believes inequality is a good thing for society. The Tánaiste and PD leader is to take over the Health portfolio, and will be in charge of one of the most inequitable health systems in Europe. I predict that the names Hanly and Harney will become synonymous.

"The facts of this Government's failures speak for themselves. The criticism of their policies we voiced earlier this year have been fully vindicated. Only this week we have seen the Comptroller and Auditor General's Report exposing how public private partnerships will end up costing the taxpayer more for the building of schools. We have seen how Minister Coughlan's cuts in Rent Supplement are causing real hardship. And we have seen the ESRI and Combat Poverty reports highlighting the fifth of our people living in poverty.

"This is a prosperous country. It is a small country. There is sufficient wealth in our society to ensure that no child should want for any of the basics of life and should be able to look forward to a full and rewarding future. The lack of vision, the incompetence and the conservatism of successive Governments in this State have robbed generations of children of their birthright. But Ireland is changing and this Cabinet reshuffle is a mere blip on the screen. The Sinn Féin deputies in this House are proud to be on the side of real change and to be among those on this island who are building a United Ireland of Equals. " ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP for the six counties Bairbre de Brún has said that the introduction of fingerprinting and photographing of holidaymakers to the US is a fundamental breach of human rights. The "US-Visit Programme" will come into effect tomorrow when Irish holidaymakers must be fingerprinted and photographed before being allowed to travel to the United States. The scheme applies to citizens aged between 14-79.

Speaking today, Ms de Brún said:

"The US Visit Programme represents a gross breach of the fundamental rights of air travellers to the USA.

"Sinn Féin opposes present attempts to create an EU security and surveillance state in the name of the so-called "War on Terrorism" because we do not believe that this approach which involves draconian measures will make people or communities in Ireland or the EU any safer.

"Sinn Féin will continue to defend the freedoms and civil liberties of Irish citizens and oppose the unrelenting drive towards the evolution of a big brother world order." ENDS

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