Sinn Féin - On Your Side

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


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Speaking on Fine Gaels anti-Sinn Féin Private Members motion in the Dáil tonight, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD said, "Fine Gael's inability to craft a motion for their own Private Members time certainly does little for their claim to be the government in waiting. Their ham-fisted approach reflects the bungling of their previous leadership in the peace process.

"My fellow Sinn Féin TDs and I are proud to represent our electorate and our party - a democratic party - in this House. We are here on the basis of our democratic mandate. Our party's negotiators have participated in every stage of talks and in every phase of negotiations on the basis of our electoral support and on that basis alone.

"I am not going to use my very limited time to address every false allegation thrown around this House and around the media. Those charges are not about criminality. They are not really about the IRA. They are not even about the peace process. They are about party politics in this State.

"Charges are being made in a climate in which all the old opponents of the peace process have come out of the woodwork. These are the people who vilified John Hume and Albert Reynolds for taking risks for peace a decade ago. The present Minister for Justice was among the begrudgers at that time. His recent conduct shows that while he claims to have changed his mind, his heart is still back in the days of Section 31, internment without trial and the demonisation of the entire nationalist community in the North.

"Huge progress was made in this peace process last December. It is sad that so many in this House are so blinded by their anti-republican prejudice that they cannot acknowledge or understand the enormity of what the IRA was on the point of delivering at that time - including putting all arms beyond use by the end of 2004. Instead of building on that, the Governments allowed the agenda to be set by rejectionist unionism and thus created the impasse we have today.

"I firmly believe we can put this process back on track. Sinn Féin is determined to fulfil our part of the collective responsibility to address all the outstanding issues including unionist reluctance to share power with nationalists and the issue of arms and armed groups.

"Sinn Féin are committed to building this process, building towards real change and building towards the reunification of our island and our people." ENDS

Full text of Sinn Féin contribution to Private Members Business tonight

The motion before us in the names of Deputy Kenny and the Taoiseach is the third version of the Fine Gael motion placed on the Dáil Order Paper in the space of a few days. Fine Gael's inability to craft a motion for their own Private Members time certainly does little for their claim to be the government in waiting. Their ham-fisted approach reflects the bungling of their previous leadership in the peace process. It illustrates their failure to understand the complexities of the issues we all face.

My fellow Sinn Féin TDs and I are proud to represent our electorate and our party - a democratic party - in this House. We are here on the basis of our democratic mandate. Our party's negotiators have participated in every stage of talks and in every phase of negotiations on the basis of our electoral support and on that basis alone. Today we have the electoral support of well over a third of a million people in Ireland. We take very seriously the responsibility our electors have given us and our obligation to represent them effectively.

I wish to put on record, as leader of the Sinn Féin TDs, our absolute refutation of all the false accusations of criminality made against our party. As our amendment states, we reject criminality of any kind. I am not going to use my very limited time to address every false allegation thrown around this House and around the media. Those charges are not about criminality. They are not really about the IRA. They are not even about the peace process. They are about party politics in this State.

Charges are being made in a climate in which all the old opponents of the peace process have come out of the woodwork. These are the people who vilified John Hume and Albert Reynolds for taking risks for peace a decade ago. The present Minister for Justice was among the begrudgers at that time. His recent conduct shows that while he claims to have changed his mind, his heart is still back in the days of Section 31, internment without trial and the demonisation of the entire nationalist community in the North.

It is ludicrous to suggest that somehow Sinn Féin has been assisted to achieve increased electoral support by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Labour Party and the Progressive Democrats. What a joke! You have tried and are trying everything to stop us.

I would also like to ask what are the so-called concessions, or 'acts of appeasement' that have been referred to during this debate? Was the lifting of the political censorship of the broadcast media a concession or an act of appeasement?

What elements of the Good Friday Agreement are now to be viewed as concessions and what elements do people who talk of appeasement want to see removed? The equality agenda? Human rights issues? The status of the Irish language?

Let me make very clear that we accept the validity of the institutions of this State. We will not accept lectures on that score from either side of this House. As far as the Government goes, the Minister for Justice should use his expensive time dealing with the real crime and anti-social behaviour that bedevils communities in this State rather than indulging his antipathy to Sinn Féin. He and his colleagues would do better in the eyes of the electorate if they addressed in a real way the social and economic inequalities they have allowed to fester in this prosperous economy.

Huge progress was made in this peace process last December. It is sad that so many in this House are so blinded by their anti-republican prejudice that they cannot acknowledge or understand the enormity of what the IRA was on the point of delivering at that time - including putting all arms beyond use by the end of 2004. Instead of building on that, the Governments allowed the agenda to be set by rejectionist unionism and thus created the impasse we have today. It was a repetition of October 2003 when David Trimble was allowed to rubbish the report of the IICD.

The Sinn Féin amendment says that the two Governments can and should proceed with the implementation of those elements of the Good Friday Agreement for which they are directly responsible. These include demilitarization by the British government, the full implementation of the Patten Report and a new beginning to policing, increased all-Ireland co-operation and a thorough re-commitment by both governments to the human rights agenda. We need to see full co-operation from the British government with inquiries into collusion - including the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the many other instances of collusion in this State.

I firmly believe we can put this process back on track. Sinn Féin is determined to fulfil our part of the collective responsibility to address all the outstanding issues including unionist reluctance to share power with nationalists and the issue of arms and armed groups. Let me make it patently clear - we oppose a return to violence by any armed group. We will also oppose any attempt to penalize our electorate, to treat them as lesser citizens, to impose pre-conditions on our participation in dialogue and negotiations, or to reduce those engagements to a one-item agenda.

Sinn Féin are committed to building this process, building towards real change and building towards the reunification of our island and our people.

I commend the Sinn Féin amendment to the House.

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Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has this morning said that the European Union is preparing the ground for the opening up of the services market. Ms McDonald said that this was "palatable Euro-speak for the privatisation of our public services".

Ms McDonald made her comments after the European Commission conducted and published a report which suggested that the opening up of the services market could bring significant economic growth to the EU.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"This study confirms the worst fears of those who oppose the European Council and Commission's thirst for the privatisation agenda in member states. Sinn Féin has warned time and again that the European Union is intent on turning public services into private enterprises.

"Sinn Féin believes that national governments have a duty to provide quality public services such as water, waste, waste collection, health or education, not private companies whose sole objective is to maximise profits, at the expense of workers rights if necessary.

"The current draft EU Constitution is explicit in its desire for privatisation. It obliges the Member States to ensure the free movement of services thus limiting the ability of member states to provide universal free service provision through the welfare state or health and education, by restricting the involvement of the public sector in such provision.

"Along with my colleague Bairbre de Brún, Sinn Féin will fight tooth and nail both inside the European Parliament and in wider society to protect public services. We are demanding real and sustainable investment in public services, not their eradication." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking at the launch this morning of the exhibition of Sinn Féin's centenary celebrations said: " Many of those who are attacking us are back where they are most comfortable. It's almost like the days before the peace process when the Irish and British establishments and unionists parties ganged up trying to out do each other in anti-Sinn Féin hysteria, aided at times by compliant sections of the media. All that remains of the peace process at this time is the IRA cessation. There is no political process. No effort at meaningful dialogue. No serious attempt to resolve difficulties.

Rather than press the British government to implement outstanding aspects of the Good Friday Agreement or to deliver on their own commitments, the Irish government is leading the charge in the campaign against Sinn Féin. This is the politics of the cul-de-sac. The politics of spin.

Sinn Féin will weather this storm. There is confusion out there. There is anger. But for the first time in decades Irish republicans are politically organised throughout this island and no amount of misrepresentation or vindictiveness is going to prevent us from continuing with our work.

What is that work? To continue the process of change by defending the peace process, by opposing any return to violence by anyone, including British government agencies, by campaigning for the equality and other elements of the Good Friday Agreement and by upholding the rights of all citizens, including those who vote for our party.

While Sinn Féin is prepared to enter into meaningful dialogue at this time and while I believe these outstanding issues can be resolved, and the work to do this should commence at this time, it is obvious that the Irish government and others are of a different mind.

All of them are already fighting the elections. They are setting out their agenda and creating the most negative context possible. This is nothing new. In the northern elections Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the PD's, and Labour have always campaigned vigorously for our opponents.

We will not abandon the peace process for anyone and our negotiating team will engage, not on the DUP agenda, or the PD agenda but on the tried and tested basis that has brought the changes in recent years. We will not exclude any item in a genuine effort to build the peace but we will not acquiesce to any one item agenda.

I have spoken of how united our opponents are in attacking us. They are united also in their conservatism on many social and economic issues and they have something else in common in regard to the peace process. They have not put forward one constructive suggestion of how to resolve the current difficulties. That is another glaring aspect of the short-sightedness of the current approach.

And it is my view that they know that beating up on us is unhelpful and damaging to any effort to put the process together again. So, if there is to be no meaningful progress at this time, if the only agenda is to be the election - well, we're up for that. Not just here in the north but in the Údaras elections and in the upcoming by-election in Meath."

Full Text

2005 marks the 100th birthday of Sinn Féin.

This exhibition will be travelling the length and breadth of Ireland informing, educating, entertaining, encouraging debate and dialogue and analysis about the history of Irish republicanism, its significant role in Irish politics and our relevance for the future.

I want to commend the organising committee and all of those who have helped put this exhibition together and who will organise events throughout this year.

This is an important part of the process of re-popularising the republican struggle; and of learning the lessons of a century of struggle.

The exhibition reveals the political and personal commitment and dedication of generations of republican activists.

It provides some sense of the meaning of Sinn Féin. Not just our name but our politics, our role as a national independence movement, as a republican campaigning organisation and, in 2005, as the only all-Ireland political party and the fastest growing party in the country.

In 1905 the most important principle of Sinn Féin was self-reliance.

And that is still true today.

It was the view of those who laid the foundations for this party that only the Irish people can mould a society to suit our unique heritage, character, economic needs and place in the wider world.

And from the beginning Sinn Féin extended a hand of friendship to unionists, while always asserting that the end of the Union was in the interests of all the Irish people.

In 1905 Sinn Féin was at the centre of the renewal and rebirth of political and cultural expression in Ireland, and from the beginning women were centrally involved in this organisation.

Women like those here this morning. Women like Margaret McKenna from Lavey in South Derry, a former Sinn Féin Councillor, who was preparing to stand again for the party in May and whose funeral takes place this morning.

But too often women have been the workers in the background, the often invisible foundation of this party and this struggle. We have made progress in redressing the balance but much more needs to be done.

In 2005 one of our key aims coming out of our centenary year is to increase the number of women in Sinn Féin and the number of women in positions of leadership.

The exhibition also covers the difficult years -- the lean years -- when being an Irish republican was hard. It is a source of great strength and encouragement that Republicans have survived censorship; imprisonment; death squads; concerted and protracted campaigns of vilification and criminalisation.

But we did more than survive. We moved from a culture of resistance to a culture of change. Through dedication and commitment and the votes cast for us, not the patronage of the establishment, Sinn Féin is today the largest nationalist party in the north, the largest pro-Agreement party in the north and the third largest party on this island.

As I look around me this morning I see many friends and comrades who have helped make that possible.

We also remember those republicans who lived, worked and died for freedom. But in honouring their memory our responsibility must be to advance the cause for which they died.

That means defining and redefining our republicanism for today's world. Our contemporary experience helps shape this, as does the inspiration we draw from Maire Drumm and Bobby Sands, from Eddie Fullerton and Sheena Campbell. And many others, like Sinn Fein Councillor John Davey who was killed by a loyalist death squad in collusion with British forces 16 years ago next Monday.

Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party. Our strategy to achieve a united, independent Ireland marks us out from other Irish political parties.

Republicanism is about the people. It's about self-determination and democracy. And a new relationship between these islands resting upon our mutual independence and mutual respect.

Our republicanism is about change -- fundamental, deep-rooted change. And empowering people to make that change.

Key to achieving this is the hard, tedious, difficult work of building political strength.

And it is our success in doing this which has unleashed the torrent of abuse directed at us, particularly in Dublin.

When I came to pen these lines and to reflect upon the current poisoned political atmosphere it struck me that many of those who are attacking us are back where they are most comfortable.

It's almost like the days before the peace process when the Irish and British establishments and unionists parties ganged up trying to out do each other in anti-Sinn Féin hysteria, aided at times by compliant sections of the media.

All that remains of the peace process at this time is the IRA cessation. There is no political process. No effort at meaningful dialogue. No serious attempt to resolve difficulties.

Rather than press the British government to implement outstanding aspects of the Good Friday Agreement or to deliver on their own commitments, the Irish government is leading the charge in the campaign against Sinn Féin.

I am sure that malign elements in the British system are laughing all the way to the bank at the outbreak of civil war within Irish nationalism.

The Taoiseach in particular has crossed the line on a number of important issues and is in the business of imposing or supporting the imposition of preconditions on the rights of Irish citizens.

This is the politics of the cul-de-sac. The politics of spin.

Sinn Féin will weather this storm. There is confusion out there. There is anger. But for the first time in decades Irish republicans are politically organised throughout this island and no amount of misrepresentation or vindictiveness is going to prevent us from continuing with our work.

What is that work? To continue the process of change by defending the peace process, by opposing any return to violence by anyone, including British government agencies, by campaigning for the equality and other elements of the Good Friday Agreement and by upholding the rights of all citizens, including those who vote for our party.

While Sinn Féin is prepared to enter into meaningful dialogue at this time and while I believe these outstanding issues can be resolved, and the work to do this should commence at this time, it is obvious that the Irish government and others are of a different mind.

All of them are already fighting the elections. They are setting out their agenda and creating the most negative context possible. This is nothing new. In the northern elections Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the PD's, and Labour have always campaigned vigorously for our opponents.

We will not abandon the peace process for anyone and our negotiating team will engage, not on the DUP agenda, or the PD agenda but on the tried and tested basis that has brought the changes in recent years. We will not exclude any item in a genuine effort to build the peace but we will not acquiesce to any one item agenda.

I have spoken of how united our opponents are in attacking us. They are united also in their conservatism on many social and economic issues and they have something else in common in regard to the peace process. They have not put forward one constructive suggestion of how to resolve the current difficulties. That is another glaring aspect of the short-sightedness of the current approach.

And it is my view that they know that beating up on us is unhelpful and damaging to any effort to put the process together again. So, if there is to be no meaningful progress at this time, if the only agenda is to be the election - well, we're up for that. Not just here in the north but in the Údaras elections and in the upcoming by-election in Meath.

So, my friends we have a lot to do.

Ian Paisley's desire to humiliate republicans; his constant use of offensive language, particularly in describing republicans as criminals and gangsters, is now the accepted rhetoric of political debate at this time. The prize of a just and lasting peace demands that all responsible political leaders must rise above the difficulties of the moment.

We in Sinn Féin have a lot of achievements to be proud of.

Our party has an honoured name and a history that others covet.

This centenary year will see more advances by us.

Let us take nothing for granted. Including each other.

Too often republicans take as a matter of fact the sacrifies and contributions of friends and family, comrades and fellow activists.

I commend you all.

Lá breithe shona daoibh.

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Waterford Sinn Féin Councillors, David Cullinane, Joe Kelly and Brendan Mansfield joined the Local Community Cancer Care Group in a protest outside the Dáil today to call for regionalised cancer services.

Sinn Féin TDs, including the Party‚s Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin joined the protest and added their voice to the campaign for radiotherapy services for the South-East.

Speaking at the protest outside Leinster House today Councillor Cullinane said, "420,000 people live in the southeast yet cancer patients have to travel to Dublin for treatment. This causes great stress and adds significantly to the burden of cancer patients. Travelling for radiotherapy also is also known to reduce best outcome by up to 20".

"The purpose of today‚s protest was to call for regionalised cancer services where all modalities of treatment are available under one roof. This is recognised as international best practice and allows for best outcome.

"We have met with all opposition party leaders in the Dáil today and have put our case forward and are hopeful that the campaign for regionalised cancer services, not just for the South-East, but for the entire country is successful." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún today met with a number of farmers in the South Armagh area to discuss a number of issues relevant to the rural and agricultural community.

Speaking from South Armagh Ms de Brún said:

"Today I met with a number of farmers in the South Armagh area to discuss issues affecting them. The South Armagh area has suffered greatly over this past number of years as a result of both British military occupation and consistently low levels of inward investment.

"One of the main issues of discussion today was around the EU Nitrates Directive. Farmers are concerned at the implications of the directive for their livelihoods and future farming practices. Sinn Féin is calling for the capital grants for storage facilities to be increased by the British government.

"Farmers also raised fears of a possible cut in the single payment. This issue has now been raised at several different meetings with farmers and Sinn Féin will investigate these concerns urgently.

"During the course of today‚s meeting I reiterated Sinn Féin‚s commitment to an all-Ireland approach to agriculture. Farmers all along the border are suffering because of the two different sets of rules, and two different sets of direction in relation to agriculture. Many farmers own land on either side of the border and are at pains to stress that the approach to Irish farming must be on an all-Ireland basis if it is to be sustainable for the future." ENDS

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Sinn Féin is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and special attention is being paid to the contribution women have made to the struggle in the last century. 'Unfinished Revolution - from Beijing to Newry', is the title of the National Women's Conference, which is scheduled to take place on the 12th of February in the Canal Court Hotel in Newry. Saturday's event in Newry marks the 10th anniversary of the Beijing Fourth World Annual Conference and will be opened by Sinn Féin's Party President Gerry Adams MP who will launch a varied programme of events.

The impressive list of guest speakers includes Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini International head of the African National Congress, Dr Joanna McMinn (National Women's Conference of Ireland), Noirin Clancy (Women's Human Rights Project), Fianna Fail Senator Mary O'Rourke, Rosaleen McDonnagh (Travellers Rights Association) and Felenkas Uca MEP a Kurdish woman living in Germany and one of the youngest people to be elected to serve in the European Parliament.

Caitriona Ruane MLA, Sinn Fein's spokesperson on Human Rights, Equality and Women spoke of the significance of the event. "Too often our female comrades are forgotten, written out of history or ignored. Sinn Fein is determined to bring these women to the fore of people's minds over the next 12 months, starting with the specially convened national women's conference in Newry.

"We're going to be celebrating women's roles in the struggle and looking at the contribution they continue to make every day. This event is an opportunity for women from all over Ireland to get together and discuss the different aspects of women's involvement in politics, from their pathway into government, to their participation in the disability sector and the are a of human rights. We'll also talk about the hardships still faced by lone parents, or the difficulties faced by women trying to break through the 'glass ceiling' in their various careers."

Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald said: "Ten years ago the Beijing Declaration set out a number of objectives to advance the goals of equality, development and peace for all women everywhere. It made a commitment to address the constraints and obstacles that prevent the advancement and empowerment of women all over the world. And whilst some progress has been made many of the pledges made by Governments at the conference, including the British and Irish administrations who at the time committed themselves to ensuring greater gender equality, remain unfulfilled. "One of the more visible areas of inequality is the political arena. Women are still not fully represented in either national politics or in local government.

The election last June of Barbrie de Brún and myself to the European Parliament was a significant achievement but clearly there is much more work to be done. We are committed to continuing to work in this area until we achieve full gender parity. Sinn Féin believes that we cannot have a just and free society without equality for women. Our manifesto is simple. It demands equality for women in every area of their lives and it states the most obvious means to achieve it. Building an Ireland of Equals is one of Sinn Féin's core objectives, and as part of that we will continue to campaign for absolute equality for women." ENDS

Note to Editors Contact Catríona Ruane on 00353 86 8311311 or Colum Delaney, for Mary Lou McDonald, 07712 044282 to arrange interviews. Contact Colum Delaney for interviews at the event.

Unfinished Revolution - from Beijing to Newry

12th of February in the Canal Court Hotel in Newry 10.00 - 10.45 AM Conference Registration 11.00 AM Conference Opening Gerry Adams MP

11.10 AM Opening Plenary - The Beijing Platform Ten Years On Miller Suite Dr Joanna McMinn (National Women's Council of Ireland) Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini (African National Congress) Noirin Clancy (Women's Human Rights Project) Caitriona Ruane MLA 12.30 PM Lunch 14.00 PM

Workshops:

A. Women's Pathways into Politics Clanrye Suite Michelle Gildernew MP Senator Mary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail) Felenkas Uca MEP Rosaleen McDonagh (Travellers Rights Activist) Roseanna Flynn (Residents against Racism) Claire Hackett (Falls Community Council)

B. Rights Based Citizenship Savoy Suite Bairbre de Brun MEP Maggie Beirne (Committee on The Administration of Justice) Mary Keogh (Forum of People with Disabilities) Mamo McDonald (Campaigner for Older Women's Rights) Frances Byrne (OPEN) Paddy Kelly (Children's Law Centre)

C. Republican Women working for Irish unity Miller Suite Mary Nellis Dr Margaret Ward (Author and Historian) Geraldine Gildernew Martina Anderson Olive Sloane Cllr. Toireas Ni Fhearaiosa

15.30 PM Closing Address Mary Lou McDonald MEP

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD will lead a Sinn Féin delegation that will include Dail leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD and Marylou McDonald MEP to the "Rights make the difference" national public meeting tonight at the Concert Hall in the RDS, Dublin. The meeting has been organised by the Rights Make the Difference Campaign, a coalition of disability sector groups protesting against the fundamental flaws of the Disability Bill 2004.

Speaking before the meeting Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Sinn Féin is attending this meeting to reaffirm our full support for this campaign. The Government's Disability Bill is not rights-based, it is resource-based. It is regressive legislation that may even cut access to services for people with disabilities. Not only does it not rectify the deficiencies of the earlier withdrawn Bill by allowing for peoples' rights to be vindicated through the courts if need be, it sets up the ultimate legal defence for the Government, who will now be able to cite resource restrictions as per the provisions of the soon-to-become-notorious section 5.

"This Bill is just not good enough. We have called for its withdrawal because we have a vision for a very different future - a fully accessible and fully inclusive Ireland of Equals where all people with disabilities can reach their true potential as individuals, because society no longer disables but enables them. Real rights-based legislation is the necessary first step in that direction." ENDS

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Local Sinn Féin representative, Michael Nolan, has welcomed the fact that the planning application for the development of White Cottage on Killiney Beach has been rejected. Mr. Nolan was commenting after it emerged that Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council refused permission for the development on the grounds that there wasn't adequate public notification of the developer's intentions.

Mr. Nolan said, "While I welcome this ruling by the County Council I believe it will only be a minor set back for the developers. I have no doubt that a new application will be made in the very near future.

"Sinn Féin had tabled a number of objections to the proposed development, primarily centering on the fact that it will represent a massive over development of the existing site and may have negative consequences in terms of access to sections of the beach itself.

"I don't believe for a moment this was a serious proposal in terms of providing mixed used and publicly accessible buildings. Sinn Féin was seriously concerned that this was merely a Trojan horse to ultimately attain planning permission for more exclusive private residences in the area.

"Sinn Féin will be monitoring the situation closely. And while we would welcome the redevelopment of the site, which was allowed to become derelict, as a public amenity in keeping with its original scale, we will, if this particular planning application comes before the Council strongly object to it again." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD will lead a Sinn Féin delegation that will include Dail leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD and Marylou McDonald MEP to the 'Rights make the difference' national public meeting tonight at the Concert Hall in the RDS, Dublin. The meeting has been organised by the Rights Make the Difference Campaign, a coalition of disability sector groups protesting against the fundamental flaws of the Disability Bill 2004.

Speaking before the meeting Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Sinn Féin is attending this meeting to reaffirm our full support for this campaign. The Government's Disability Bill is not rights-based, it is resource-based. It is regressive legislation that may even cut access to services for people with disabilities. Not only does it not rectify the deficiencies of the earlier withdrawn Bill by allowing for peoples' rights to be vindicated through the courts if need be, it sets up the ultimate legal defence for the Government, who will now be able to cite resource restrictions as per the provisions of the soon-to-become-notorious section 5.

"This Bill is just not good enough. We have called for its withdrawal because we have a vision for a very different future - a fully accessible and fully inclusive Ireland of Equals where all people with disabilities can reach their true potential as individuals, because society no longerdisables but enables them. Real rights-based legislation is the necessary first step in that direction." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dublin Spokesperson on Economic Development, Councillor Daithí Doolan, has today, "welcomed Dublin City Council's call to Minister Noel Ahern to continue funding the Community Worker's Co-Op".

Speaking from City Hall after the motion was passed, Cllr. Doolan said, "the Community Workers Co-Op have been involved for many years in essential work , they work with communities ensuring that communities remain active on the issues that concern them. They have been a vital voice for those who are often ignored by the powers that be. They have played a very full and active role in challenging government policy and ensuring that anti poverty and social inclusion were kept centre stage on the political agenda."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan called on Minister Ahern, "to immediately reinstate the funding". ENDS

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Speaking as the Irish government met to discuss the latest report from the IMC, Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly said that 'if the Irish government oppose sanctions then they will stop them happening'.

Mr Kelly said:

"I have read with interest the Taoiseach's remarks yesterday on the issue of the IMC and sanctions against Sinn Féin. The Irish Cabinet is meeting today to discuss this. In Sinn Féin's view it is not good enough for the Irish government to say it opposes sanctions. The Irish government created the IMC along with the British as a sop to unionists. The sole purpose of the IMC is as a vehicle to be used to sanction and exclude Sinn Fein from the process.

"If the Irish government are serious about what they are saying then as co-equal partners in this process it has to challenge the British government on this issue. If the Irish government is really serious about sanctions then it must block their introduction.

"Confrontation, exclusion, and criminalising an entire section of people are not the way forward. They haven't worked in the past and they will not work now.

" It the two governments want to see progress then they need to pull off this confrontational approach. If they are determined to subvert the Sinn Féin mandate then we will robustly and assertively defend ourselves, our mandate and the process." ENDS

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Sinn Fein will tomorrow (Wednesday 9th February) launch an exhibition celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the foundation of Sinn Fein.

The exhibition will include historical artefacts, photographs and images depicting the history and development of Sinn Fein over the past 100 years. The exhibition will travel around Ireland over the next year.

The exhibition will be launched by Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams in the Edinburgh Suite in the Europa Hotel, Belfast at 11am.

The media are invited to attend.

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Sinn Féin Dáil group leader, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin, described the motion put down by Fine Gael for Private Members Business this evening as "every negative‚ and offering nothing in terms of moving the whole peace process forward".

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "This is a very negative motion from Fine Gael. They seem to be returning to the failed agenda of their former leader John Bruton.

"The motion offers nothing in terms of moving the whole peace process forward. The fact that they have struggled to find a set of words, withdrew their original motion and have now rushed to produce a substitute motion, best illustrates their complete failure to understand the complexities of the issues that face us all in terms of trying to resolve the outstanding difficulties.

"Their narrow-minded and blinkered anti-republican agenda has well and truly exposed. In fact it stands in marked contrast to their lack of concern on other issues. Where was Fine Gael's outrage and indignation at the failure of Paul Murphy and the British Government to provide information in relation to the role of their forces in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings and other acts of collusion in this state?

"The Sinn Féin amendment focuses on the Good Friday Agreement. That's the basis for us all to move forward.

"We will defend the mandate of our party which has the support of over a third of a million voters on this island. They are decent people who want peace and justice and we will not let them be maligned by a party that has done little or nothing to advance the cause of justice and equality for all people on this island.

"The Agreement says that all the parties have a responsibility to work together to implement the Agreement. That's the context in which we will all collectively solve the issue of arms and armed groups. That is not the sole responsibility of Sinn Féin." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Meath Councillor and by-election candidate Joe Reilly has today called for an "imaginative approach" to the rail link between Dublin and Pace, Co Meath. Cllr Reilly made his comments after last night's meeting of the Meath County Council.

Iarnrod Eireann presented yesterday's Council meeting with a feasibility study into the reinstatement of the rail line between Clonsilla, Dublin and Pace.

Speaking today Cllr Reilly said:

"I want to welcome the current discussions around the Dublin-Meath rail link. Sinn Féin has consistently called for the reinstatement of the rail link between Dublin and Pace. An efficient public transport system is required to service the population in Meath.

"The cost of the rail-link has been estimated at approximately 156 million euro. Sinn Féin is calling upon the government to fund this venture. 156 million euros out of the government budget is not a huge amount of money.

"I believe that Iarnrod Eireann and the government need to look outside of the box. Extension of the line to as far as Kells should be considered as areas of substantial population growth in recent years. In fact, Meath is the fastest growing county in the state in population terms.

"The feasibility study indicated that the project was 'economically viable'‚ particularly in relation to environmental benefits, time and accident savings. In an era of heavy reliance on private transport, it is incumbent upon this government to provide the people of Meath and those visiting the county, with a first class rail-link." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Fingal County Councillor Felix Gallagher has given an enthusiastic welcome to a Feasibility Study on the opening of the Railway Line from Clonsilla to the M3 Interchange at Fairyhouse.

Cllr. Gallagher said "This report clearly states that the opening of this line is economically viable. It is now up to all politicians and members of community to use this report to lobby the Department of Transport to have it implemented. The report indicates that four trains per hour during peak times will be available. This means capacity for up to 5,000 passengers per hour during rush hour. The benefits in terms of reduced congestion for the Clonsilla and Hansfield areas will be immense. It is projected that as many as 2 million passengers will be carried by 2016."

Gallagher did however express some concerns -- "A number of blockages remain in place, not least getting the endorsement by the Department of Transport. This project is also reliant of increased capacity at Connolly Station or the opening of Spencer Dock. I am also dismayed that none of the land of the old line is in possession of Ianrod Éireann, this will mean up to €35 million of public money will need to be spent to purchase the land alone. Also I am disappointed that the study was limited from Clonsilla to the Fairyhouse area. I would have preferred if it had gone all the way to Navan, as this would have a much greater impact on reducing congestion on the N3." ENDS.

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Sinn Féin Regional Development spokesperson, Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney has said that unless the proposed consultation by the DRD Road Service on the road route between Belfast and Derry comes up with a motorway then they are wasting time and money.

Mr McCartney said:

"The DRD Road Service are carrying out a consultation on what is the best way of connecting Derry and Belfast by road when everyone knows that a motorway is needed. Rather than wasting money on this consultation that, given the terms of reference, will deliver less than is required what we need is a commitment that a motorway will be built.

"At a time when the Dublin Government are proposing a motorway between Dublin and Derry to service the North West region it is sad to see such deeply flawed proposals from DRD Road Services. This proposal is for an extension of the dual carriageway between Randalstown and Castledawson and the inserting of strategic overtaking lanes along the rest of the route. This is totally unacceptable.

"In order for the North West region to develop to its full potential it needs to have a first class infrastructure that will service business, tourism and industry and this includes a motorway. The DRD Road Service should consult with the Dublin Government to explore ways in which they can extend the proposed Dublin-Derry motorway to Belfast to connect the these three key Irish cities." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Fleming has said that he supports the Finucane family in their efforts to thwart the British Government changing the law to limit the power of any further inquiries.

Councillor Fleming stated,

"The family of collusion victim Pat Finucane have travelled to London today to confront the British Government over their attempts to change the law over any future inquiries.

"Geraldine Finucane recently gave the annual Bloody Sunday Lecture at the Guildhall and articulated the lengths in which the British Government have covered and frustrated the many families who strive to get the truth as not only how but why their family members were executed.

"It is obvious that the British Government have much to fear from the truth of their dirty war in Ireland being exposed. This would show that there was an institutional policy of collusion between the British forces and Unionist death squads that can be traced to the highest level of government.

"In order to protect themselves the British Government are now proposing that any further inquiries, like the ones called for by Judge Peter Cory over collusion, would have limited remits.

"Sinn Féin support the campaign by the Finucane family to have full disclosure over what happened to Pat Finucane and the hundreds of others who died as a result of the policy of collusion. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew will lead a party delegation including Cllr Gerry McHugh, head of the Sinn Féin National Agriculture Department to meet with British direct rule Health Minister Angela Smith and Chief Medical Officer Dr Henreita Campbell, today, Tuesday 8th February at 3pm to discus health issues related to the lifting of the Beef Ban.

Speaking today Ms Gildernew said:

"Sinn Féin is determined to push ahead and challenge any obstacle to the lifting of the Beef Ban her in the north. To do this it is important to challenge the opposition that exists particularly within the British Health Department.

"It is vital that we have in place a robust testing regime that ensures that animals are tested quickly and that results are both reliable and processed quickly and that any contamination is removed immediately from the food chain. It is vital that testing can build public confidence and the development of markets for our beef products.

"The European Food Safety Authority are happy with the protocols on traceability and the testing of animals which are in place here. They are also content that the risk associated with beef from the North is equivalent to that associated with other European countries.

"The biggest difficulties come from widespread criticisms of the UK testing regime, particularly from the European Food & Veterinary Office (FVO). However their report gives the North a clean bill of health. Both The Food Safety Authority and the European FSA are content with our testing and monitoring regimes.

"We are meeting Angela Smith and Dr Henreita Campbell to ensure that they appreciate the confidence that exists already about the testing protocols. We will also be mapping out what Sinn Fein believe is the way ahead in terms on discussions between all of the key stakeholders, the department of health and DARD to ensure that can make early progress on lifting the beef ban.

"To meet any concerns about the sampling it is vital that the Six Counties has the required capacity in place to test animals over thirty months. Clearly handing over control of the testing to the Food Safety Authority should also be considered." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today urged Health Minister Mary Harney to seek a meeting with Direct Rule Minister Angela Smith to urge a ban on smoking in the workplace for the Six Counties.

Ms McDonald said that the "Irish Government has a duty to protect not only the rights" but also the health of citizens living in the Six Counties‚.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"I am calling upon Minister Harney to seek a meeting with Angela Smith to discuss the practicalities of extending a smoking ban to the Six Counties, thus ensuring an all-Ireland ban in the workplace. It is an opportune time for Minister Harney to promote the benefits of the recent legislation.

"As the ban nears its first anniversary in the 26 Counties (March 29th), Sinn Féin considers the ban a success. A recent survey in the south of the country found that 70% of people believed that the ban enhanced their pub experience. The positive response to the legislation should provide the catalyst for its extension in the Six Counties.

"The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (Six Counties) is currently carrying out a consultation process with regard to smoking. However the British Government‚s commitment to the consultation is questionable. To date there have only been 17 responses to the consultation process and many health professionals are unaware that it is happening.

"The Irish Government has a duty to protect not only the rights, but also the health of citizens living in the Six Counties. Minister Harney must provide a commitment that the health of citizens in the Six Counties is as important as for citizens in the rest of the country. Therefore I am calling upon Minister Harney to seek a meeting immediately with Angela Smith to discuss this serious matter." ENDS

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Cllr John O'Dowd MLA, has criticised the NIO health minister Angela Smith over her failure to ensure that the Department of health maintains an accurate figures for the number of patients contracting hospital acquired infections.

Cllr O'Dowd MLA said:

"I had recently asked the minister to provide me with details on the numbers of patients who had contracted hospital acquired infections, such as MRSA, and to provide details on the extent of the additional costs to the health service of treating patients who had contacted such infections. I was shocked to read Angela Smith's response which stated that there is no accurate estimate for the number of patients who have contracted MRSA or other such infections. Indeed, she also stated that at present 'it is not possible to estimate the cost to the health service of treating those who contract hospital acquired infections'.

"Given that figures released last year by the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre demonstrated that the MRSA superbug has played a part in 116 deaths in the Six Counties between 1997 and 2003 and that in 2003 alone, MRSA had contributed to the deaths of 30 patients in hospitals, this response from the NIO health minister is unsatisfactory. Furthermore, CDSC figures also show that based upon positive MRSA laboratory reports the level of infection has quadrupled between 1998 and November 2004.

"Angela Smith also referred to the fact that a strategy for the control and prevention of healthcare associated infections will be due out for consultation later this year. Rather than waiting for the outcome of that consultation, I believe that there are several steps which the health minister could implement immediately which would have the support of patients, professional hospital staff and trades unions.

These are:

· Stipulating and introducing minimum safe staffing levels to ensure effective hospital cleaning. It is a fact that more cleaners and more cleaning hours would lead to cleaner hospitals.

· Ensuring that cleaning services are be based on quality, not cost - which means an end to market testing and bringing cleaning services back in-house rather than contracting out to private agencies

· Giving hospital cleaners better pay and conditions, and ending the two-tier workforce in healthcare, and

· Providing hospital cleaners with up-to-date equipment and improved training, including on-going training on infection control.

"Prevention is better than cure. This is not about good or bad cleaners, it is about having enough people to do the job well and for Angela Smith to release the necessary finance to make this happen. No one wants to be treated, work, or visit friends and relatives in a dirty hospital. I would urge the minister to bring cleaning staff back in house and make them part of the infection control team, to give them proper training and then fairly reward them for a tough job that many people would run a mile from. That is the best way to deal with hospital infections." ENDS

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