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Sinn Féin representative for Waterford David Cullinane was this afternoon selected as the party's Munster candidate in next year's European elections. Speaking following the convention Mr. Cullinane said:

"I am delighted to have been selected as the party's candidate for Munster and will be building on the foundations laid by the previous candidate Martin Ferris. Over the last five years Sinn Féin has gone from strength to strength in Munster. Our success in the local and general elections shows that our agenda for change - in terms of the peace process, rural regeneration, the environment and the direction of the European Union - is popular.

"The public debate on the European Union during the two referendums on the Nice Treaty and indeed the deliberations of the National Forum on Europe have reflected significant public disquiet about the political character of the EU. People the length and breath of the country have demonstrated an appetite to engage, challenge and exert their influence on the shape and direction of the EU.

"With deliberations on the draft new EU Constitution well under way it is essential that the voices of those, who are concerned about the direction of what is the most radical reassessment of the EU political project to date, continue to be heard.

"Sinn Féin politics are about democracy, equality, the rights of citizens and of nations.   We are the radical alternative to the failed politics of the establishment parties who have been invisible for so long in Europe. Our campaign begins here in Munster today. We will be taking the debate on the EU Presidency, the new draft EU Constitution and the re-formulation of CAP to towns and villages throughout Munster. We are campaigning to make a real difference and to see an all Ireland Sinn Féin team returned to Europe."ENDS

Profile of David Cullinane

David Cullinane is the Sinn Féin representative for Waterford and is a member of the party's Ard Chomhairle. He is also keenly involved in Munster Sinn Féin and is a leading player in its re-development.

He played a leading role in the first and second Nice Treaty referendum campaigns and is involved in the campaign to secure a radiotherapy unit in the South East.

David was educated at St Pauls Community College Lisduggan and later at the Dublin Institute of Technology studying management. He is currently employed as Assistant Spare Parts Manager at Autoboland Garage Waterford.

David is actively involved in community development. He is a Director and Management Committee member of the Larchville & Lisduggan Community Development Project. David is a committee member of Waterford Against Racism, a broad-based group set up to combat racism.

He was the party's candidate for Waterford in the 2002 General Election and received 2,955 votes.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking at the Munster EU election convention in Munster this afternoon gave delegates an update on the peace process and current contact with the Irish and British governments. He said that 'Without the British Government calling an election as soon as possible it would be impossible to accelerate to the process.' Mr. Adams then went on to congratulate David Cullinane on his selection as the party's EU for Munster which he described as the most important EU election that the party had ever faced. Addressing delegates Mr. Adams said:

"Four and a half years ago Sinn Féin set out a marker in Munster when Martin Ferris received 29,060 votes. And then last May we took one seat in Kerry and saw our vote increase massively in Cork, Waterford and Tipperary.

In the coming months the Irish government faces a series of important hurdles that will be the acid test of whether it is committed to a better Europe, a better world, a better Ireland.

Next week Foreign Minister Brian Cowen addresses the Leinster House Committee on Europe. he must spell out the Government's position on how it will use the coming Presidency to voice the social justice agenda so often overlooked in the corridors of power within the EU.

We want to hear the Government's plans for an EU Presidency that will put debt cancellation and fair trade at the centre of the EU agenda. We want the Irish Presidency to be a voice on social justice issues such as making cheap medicines available to developing countries. We want an Irish Government that is promoting nuclear disarmament, not letting its airports be used as a stopover for the international arms industry. We want to hear how the Kyoto accords will be implemented and when Europe's nuclear industry will be dismantled. We want to hear real plans that will guarantee a future for farming not just in Ireland or the EU but internationally.

Shortly after that on October 4th there will be a meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference where European leaders will be discussing the draft new EU Constitution. Again the Irish Government has to show leadership. There are some positive elements in the new draft constitution dealing with social and economic goals and with individual rights. These however are swamped with more powers for unelected EU institutions, with the same old story of no accountability, no transparency and no democracy and an EU more in tune with the needs of international business than the wants and desires of its own citizens.

The Irish Government as a voice for small states must make itself heard on these issues.They must also consult widely and fairly with the Irish people on the questions raised by the constitution. We need to have debate here in Ireland on what the voters think about issues such as more losses of the veto, of more powers for the EU Commission president, on what are the acceptable roles if any for a EU defence force to play.

The millions of people who took to the streets of Europe during the run up to the war in Iraq and the failure of the actual EU member governments to agree a common position on the war showed that there is a huge diversity of opinion on these issue throughout Europe. The Irish Government must allow debate on these issues. Sinn Fein must be there, campaigning systematically on these issues."ENDS

Full text

Last night I was in Tipperary for the launch of Paddy Hackett's new book and it was brought home to me the role that Munster has played over many years in the fight for Irish freedom. Building on the work of men and women like Tom Barry, Dan Gleeson, Ella O'Dwyer and Paddy Hackett we know the levels of support that we have across Munster and know the challenges that face us if we want to bring about an Ireland of equals.

I know that you are up to this challenge. Munster Sinn Féin is one of the fastest growing regions of the fastest growing political party in Ireland. Across Munster, Sinn Féin has been to the fore in campaigning on a wide range of issues including cuts in Public Services, the gross inequality in healthcare, the housing crisis, the future direction of Europe and the Irish peace process.

We in Sinn Féin are presenting the real alternative. We are committed to social and economic freedom for the people of Ireland. We are just as determined to achieve an Ireland where poverty and inequality are eliminated as we are to achieve an end to partition.

Sinn Féin - bringing an all-Ireland agenda to Europe

The next twelve months are likely to be dominated by events in Europe as Dublin takes over the Presidency of the EU, discussions conclude on the new EU Constitutions and elections to the European Parliament take place.

This is an important election for Sinn Féin, probably the most important EU election that we have ever faced. We have been a leading voice in the debate on the future direction of the European Union. We have debated the key issues in our communities, played a leading role in both Nice Treaty referendums and made a detailed submission on the draft European Union Constitution. I believe that people are responding to our message.

Last May I predicted that the story of the General Election would be the story of the rise of Sinn Féin and that places like Kerry North would be key to this. Next year I believe that the story of the European elections will again be the story of Sinn Féin when we secure our first ever representation in the European Parliament.

Four and a half years ago Sinn Féin set out a marker in Munster when Martin Ferris received 29,060 votes and we had such local government success across Cork, Kerry and in Tipperary. And then last May we took one seat in Kerry and saw our vote increase massively in Cork, Waterford and Tipperary. The hard work, the long hours and the dedication each Sinn Féin activist put into the campaign gave us this success.

Here in Munster you also played a key role in both Nice Treaty referendums. The many thousands of people who shared our concern that this Treaty would bring us closer to the creation of an EU superstate and an EU Army are looking to Sinn Féin as we enter into a defining period in Europe.

In Ireland we have a substantial role and responsibility in this period. It is not just in the context of the upcoming Presidency of the EU. As citizens, as republicans we need to make our voices heard and opinions felt in the coming months. The Sinn Féin vision of what Europe could be needs to be heard as widely as possible. It needs to be heard on the doorsteps as you canvas, on the posters you put up, at public meetings, on radio phone in shows, in the news columns and letter pages of local newspapers and not forgetting the political discussion chat rooms on the internet.

We need to make it clear that Sinn Féin wants to be part of a Europe where the core objectives are full employment, no homelessness or hunger or poverty. We want a Europe that uses its power for social justice inside and outside its borders. A Europe that is nuclear free, that leads the world in how it protects and enhances the environment.

In the coming months the Irish government faces a series of important hurdles that will be the acid test of whether it is committed to a better Europe, a better world, a better Ireland.

Next week Foreign Minister Brian Cowen addresses the Leinster House Committee on Europe. he must spell out the Governments position on how it will use the coming Presidency to voice the social justice agenda so often overlooked in the corridors of power within the EU.

We want to hear the Government's plans for an EU Presidency that will put debt cancellation and fair trade at the centre of the EU agenda. We want the Irish Presidency to be a voice on social justice issues such as making cheap medicines available to developing countries.

We want an Irish Government that is promoting nuclear disarmament, not letting its airports be used as a stopover for the international arms industry. We want to hear how the Kyoto accords will be implemented and when Europe's nuclear industry will be dismantled.

We want to hear real plans that will guarantee a future for farming not just in Ireland or the EU but internationally.

We want to hear that there is a future for places like Munster where lush farm lands, proud towns and cities can thrive together.

Shortly after that on October 4th there will be a meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference where European leaders will be discussing the draft new EU Constitution.

Again the Irish Government has to show leadership. There are some positive elements in the new draft constitution dealing with social and economic goals and with individual rights. These however are swamped with more powers for unelected EU institutions, with the same old story of no accountability, no transparency and no democracy and an EU more in tune with the needs of international business than the wants and desires of its own citizens.

The Irish Government as a voice for small states must make itself heard on these issues.They must also consult widely and fairly with the Irish people on the questions raised by the constitution. We need to have debate here in Ireland on what the voters think about issues such as more losses of the veto, of more powers for the EU Commission president, on what are the acceptable roles if any for a EU defence force to play.

The millions of people who took to the streets of Europe during the run up to the war in Iraq and the failure of the actual EU member governments to agree a common position on the war showed that there is a huge diversity of opinion on these issue throughout Europe. The Irish Government must allow debate on these issues.

Sinn Fein must be there, campaigning systematically on these issues.

Where do we go from here?

None of this can be achieved without greater political strength for Sinn Féin. In the local government and EU elections next year Sinn Féin will be presenting its largest ever number of candidates. We are determined to send strong teams of Sinn Féin councillors onto councils across Munster. And we are also determined to to bring success in the European elections.

This means a busy autumn and winter for everyone here. It means planning now at cumann level upwards how to get the best results possible next June. In the last decade Sinn Fein members have again and again been asked to raise their game, to do more and with each election the barrier has been raised. We know that at each time of asking we have reached beyond what we thought was possible and succeeded when our detractors sniped and frustrated our efforts.

Republicans in Munster have been at the leading edge of political struggle in Ireland for the last century. I know that in this new one they will continue that tradition, with new names, new stories yet to be added too this noble history.

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Sinn Féin Chairperson, Mitchel Mc Laughlin commenting on the outcome of the UUC meeting today said:

"The Ulster Unionist Council today made its decision. It backed the Party Leader, David Trimble giving him a clear mandate. It is now time for the two governments to stop looking over their shoulders at the Ulster Unionists and get on with implementing the Agreement.

"The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair should immediately set a date for Assembly elections so that the Parties can seek a fresh mandate from the electorate.

"The infighting in the Ulster Unionist Party can no longer be used as justification for suspension of the peoples‚ right to vote. We must move on to rebuild the political process."ENDS

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Sinn Féin's Munster EU election convention will take place tomorrow afternoon, Saturday 6th September, in the Glentworth Hotel in Limerick City.

Contesting the convention are Cork Councillor Jonathan O'Brien, David Cullinane from Waterford and Nancy Irwin from Limerick.

The meeting is open to the media at 2.45pm when Gerry Adams and the winning candidate will address the convention. They will both be available to speak to the media directly afterwards.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams is in Munster holding a series of meetings with party activists and to attend an EU selection convention in limerick on Saturday.

This evening he will be speaking in Thurles, Co. Tipperary at the publication of a book by former political prisoner Paddy Hacket. The book 'Keep their names ever green' is the story of the second Tipperary Brigade of the IRA between 1920 and 1923.

Commenting on the current political situation Mr Adams said:

"Whatever the outcome of the internal battle within unionism the rest of us, the two governments and the pro-agreement parties, have to ensure that all shades of unionism clearly understand that the GFA is as good as it gets. Unionists must face that reality.

"Of course, those unionists who are fearful of change and who don't want to be part of building a new political dispensation -- a new an better future for the people they represent - can absent themselves from this process. But they cannot stop it. They can slow it down but they cannot stop the process of change.

"Irish republicans clearly have a responsibility to listen to unionists, to speak with them at every opportunity and to seek to persuade them of the benefits of working together. That is a huge challenge for us but it is one I believe we are up to.

"In the short term our priority has to be to have elections held as soon as possible and to see the political institutions restored. Elections are the only way to create a new context, a new dynamic in which progress can be made.

"I believe, and my recent discussions with the two governments support this view, that we can still make progress if the political will can be found and if political leaders are prepared to lead.

"We should, all of us take considerable pride in what we have collectively achieved in recent years.

"We have to keep going -- we have to keep pushing ahead. There remains so many matters still to be resolved -- the human rights and equality agenda, the policing issue, demilitarisation and much more.

"The GFA identified what was wrong and how it could be fixed. We have to stay focussed on achieving this.

"The British government in particular cannot run away from its responsibilities. The decision to cancel the elections has undermined the political process. A refusal to call elections soon will further subvert it. Mr Blair's remarks yesterday are evidence that he understands this. But he cannot forever wait on the UUP to catch up with the rest of us. There is a matter of political principle involved. He needs to face up to the democratic imperative sooner rather than later." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that a definitive date for elections must be the starting point for progress.

Ms Gildernew said:

"This weekend the focus is on the continuing tensions within the Ulster Unionist Party. The UUC appears to be the only issue that the British government, in particular, is treating with any urgency. Yet there is no sense of urgency around the stagnation of the peace process and Good Friday Agreement.

"All it appears that the British government are intent on doing is undermining the integrity of the Agreement by stepping outside its‚ terms to meet the needs of factions within unionism.

"The British government must stop pandering to Unionism. The rights and entitlements of citizens cannot be held to ransom because Unionists refuse to accept change.

"Also, and crucially, Mr. Blair must set a firm date for the elections - without qualification or precondition. The fundamental right to vote cannot be withheld. It is a basic democratic right. A date for the elections will create a new political context, injecting a much needed dynamic back into a process that is stagnating." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD and Spokesperson on Education Seán Crowe has said that he is shocked and appalled at the Government's decision to remove childcare support from participants on the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme. Describing the cuts as 'an assault on the weakest and most vulnerable sections of society' he has called on Education Minister Dempsey to reverse his decision immediately. He said 'Once again we see the most disadvantaged sections of society being stripped of essential services so this governments disastrous budget can come in on target. It's short sighted and defies logic and will causes huge difficulties for 1,338 parents, forcing many of them off VTOS run courses concerns."

Deputy Crowe said:

"The Department of Education has contacted VTOS Centres and participants this week to inform them that, effective immediately, funds will no longer be made available for childcare support for those availing of their courses. Where will this decision leave the 1,338 parents and 1,672 children affected by this ultimatum?

"These funds were provided by the Department of Education and Science to VECs for childcare support to encourage parents to take part in Youthreach, Senior Traveller Training Centre programmes for early school leavers and the Vocational Training Opportunity Schemes for the unemployed

"This money - €63.50 benefit per week per child - allowed many VTOS participants to participate in these courses and help them back into the workforce. With crèches and childminders charging over €800 per month in Dublin, many of these students will be forced to withdraw from their courses.

"Yet again we see essential services being withdrawn from the most disadvantaged sections of society so that this governments disastrous budget can come in on target. It's short sighted and defies logic and I call on the Minister for Education to reverse the decision immediately. This new reality means that less pupils will be taking up educational courses and more and more families will be caught up in an endless cycle of poverty.

"Furthermore, the timing of the decision completely beggars belief. At this late stage, in many cases one week before new courses begin, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for parents to make alternative childcare arrangements."ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP and Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP this morning met the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Foreign Minister Brian Cowen in Government Buildings. The main focus of the meeting was the need for the date for the assembly elections to be set so that confidence can be restored in the process.

Mr. Adams said: 'Unless the process is given some urgency, unless there is some sense of acceleration in it then we will see all the progress we have made frittered away. The only way that this acceleration can be achieved is for a definite date to be set for the election.'

Speaking afterwards Mr. Adams said:

"This was a good meeting, our first since the summer break. We reviewed what happened over the last number of months and focused on what needs to happen now to get the political process back on track.

"It is now almost one year since the institutions were suspended and unless the process is given some urgency, unless there is some sense of acceleration in it then we will see all the progress which we have made frittered away. The only way that this acceleration can be achieved is for a definite date to be set for the Assembly elections. We need to see the right to vote restored and confidence put back into the process."

Commenting on today's announcement in relation to the Independent Monitoring Commission Mr. Adams said:

"Everyone knows that this Commission was established to appease unionism and since it was first put forward it has been tinkered with and diluted to meet the needs of factions within unionism.

"Our greatest difficulty with this particular Commission is that the Good Friday Agreement has been fundamentally changed to give authority to a British Minister that he did not previously have under the Agreement. They stepped outside the Agreement to give him this power.

"While we fully support people being held to account, we will not support a mechanism that is totally outside of the Agreement."ENDS

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Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty reacting to today's announcement by British Direct Rule Minister Ian Pearson that he is setting up a special fund to encourage the development of direct new air routes has welcomed the move but has called for the development to have a degree of an All Ireland focus.

Mr Doherty said:

"This move which will see reduced landing charges for carriers on selected and targeted new routes will greatly benefit both the tourist economy and the business economy throughout Ireland and must be welcomed in this light.

"I would, however, hope that there will be an All-Ireland dimension to all of this. Given that in recent months we have seen air carriers cut back on a number of internal flights in Ireland I would hope that these moves, coupled with the ever developing All Ireland economy, would offer an opportunity to re-establish, and indeed build greater All-Ireland air transport links. It is also vital that regional airports outside of Belfast are also supported given the weakness in road and rail transport infrastructure, particularly West of the Bann." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Upper Bann Representative Dr Dara O'Hagan has welcomed the publication of the independent report into the death of a Romanian baby and serious injury of his twin brother after they were adopted and called for urgent action to tackle the weaknesses in child protection and adoption regulations identified by the report.

Dr O'Hagan said:

"This report into this dreadful catalogue of events highlights serious weaknesses in monitoring, child protection and adoption regulations.

"The report highlights lack of communication, lack of team work and basic weak management in the Craigavon and Banbridge Community HSS Trust and the South Health Board.

"Since this incident there has been some progress with the introduction of the Inter-county Adoption Bill that will improve the protection of children adopted from countries such as Romanian by the former Minister for Health Bairbre de Brún.

"It makes specific provisions to regulate inter-county adoption and bring us in line with European standards and the 1993 Hague Convention which set out the minimum standards for the adoption process to operate in the best interests of the child. In this case neither the Board nor Trust properly monitored the inter-county adoption process or the well being of these Romanian twins after their arrival here.

"Urgent action is required to tackle these weaknesses in child protection and the implementation of adoption regulations that have been identified by this report. Fundamentally the failure of different parts of the Health and Social Services in the Craigavon Banbridge area to communicate effectively with each other must be addressed." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Sue Ramsey has expressed her support for the industrial action taken by social workers.

Ms Ramsey said:

"The reality is that there is a significant shortfall in the number of social workers needed to deliver the levels of service that are required to meet the level of need in our communities and to fulfil the obligations of the department.

"This means that this vital service is over stretched and workers are under intense pressure and there are increased risks faced by the most vulnerable people in our society. It has also hit recruitment. Social workers are taking on additional responsibilities without additional pay.

"Sinn Féin support the argument that social work grades should be linked to the pay scales of other key health service staff such as community nurses and health visitors. Such developments could act as an incentive to tackle the problems in recruitment and staffing levels." ENDS

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Commenting on the latest figures on waiting lists, Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Cllr Sue Ramsay welcomed the fact that there was continuing evidence that waiting list numbers were coming under control as a testament to the measures put in place by former Health Minister Bairbre de Brún

"The figures released today show that the enormous effort that Bairbre de Brún put in to bringing our waiting lists under control are beginning to show some signs of dividends. It is to Bairbre's credit that there now appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel.

"This is the third quarter in succession that there has been a drop in inpatient waiting lists. It‚s a small decrease but over the last 12 months there has been an almost 8% drop in total numbers of inpatients waiting lists and for the same period 2,000 more people received elective treatment. These figures are continuing evidence that waiting list numbers were coming under control and a testament to the measures put in place by former Health Minister Bairbre de Brún.

"However, sustained progress in tackling the long-term problem of waiting lists would benefit from the return of the institutions and a Minister who is in the position to give this problem their full attention. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil Group leader Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called on Health Minister Micheál Martin to abolish Comhairle na nOspidéal without delay and for the role of all 'bodies of influence' who impact on health service provision in this State to be urgently reviewed. He was speaking following reports that Comhairle na nOspidéal are set to propose that midwifery services should not now come to Monaghan Hospital, as had been promised.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The loss of our maternity services and the further crushing blow that even midwifery will not now come to Monaghan is something that will cause huge anger. The efforts of those, who have championed the hospital and health care needs of the people of this county are being brushed aside by faceless government appointees and the representative voices of health professionals - people who have enormous power over the direction of our health services but who are accountable to nobody.

"It is time that the Minister and this Government accept their responsibilities. They would have us believe that they are neither responsible for what has happened nor required to act in defence of our health care needs. Minister Martin's Macbeth-like washing of his hands of all responsibility is enough to make anyone sick.

"Comhairle na nOspidéal are a quango of self-interests who have no understanding whatsoever of the needs and fears of real people, real communities. Comhairle's proposals also expose the real reason for the delay in moving forward with the recommendations in the initial Kinder report. No one will convince me that those responsible for delaying the proposal to site midwifery units in Monaghan and Dundalk were not aware and awaiting this Comhairle report which well and truly buries any prospect of even a midwifery service coming to Monaghan General Hospital.

"I am infuriated by the gall of these people who expect us to believe that their opinions, which bear such influence on the shape of health care delivery in this State, were reached independently of the legion of other reports and recommendations regarding the future of services at Monaghan General Hospital.

"It is time for the Minister to stand up to these vested interests. I am calling on him to abolish Comhairle na nOspidéal and to immediately review the role of all of those bodies of influence, who are accountable to nobody, but who have such control over our health services." ENDS

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Sinn Féin North Belfast representative Gerry Kelly has called on Unionists politicians and community leaders to end the campaign of intimidation and attack being orchestrated by Unionist paramilitaries against people living in the Deerpark Road area in North Belfast. Mr Kelly said:

"Thirty years ago unionist paramilitaries tried to burn people out their homes in exactly this same area. This week alone 2 families have been forced to leave the area because of attacks and intimidation.

"These attacks are clearly being orchestrated by the UDA. Today's attack is a concerted attack on this community. It is very serious.

"It is time that Unionist political leaders and community leaders used their energies to bring an end to this anti-nationalist pogrom." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew speaking today at the re-opening of the inquest for Roseanne Mallon said:

"This inquest basically boils down to two issues. Firstly the British State colluded with those who carried out this killing and have acted to prevent the truth being established ever since. They engaged in state sponsored assassination of citizens.

"The second major issue is the continuing failure of the PSNI to co-operate with the Inquest into this killing and many others. The PSNI are actively attempting to subvert this inquest and prevent the truth being established in the same manner that they adopted with the inquest into the killing of Pearse Jordan. They have consistently failed to provide evidence demanded by the coroner. It is clear that the PSNI approach to these inquests mirrors that of the RUC. This approach is driven by a desire to prevent the truth emerging and to frustrate efforts to provide justice for bereaved families.

"The families of those people killed through collusion will not rest until the truth surrounding the murder of their loved ones is established. Sinn Féin will continue to support these families in their fight for truth and justice." ENDS

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Former Executive Health Minister Bairbre de Brún, selected as Sinn Féin's candidate to fight the European elections in the Six Counties, has expressed confidence that Sinn Féin can win a seat in the Six Counties and return a strong All Ireland team of MEP's to the European Parliament in next years European Elections.

Ms de Brún said:

"I believe the story of the European elections will be the story of Sinn Féin when we secure our first ever representation in the European Parliament and it is here in the Six Counties and in our capital city Dublin that we will start the journey.

"This is an important election for Sinn Féin, probably the most important EU election that we have ever faced. Sinn Féin is contesting this election to win, to return a Sinn Féin MEP for the Six Counties and to be part of Sinn Féin's all Ireland team in Europe This is a realisable goal, given the almost 120,000 votes for Mitchel McLaughlin and the considerable rise in the Sinn Féin vote in the Westminster elections since then.

"We have been a leading voice in the debate on the future direction of the European Union. We are also putting forward a clear demand for an all-Ireland approach towards the European Union and its institutions. Whether it is in relation to funding, infrastructure, economic development and most recently agriculture it is clear that the Six Counties has suffered greatly by being linked to Britain rather than the rest of Ireland.

"The next twelve months will be dominated by events in Europe - Dublin taking over the Presidency of the European Union, negotiations on the draft new EU Constitution, World Trade talks, the reform of CAP and redrafting the Common Fisheries Policy.

"The EU of today is a changed entity from that which Ireland joined 30 years ago. The proposed changes in EU structures and institutions envisaged under the draft constitution pose a significant challenge for republicans. We must clearly explain why we don't want an EU that is a military or economic superpower, but we do want an EU that can be force for democracy and justice not just inside its borders but also throughout the world.

"We must ensure that we lead the debate and discussion about creating a democratic Europe that can be accountable and transparent in its policy making and decision taking.

"We must have the best possible EU that works towards full employment, housing and educating all its citizens and creating institutions that are really democratic promoting national and individual rights.

"Republicans want to be part of a Europe that is beacon to the rest of the world not just in terms of the high standards of living and democracy it creates for its own citizens but in how it treats the other states and regions in the world. We want to build a Europe leads the way on the cancellation of debt in the developing world, that is nuclear free, that protects the environment, and that doesn‚t create a fortress and lock its doors to other regions, but welcomes, aids and trades fairly.

"Sinn Féin politics are about democracy, equality, the rights of citizens and of nations. In the last decade we have gone from strength to strength as our agenda for change begins to have a real impact. We want to bring this agenda to the heart of Europe.

"Beginning today I will be going door to door in the Six Counties meeting ordinary people, community groups, women's groups, trade unions, business people and more seeking a mandate for change in Europe." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams MP has called on 'the Irish community in the Brent East constituency, and those others who are interested in human rights matters, to rally round and give their support and help to Kelly McBride, the sister of Peter McBride, who was murdered by two British soldiers.'

Mr Adams said:

"Sinn Féin supports this initiative. It provides the McBride family with an opportunity to raise their demand that the two Scots Guards convicted of murdering Peter McBride should be removed from the British Army." ENDS

Kelly McBride, a sister of Peter McBride who was murdered by two British soldiers, is to stand as a candidate in this month's Westminster by-election in the Brent East constituency of London. She is standing to highlight the campaign to have the two soldiers who killed her brother dismissed from the British Army.

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Sinn Féin Dáil Group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that the Government, and in particular Minister Noel Dempsey, have serious questions to answer in relation to last night's shock resignation of Justice Mary Laffoy.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The Cabinet is meeting today for the first time in six weeks. At their last meeting they took 60 decisions, many of which have been leaked in the intervening weeks to give the appearance of a government at work, including in recent days the proposed change of remit for the Laffoy Commission.

"It is clear that something serious has occurred to result in Justice Mary Laffoy resigning from her position on the Commission and that the government were surprised by the announcement. The government has serious questions to answer including when they took the decision to change the remit, who was consulted on this matter, their failure to properly resource the Commission's work and ultimately what occurred to result in Justice Mary Laffoy leaving her position in this manner.

"There are growing concerns about the government attitude of establishing tribunals and commissions as a panacea to serious problems which need to be addressed in our society. At this stage we need to question the route being taken, the broadening of remits which is resulting in tribunals running for years, the resources being spent and how effective this process has been in bringing to account those responsible.

"Throughout the work of the government bad planning and a lack of forward thinking is the common thread, whether it is the costs and timing of road and rail infrastructure such as the port tunnel, Luas, or the crisis in our so-called health service. Now the work and effectiveness of much needed tribunals is also victim to the bad planning quick fix mentality that pervades the work of government."ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP this evening congratulated Bairbre De Brún on her selection as party candidate for the Six Counties in next years European Union elections. Mr. Adams said that building on the party's success in the Westminster elections we have for the first time a real opportunity to return a Sinn Féin MEP for the Six Counties as part of an all-Ireland team.

Mr. Adams said:

"Last May I predicted that the story of the General Election in the 26 Counties would be the rise of Sinn Féin. Next year, I believe the story of the European elections will again be Sinn Féin as we secure our first ever representation in the European Parliament. And it is here in the Six Counties and in our capital city Dublin that we will start the journey.

"Work on this campaign didn't start today or yesterday but with the last European election when Mitchel McLaughlin received almost 120,000 votes. Our success in the Westminster elections two years later, when we became the largest nationalist party in the Six Counties, combined with the overall increase in nationalist voting strength means that Sinn Féin has the potential to take a seat in Europe in 2004. It means there is a real chance that two nationalist MEPs will be returned."ENDS

Note to editor: Marylou McDonald was selected as the candidate for the Dublin constituency last March. The selection convention for Munster will take place on Saturday afternoon in Limerick City. Contesting the convention are Cork City Councillor Jonathan O'Brien, David Cullinane from Waterford and Nancy Irwin from Limerick.

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