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Speaking at the launch of the new Sinn Féin Education Policy, entitled 'Educate that you may be free' former Education Minster Martin McGuinness MP said:

"This document links our vision for Education to a practical approach for the transformation of our society.

"Sinn Féin believe that a progressive and radical education system is fundamental to the creation of an Ireland of Equals, to stronger communities and a society that can truly embrace our diversity."

"Education is the key to Equality; Equality of opportunity, access and provision are basic entitlements. The ability for learners to achieve their full potential is a fundamental right. Tackling disadvantage is an essential responsibility of government."

The new policy document comprehensively covers key areas including:

  • Early Years
  • Primary Level
  • The 11+
  • Post Primary Level
  • Third Level/Further and Higher Education
  • Adult and Community Education
  • Adult illiteracy & Second Chance initiatives
  • Youth Provision
  • Irish Language and Irish medium Education
  • Curriculum
  • Special Education Needs
  • Tackling Disadvantage
  • Teachers
  • Systemic and Organisational Issues

Underpinning policy initiatives across all these areas is a commitment to an education system that will liberate the potential of all, address and redress educational and generational disadvantage, deploy resources to promote access, effect meaningful partnership, put learners and teachers at the heart of neighbourhood networks of learning, promote achievement through quality of delivery and resources rather than narrow measurements of performance and intervene at the earliest possible stage to include people and groups hitherto excluded, disempowered or alienated.

An important new concept in Sinn Féin's education policy is that of Learning Neighbourhoods - a meaningful and effective partnership between all local education providers - including formal and informal settings, schools, libraries, youth clubs, local employers and community groups - and the community to develop 'learning neighbourhoods' that deliver education and support across a range of areas including both accredited and non accredited courses that meet the many and varied needs of the community.ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for Kerry North and spokesperson on Sport Martin Ferris described the decision of Kilmacud Crokes GFC to facilitate this evening's match between members of the Oireachtas and the PSNI as "regrettable and shortsighted". "This match sends all the wrong signals and reinforces the lie that the PSNI was the new beginning to policing we had all been promised under the Good Friday Agreement."

Deputy Ferris was speaking in advance of a protest being staged by members of Dublin Sinn Féin at the Clubs ground in Stillorgan. Mr. Ferris said it was his intention to join this evening's protest.

The Kerry North TD said: "I understand that very many members of Kilmacud Crokes were unaware that the PSNI were to play a match there this evening. I also understand there is a feeling amongst some at the Club that they were duped in to allowing the match to take place, believing that it only involved members of the Oireachtas. And while it is unfair to expect any GAA Club to adjudicate over what is a political problem I believe it is a regrettable and shortsighted decision that should be reversed even at this stage.

"This match sends all the wrong signals and reinforces the lie that the PSNI is the new beginning to policing we had all been promised under the Good Friday Agreement. The simple fact of the matter is that the PSNI is not the new beginning to policing promised. We still don't have the accountability and democratic control over the PSNI to ensure that it is a police service to which nationalists can give their allegiance. We still have in place the Special Branch, which was responsible for controlling and directing unionist death squads as they went about their business of murdering nationalists unhindered.

"Sinn Féin wants a policing service for all the people of the Six Counties. The Patten proposals were the blueprint for that service. Patten itself was a compromise - it represented the very minimum required to get a truly representative and accountable policing service. No amount of spin or PR exercises can change that fact.

"Jimmy Deenihan and the other members of the Oireachtas who plan to take part in this game need to reflect long and hard on the damage they are doing, to getting the full implementation of Patten, by engaging in this sham." ENDS

itself was a compromise - it represented the very minimum required to get a truly representative and accountable policing service. No amount of spin or PR exercises can change that fact.

"Jimmy Deenihan and the other members of the Oireachtas who plan to take part in this game need to reflect long and hard on the damage they are doing, to getting the full implementation of Patten, by engaging in this sham." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Gerry McHugh has expressed concern at the sale of horses at Necane, Irvinstown.

Mr McHugh said:

The Assembly Public Accounts Committee raised some very serious concerns especially the management, and roles of senior DARD staff, together with the conflict of interest some had in this project. We share all of these concerns and feel that those people were never properly held to account by DARD.

"However the decision now to sell these horses may be a flawed one.

"There is an opportunity here to develop an all Ireland horse board association, which can build a thriving industry. This would allow both classification standards to be reconciled and the development of the very ethos of PEACE funding by enhancing cross border co-operation in what is a very successful industry in the South.

"The horse needs to be classified as an agricultural animal in the North and the industry needs support.

"DARD has constantly preached to the farming and rural community of diversification, now when we have the potential to develop a world class industry, DARD has decided to sell off the future of the sport horse industry.

"Many would question whether this decision about putting to bed and embarrassment to senior DARD staff? Instead we need to be using imagination to grow a world class Irish Sport Horse industry.

"If DARD was serious about the future of the Horse industry as was set out in the Vision action plan why have they ignored the 300 + members of the Irish Sport Horse Development Association? Why have DARD never sought to bring people together on an All Ireland basis?

"There is also the important question of what will happen to the proceeds of the sale of these horses. Will the revenue generated go back to the original funders or will it be used to develop the original concept of supporting the development of a world class Irish Sport Horse industry." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD has called on Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh to reject any compromise on the proposed reform of the CAP that is based on partial decoupling. Deputy Ferris was speaking on the eve of Tuesday's crucial talks on the proposals that have been made by EU Agriculture Commissioner, Franz Fischler.

Deputy Ferris said;

"We have been arguing for months that partial decoupling represents the very worst case scenario facing Irish farmers in the context of any reform of the CAP. Irish farmers are now almost unanimous in sharing Sinn Féin's view on this issue and yet the Irish Government appears to be willing to accept a Franco-German compromise based on some form of decoupling.

"It is our belief that this is not the best option available. We would therefore call on the Minister and his team to reject partial decoupling and argue for the type of reform that will benefit the majority of Irish farmers and which has been indicated by studies carried out on behalf of the Department and by other researchers around the main components of the Fishcler proposals".ENDS

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Speaking tonight following the meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council, South Belfast Sinn Féin Representative Cllr. Alex Maskey said:

"There is little basis for optimism in tonight's meeting. The fact is that David Trimble is an increasingly reluctant participant in the peace process. He moved publicly and decisively onto anti-Agreement positions at the last UUC meeting on September 20th. His platform for tonight's meeting was to consolidate that. Tonight's meeting was not about whether to reject the Joint Declaration, it was about when to reject it.

"The outcome is a symptom of unionism's inability to deal with change. Unionism and the UUP in particular are not willing to accept the changes which should and must flow from the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

" The onus remains on the two governments and particularly the British government to implement the many outstanding aspects of the Agreement. This is the only way forward.

"The British government and the political leadership of unionism must realise that nationalists will not accept second class citizenship and that the Agreement is not going to be renegotiated. Unionism should engage with Sinn Féin and the other parties in managing change, instead of continually attempting to subvert and disrupt that process." ENDS

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Sinn Féin representative for Foyle, Mitchel McLaughlin commenting on the discovery of an abandoned bomb in Derry at the weekend said:

"The people who abandoned this bomb are opposed to the peace process and opposed to the Good Friday Agreement. They have little or no support and operate without either a mandate or indeed a strategy to achieve political change.

"It is incumbent on all of us in political leadership to make it clear that politics can work and that politics can deliver change."ENDS

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Speaking in Belfast this morning in advance of tonight's meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council, Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP said:

"Whatever the result of the Ulster Unionist Council meeting tonight, unionism has to come to terms with the reality that there will be no renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. The Good Friday Agreement is about is about is peoples basic rights and entitlements - about human rights and equality. These rights are non negotiable. They cannot be subject to a unionist veto.

"We are in this predicament because of the British government's pandering to unionism. The British government bears the greatest responsibility in this situation to ensure the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

"Unionist political leaders have to realise that the days of second class citizenship are over. Regrettably tonight's meeting is not about building a future based on partnership and inclusivity it is about the tactics to be employed by unionists to prevent change."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Press Office

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Tel: (353 1) 618 4276

Email: [email protected]

From: Michael [email protected] on 13/06/2003 05.00 p.m.

To: [email protected]

cc: [email protected]

Subject: TD travels to Colombia for last part of defence case

Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Seán Crowe is today travelling to Colombia for the last part of the defence case in the trial of the three Irishmen being held there. He will be in Colombia for a week.

Before his departure Deputy Crowe said he was "convinced that the defence case to date had absolutely demolished the prosecution and had clearly shown that the men should never have been on trial in the first place.

"I am more optimistic now than at any time in the past about the prospects of the men winning this case," he said.

Cautioning against over optimism however, he said: "I would still be concerned that these men could still be the victims of a gross miscarriage of justice. The fact that the prosecution has fought this case all the way on a tissue of lies and misinformation does not bode well. As I reported after coming back from Colombia the last time, there are still very many prejudicial statements against these men being made by senior establishment figures. This has been confirmed by the former Attorney General Alfonso Gomez who suggested that it was a worrying development and said these statements 'could have a significant affect on the trial.'"

Deputy Crowe finished by saying that he "will be bringing over to the men the best wishes of thousands of people across the island who are hoping that the nightmare currently being endured by the Colombia Three and their families will be ended soon." ENDS

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Commenting on the latest Consumer Price Index figures, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance and on Health, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, said the Government must tackle inflation in health service costs. He said:

"The Consumer Price Index shows that health costs rose by nearly 8% in the past year with the increase in the cost of medical products and higher fees for medical practitioners. This is another element in the health crisis. People on incomes which fall just above the limit for Medical Card qualification are unable to afford visits to doctors and dentists or to buy the medicines they require.

"Government action is needed urgently to reduce the cost of drugs in particular. Pharmaceutical companies are profiting massively while people in need are denied the drugs they need. There needs to be government control of prices and the Minister for Health and Children must take initiatives to promote the use of generic drugs in the health services. Generic drugs cost approximately 30% less than proprietary drugs and there is a potential for a significant saving in costs." ENDS

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Responding to Enda Kenny's comments about Sinn Féin's opposition to the upcoming Gaelic football match between members of the Oireachtas and the PSNI Sinn Féin spokesperson on Sport Martin Ferris TD said:

"Enda Kenny's outburst at Sinn Féin's decision to oppose the upcoming football match between the PSNI and members of the Oireachtas I believe reflects the embarrassment and unease that Jimmy Deenihans premature actions in arranging the game have caused his Party at a national and local level.

"As the largest party in the Six Counties representing nationalists and republicans I believe Sinn Féin is in better position than most to understand and to appreciate nationalists ongoing concerns about the PSNI. It is because we have taken our responsibilities seriously that we are not now about to settle for something that falls far short of what was required in relation to achieving a fully representative and accountable policing service, as envisaged in Patten.

"Sinn Féin is determined to ensure and we know that our position will be instrumental in bringing about the conditions which will lead to the creation of an inclusive and representative policing service. Unfortunately the SDLP jumped too soon, as they did in Weston Park. They have settled for less than the nationalist people are entitled to. It would appear that Fine Gael and Enda Kenny are also prepared to settle for less than what is a fundamental right.

"The proposed match is nothing more than a grotesque public relations sham which seeks to legitimise a police force that remains unreformed and still contains the human rights abusers and their bosses who colluded with and directed loyalist death squads to murder the likes of Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson. While others may be prepared to settle for a second rate police service Sinn Féin will not." ENDS

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Commenting on the move by British Direct Rule Minister Des Browne from the NI0, Newry & Armagh Sinn Fein Representative Conor Murphy said:

" The removal of Des Browne from the NI0 and the series of portfolios he carries will inevitably cause disjoint and confusion. The face that Direct Rule Ministers can be moved around at the whim of Tony Blair is one of the reasons that the entire Direct Rule Administration must be removed.

" This action serves as a timely reminder of the flaws of Direct Rule and the need to see the re-establishment of the political institutions. Decisions taken in London by Direct Rule Ministers or their superiors in the Cabinet are taken with British interests in mind. They are not taken with the interests of local people as a priority. You only have to look at the situation around Water Charges to see that." ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil this morning before Order of Business Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin called for the urgent discussion of the "crisis level of bed closures in our public hospitals".

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"There were over 500 beds closed throughout the State this year. Particular attention needs to be paid to the situation at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin where facilities have been described by a senior member of the medical team as 'of east European standards or less'.

"Children with vulnerable immune systems do not have the necessary separate rooms to avoid infection, communal toilets have been described as unhygenic and up to six children per week in need of chemotherapy are being turned away because of bed shortages."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Representative for North Belfast Gerry Kelly has described the decision of the Appeal Court this morning as 'a clear vindication of the McBride family's position'.

Mr. Kelly said:

"Wright and Fisher were convicted of the murder of Peter McBride. They served short sentences before being immediately reinstated into the British Army. The McBride family have consistently refused to accept this decision and have campaigned in a dignified manner ever since. Sinn Féin has supported the McBride family throughout their long battle for justice.

"The Appeal Court today vindicated the McBride family's position. They have ruled that these two killers should not have been reinstated into their regiment and rearmed. The decision to reinstate Wright and Fisher was not an isolated one. It has been British Army policy to protect those involved in killing Irish citizens and reinstate the small number of its members convicted of murder in the six counties after they served short periods in jail.

"These sorts of cases are indicative of British military policy in Ireland. In the main the Crown Forces have been allowed to operate with virtual immunity. The clearest demonstration of this is the activities of FRU. Sinn Fein will continue to support the family's campaign for justice. I have written to Tony Blair today to demand that he now act to remove these two soldiers and other convicted killers from the British Army. I have also written to Bertie Ahern on the same subject" ENDS

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Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle member Bairbre de Brún has welcomed the news that the Irish government is to restore funding to Foras na Gaeilge, the All Ireland Irish language body established under the Good Friday Agreement.

Bairbre de Brún said:

"From the moment that cuts were made to the funding to the of Foras na Gaeilge, Sinn Féin has fought to have the funding restored. We have raised the issue at every possible opportunity, and pressed for restoration of the Foras funding during the recent talks process.

"We welcome this news and congratulate all those Irish language organisations who have campaigned for this over recent months. This is a matter of basic rights for Irish speakers." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Sport, Martin Ferris TD has called upon the Government to ensure that the Palestinian Special Olympics team is allowed travel to Ireland. A question mark has been raised over the team's participation because of the ongoing blockade of the West Bank by the Israeli Army.

Deputy Ferris said:

"It is essential that the Irish Government ensures that the full Palestinian delegation is permitted to leave the West Bank. There can be no excuse for any Government refusing to allow its citizens or citizens of another state to take part in a sporting event. Years of preparation have gone into preparing Athletes for the Olympics and no spurious short term reasons ought to be accepted for refusing to allow them to participate". ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has welcomed the announcement by the White House that Richard Haass, who is leaving his State Department Post, has been appointed as President Bush's special envoy on the north.

Mr. Adams said:

"This decision is clear evidence of the US Administration's commitment to the peace process. It also ensures a continuity of experience and policy in the Bush administration."

The Sinn Féin President also welcomed the Administration's support for the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

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Following the passage of the European Convention on Human Rights Bill, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality, and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD expressed his growing consternation over the Minister for Justice's self-declared war on a rights-based society, and particularly his minimalist approach to the Government's implementation of the equality and human rights aspects of the Good Friday Agreement. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Today, with great reluctance, and unanimously with all the other opposition parties, the Sinn Féin deputies voted against the European Convention on Human Rights Bill tabled by this Government. We did so following vigorous and unified opposition attempts to remedy the Bill's major deficiencies, about which there was consensus not only among the opposition parties but also within the human rights sector in this state. Ultimately, we used our vote to underline our belief that the Government's approach was unnecessarily minimalist and seriously flawed. We also used it to draw a line in the sand with this Minister for Justice in his self-declared war on a rights-based society.

"Make no mistake. Sinn Féin want the European Convention on Human Rights properly incorporated into law, and we fought for it to be included among the Good Friday Agreement provisions. But we cannot abide the minimising of the Agreement's equality and human rights provisions by any party - no matter whether it is the Unionists, the British Government or this state.

"The Government's flawed ECHR Bill is just a single instance of an emerging pattern of denial and erosion of the principles of human and equality rights in this state ? in particular since this Justice Minister took office. The reality is that this Government is systematically undermining the rights-based approach to politics that was enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement and endorsed by the vast majority of people on this island.

"In insisting on passing a minimalist Bill the Dublin Government has substantively failed to live up to their own commitments under the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has said the release of today's election expenditure figures provided further evidence that this current Government scammed their election victory through a combination of massive over spending and a manifesto built on lies and deceit. He said it was a gross abuse of the political system that needed radical reform.

"Today's figures confirm what most of us witnessed during the last election campaign. It was clear to every man, woman and child in this State that ministers of the last Government, many of whom are ministers in this Government, were spending outrageous amounts of money to buy their re-election.

"That Ministers could have unwittingly spent tens of thousands of euro in excess of the permitted amount is scarcely believable but unfortunately fits a pattern that has become all too common with this arrogant and selfish Government. We should remember that these figures only cover the actual three-week period of the election campaign itself. They do not take into account the massive advertisement campaign the Government engaged in before the campaign was called. It does not take in to account the massive and cynical 20% increase in public spending that occurred in the run up to the election ? only to be cut as soon as victory was secured.

"Today's report provides further evidence that this current Government scammed their election victory through a combination of massive over spending coupled with a manifesto built on lies and deceit. This is a gross abuse of the political system and immediate action must be taken to bring about radical reform that will allow for a level playing field for all those contesting elections in the future." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD stated his support for the protest outside the Dáil today by groups representing people with disabilities. He said:

"It is disgraceful that yet again people with disabilities have to demonstrate outside Leinster House because of the failure of this Government to keep their promises. The Programme for Government promised to 'complete the programme of expansion of appropriate care places for people with disabilities'. Instead funding for people with intellectual disabilities has been cut, existing care places cannot be maintained and the promised Disability Bill has not been published. On the eve of the Special Olympics this is a shameful record for the Government in the face of the international community." ENDS

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Speaking in advance of David Trimble's meeting with British Defence Minister Geoff Hoon in London today, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing and Justice Gerry Kelly said:

"Sinn Féin's position has been both clear and consistent. We want the removal from the six counties of all British forces - including the RIR.

"The RIR are first and foremost a unionist militia. Conflict resolution inevitable involves the removal of the RIR. Many nationalists, victims of the UDR and RIR, will want to know why Mr. Trimble is in London today demanding the retention of this force.

"Sinn Féin will oppose any moves by the British government to dilute the Joint Declaration as part of a further exercise in pandering to negative and rejectionist unionism."ENDS

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