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


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Sinn Féin have appointed Councillor Daithí Doolan as Dublin Spokesperson on the Environment and Spokesperson on Economic Development, Planning & EU Affairs.

Cllr. Doolan said:

"I am delighted to be appointed Spokesperson on these important issues. It indicates the major political development and growth taking place for Sinn Féin here in Dublin.

"Dublin faces many challenges, none more important that the current waste management crisis, the creation of sustainable communities in the capital and the pending referendum on the EU Constitution. I aim to bring forward innovative ideas and solutions to address these serious issues. Waste management needs to be addressed at source, I will continue to campaign for the implementation of Zero Waste through the reduction, reusing and recycling of waste. The pro incinerator position of the government must be challenged and exposed. No amount of bullying or spin will cover up this fundamentally flawed plan.

"Economic development can not be allowed to be simply reduced to a money and numbers game, many of our communities continue to suffer from social exclusion despite the fact that Dublin is a European capital of inward investment. This investment and ongoing economic growth must be used to to create a more inclusive city and must be used to resource anti poverty measures. Homelessness is rife and the housing crisis continues to deepen yet developers continue to enjoy ever growing profits. This only further divides our society and it must be challenged, we must begin to meet the needs of people and their environment in a constructive and strategic way."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan said, "the current government has continued to ignore the needs of people and reinforce the two tier society many experience in health care, housing and education. I look forward to working with other parties, individuals and communities to challenge and change this reality." ENDS

Councillor Daithí Doolan is currently chairperson of the Dublin City Council Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) on Economic Development, Planning & European Affairs and a member of the Environment & Engineering (SPC).

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Speaking in Belfast this morning Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness has said now is not the time for the governments to throw in the towel on the talks and set to one side all that has been achieved in recent months.

Mr. McGuinness said:

"Sinn Féin's priority for the last fifteen years has been to secure a peace process, transform politics on the island and advance the argument for Irish unity. We have invested huge time and resources in the peace process, as have others, and we will not allow unsubstantiated allegations to deflect us in our work.

"It is disappointing that people are prepared to accept the word of Hugh Orde despite the fact he has not produced one iota of evidence to suggest that republicans were behind this robbery. His political intervention was as a result of intelligence reports from faceless securocrats who have a less than honourable record in this country.

"The people on whose word these unsubstantiated allegations are being made are the same people who for years colluded with loyalist squads in their own interests, who forced an orange march down the Garvaghy Road, who eroded essential parts of the Good Friday Agreement and who today are still refusing to co-operate with inquiries such as that into the Dublin Monaghan bombings. Maybe it is the actions and integrity of these people that should be subjected to scrutiny.

"For almost a decade we have worked closely with Bertie Ahern, as leader of Fianna Fáil and as Taoiseach. We have done so with honesty and in a straightforward manner, at all times, including when things were difficult. I reject outright accusations of double-dealing and dishonesty and stand on our record.

"Sinn Féin is a major player in the peace process because over 340,000 people voted for us. We will not allow our mandate to be set-aside on anyone's behalf. Now is not the time for the governments to throw in the towel on the talks and set to one side all that has been achieved in recent months. I am not dismissing the difficulties that this robbery has caused because even before this incident there were difficulties created by the DUP's refusal to share power with Sinn Fein. Instead of responding to an agenda being set by those who oppose the peace process and who use every opportunity to undermine it, political leaders need to examine the facts, defend the Agreement and move on." ENDS

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Sinn Fein Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has reacted angrily to claims by the Taoiseach that the Sinn Féin leadership knew of plans to rob the Northern Bank in Belfast.

Mr. McLaughlin said:

"This is a direct attack on the integrity of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. Many nationalists and republicans will be deeply disappointed that the Taoiseach has chosen to believe the British and to jump onto the DUP bandwagon of blame.

That the Taoiseach should do this, after years of working closely with this Party's leadership in the peace process, is a grave blow and will be an encouragement to all those, particularly in the DUP, who have consistently sought to attack and undermine the efforts for peace.

"The Sinn Féin commitment to the peace process, and our willingness to face up to the challenges it presents, have been the dynamic sustaining the process and moving it forward, often through very difficult times.

"Sinn Féin will not be deflected from this, but the task is made more difficult when the governments attack our leadership in this way." ENDS

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Speaking at the unveiling of a Memorial to Volunteer John Francis Green in Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, said it was a disgrace that the Irish Government and most of the media had accepted without question the opinion of Hugh Orde on the Belfast bank robbery. He said Orde "has produced not a scintilla of evidence to back his allegations". Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"I believe there is a securocrat agenda at work. It is a disgrace that the Irish Government and most of the media have accepted without question the opinion of Hugh Orde, who has produced not a scintilla of evidence to back his allegations.

"Sinn Féin negotiator Martin McGuinness has stated that he was told by the IRA that it was not involved. I accept that assurance from a republican whose record in advancing the peace process is second to none. And I ask the Irish government and those sections of the media 'Why do you take without question the word of an appointee of the British government who represents no-one in this country while dismissing summarily that of an elected representative of the Irish people?' I think the Irish people will judge them by their answer.

Peace Process

On the wider peace process, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"It is clear now that the DUP were unwilling to share power with republicans at this time. I urge republicans to examine the detail of what our negotiators achieved which was substantial. The deal as negotiated would have implemented and reinforced the Good Friday Agreement. I believe that is why British securocrats have been continuously active in undermining that Agreement. They care little for real peace and see only the need to prevent Sinn Féin from entering an Executive in the Six Counties and the inevitable dismantling of the British war machine in Ireland."

Collusion and the killing of John Francis Green

Deputy Ó Caoláin pointed out that John Francis Green was killed 30 years ago on 10 January 1975 by a British death squad that entered County Monaghan. He said:

"Successive Governments in this State turned a blind eye to collusion - the use by British state forces of loyalist paramilitaries to terrorise the nationalist population. The Cosgrave coalition had allowed the investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings to be wound up prematurely a few months before John Green's death. We know from the Cabinet papers that they were informed of the deployment of the SAS in the North. The British knew that they could act with virtual impunity along the border and into this State.

"And so agents of the British state came into County Monaghan and shot dead the young republican we are commemorating today. He was one of at least 47 people who were killed in the 26 Counties since 1972, either directly by British forces or by their unionist paramilitary agents. All of their families deserve to know the truth. Many hundreds of republicans have served thousands of years of imprisonment. Yet British soldiers and RUC members have never been held accountable and their senior officers and the politicians who directed them have never had to account for their stewardship of Britain's dirty war in Ireland.

"The family of John and of all the victims deserve the truth. The British government refused to co-operate in any meaningful way with the inquiries of Judge Henry Barron which included an examination of the circumstances surrounding the death of John Francis Green. That is not acceptable and the Irish Government must take the British to task and make them answerable to international opinion so that their true role in collusion can be made known at last."ENDS

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DUBLIN WEST SINN FÉIN Councillor Felix Gallagher has welcomed the news that a submission has been forwarded to the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government seeking the capital funding required for the Women's Refuge in Blanchardstown to proceed.

Cllr Gallagher said "There has been some concern that the Council were not fully committed to this project, but following a meeting between the refuge committee and council officials the application for capital funding has now been endorsed by the Council and forwarded to the Department. The refuge committee have been working on this project for a number of years and unfortunately there is a desperate need for this service, so any delay would have had serious consequences."

The proposed Women's Refuge is to be located next to the Blanchardstown Garda Station and will provide eight emergency residential units with a broad range of support services.

Cllr Gallagher said "Unfortunately physical and mental violence against women is far too common. I am therefore pleased that this project has received cross-party support." ENDS.

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Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin speaking during a meeting of the party‚s Ard Chomhairle in Dublin this morning described as 'disgraceful' attempts to criminalise republicans on the basis of politically motivated accusations from NIO securocrats. He said the politics of exclusion, which had failed for 30 years, would not be tolerated.

Mr. McLaughlin said:

"There is no doubt that the process has been in difficulty since December, when the DUP refused to sign up for power sharing government and this situation has been worsened as a result of Hugh Orde‚s politically motivated accusations yesterday. There is also no doubt that there are those within the NIO who are seeking to exploit this difficulty to bring about the exclusion of Sinn Fein and ensure that the comprehensive deal will not be achieved.

I believe that we need to look at the facts. The IRA has made clear that it did not carry out this robbery. Hugh Orde went to the media yesterday, not on the basis of facts or evidence, but on the basis of reports from securocrats who have been working to undermine the peace process for years now. The objective of all of this is to subvert efforts to build on what has been achieved and to halt the process of change.

The Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle has been discussing all of these matters this morning and there is deep anger at attempts to criminalise republicans and to set aside the rights of those who support our party.

"Sinn Fein's priority is to advance the peace process and to defend the rights of those who vote for us. We remain in contact with both governments and remain determined to continue to advance the agenda for change. The governments know how much was achieved before Christmas and that the priority must be to get the comprehensive deal across the line."

The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle also passed a motion extending condolences to the people of Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Indonesia and to the families of all those who lost their lives and were injured in the catastrophic tsunami that struck Asia on St. Stephens Day."ENDS

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Sinn Féin 32 Counties Financial statements for the year ending 31 December 2003.

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has this afternoon warned that "there could well be a full frontal assault on the Sinn Féin political project and on the integrity of our mandate."

Mr. Adams said that the party "will give careful consideration as to how it responds to this as the situation develops in the time ahead.

"This is a not a time to kneejerk against some of the more outlandish claims being made, particularly by representatives of the two governments.

"At the same time no one could expect Sinn Féin to desist from our efforts to advance the agenda for change and particularly the equality agenda. We will continue to relentlessly pursue these and to seek to advance the peace process." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Equality, Human Rights and Women, South Down MLA Catríona Ruane has issued a challenge to Ulster Unionists Dermott Nesbitt and Esmond Birnie to publicly debate the Equality Agenda and also said that it is the dishonest claims by a number of unionists that Catholics do not face discrimination but that protestants are being discriminated against that is 'causing grievances and increasing tensions' between the two communities.

Ms Ruane said:

"Unionists such as Dermott Nesbitt or Jim Allister are being duplicitous in advancing claims that Catholics do not face discrimination and that Protestants face discrimination. However, what is most serious about these claims is that they are actually 'causing grievances and increasing tensions' between the two communities.

"The attempt to rewrite the history of this state and to misrepresent the current reality both feeds into the siege mentality of unionism and undermines the ability of the equality agenda to affect real change that can and should benefit everyone in our society that lives with disadvantage.

"Historic and current patterns of policy and public expenditure show discrimination against the West of the Bann area, the border region and Catholic rural and urban communities. All objective data on disadvantage, poverty and particularly patterns of unemployment, housing and ill health show that the Catholic population is not served well as Dermott Nesbitt claims. I accept that many Protestants also live with disadvantage and poverty but the facts overwhelmingly show that the Catholic community are disproportionately at risk.

"The denial of discrimination within societies that have suffered systematic policies of discrimination is nothing new. In South Africa Afrikaanas claimed that discrimination did not exists just as those who resisted the civil rights movement in America denied that discrimination was systematic.

"However what unionists do in trying to deny the reality of discrimination is make it much more difficult to target poverty and disadvantage objectively on the basis of need and need alone. It is an attempt to reinforce current patterns of discrimination." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún will travel to Cork later today to take part in the celebrations marking the launch of the city‚s celebration as the European Capital of Culture for 2005. Ms de Brún has congratulated all those involved in the tremendous achievement of winning Capital of Culture status for Cork for the year ahead.

As part of the events to mark the coming year, Ms de Brún will participate in the launch of 'The Lagan to the Lee' programme, organised jointly by Cork and Belfast City Councils.

Speaking before her departure Ms de Brún said that 'this should be a celebration not just for the people of Cork, but also for Irish people as a whole. We should use this year to reflect, and be proactive in ensuring respect for cultural diversity'.

Speaking today Ms de Brún said:

"I am pleased to have been invited to Cork, as the city begins to celebrate its status as the European Capital of Culture for 2005. This is a tremendous achievement and I congratulate all those involved in winning Capital of Culture status for Cork for the year ahead. Cork has long been recognised throughout Ireland as a city of vibrant cultural activity. Now that recognition will be even more widespread than before. I wish the people of Cork well in the year ahead. They will make excellent ambassadors for Ireland on both the European and world stages."

Speaking about "The Lagan to the Lee" programme, Ms de Brún said:

"I am delighted that Belfast City Council will be playing such a prominent part in Cork‚s Capital of Culture launch and that Cork City Council will come to Belfast as part of our 2006 celebrations. The events that have been organised jointly by Cork and Belfast City Councils will serve to further strengthen the bond between our two cities.

"The Lagan to the Lee programme of events represents the celebration of the cultural partnerships between our two cities and I am very much looking forward to attending these events. We can use this year to reflect, and be proactive in ensuring respect for cultural diversity, ensuring also the inclusion of ethnic minority communities in the year‚s events, and in society as a whole."ENDS

Note to editor:

Among the events Ms de Brún will attend at Cork City Hall are:

  • Launch of "The Lagan to the Lee" a collaborative programme of cultural activities between Belfast and Cork's City Councils
  • Official Opening Ceremony of the European Capital of Culture 2005
  • Civic Reception in honour of President Mary McAleese Uachtarán na hÉireann

Belfast City will be celebrating a year of culture in 2006

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Sinn Fein deputy Sean Crowe called on Enterprise, Trade and Employment minister Micheal Martin to act quickly and introduce a pro-active response to th announcement of 200 job losses at APW Enclosures.

Deputy Crowe said, "The APW shutdown is the latest in a series of company closures in this constituency such as Packard, Gallaghers, and Sujitsu. It is clear now that a lot of older traditional small industrial and manufacturing facilities are not viable in the long term under current international economic conditions where parent companies are seeking lower cost manufacturing bases.

"We need to replace these jobs with good quality, well paid alternatives. This involves being able to provide tailor made responses where the workers based in the old economy are retrained and skilled to be able to work in newer enterprises.

"Irish workers are continually being told they have to be more flexible, competitive and productive and they have consistently shown themselves willing to meet these challenges head on. However the policy responses from the previous minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment showed none of the needed innovation and flexibility demanded of and delivered by Irish workers.

"New business start up in the 26 Counties are growing and we need a minister who is willing to help new businesses come to Tallaght and able to foster new Irish start ups also, while ensuring workers have the skills needed to work in the newer sectors whether it is in information and communications, computers, pharmaceuticals, financial or customer services.

"The APW job losses will kick in June, the clock is ticking now to see what positive initiative the new minister can implement in consultation with workers and the development agencies before the summer." ENDS

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Responding to politically biased allegations made today by the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde linking the IRA to the recent robbery in the Northern Bank in Belfast, Sinn Féin Chief negotiator Martin McGuinness MP said:

"Hugh Orde's comments today are nothing more than politically biased allegations. He has not produced one scrap of evidence. Within days of the robbery at the Northern Bank, and following media speculation and PSNI briefings, which suggested IRA involvement, I asked the IRA about this and was assured that they were not involved.

" We are witnessing a renewed attempt to undermine the peace process. We need to think long and hard about who is setting this agenda and why? This is more to do with halting the process of change which Sinn Fein has been driving forward than with anything that happened at the Northern Bank.

"Sinn Féin has a substantial electoral mandate achieved at the ballot box. We will resist any attempt to marginalise, criminalise this party.

"We have told both the British and Irish governments that Sinn Féin will not countenance any attempt by the DUP, or by the governments or by any one else, to demonise this party.

" The campaigns to smash Sinn Féin, to criminalise and marginalise the republican struggle all failed. Sinn Féin represents the majority of nationalists in the north. The securocrats and the DUP need to come to terms with this political reality." ENDS

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Speaking on the Today programme on BBC Radio this morning Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP revealed that in the aftermath of the robbery on the Northern Bank in Belfast he had spoken to the IRA about this and was told that it was not involved.

Speaking in Belfast this morning Mr. McGuinness reiterated his view that "there are clearly elements within the British system and unionism intent on wrecking the peace process and of using the robbery in Belfast as a pretext for this. They must not be allowed to succeed." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has sent his condolences and solidarity to Nelson Mandela after the death of his only surviving son Makgatho earlier today.

Mr Adams said:

"The news of the death of Makgatho Mandela will be greeted with great sadness across the world.

On behalf of Sinn Féin I wish to extend our sympathy and solidarity to Nelson Mandela and his family at this difficult time." ENDS

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Sinn Fein Environment Spokesperson on Dublin City Council, Cllr. Daithi Doolan has said that an, "All Ireland Environmental Protection Agency with real powers is the only viable alternative to the appalling waste management policies, north and south which are destroying the environment."

Cllr. Doolan said:

"Reports stretching back over more than 14 years on both sides of the border, including the recent Waste Management Advisory Boards' highly damming report into the British DoE's environmental protection and waste management record demand real solutions. Sinn Féin believes that an All Ireland Environmental Protection Agency with real powers is the only viable alternative to the appalling waste management policies, north and south which are destroying the environment.

"Such an agency should have strong enforcement powers and a strong commitment to ensuring that the polluter is held responsible for their actions and meets treatment costs.

"We need radical solutions to a problem that will not go away. We need to put the emphasis on prevention rather than cure.

"Raising awareness through advertising campaigns is an important tool in reducing waste but it is costly and has only led to minor changes in attitudes to waste. Concerted action is required. This should include legislation that promotes change and challenges the attitudes of businesses and consumers alike.

"There is a crisis in waste treatment capacity. It makes no sense to look at the problems of waste management or illegal dumping in a segregated way. We need an All Ireland waste management strategy driven by an Implementation Body with tough enforcement powers to move us away from landfill and incineration and towards a policy of Reduce, Re-use and Recycle towards Zero Waste.

"In particular with EU Environmental directives there is an onus on us to act faster and to invest more in meeting tough new guidelines. Failure to comply with these EU directives will potentially cost us millions and this will hit local councils, who have not seen the support or resources they need, particularly hard."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan called on Minister for the Environment Dick Roche, "to immediately set about initiating this process." ENDS

For further comment telephone Cllr. Daithi Doolan 086-8534666

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Commenting on the New Year message today released by the IRA, Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly said that the statement once again outlined the hugely significant contribution which the IRA was prepared to make and the anger felt at the rejection of this contribution.

Mr Kelly said:

"The IRA had already outlined publicly the massive contribution which it was prepared to make to see a comprehensive agreement achieved. The significance of this contribution should not be underestimated and its rejection has caused obvious anger and frustration.

"The two governments in particular need to understand this anger and frustration and move speedily in the time ahead to try and build upon the progress which we have made. The IRA have made it very clear that demands for humiliation are unachievable.

" We do still have an opportunity to move forward. However if it becomes clear that the DUP are going to continue with their opposition to equality and power sharing then the two governments cannot allow this to paralyse the process of change." ENDS

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West Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Michael Ferguson has branded the ongoing PSNI operation against the republican and nationalist community in North and West Belfast as 'political in motivation and violent in nature'.

Mr Ferguson said:

"Since Christmas Eve the PSNI have been involved in an ongoing operation against the nationalist and republican community in North and West Belfast. The guise for this campaign has been their investigation into the robbery at the Northern Bank.

"It has involved raids on scores of businesses and homes in the majority of cases without any form of warrant. Health Board and Education Board offices have been raided along with a children's play group.

"Unsurprisingly nobody has been arrested and nothing linking any of these raids to any robbery has been uncovered. This campaign is not about solving a robbery. It is about pointing the finger at republicans and it is about trying to frustrate efforts to see a comprehensive political deal agreed. This operation is clearly political in motivation and violent in nature and is causing widespread anger within the broad nationalist and republican community." ENDS.

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy who heads the party's anti-water charges campaign has said that direct rule minister John Speller has come clean on the financial threats he is using to push forward his plans to impose water charges and that rather than issue such threats he should be fighting to secure the required level of funding needed to address decades of under funding.

Mr Molloy said:

"John Speller is dishonest when he makes comparisons between rates bills here and local revenue raised through council tax and water charges in Britain. Not only are there plans to introduce inflation busting rates increases that will significantly increase the local tax burden there is also clearly no comparison between the services provided at local government level here and in Britain.

"Rather than issue financial threats that somewhere in the region of £600 million will be lost if people refuse to accept his water tax plans, Mr Speller should be explaining why direct rule ministers and the British government have refused to secure adequate resources for our public services and to tackle the infrastructure deficit created by successive British administrations.

"From day one John Speller has been dishonest and his sums just do not add up. It is nonsense to argue that taking the decision not to water taxes introduced in 2006 would have such a dire consequence because they would in no way generate the £600 million figure that Mr Speller is threatening people with over the 2006-2009 financial cycle.

"There are many alternatives to the privatisation agenda being pursued by the British Treasury. Sadly John Speller and his cohorts have refused to examine them. We have been paying for our water services through rates which has inbuilt relief systems that are fair and equitable. What is required is significant additional central expenditure similar to that seen in Wales prior to the creation of a not for profit company there.

"The British government has under funded our core public services for decades and has failed to invest in our infrastructure it is wrong of them to now penalise us for their failure." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Fra McCann has criticised the proposed 3.1% increase in Housing Executive rents and called for rent increases to be frozen.

Cllr McCann said:

"This increase is unjustified. Despite the fact that many people in Housing Executive properties receive some level of assistance this increase will hit many of the poorest people in our society, particularly elderly people with small pensions and the working poor.

"To make comparisons with England and Wales is an attempt to provide political cover for this flawed decision. The cost of living here is significantly higher, in terms of the cost of food and essentials such as electricity. There are also significantly higher numbers of people living on the breadline who will struggle with all additional costs.

"With every passing week it is becoming clearer that direct rule ministers care nothing for the people most marginalised in our society and have failed miserably to secure the adequate resources to tackle the problems of poverty and housing." ENDS

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Sinn Fein Regional Development Spokesperson, Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney has called for an all Ireland approach on road safety. The call came as plans were announced by John Speller about how the Department is responding to the metrification of speed limits in the south on January 20th.

Mr McCartney said:

"It is ridiculous that people living in border areas, especially in the North West, have to deal with changing road signs and speed limits several times a day. Not only will this cause confusion amongst motorists, who often inadvertently break some aspect of traffic law in the course of their daily travels as they criss-cross the border, but it is also potentially lethal.

"It is only logical that we should have the same speed limits in all 32 counties and that all road signs use kilometres per hour which is actually a requirement of EU legislation.

"The insistence that there are no plans to introduce the metrication of speed limits here makes no sense. It would make greater sense to listen to people living in border communities who will have to live with the consequences of these differences.

"I would urge the British Government to rethink its position of this issue as a matter of urgency so that a standardised set of traffic laws and regulations are introduced across the entire island." ENDS

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