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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 Spokespersons on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD and Councillor Gerry McHugh, have strongly condemned today's decision by the European Commission to allow the sale of Genetically Modified maize. The maize variety, Bt 11, is manufactured by the Swiss Corporation Syngenta.

Deputy Ferris and Cllr. McHugh said:

"Sinn Féin is strongly opposed to the introduction of GM and has campaigned strongly over the past year to draw attention to the fact that the EU was going to succumb to pressure from the giant multi-nationals and the US against the weight of public opinion in the member states.

"Before Christmas we exposed the fact that the Irish representative had voted in favour of the removal, despite a commitment by Fianna Fáil in their 1997 election manifesto to oppose the introduction of GM. We condemn the decision of the Irish Government to vote for this measure and will be campaigning to ensure that this island remains GM free". ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has described a section of the emergency Immigration Bill 2004 which allows Immigration officers to refuse entry to the State to non-nationals if they suffer from a disability (Section 4(3)(c)) as "a prime example of everything that is wrong with the Government's attempt to ram through the Immigration Bill 2004 without proper debate and examination."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said: "Even a cursory glance at this Bill reveals serious issues regarding the legislation and its implications for human rights. The stopping of non-nationals coming into the State on the basis that they may have a disability is absolutely offensive and totally unacceptable, yet typifies everything this that is wrong with this Government's approach to human and equal rights.

"Meanwhile, the Minister for Justice in his usual arrogant fashion expects all members of this House to meekly rubber-stamp his authoritarian decisions like feckless Government backbenchers without proper debate or discussion. Not only is this a fundamentally undemocratic it makes a mockery of both proceedings in the Dáil and the High Court judgment.

"The recent High Court decision afforded us as legislators a second chance to get this Bill right. The onus is on the Government to make sure that we, the elected representatives of the people of this State, have adequate time to properly examine and debate all aspects of this Bill to ensure that this House and the laws it enacts are not once again brought in to disrepute through the ill-considered and callous nature of the Minister's approach to human rights." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Policing Gerry Kelly has claimed that remarks made by the SDLP member Alex Attwood after he met with the Police Federation vindicate completely the stance taken by Sinn Féin on the issue.

Mr Kelly said:

"Yesterday Alex Attwood met with the Police Federation. After the meeting Mr Attwood claimed that members of the Federation who are members of the PSNI were not committed to the Patten reforms.

"Sinn Féin have consistently said that the old RUC group which moved en masse into the PSNI, especially those within Special Branch, were a block to achieving an acceptable policing service. The SDLP have consistently claimed that such an acceptable policing service had already been achieved.

"Alex Attwood comments yesterday vindicate the Sinn Féin position. He is now accepting that we do not yet have an acceptable policing service and that there are those within the PSNI resisting the creation of one. That is why Sinn Féin stayed out of the current arrangements and instead focused on negotiating with the British government on getting policing structures right." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for West Belfast Fra McCann has accused the PSNI of 'engaging in a campaign of harassment against republicans'. Mr McCann's remarks come after homes in New Barnsley and Ballymurphy were raided this morning and one man was arrested.

Mr McCann said:

"This morning at around 7.45am four homes in the New Barnsley and Ballymurphy area were raided by heavily armed PSNI members. So far one local man has been arrested. These raids are part of a well planned and deliberate campaign of harassment against republicans by the PSNI.

"We are told time and again by the SDLP and others that we have achieved a new beginning to policing. I would challenge anyone to explain the differences between this mornings operation and those carried out in this area by the RUC over many years.

"Sinn Fein will be raising these raids with the British government and I am demanding that the PSNI release the man they have arrested without delay." ENDS

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Speaking at the publication of Sinn Féin's agenda for the paragraph 8 review of the Good Friday Agreement due to start next Tuesday, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP MLA has said that the Review will not be a renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement but it is an opportunity to accelerate the process of change promised in the Agreement.

Mr Adams said:

"The purpose of the Review is to identify how best to deliver the full implementation of the Agreement. This requires a focus on the failure of the British government to deliver on key commitments on policing, demilitarisation, equality and the issue of human rights.

"Sinn Féin will approach this review positively. The other pro-Agreement parties and the two governments must also take a positive and constructive approach. The future of the Good Friday Agreement demands this.

"The Good Friday Agreement committed the participants to the achievement of reconciliation, tolerance and trust and the vindication of the human rights of all. We collectively committed ourselves to partnership, equality and mutual respect.

"To be effective the review must defend and accelerate the process of change promised in the Good Friday Agreement"

Outlining Sinn Féin's Agenda for the Full Implementation of the Agreement, Sinn Féin West Belfast MLA and Six County EU candidate Bairbre de Brún said that the party had focused on four key areas - Stability of the Institutions; Equality and Human Rights; Expansion of All Ireland Commitments; and Demilitarisation, policing and justice.

Ms de Brún added:

"The Review will not be a renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement but it is an opportunity to accelerate the process of change promised in the Agreement. This demands action across a range of areas including the stability of the political institutions; human rights and equality; expansion of the All Ireland commitments; and demilitarisation, policing and justice." ENDS

Agenda for full implementation of the Agreement

  • Stability of the institutions
  • Re-endorsement of the Agreement by all participants.
  • Border Poll - Sinn Féin will be seeking firm commitments on a date for a simultaneous poll on Irish unity, north and south.
  • Suspension legislation - the political institutions must be restored and the NI Act 2000 that gives powers of suspension to the British government repealed.
  • International Monitoring Commission - the International Monitoring Commission is outside the terms of the Agreement. The IMC should be abolished and the legislation, which established it, repealed.
  • Safeguards - the review must protect the safeguards built into the review to guarantee inclusivity and the protection of the rights and interests of all sides of the community.
  • North South Ministerial Council - participation in the North South Ministerial Council is an essential right and responsibility of relevant Ministers in the Executive. This cannot be subject to veto.
  • Ministerial Pledge of Office - breaches of Ministerial Office should be subject to sanction within the terms of the Agreement.

Equality and Human Rights

  • Equality - full implementation of the Equality Agenda to create an equality based society across the island.
  • Equality duty: Section 75 - to agree the basis for the forthcoming review of the operation of section 75 and identify other bodies that should be subject to the S75 duty.
  • Single Equality Bill - enactment and implementation of the Single Equality Bill. The review should also address the issue of discrimination on grounds of Œnational security‚ and the nationality requirement for civil service jobs.
  • Human Rights - full implementation of the Human Rights Agenda to create a human rights based society across the island.
  • The Human Rights Commission - the Commission should be reconstructed to address, particularly, the issues of composition, independence and powers.
  • Bill of Rights - a round table forum, with an international chair, involving the political parties and civic society to take forward the development of the Bill of Rights.
  • All Ireland Charter of Rights - the development of an all-Ireland Charter of Rights.
  • Victims and Reconciliation - address the suffering of the victims of the conflict as a necessary element of reconciliation. An approach to victims based on parity of esteem rather than a hierarchy of victims.
  • Addressing outstanding issues in relation to prisoners.
  • Collusion, state and state-sponsored violence - full disclosure on the policy of collusion including publication of the Cory Report and establishment of effective independent inquiries.
  • Irish Language - full implementation of the commitment to recognise and promote the use of the Irish language, including a comprehensive Irish Language Act to formally give recognition to the Irish language and the appointment of an Irish Language Commissioner.
  • Flags, symbols and emblems - participants to the Agreement acknowledged that symbols and emblems should be used in a manner, which promotes mutual respect rather than division. This requires the repeal of the Flags (NI) Order 2000 and the Flags regulations (NI) 2000 and the development of a Code of Practice to govern the use of symbols and emblems.

Expansion of the All Ireland commitments

  • Expansion of All Ireland areas of co-operation and implementation bodies - the review is an opportunity to identify additional areas for co-operation and implementation.
  • Establishment of the All Ireland Inter-Parliamentary Forum.
  • Establishment of the All Ireland Consultative Forum.
  • Demilitarisation, policing and justice
  • The Issue of Arms - all parties must use their influence to resolve the issue of arms, in the context of the implementation of the Agreement. In addition, the proliferation of legally held arms needs also to be addressed.
  • Demilitarisation - a comprehensive programme of demilitarisation, including the withdrawal of all British soldiers from the north; the removal of military installations; the removal of emergency legislation, and other measures appropriate to and compatible with a normal peaceful society.
  • Policing - the full implementation of the Patten recommendations along with the withdrawal from use of plastic baton rounds; an independent complaints mechanism to investigate instances of use of plastic baton rounds by the British Army and additional resources for the Ombudsman to expedite the investigation of retrospective complaints.
  • Criminal Justice Review - new Criminal Justice provisions; the overhaul of the Inquest system (post Home Office Review); measures to address the issue of symbols and emblems on the basis of parity of esteem; and the need to promote mutual respect rather than division and the repeal of repressive legislation.
  • Transfer of powers on policing and justice.

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Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin speaking at today's press conference in Killybegs, where he publicly announced Councillor Thomas Pringle's decision to join Sinn Féin said:

"Thomas Pringle is exactly the calibre of public representative that Sinn Féin is looking to attract as the party continues to develop an electoral dynamic that will bring about the most effective political representation for the people of this island.

"While the party as a whole continues to forge forward at a national level, inching ever closer to our objectives, it is people like Thomas, who will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of their local communities."

Cllr Thomas Pringle said:

"Over the past number of years I have been impressed with the energy, hard work and dedication of many Sinn Féin members in the Dáil and Councils. I believe that this is a party with a bright future and I hope to help shape that future.

"Since my election to Donegal County Council in 1999 I have always found it difficult to get cooperation on issues and motions as an independent with parties such as Fine Gael and Fianna Fail putting there own party electoral interests before the interests of the people. My decision here today to join Sinn Fein is a decision to become part of a all Ireland party that will put the people first. I look forward to playing my role within this party in the coming months to help elect a strong team of Sinn Féin councillors to Donegal County Council that will challenge the cosy arrangements of the establishment parties."

Donegal Sinn Féin Chairperson and E.U candidate Pearse Doherty who chaired the press conference said:

"On behalf of Donegal Sinn Féin I would like to formally welcome Cllr. Thomas Pringle into the Party. Cllr Pringle is widely regarded as one of the hardest working and most dynamic public representatives in the county. We in Donegal Sinn Féin have been long term admirers of his work and we are absolutely thrilled that he is now joining our team in the county. I am confident that Cllr Pringle will be joined by several more Sinn Féin county councillors following the local election in June. This will be a new force in Donegal politics. A force to be reckoned with.

"Donegal has been ignored and neglected for too long. After June, the Sinn Féin team in Lifford will ensure that the forgotten voice of communities from one end of the county to the other is heard. The establishment parties have failed our county. Sinn Féin are the authentic voice of change and the addition of Cllr Pringle, a true champion of the people, to our team, proves this point conclusively" ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil today Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh used the first proper day of the new Dáil session to again call for the introduction of a "fully independent Garda Ombudsman" to re-establish public confidence in the Gardaí. He said that the Minister for Justice's proposed "Ombudsman Commission" still falls short of what is required for full police accountability and to "make the culture of impunity a thing of the past."

Raising the issue as a matter of urgent public importance during Order of Business Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "In light of historic and recent patterns of Garda misconduct and abuse and the demonstrated failure of the present internal complaints investigation mechanisms including the Garda Complaints Board we need to introduce as a matter of urgency a fully independent Garda Ombudsman in this state."

Speaking afterwards Deputy Ó Snodaigh said that "only a fully independent Ombudsman with retrospective powers of investigation and whose remit is distinct from that of an independent civilian oversight body and local community accountability mechanisms - both of which are also needed to establish a fully transparent and accountable police force in this jurisdiction - can make the culture of impunity a thing of the past. But the Minister's proposed 'Ombudsman Commission' still falls far short of these requirements.

"In addition to the more recent cases of excessive use of force that hhave been graphically highlighted by Prime Time, Magill Magazine and elsewhere, there are numerous older high profile cases not covered by the two existing tribunals into excessive use of Garda force and Garda misconduct that still need to be investigated independently. Such cases include the revelation that files relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings have disappeared, the murder of Sinn Féin councillor Eddie Fullerton in Donegal and the operation of the Heavy

Gang. In all of these cases the Gardaí and the existing complaints mechanisms have been shown to be completely incapable of addressing or satisfying the concerns of the wider public, and this has steadily eroded public confidence over time. But the Minister's proposals still do not allow for retrospective investigation. This is wrong. A fully independent Ombudsman with the proper powers is the only means of restoring public confidence.

"Sinn Fein is not alone in this belief. A consensus is forming on this issue. It is high time that the Minister drop the pretence that the Ombudsman v. Inspectorate issue is merely a matter of semantics - it is not. It is about powers of investigation and full independence and he knows it. The Minister's alleged compromise of an 'Ombudsman Commission' is just not good enough. I challenge him to take advantage of the growing consensus on this issue to introduce a Garda reform Bill that will command not only cross-party support,

but the broad support of the Irish people." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP will be joined by party colleagues Philip McGuigan MLA, Bairbre de Brún MLA and Geraldine Dougan MLA tomorrow morning (Wednesday 28th) to announce Sinn Féin priorities for the forthcoming Review.

The Press Conference will take place at 10.30am in the party offices on Sevastopol Street.

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Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD has today criticised the appallingly poor provision of cancer treatment services in Ireland. Speaking at a Cancer Care Alliance Press Conference in response to the report of the Expert Group on Radiation Oncology Services in Ireland, Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "The government should hang their heads in shame" over the failure to provide adequate cancer treatment services across the island of Ireland.

Deputy O Caoláin said:

"It is a cause for successive governments to hang their heads in shame but none more so than the present Government which has had nearly seven years of unprecedented prosperity to put it right and has failed to do so. All we have to show for their efforts so far is yet another report.

"A quarter of all deaths are caused by cancer and 50% to 60% of cancer patients require radiation therapy yet the service here falls down in both quantity and quality. There is what the Report calls "a profound deficit". We have the lowest number of consultant radiation oncologists in Western Europe. Availability and use of radiation therapy is significantly lower than EU and North American averages.

"We have seen the welcome extension of the Breast-check initiative for women but if radiation oncology services are not put in place, much of that work will be in vain because the treatments will not be available for those diagnosed with breast cancer.

"We need equality of access to these vital services both in economic terms and in geographic terms. Three centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway are not enough and not acceptable. Very ill patients from the North West, from South Ulster, - which I represent - and from the South East will have to travel long distances. Huge swathes of the country will be unserviced. That must be put right.

"The report speaks of special transport solutions and hotel/hostel accommodation for those who must travel. We have seen no such proposals from Government. Meanwhile we have totally inadequate public transport and ambulance services.

"We need an all-Ireland approach, which the Hollywood Report does not adopt. All the resources on the island of Ireland need to be taken into account and cross-border solutions included in plans for expansion of services. It is time to put the dreadful health services associated with the 1980s behind us and provide adequate and efficient treatment services for all those in dire need of it."ENDS

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Speaking following the publication by Permanent TSB and the ESRI of statistics on house price increases, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government Arthur Morgan T.D. stated that the publication of these figures confirm that Minister Noel Ahern is out of touch with the housing situation in this State.

Deputy Morgan said:

"House prices across the State grew by almost 14% last year. In some counties such as Monaghan, Roscommon and Mayo house prices grew by 20%. Since taking up the position of Minister of State with responsibility for Housing, Noel Ahern has claimed that house prices increases are coming to an end. This is clearly not the case and it is not good enough for the Government simply to ignore the growing affordability problems in this state.

"House prices continue to increase. First time buyers continue to be priced out of the housing market in growing numbers or forced into taking out exorbitantly high mortgages. If the Minister does not address this issue as a matter of priority he should not be allowed to continue in his current position. His failure to act is causing gross hardships for people throughout this State who are forced to continue living in unsuitable conditions and risk homelessness." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Higher and Further Education Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Michael Ferguson has said that the plans of the British Labour government to introduce top-up fees will introduce the marketplace into universities and discourage people from disadvantaged backgrounds from taking up university opportunities.

Mr Ferguson said:

"Sinn Fein are opposed to introduction of top-up fees. We believe that education is a basic right. Tuition fees should be abolished and the student loan should be replaced with a proper maintenance grant.

"The British Labour government plans to introduce top-fees are yet another stealth tax. Sinn Féin believes that education should be paid for through a progressive general taxation system. The so-called concessions offered by Tony Blair and his cronies do nothing to address the fundamental flaws in the policy.

"The way that the British government have approached the problem of increasing resources for universities and increasing access is deeply flawed. It will lead to the introduction of the marketplace into our universities and a two-tier third level education system. It will also act as a further barrier to expanding access to universities particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

"This fiasco highlights a deep flaw at the heart of British government education policy and the failure of the previous Employment and Learning Minister to deal with it's impact here. We need to look at how be develop our workforce here so that it is able to drive forward a modern economy. This means that we need to widen access and it means that we need to support people financially across all the third level education options." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP today joined the anti-racism rally at Belfast City Hall. Speaking from the event Mr Adams said that all of those in political leadership had 'a duty to stand up against the racists and the bigots who were bring terror to the ethnic minority communities in the city'.

Mr Adams said:

"On countless occasions in the past I have joined rallies in this city to demand Human Rights and Civil Rights. Today's event is no different. The Ethnic Minority Community in this city are part of our fabric and they must be defended and protected. Their rights as citizens must be upheld and they must be allowed to live their lives in peace without the threat of racist attack or abuse.

"All of us in political leadership in this city have a duty and an obligation to stand up against the racists and the bigots who have been engaged in an organised campaign of intimidation against ethnic minority communities in this city.

" Today's rally must not be the end, it must be the start of us confronting and tackling racism and sectarianism fron whatever quarter. I commend the organisers of today's march and pledge the support of Sinn Féin representatives and activists to tackle the issue of racism in the time ahead." ENDS

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West Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Bairbre de Brún has accused the PSNI of failing to carry out a forensic investigation after a device was left attached to a gate a the Lamh Dhearg GAA club in Hannastown over the weekend.

Ms de Brún said:

" After the PSNI departed from the Lamh Dhearg pitch yesterday club officials were shocked that component parts of the bomb were left behind. This is crucial forensic evidence and would presumably be crucial to any serious effort to find those responsible for what amounted to a murder attempt on the children using the pitch.

" It is ironic that in the very week the Police Ombudsman released a damning report into the RUC investigation into the murder of Sean Brown abducted from Bellaghy GAA club, the PSNI apply similar standards to an attempted murder investigation at the Lamh Dhearg club.

" Club officials have photographed the scene and the discarded evidence and are going to present this to the Police Ombudsman and ask her to carry out an investigation into the PSNI response to the bomb alert and their forensic investigation into it." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly this afternoon responded to the meeting between the UPRG and the Irish government. Speaking at a protest held by nationalist residents in the Ligionel area, who have suffered as a result of attacks by unionist paramilitaries and the UDA in particular, Mr Kelly said that 'the Irish government needed to make it clear to the UPRG that the UDA campaign against catholics had to end'.

"There are two core issues here. The first is the ongoing UDA campaign which is felt particularly in areas like this and the second is the response to it by the British state.

"There is a tolerance by the British government of the UDA campaign. Remember the organisation was only banned in 1992 and the response by the British State to its latest wave of violence has been predictably muted.

"Sinn Féin have a clear position that dialogue is the mechanism to solve political problems. That is what happened on interfaces in Belfast over the summer months and it is what contributed to a relatively quiet summer. The Irish government need to use today's meeting with the UPRG to tell them that the ongoing UDA campaign against catholics has to end." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokespersons on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD and Councillor Gerry McHugh, have welcomed this morning's meeting between Minister for Agriculture Joe Walsh and Britain's direct rule Minister with responsibility for Agriculture Ian Pearson. The two discussed CAP reform and animal health and disease prevention.

Deputy Ferris and Cllr. McHugh said: "Sinn Féin very much welcomes the fact that the two Ministers have taken this initiative. We particularly welcome the commitment to establish a joint working group on the implementation of aspects of the CAP reform. This is something that we have called for since the reform package was agreed last June. We would also recommend that this be expanded to ensure that the overall package is implemented in close co-operation in the best interests of farmers throughout the island.

"In regards to animal health and disease prevention, we would hope to see an identical contingency plan to meet any future crisis. We would also like to see moves towards a joint marketing strategy in regards to the sale of Irish food produce.

"However, while any move towards such co-operation is valuable, it also highlights the urgency for having elected representatives from both parts of the island engaged in this work, through the institutions to which they have been elected". ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief negotiator, Mid Ulster MP Martin McGuinness MLA, Bairbre de Brún MLA, Equality and Human Rights Spokespersons, South Down MLA Caítriona Ruane (6 County) and Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD (26 County) launched the party's discussion document on an All Ireland Charter of Rights.

Speaking at the Stormont launch Mr McGuinness said:

"In just over a week the review of the Good Friday Agreement, involving all of the parties and the two governments will begin here, in Stormont. Sinn Féin will be focusing on a range of issues including, policing, demilitarisation, equality and the issue of human rights.

"Five years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed and overwhelming endorsed by the people of this island we have not seen the progress that it promised.

"Instead of full implementation of the Agreement in all its aspects, we have seen delay, foot dragging and inaction is many areas where the British government has direct responsibility. These difficulties are rooted in the British government's tactical approach to the Agreement.

"Since the Agreement we have had Weston Park and the negotiations leading to the publication of the Joint Declaration by the two governments as well as the discussion leading up to the unprecedented moves by republicans of October 21st when the two governments and unionism again failed to deliver. We have not seen the British government embrace political, economic, social, and cultural rights. They can't even bring themselves to publish the Cory report.

"If we are to see progress when the review starts next week then the British government must challenge and reconsider its own approach to the Agreement.

"Sinn Féin believe that we can come to the review in a positive frame of mind but that requires that everyone accept that many aspects of the Agreement have not been implemented. It demands in particular that the two governments and especially the British government accept their responsibility in honouring commitments on delivering the human rights and equality commitments that it has made."

Sinn Féin's Charter for 'Rights for All' discussion document covers:

  • Equal rights for all;
  • Democracy - making it representative, accountable and responsive to people's needs;
  • Actively opposing discrimination;
  • Children's rights;
  • People with disabilities reaching their potential;
  • Public Services, housing, health care and education;
  • The right to work - employment and trade union rights;
  • Natural resources and the environment;
  • Justice, the judiciary, policing and public safety;
  • Ireland's role, rights and responsibilities internationally.

Caítriona Ruane added:

"This demands action to challenge systematic and institutionalised discrimination against any section of people living on the island of Ireland. Governments have a duty to ensure that all people have equality of opportunity and equality of access and a duty to take proactive steps and affirmative actions to ensure social and economic equality.

"The British government in particular, but indeed both governments have failed to implement key actions contained within the Good Friday Agreement to deliver equality and eradicate the legacy and active discrimination in the 6 counties; they have also failed to deliver to those marginalized and excluded throughout the parts of this island that they have jurisdiction over."

Bairbre de Brún added:

"A charter of rights must guarantee, promote and protects the 'Rights for All'. Sinn Féin is also aware that we have a responsibility to build an inclusive society, which addresses the political allegiances of unionists and guarantees their rights and entitlements so that they can have a sense of security and a stake within an Ireland of Equals."

Aengus O Snodaigh concluded:

"The people of Ireland have a right to government that is democratically elected and composed of the elected representatives chosen through the universal right to vote. It also demands that all elected representatives are entitled to and accorded fair, full and effective participation in governance.

"Sinn Féin also believe that every citizen at the age of 16 is entitled to vote in all elections and to stand as a candidate for public office.

"The founding principle of the Republic proclaimed in 1916 is to cherish all of the children of the nation equally and to share in a peaceful future embodied in a united and democratic state, underpinned by indivisible common values of human dignity, equality and justice. That remains Sinn Féin's goal today." ENDS

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Introduction

The creation of an Irish freedom charter -- a charter for justice and peace in Ireland, a charter that brings together the demands for political and social and economic freedom -- was first raised by Gerry Adams during the peace process.

For Sinn Féin, political freedom is nothing if it does not embrace political, economic, social, cultural and human rights. Parity of esteem, equality of treatment and full human rights must be guaranteed for all.

Gerry Adams was looking to the ANC's Freedom Charter when he proposed one for Ireland. Just as the ANC's Freedom Charter actively involved the people of South Africa in formulating their own vision of an alternative society, we hope that this document can stimulate debate and develop firm proposals on what sort of society people want for Ireland.

These include:-

• Equal rights for all;

• Democracy -- making it representative, accountable and responsive to people's needs;

• Actively opposing discrimination;

• Children's rights;

• People with disabilities reaching their potential;

• Public services, housing, health care and education;

• The right to work - employment and trade union rights;

• Natural resources and the environment;

• Justice, the judiciary, policing and public safety;

• Ireland's role, rights and responsibilities internationally.

We also have a responsibility to build an inclusive society which addresses the political allegiances of unionists and guarantees their rights and entitlements so that they have a sense of security and a stake in the new Ireland.

This document is not a tablet of stone. It is a framework of principles that we believe should be enshrined as rights in a progressive society. There may be others. There may be useful clarifications or changes needed. But we hope that readers will see this document as a vehicle for debate, as a vehicle for change.

Sinn Féin will be proactively engaging with all sections of society -- from community and trade union groups to voluntary organisations and all shades of political opinion throughout the island of Ireland.

We want to hear your views -- whether as individuals or members of representative organisations. We want to encourage discussion. We want to stimulate ideas. We want a Charter for Rights for All.

Democratic Rights for All

1. The people of Ireland have the right to national self-determination.

2. The Government of Ireland shall be democratically elected, composed of the elected representatives chosen by the sovereign people through universal suffrage

3. Every Irish citizen at the age of 16 shall be entitled to vote in all elections and to stand as candidate for public office.

4. All necessary measures will be taken to ensure the right of all sections of society, particularly women and also minorities, to fair, full and equal participation in public life. This must include participation in decision-making processes and access to power.

5. Elected representatives shall be entitled to and accorded fair, full and effective participation in the governance of Ireland.

6. The people have the right to a truly responsive democracy and to expect a government to expedite action to redress legitimate grievances. All people, regardless of socio-economic status, will have the right to access and influence decision makers. They also have the right to be involved in shaping the decisions that affect them.

7. The people have the right to good governance. Policy decisions must be made on the basis of public-good criteria, taking full account of all associated direct and indirect social and economic costs, and not dominated by private profit motive.

8. Government shall be responsible and accountable to the people for the proactive implementation of their rights.

9. Government shall be accountable to the people and be based on openness, transparency and effective freedom of information legislation.

10. Political institutions will be accountable to and representative of the people.

11. All public policies shall be equality proofed, poverty proofed and human rights proofed and based on international best practice.

Rights for All

"The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all it citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government which have divided a minority from the majority in the past."

-- Proclamation of the Republic, 1916

"We declare that the nation's sovereignty extends not only to all the men and women of the nation, but to all its material possessions, the nation's soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the nation and... we affirm that all right to private property must be subordinate to the public right and welfare."

-- Democratic Programme of the First Dáil, 1919

• The founding principle of the Republic proclaimed in 1916 is to cherish all the children of the nation equally and to share a peaceful future embodied in a united and democratic state, underpinned by indivisible common values of human dignity, equality and justice, is our goal. The ultimate guarantors are the people of Ireland.

• We commit ourselves to the fullest promotion and protection of rights through a process that aims to advance national reconciliation, underpin political democracy, promote and develop economic democracy, and provide for the comprehensive, systematic, effective and entrenched protection of all rights outlined here.

• For many citizens the political institutions on this island are exclusionary, inaccessible and unaccountable.

• Sinn Féin believes that this Charter will contribute to a wider endeavour to harmonise and enshrine the rights of all people on the island of Ireland and affirm as individual and universal the values of human dignity, equality, justice and freedom.

• We pledge ourselves to work until the principles of democratic governance and human rights that are set out here gain maximum expression.

Equal Rights for All

1. Nothing shall justify the domination of one section of the people by another or the domination of one person by another (e.g. harassment and bullying).

2. Everyone living in Ireland is equal before the law and has the right to the protection and benefit of the law without discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic origin, nationality, colour, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, social or economic status, marital or family status, residence, language, religion or belief, political or other opinion, trade union membership, or status as a victim.

3. The right outlined above does not preclude any law, programme or activity that has as its objective the improvement of conditions of individuals or groups (including those listed above).

4. Everyone belonging to a national, ethnic, religious or linguistic community (including the deaf community) shall have the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion and to use their own language, all of which are part of the cultural wealth of the island of Ireland.

5. All public services shall be made available in both Irish and English and, where appropriate, in other minority languages.

6. The state will recognise the unique status of Irish, and the specific rights of Irish speakers. No citizen will be placed at a disadvantage as a result of having Irish as their first language or as their language of choice.

7. Everyone has the right to be nomadic or sedentary and the right to change from one mode of living to another.

Human Rights and Protection for All

1. Everyone has the right to life.

2. Every person has the right to be protected from all forms of physical, emotional or mental abuse, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, injury or abuse. This includes sectarian, homophobic and racial abuse, neglect, bullying, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual exploitation or abuse. The state will protect against sectarian, racist or homophobic abuse and harassment, as well as sexual and domestic violence.

3. Everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right:-

a) Not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause;

b) Not to be detained without trial;

c) To be free from all forms of violence from both public and private sources;

d) Not to be tortured; and

e) Not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.

4. Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right:-

a) To make decisions concerning reproduction;

b) To security in and control over their body; and

c) Not to be subjected to medical or scientific intervention without their informed consent.

5. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. There shall be freedom of the press and other media.

6. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.

7. Everyone has the right to assemble, freely associate and to demonstrate.

8. These rights to freedom of expression, beliefs and assembly are limited only insofar as their exercise does not infringe on any of the rights stated in this Charter, including the rights of others not to be intimidated, bullied or discriminated against.

9. Everyone will have freedom of movement.

10. Everyone has the right to respect for his or her privacy, to be secure against universal or unreasonable surveillance (including electronic) and search or seizure, whether of the person, property, communication or otherwise.

11. The judicial system will be a fair, effective, impartial and accountable system, basing itself on the rights outlined in this Charter (and the Bill of Rights) which will command the support and confidence of all parts of the community.

12. Everyone shall have the right of access to quality legal representation.

13. Everyone shall have the right to trial by their peers.

14. All emergency legislation will be repealed.

15. The judicial process will be predicated on rehabilitation and integration into society. No one detained will lose the right to be treated in a humane manner with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

16. The public service, including the police, will be open to all and shall be representative of the community and accountable to the community.

17. Policing on the island will conform to the highest standards of human rights, accountability, impartiality, transparency and effectiveness. Any use of force deemed necessary will be based on the principle and practice of minimum force.

All Children Cherished Equally

1. Every child has the right to be protected from all forms of physical, emotional or mental violence, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, injury or abuse (including sectarian and racial abuse), neglect, bullying, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual exploitation or abuse.

2. All children born on the island are citizens, and as such have the right to remain in Ireland, in the care and company of their parent(s), regardless of the national origin of the parent(s).

3. Children have the right to be heard, to be consulted in all matters affecting them and to access information about their person.

4. The child's best interest will be the paramount consideration in every matter concerning the child.

5. The state will provide adequate support and assistance to parents and other primary carers to enable all children, insofar as is possible, to grow up and thrive in a stable and safe environment where the child is valued and encouraged to attain their full potential.

6. All children will have access to childcare and crèche facilities of a high standard.

7. Education is a right. All children will have access to free education.

People with Disabilities Reaching their Full Potential

1. Every person living with a disability has the right to have their whole person recognised, their capabilities valued and developed to full potential, and their dignity respected.

2. All people with disabilities have the right to make choices about their lives and to be consulted, heard and resourced in all matters affecting them.

3. Disabled persons shall be protected against all exploitation, all regulations and all treatment of a discriminatory, abusive or degrading nature

4. People with disabilities have the right to a poverty-free life facilitated by direct payments to offset the cost of disability, and to equal access and equal participation in education, employment, and training.

5. People with disabilities have the right to access appropriate, co-ordinated services. The state has the duty to provide such services as well as proper individual needs assessments.

Social and Economic Rights for All

1. There will be no systematic or institutional discrimination against any section of the people of Ireland or those living on the island of Ireland.

2. Government shall have a duty to ensure that all individuals are afforded equality of opportunity and equality of access.

3. Government shall have a duty to take proactive and affirmative actions to ensure social and economic equality.

4. Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living and to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

5. Everyone has the right to contribute to the economic and social life of Irish society and to reach their full potential.

6. Healthcare services will be free to all. There will be equality of access to health promotion and treatment and prevention of ill health.

7. Everyone shall have equal and free access to sexual and reproductive healthcare and to information and education relating to sexual and reproductive matters at all levels, free of coercion, discrimination or violence.

8. All people have the right to free and secular education and access to life-long learning opportunities.

9. Everyone has the right to a fair contract of employment with remuneration above the statutory minimum wage.

10. Everyone has the right to work in safe conditions that are not harmful to health and well-being.

11. Workers have the right to form and join trade unions, negotiate contracts of employment, the right to picket and to withhold their labour.

12. Those people who work in the home and/or as primary carers have the right to proper recognition of their economic contribution to both individual households and the national economy.

13. Everyone has the right to housing. The state will have the duty to provide adequate and appropriate accommodation for everyone.

14. The state has an obligation to protect and nurture our national resources from waste and despoliation for the benefit of this and future generations, and to ensure an environment that is not harmful to the health and well-being of the people.

15. Everyone -- regardless of income or region of residence -- has an equal right to access basic essential public services. Such basic essential services include (but are not limited to) adequate domestic energy supply, water supply, sewage and waste disposal and public transport services.

16. The state has a duty to develop, provide, and manage such essential public services in ways that are equitable, economically and environmentally sustainable, and based on international best practice.

17. The operation of market competition will not be allowed to develop in such a way as to result in the concentration of the ownership or control of essential goods, including property, in the hands of a few individuals or corporations to the common detriment.

18. The state shall provide universal public services for all requiring those services, based on best international practice, and shall fund these services through direct progressive taxation. The taxation system shall be based on the principles of fairness and transparency.

Peace and Reconciliation

1. The state shall provide the necessary resources to address the legacy of the conflict in Ireland.

2. A just peace, reconciliation and community relations based on mutual respect and co-operation between our communities and with the state's institutions shall be secured by upholding the equal rights, opportunities and status of all.

Ireland in the World

1. Ireland shall be an independent sovereign state which respects the rights of sovereignty of all nations in keeping with (and subject to the constraints of) international law.

2. Ireland affirms its commitment to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation amongst nations founded on international justice. Ireland commits itself to work towards greater global political and economic equality, including trade relations of mutual advantage between the nation states in the world.

3. Ireland asserts its adherence to the principle of the peaceful settlement of international disputes through international arbitration or judicial determination.

4. Remembering the experience of emigration, any person who seeks sanctuary from persecution or who hopes to build a better life and make a constructive contribution here will be welcomed to our shores.

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Former Education Minster Martin McGuinness MP MLA has welcomed the announcement that his decsion to abolish the 11 + is to stand but expressed disappointment at the 2008 target date. Mr McGuinness also paid tribute to the Costello working group.

Mr McGuinness said:

"I very much welcome this report from the Costello working group. I am pleased that this highly experienced working party has recommended that the 11+ should be abolished and that this recommendation has been accepted.

"Equality must be at the heart of education. The reality is that academic selection for some means academic rejection for the majority of our children. It is a system, which is fundamentally unfair.

"A system, which designates any 11-year-old child, a failure is fundamentally flawed and must be replaced. That is why as education Minister I took the decision to end the 11 +. I am delighted that this decision will now be acted on.I believe all children must be given the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their background or circumstances.

"I am a little disappointed that it will take until 2008 to definitively end the 11+ but that is balanced by the sensible suggestion that all of this could happen much quicker if more parents choose not to put their child forward for the exam in the mean time and grammar schools move away from selection as a method for enrolling pupils.

"We now need to see the new arrangements put in place which will deliver both a modern education system and equality of opportunity for all our children."

Editors Note: Mr McGuinness will meet with Jane Kennedy at 3pm this afternoon at Castle Buildings to discuss the outcome of the Costello Report

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP will launch a major consultation document 'Rights for All' at 11am tomorrow, Monday 26th January, in the Long Gallery in Stormont.

Accompanying Mr. McGuinness will be Bairbre de Brún MLA, Caitríona Ruane MLA and Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD.

Rights for All is a discussion document and is a framework of principles that Sinn Féin believes should be enshrined as rights in a progressive society. Sinn Féin will be pro-actively engaging with all sections of society - from community and trade union groups to voluntary organisations and all shades of political opinion throughout the island of Ireland.

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West Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Bairbre de Brún has blamed unionist paramilitaries for attaching a device to the gates of Lamh Dhearg GAA club in Hannastown. The device was discovered as underage teams were about to start their weekly training session.

Ms de Brún said:

"Underage teams train at the Lamh Dhearg pitch each Sunday. Around 1pm a device was discovered by some of the children attending training attached to the gate at the side of the pitch.

"I have no doubt that unionist paramilitaries are behind this incident. There has been a history of attacks on this club over many years.

"It is only through good fortune that this device was discovered and people in West Belfast are angry at this attack on our young people.

"Those responsible deliberately decided to target a sports facility which they knew was used by children.

"Many nationalists and republicans are of the firm view that the British government has a tolerence for an acceptable level of unionist violence and todays incident taken with a series of recent attacks, and the British response to them, would certainly reinforce this belief.." ENDS

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