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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 education spokesman, Newry Armagh MLA Davy Hyland has expressed deep concern at the lack of progress on the proposed all Ireland Autism centre at Middletown, Co. Armagh, after he received information from the Department of Education about the work carried out to date at the centre.

Mr Hyland said:

"Unfortunately it seems that the project is no further on since the 'grand opening' of the centre on September 14 when distinguished guests were told by NIO minister, Barry Gardiner and southern education minister Noel Dempsey, that the various financial and legalistic problems had been resolved.

"Six months on and there has been no further progress.

"I have now received information that indicates that the centre will not be opened until the autumn of 2006 at the earliest. This brings into question the commitment of the education departments north and south to help improve the quality of life for children with autism. Both departments continue to immerse themselves in bureaucratic red tape. They are stalling in moving forward with creating a centre which will benefit a vulnerable section of Irish society north and south." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Fra McCann has said that the latest figures on housing allocation indicate that Catholics are 'under represented' in the allocation of public housing.

Mr McCann said:

"Recent Housing Executive figures for 2002-03, show that in Belfast the percentage of Catholics on the Housing Executive waiting list for a house was 44%, yet only 28% of those actually allocated a house were Catholic - an 'under-allocation' gap of 16% in relation to allocations.

"While Protestants represented 43% of those on the waiting list, they represented 64% of those actually allocated a house - an 'over-allocation' gap of 21%. These figures point to a very significant 'waiting list' differential that is every bit as unacceptable as the 'unemployment differential'.

"For the same period (2002-2003) across the north as a whole this differential of Catholic under representation in housing allocation is repeated. The percentage of Protestants on the waiting list was 47%, with 54% actually being allocated a house - an over-representation of 7%. For Catholics, the figures were 40% on the waiting list, and 35% actually allocated a house - an under-representation of 5%.

"This demonstrates the existence of a significant 'allocation differential' between the two communities regarding allocation of public sector housing.

"The problems is particularly bad in Belfast with a 16% under-allocation for Catholics, and 20% over-allocation for Protestants. While the NIHE may argue that there are number of reasons for this differential, such as low-turnover of housing in Catholic areas, the end result points to significant and disproportionate housing needs within the Catholic community. The key question therefore is what strategy has the NIHE/DSD in place to redress this differential." ENDS

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Commenting on reports in the media this evening surrounding arrests in Cork and Dublin a Sinn Féin spokesperson said:

"I am aware of reports in the media this evening regarding arrests in Cork and Dublin and speculation that it is linked to the Northern Bank Robbery. Sinn Féin‚s position on this robbery is clear.

"Over the last four weeks we have seen people rush to judgement time and time again. We would urge people to exercise caution on this occasion and allow the truth to come out.

"Sinn Féin has no further information about these arrests and we will wait to see how events unfold before we comment further." ENDS

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Sinn Féin representative for the Castle Ward in West Belfast, Fra Hamilton has this evening expressed his sadness at the death of a four-year-old boy in Belfast's Shankill area.

The young boy died when the mini-motorbike he was riding collided with a car this morning.

Speaking this afternoon Mr Hamilton said:

"I want to extend my deepest sympathy to the family of the young boy who died on the Shankill Road today.

"This death is a dreadful reminder of the dangers, which exist on our streets, particularly for young children. Every effort must be made to ensure that proper play and recreation facilities are provided for our children. Those in authority must learn the lessons of this tragedy." ENDS

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Speaking during the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill (2004) Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh described the Bill as 'draconian' and said some of the Minister's proposals "may violate constitutional rights and European and international law."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "At the core of this Bill is the significant extension of Garda powers. It extends their power of detention. It extends their power to compel bodily samples without consent. It extends their power over the issuing of search warrants - just one step away from introducing a warrantless search.

"The Bill is another in a series of draconian legislation the PDs have introduced since assuming office. And as with all his policies, he (the Minister) does not feel any compulsion to provide evidence that the extension of such powers are either necessary or effective.

"In fact some of the Minister's proposals may violate constitutional rights and European and international law. As a consequence the Human Rights Commission has not only raised its concerns as usual, the Commission has clearly rejected the Bill. But the Minister has ignored them yet again. The fact that this Minister can ignore the Human Rights Commission, actively preach social inequality, and still continue to hold his portfolio says everything about the Taoiseach you really need to know.

"Sinn Féin supports measures that are tough on crime, but we have too many concerns about the Minister's proposals to support this particular Bill.

"We don't need more Garda powers. What we need is more effective and strategic deployment of Garda resources and Garda reform to ensure that Gardaí are made accountable to the communities they serve. In other words, we need better use of present Garda powers. We need more resources devoted to crime prevention, targeted to deprived areas as recommended by the National Crime Council and as demanded by Sinn Féin. I urge the Minister to get off his high horse for once and instead of peddling false claims of his compliance with civil liberties requirements, to respond positively to the grave concerns outlined by the Human Rights Commission and Irish Council for Civil Liberties by introducing a practice of human rights-proofing this and all other Government legislation as I and others have called for." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Party Chairperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA hosted a briefing with members of the Diplomatic Corps in Dublin today. The briefing, which took place in Leinster House with representatives of 20 embassies, focused on the peace process and the ongoing difficulties that are effecting it.

Speaking afterwards Mr. Mitchel McLaughlin said, "Today's briefing is part of an ongoing engagement by Sinn Féin with the International Community. While addressing the current difficulties in the peace process we also examined the political context which brought us to this stage. We outlined the significance of the historic deal that was on offer from Republicans in December and the fact that Unionists walked away from it and that this precipitated the current crisis.

"Despite the very real difficulties that do exist at present Sinn Féin is determined to get the process back on track. We stressed this during the meeting and reaffirmed out absolute commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "In a wide ranging discussion on the upcoming elections in the Six Counties and in the 26 Counties in two years time, we expressed our confidence of increasing our support. It is clear that many of the attacks on our party, especially from the Irish Government and the SDLP at the moment, have to be viewed in that context. People across Ireland know that Sinn Féin has played a leading role in the peace process and that we will continue to do so, that is one of the many reasons that they are supporting us in growing numbers." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today said that the Sellafield nuclear facility is a by-word for negligence, incompetence and has a track record in poor safety.

Ms McDonald made her comments after an annual audit (2004) of nuclear material at the Sellafield plant revealed that 30 kilograms of plutonium remain unaccounted for.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"This most recent revelation that 30 kilos of plutonium is unaccounted for at Sellafield will come as no great surprise to the general public. It again highlights incompetence and negligence at the nuclear facility and once more calls safety procedures at Sellafield into question.

"It is not acceptable for the British Department of Trade and Industry to claim that this 'discrepancy' is not unusual. The British Government need to provide full disclosure on the whereabouts of the plutonium and wider safety concerns at the plant.

"In September 2004, the European Commission initiated legal proceedings against the British Government for its failure to comply with EU inspection rules on nuclear waste. When EU inspectors went to survey a pond at the plant they were unable to gain access to it due to high levels of radiation and poor visibility.

"Sellafield is a discredited plant and it remains the most dangerous and unstable nuclear facility in Western Europe. Sinn Féin will continue to fight for its immediate closure." ENDS

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Sinn Féin by-election candidate Councillor Joe Reilly has urged all those who are not currently on the electoral register to do so in the coming days.

Councillor Reilly said:

"It is still possible for people, not currently on the electoral register, to have their names added. This is particularly important for all those who are now of voting age or those who have recently moved to Meath or who have changed address within Meath."

The closing date for the Supplementary Register is Tuesday 22nd February and to get on it you must fill out a special form "RFA2" which can be obtained from Council Offices, Libraries or Post Offices. This must be filled out, signed at a Garda station and returned to Meath County Council, County Hall, Railway Street, Navan, Co. Meath.

"Sinn Féin would encourage all those who are entitled to vote to register and to use their vote in the forthcoming elections to bring about change." ENDS

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Following the publication of the latest Oireachtas Sub-Committee Report on collusion, Sinn Féin Dail leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called on the Taoiseach to arrange a special summit meeting on the issue with the British Prime Minister.

Deputy Ó Caolain said, "This report is scathing in its criticism of the lack of co-operation from the British government. The British Prime Minister Tony Blair is found to be acting in conflict with the Good Friday Agreement because of his refusal, in a letter to the Taoiseach, to establish an inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974.

"The Report also criticises British Secretary of State Paul Murphy for his spurious claim that a 'further major and time-consuming search' through records was not possible.

"It is now time for the Taoiseach to call a special summit meeting with the British Prime Minister on the whole issue of collusion. He should also ensure that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform establishes a fully comprehensive Commission of Investigation into the Garda handling of the whole range of collusion issues covered by Judge Barron, the Oireachtas Committee and those mentioned in today's report."

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking from Madrid this evening has said:

Remarks I made today in Madrid in respect of the Northern Bank robbery have been misrepresented. I made it clear that the IRA has said it wasn't involved and that I believe it's disclaimer.'

"Any other interpretation of my remarks is mischievous and misleading." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD speaking in the Dáil today said he believed that the deal struck to obtain the site for the Justice Minister's new super prison in north Dublin "stinks to high heaven". Deputy Ó Snodaigh called for an immediate investigation into the matter saying he was "not convinced that proper procedures were followed".

Deputy Ó Snodaigh raised the issue during priority Questions with the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell. He said, „Minutes from the Mountjoy Complex Replacement Site Committee meeting of the 18th January 2005 raise many questions.

"In them it is reported that the purchase of the Thornton site was both recommended and the sale agreed at that meeting, which would appear to be in breach of the standard procedures in terms of dealing with expressions of interest or Tenders for such large projects.

"We need to know why the Thornton site was even considered when the deadline for expressions of interests expired six months previous.

"The fact that there was still another interested party selling a site, which is also acknowledged in the minutes, as having a similar profile in terms of meeting the necessary requirements of suitability also raises interesting questions."ENDS

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Speaking during statements on the Health (Amendment) [No.2] Bill 2004 today Sinn Féin Dáil group leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin welcomed without reservation the Supreme Court ruling. He said, "Elderly people have been unjustly and illegally charged" and must be "reimbursed with the minimum of delay."

"This ruling has exposed the Government's arrogance in its approach to legislation, "he said. "In ramming it through both the Seanad and the Dáil without sufficient debate or scrutiny the Minister‚s actions have resulted in a legal debacle for the Government.

"But, The Cavan/Monaghan TD said, "it is a welcome judgment for those thousands of elderly people on whom charges were wrongfully imposed.

Deputy Ó Caoláin was very critical of the "enormous confusion and worry" the Minister‚s actions had caused, especially amongst elderly people in residential care and their families.

He went on to say, "This whole issue has raised many questions about the way the State supports or does not support elderly people in long-term residential care. The State has failed to put in place the range of services that are needed for older people. Older people should be facilitated to remain in their family homes as long as they wish, but this is not happening."

He concluded by saying that "If today's Supreme Court judgment leads to a fundamental re-evaluation of the way in which this State cares for its older citizens then it will be a landmark judgment and a good day for Irish society."ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin's contribution to the debate

I welcome today's ruling by the Supreme Court. I say that without reservation. The bottom line is that elderly people have been unjustly and illegally charged. They must now be reimbursed with the minimum of delay and bureaucracy. The Government needs to start work right away on a scheme that will see these people reimbursed and without recourse to expensive legal proceedings.

The Health (Amendment) (No 2) Bill was rushed through this House on 16 December 2004, the last sitting day before the Christmas recess. Despite the warnings of members here and in the Seanad, the Government pushed on. They were cautioned against such a retrospective Bill. In concluding my brief remarks on Second Stage I appealed to the Minister to return to the principle that the State has a duty of care and a responsibility to ensure that the rights of the most vulnerable in our society are protected. I said the legislation did not measure up to that responsibility and should be withdrawn and redrafted or fundamentally changed. The Minister and the Government ploughed on regardless with the result we see today.

This ruling has exposed the Government‚s arrogance in its approach to legislation. In ramming it through both the Seanad and the Dáil without sufficient debate or scrutiny the Minister‚s actions have resulted in a legal debacle for the Government. But it is a welcome judgment for those thousands of elderly people on whom charges were wrongfully imposed.

Many are naturally concerned at the impact of this judgment on public finances. While the judgment must be studied closely it must be stressed that this repayment is now not only obligatory on the State it is also manageable. The Supreme Court judgment itself has put the sum involved at •500 million, dating back to 1999.

The tragedy is that the State's shabby treatment of older people - treatment carried on under successive governments - has caused such distress.

The Minister's actions have caused enormous confusion and worry, especially amongst elderly people in residential care and their families. This matter needs to be resolved as speedily as possible and proper and adequate information must be made public to ensure the confusion that is there is ended. Repayment of monies owed should now proceed with minimum bureaucracy and without thousands of people having to go to court.

This whole issue has raised many questions about the way the State supports or does not support elderly people in long-term residential care. For example how does the Minister justify the wide variation in subventions between the various regions? That has never been satisfactorily answered.I have had recent experience in the case of an elderly constituent. This woman devoted her life to rearing her family and looking after their modest home. In her twilight years she was widowed and her children had either emigrated or moved elsewhere in Ireland. She suffered ill-health and a long stay in hospital. Then she faced the prospect of being unable to return to her home. She needed long-term residential care. The State deemed that she did not qualify for a place in a State-run home and with subvention because she owned her small terraced house, valued at some •150,000. What did her children have to do? They have had to sell the family home and dispose of their mother's remaining possession in order to pay for long-term private residential care. It is as if she had died. Only when she is made virtually destitute will the State consider her for subvention. I can only describe this as a savage system. Her children have lost their home and had the link with the town and community in which they grew severed. Where will they gather and wake their mother when her time does come?

The State has failed to put in place the range of services that are needed for older people. Older people should be facilitated to remain in their family homes as long as they wish, but this is not happening.

Look at the disgraceful way in which Home Helps were treated for years until they took industrial action and the Government was forced to improve the pittance they had been paid. These were some of the few paltry supports offered to elderly people living alone.

It is well documented that children and the elderly are the most vulnerable and the most at risk of poverty in our society. If today‚s Supreme Court judgment leads to a fundamental re-evaluation of the way in which this State cares for its older citizens then it will be a landmark judgment and a good day for Irish society.

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Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West, Seán Crowe has called on the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Micheál Martin to "end his silence" on the worrying trend of job losses in Tallaght. Deputy Crowe was speaking after hearing news that Loctite Ireland announced details of a restructuring programme that will see the loss of up to 100 jobs.

He said, "The Government seems to be silent on this worrying trend of job losses in Tallaght. This latest loss of jobs is another in a long line of job losses in the area such as the losses at APW, Packard, Gallaghers, and Sujitsu. Tallaght has an unemployment rate that is well above the national average and is in urgent need of extra resources and a plan to replace these jobs.

"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.

"The Minister needs to end his silence on this matter, the people of Tallaght deserve better than to be ignored. He needs to come up with an initiative to halt this steady decline of traditional jobs in the area." ENDS

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Sinn Féin policing and justice spokesperson, North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly has made it clear that Sinn Féin supports the McCartney family in their quest for truth and justice.

Mr Kelly said:

"I want to make it absolutely clear that Sinn Féin supports the McCartney family in their quest for truth and justice.

"I have spoken with the family on a number of occasions. Our commitment is to helping the them achieve the justice they seek and I want to make it clear that no one has any right to prevent anyone from helping the McCartney family.

"Others are wishing to turn this into a political football about Sinn Fein‚s position on policing. This will not assist the McCartney family. The family know our position on policing.

"Our position is clear - People with reservations about assisting the PSNI should give any information they might have either to the family, a solicitor or any other authoritative or reputable person or body." ENDS

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Speaking in the Dáil this morning on the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill, the Sinn Féin Spokesperson Sean Crowe TD, welcomed Minister Seamus Brennan's recognition that the theory of the rising tide of economic prosperity lifting all boats is a flawed one. Deputy Crowe went on the state that the only way in which the Government could assist in narrowing the gap between rich and poor was through proactive measures designed to increase the living standards of those on social welfare and low incomes.

Deputy Crowe said: "While, many people have undoubtedly benefited from increased wages and higher living standards over the past decade, the CORI Justice Commission estimates that the gap between rich and poor has increased by €294 a week solely as the result of budgetary changes between 1997 and 2004.

"Despite the Government allegedly seeking the advice people like Fr. Sean Healy, the latest Budget will do nothing to reverse that trend. In fact the gap has widened as a consequence. As a result of changes made in Minister Cowan's Budget, a couple dependent on long term unemployment assistance are €23.30 per week better off, while the income of a couple with a joint income of €100,000 increases by €63.43. Overall, the income gap between rich and poor will widen by €30.93 per week.

"That has led to a situation in which the top 20 per cent of Ireland's highest earners receive 4.5 times more than the bottom 20 per cent. In Denmark the gap is 3.1 and the difference can be attributed to a more proactive policy in Denmark in taking measures that will reduce that gap.

"The choice is simple. Does the state simply maintain those dependent on social welfare on low rates of income which ensure that they become increasingly marginalized and isolated from the rest of society, or does it actively seek to narrow the income gap, while at the same time taking measures to incorporate as many of those on social welfare as possible into the workforce. In doing so, it must also ensure that those in employment are given an adequate living wage and in that regard. It has been estimated that up to a fifth of those in employment are living in poverty defined as an income less than 60% of the average industrial wage. In that context, I would like to record my support for the increase in the minimum wage being sought by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

"One of the means by which people can escape poverty and social welfare dependency is through education. In relation to single parents, the 2002 Census found that a mere 0.5% of those over 15 involved in full time education were single parents. One of the ways that this was being addressed was through the Back to Education grant, but the changes made by the previous Minister Coughlan which reduced the period over which people could qualify for this have made it less effective.

"Figures, which show that single mothers have much lower levels of educational attainment, prove that it is a major factor in condemning those mothers and their children to a life of poverty and social welfare dependency. Surely the most effective way to address this, and to ensure that less people find themselves in that position in the future is to increase the current levels of investment in educational schemes aimed at that group.

"The mentality whereby Education is somehow perceived as a means by which people avoid work must be eradicated, and people given the benefit of the doubt and not treated with suspicion when they apply for such schemes. This is particularly important where single mothers are attempting to access such schemes as this can provide a valuable role model for their own children. Far from imposing a burden on the state, investment in Back to

Education will in the long run prove to be cost effective in helping people access employment and in fostering a culture in which more people perceive the value of education.

"I was pleased to note that Minister Brennan has rejected recent suggestions that single mothers chose dependency on the Lone Parent Allowance as a career option. I also welcome his proposal that educational and work opportunities should be prioritised as the means through which people in that situation will be able to achieve a better life style but any changes to the Lone Parent Allowance must not be made in a way that will penalise people who currently find themselves dependent on that payment.

"In conclusion, I would welcome the Minister's recognition that poverty does still exist and that the theory of the rising tide lifting all boats is not good enough. However, that recognition and the marginal increases that he has introduced, must be set against the overall record of a Government that has consistently favoured the wealthy in this society above those who live on the margins. Only when a definite decision is made to reverse that thinking and to actively seek to reduce the growing poverty gap, will those forced to live in poverty begin to see an improvement in their position." ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, expressed his serious concern following the seizure of crack cocaine in Dublin last night.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "The seizure of crack cocaine in Dublin last night and the arrest of two suspects is a cause for grave concern.

This establishment of this drug in Ireland would represent the absolute worst-case scenario in terms of the devastating impact it would have onccommunities throughout the country.

"This is a very serious and sinister development, especially coming as it does in the aftermath of a European report that reveals that Ireland now has the second highest rate of cocaine use in Europe. It is a problem we identified in our submission to the national drugs strategy mid-term review.

"There is an urgent need for the Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drug Strategy to report on Government plans to combat the establishment of a crack cocaine culture in Dublin City."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh raised the matter in the Dáil this morning during Order of Business. ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald is in Meath this evening to join by-election candidate Councillor Joe Reilly at a meeting with women from across the county, for an evening of straight talking and honest answers.

Ms McDonald said:

"I am delighted to be in Meath this evening, along with my party colleagues Councillor Joe Reilly and Councillor Anne Gibney for this event. The meeting, which is open to women from across the county, is designed to give women the opportunity to ask questions and get answers on Sinn Féin's priorities and campaigns. As a young mother involved in politics I was determined when I was elected to the European Parliament that meeting and consulting with people, not just in my own constituency of Dublin, but across the country, was going to be a priority. That is why I am in Navan this evening.

"Last weekend Sinn Féin held a women‚s conference in Newry, which was attended by women from across Ireland, including Meath. During the day we discussed a huge number of issues and heard from women involved in community groups, political parties, childrens groups, Forum of People with Disabilities, National Womens Council, African National Congress, campaigns for Older Womens Rights, the peace process and Irish unity. The one thing that unified all of us was the need for women to be more organised and for our demands to be at the top of the political agenda.

"I hope to meet women tonight from across Meath, to listen to what they have to say and to see us beginning to work together to bring about change." ENDS

Note: The meeting will take place in the Ardboyne Hotel, this evening, Wednesday 16th, at 7.30pm.

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Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today accused the Irish government of failing to properly communicate the content and ramifications of the EU Constitution to the Irish people. Ms McDonald said that "the government had been more concerned with concluding negotiations on the EU Constitution than communicating its content to the people".

Ms McDonald made her comments after a European survey revealed that 67% of respondents 'didn't know' whether they would support the EU Constitution or not. Last month, preliminary findings revealed that nearly 50% of Irish people were not even aware of the existence of the EU Constitution. The survey was carried out by "EU Barometer".

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"During Ireland's Presidency of the European Union, Sinn Féin consistently called upon the Irish government to effectively communicate the content and ramifications of the proposed EU Constitution to the people. The results of this survey show that nearly 50% of Irish people are not even aware of the existence of the EU Constitution.

"Considering agreement on the EU Constitution was reached during Ireland's stewardship of the European Union, then clearly this represents a monumental failure on the part of the government. It became increasingly clear during that period that the government was more concerned with concluding negotiations on the EU Constitution than communicating its content to the people.

"The government has a duty to inform citizens in a non-partisan manner regarding fundamental changes which may effect them. It is not good enough for the government to only communicate the contents of this far-reaching document in the period leading up to the referendum on the issue. By that stage it will be much too late." ENDS

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Meath Sinn Féin Councillor and by-election candidate Joe Reilly has today said that the M3 motorway can be accommodated - but not through the Tara and Skryne valley.

Cllr Reilly made his comments after Fianna Fail accepted a motion calling for the M3 motorway to go ahead in its present format. The motion, which was proposed by four TDs and senators from the Meath and Cavan/Monaghan constituencies, was not opposed at the meeting.

Speaking today Cllr Reilly said:

"The case has been made time and again by those campaigning against the proposed route of the M3 that there are viable and realistic alternatives where both infrastructure and heritage can be accommodated. The disputed section of the M3 motorway is 3 kilometres in length out of a total of 70 kilometres. Sinn Féin is calling upon the NRA and archaeologists to come together and sort this out.

"Eminent archaeological experts from Ireland and abroad have testified to the archaeological importance of the Tara/Skryne valley and have spoken about their dismay at the proposed routing of the motorway. I am calling upon the Tara site to be developed as a sustainable tourist site." ENDS

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Speaking today at a Press Conference in London before travelling on to Oxford where he will address a seminar along with the DUP Deputy Leader Peter Robinson, Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP said:

"I am in London today to address the issue of conflict resolution at a seminar at St Anthony's College, Oxford. This evening's discussion, involving the DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson, is both timely and significant. It underlines the need for inclusivity and for dialogue. There is no doubt that the Irish peace process is in deep, deep crisis. This does not stem from the robbery at the Northern Bank in Belfast before Christmas, though that robbery has deepened the problems. The crisis began when the DUP leader Ian Paisley rejected the unprecedented offer form the IRA to deal conclusively with the issue of IRA activities and IRA arms.

But we are in a crisis and that need to be dealt with. It is not being dealt with. All that remains of the peace process is the IRA cessation. There is no political process. No effort at meaningful dialogue. No serious attempt to resolve the current difficulties.

If we are to address the crisis we need to repair and restore the process of problem solving, the conflict resolution process.

Sinn Féin is committed to this, to defending the peace process and to preventing any return to conflict and violence. Sinn Fein is prepares to immediately enter into meaningful dialogue and discussion and to face up to our responsibilities in all of this. I firmly believe that if we are collectively committed to this approach that the outstanding issues can, indeed they must be resolved.

At this fraught and testing time we also need to be mindful of the enormous progress we have collectively made over the last 10 years. The political situation has been transformed, not just in Belfast, Derry and other parts of the north of Ireland, but right across the island of Ireland and here also in Britain.

And how have we achieved all of this. Through dialogue, through discussion, through negotiations and ultimately through accommodation.

And how can we make further progress and resolve outstanding issues. Through the same process of dialogue and engagement, through an inclusive political process.

The mandate and democratic integrity of every party must not only be recognised, it must be upheld and defended. That is at the core of peace building and conflict resolution. There is no viable alterative to the peace process. There is no viable alternative to politics.

Referring to the killing of Robert McCartney Martin McGuinness said,
" No matter who was responsible or whatever their politics, the killing of Robert McCartney was wrong. It should not have happened and there must be no cover-up. The McCartney family deserve the truth and they deserve justice. I fully and unequivocally support them in this.

I want to encourage any person with any information whatsoever in relation to this deplorable killing not to hold this information back but to pass it on immediately. Many people in the communities affected do have reservations about the PSNI but if that is the case then the information should be passed to the family or to any respected person or organisation." ENDS

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