Sinn Féin MLA for North Antrim Philip McGuigan has claimed Unionist paramilitaries were intent on murder in Loughguile last night. Mr. Mc Guigan said :
"This was a planned and orchestrated attempt at a sectarian killing and obviously the work of Unionist paramilitaries. Thankfully for the family their intended victim wasn‚t in the house at the time.
" The Twelfth period is always a very tense time to be a Nationalist especially in isolated areas such as North Antrim. Over the past number of weeks we have all witnessed the Œ Kill all Taigs‚ banners on certain bonfires throughout the North.
" Last night in Loughguile we nearly saw those sentiments become a reality. I would call on Unionists, particularly in North Antrim, where sectarianism and bigotry are rife, to show some courage and leadership. This call has been made before, though unfortunately for the Nationalist and Republican community seems to be falling on deaf ears." ENDS
Upper Bann Sinn Féin Assembly member John O'Dowd has accused supporters of the Black Perceptory of being involved in an attack on a female catholic taxi driver in Lurgan this morning.
Mr O'Dowd said:
"This mornings Black parade in Lurgan and the transfer of the march supporters to the train station through the nationalist part of the town went relatively calmly. This was due to work on the ground by local nationalist community and political representatives and I would commend them for that.
"However a short time later a catholic female taxi driver was attacked in broad daylight in the middle of Lurgan town centre. Her car was stoned and she has been left in a distressed state. Despite the fact that the town has been swamped by both PSNI and British Army personnel all morning no effort was made to apprehend the attackers.
"It is my belief that having failed in their strategy of provoking the nationalist community in the town by the parade and the decision to use the train instead of buses, supporters of the Blackmen are now trying to raise tensions in the town further before the return of the parade this evening." ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly has said that the actions of the PSNI this evening in Ardoyne have effectively rendered the Parades Commission defunct. Mr Kelly‚s comments come after the PSNI took the decision to breach a Parades Commission determination and force Orange Order supporters including prominent UDA members past Ardoyne shops this evening.
Mr Kelly said:
"Tonight the PSNI with the support of the British government forced both the Orange Order and senior UDA members through nationalist North Belfast. This was in direct breach of the Parades Commission determination. It has put the parading issue back years as it has effectively handed control of contentious parades back into the hands of the PSNI. A fact that senior PSNI members were taunting the nationalist crowd about this evening.
"Having forced the parade through Ardoyne the PSNI along with the paratroop regiment then attacked local people. A number of people including myself who were trying to maintain calm were attacked and assaulted by baton wielding PSNI thugs. No action was taken to move on the loyalist crowd or respond to attacks on the Ardoyne community from Twadell Avenue.
"I have spoken this evening to Ian Pearson by telephone and I informed him that he along with the PSNI ultimately has to bear the responsibility for what happened in Ardoyne this evening. Those of us still on the ground will continue to do our best to maintain calm but I have to say that the anger within the nationalist community in North Belfast this evening is palpable."ENDS
Newly elected Sinn Féin MEPs for the Six Counties, Bairbre de Brún and Mary Lou McDonald for Dublin have called upon the EU to "support the suspension of preferential trade with Israel". Ms de Brún and Ms McDonald made their comments after the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel's West Bank barrier is illegal and should be removed.
Speaking today, Ms de Brún and Ms McDonald said:
"The EU must now take action to suspend its preferential trade agreement with Israel following Friday's ruling from the International Court of Justice, which stated that the barrier which runs through the West Bank is illegal and should be removed. Whilst everyone must be concerned about attacks on innocent Israelis, the construction of this illegal barrier is not the answer.
"The EU-Israel Association Agreement grants Israel favourable trading terms with the EU. This agreement includes a clause, which says that it is based on respect for human rights and democratic principles. However, the reality is that Israel continues to build walls of separation and support illegal settlements on Palestinian land, and it continues to ignore numerous United Nations resolutions on its illegal occupation of Palestine.
"The EU must cease this preferential trade agreement with Israel, at least until Israel complies with numerous UN resolutions. This apartheid wall greatly infringes upon the human rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and has been universally condemned. It is imperative that the European Union sends a clear message to Israel that their occupation of Palestine is opposed in Europe, and the only way forward is through dialogue." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has voiced his deep concern at reports that the PSNI are to overturn restrictions, placed by the Parades Commission, on an Orange Order march going through Ardoyne today. Mr. Adams said "There is no legitimate reason for the Orange Order to march through Ardoyne but the worst case scenario is for the PSNI to capitulate to unionist threats and overturn this decision.
Mr. Adams said:
"The decision of the Parades Commission to force this parade through nationalist North Belfast on two occasions today is the wrong decision but the situation will be made much worse if the PSNI overturns restrictions which have been placed on the parade and allows Orange Order supporters to coat trail through this nationalist community this evening.
"There is huge anger that already this morning the Orange Order were allowed to ignore the restrictions placed on them by the Parades Commission. This follows a week of threats and intimidation, the unionist blockade of Ligoniel and last week's capitulation by the Parades Commission to similar threats over the Springfield Road parade.
"Sinn Féin along with many other groups have been working tirelessly over recent months to ensure that this summer remains peaceful and we will continue with that work. But other people have a role to play. Sinn Féin has been in touch with the British and Irish governments to demand that they uphold the decision of the Parades Commission and ensure that the people of Ardoyne, Mountainview and the Dales are treated with respect." ENDS
Commenting after the PSNI forced both the Orange Order and its followers past Ardoyne shops this evening in breach of the Parades Commission determination, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said:
"The PSNI tonight forced both the Orange Order and hundreds of supporters past Ardoyne shops in direct defiance of the Parades Commission determination.
"The British Secretary of State Paul Murphy allowed a deal to be done which was in direct breach of the original determination. I had earlier in the day warned Mr Murphy of the potential consequences of going down this road and I have tonight again spoken to Mr Murphy and left him in no doubt about what we think of his actions.
"I would like to praise the discipline shown by republicans throughout North Belfast and Ardoyne in particular this evening in the face of very serious provocation from the Orange Order, unionist paramilitaries, the PSNI and British Army."ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has called on people to remain calm over the coming days and urged all groups to work to ensure that this weekend and the rest of the marching season remain peaceful.
Mr Adams said:
"Much work has been done in recent months to ensure that this summer remains peaceful. The attitude of the Orange Order and certain unionist politicians in recent days has made this work more difficult.
"But despite the quite obvious anger that exists within the nationalist community over the threats being made by an alliance of unionist politicians, paramilitaries and the Orange Order I am appealing to people to remain calm over the next few days and continue working to achieve a peaceful summer, particularly at interface areas in Belfast."ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly has accused the Orange Order in alliance with unionist paramilitaries and unionist politicians "of deliberately heightening tensions and threatening violence in order to force an unwanted parade through a nationalist community". Mr Kelly's remarks come after Sinn Féin Chief negotiator Martin McGuinness spoke by telephone with Paul Murphy this morning to discuss this issue.
Mr. Kelly said:
"The decision taken by the Parades Commission to force this parade through nationalist North Belfast twice on the Twelfth was the wrong decision. However having granted the Orange Order the two parades the Order is still threatening violence against the nationalist community in order to be allowed to coat trail through the area along with others which will like previous years include prominent members of the UDA.
"The Orange Order has deliberately taken a decision in alliance with the unionist paramilitaries and unionist politicians to threaten violence and heighten tensions. The recent capitulation by the Parades Commission to similar threats over the Springfield Road parade has encouraged the Orange Order to adopt this approach.
"It is completely unacceptable that the nationalist community is being held to ransom and threatened in this fashion. Martin McGuinness this morning contacted Paul Murphy to make him very clear of our anger at the approach being adopted by the Orange Order and the unionist parties and to make it very clear to him that nationalists in North Belfast and elsewhere will not be abused in this manner.
"Sinn Féin along with many other groups have been working tirelessly over recent months to ensure that this summer remains peaceful. We will continue with that work. However the contribution of the Orange Order and the two main unionist parties to raising tensions and threatening violence makes this task all the more difficult. But despite the obvious provocations I would still appeal to nationalists to remain calm and ensure that protests remain peaceful." ENDS
Sinn Fein Councillor for North Belfast Eoin O'Broin has called today for action over two bonfires situated on the Crumlin Road, one at the junction with Heskith Road and one at the junction of Glenbank. The two bonfires, which are built on roadway and are situated close to interfaces and pose serious threat to motorists and pedestrians alike.
Speaking today Cllr O‚Broin said:
"These bonfires are dangerous and destructive. The two of them are actually built on the roadway and pose a serious threat to motorists and pedestrians alike. They are unsteady structures which force cars to enter oncoming traffic to avoid them.
"Not only are they dangerous but when lit will cause serious damage to the road surface, the footpaths and surrounding buildings. The cost to the taxpayer to repair tis damage will be significant.
"I am calling on the DRD Road Service and Belfast City Council to act with immediate effect before there is a serious accident surrounding these bonfires. We already know that the twelfth bonfires cause serious air pollution. It is not good enough that they are also allowed to destroy the local infrastructure."ENDS
Sinn Féin's first and sole member of Castlebar Town Council, Noel Campbell, has been speaking about the council's decision to vote down his proposal to have the positions of Mayor and Deputy Mayor rotated between the five political groups represented on the council.
Campbell tabled the motion after the council's first meeting when it became clear that FF, FG and Labour had made a deal to exclude the Sinn Féin councillor along with an independent councillor from both positions as well as from all committees. Key to Campbell's argument was that he and the independent polled over a combined 1000 first preference votes, almost a quarter of the total vote cast in the Town Council elections. Campbell pressed that in order for the council to get away from the exclusionist politics that dominated the council during the lifetime of previous authorities, no councillor's mandate should be ignored.
Campbell said: "The general public have lost faith in politics and politicians and the forming of deals that exclude a section of the public from the political process can only damage their view of politics even further. At the very start of its life, this council is in a prime position to encourage the public to participate in their local government. Deals excluding any councillor's mandate do not install confidence in those disillusioned with politics.
"Although attacking Fianna Fáil during the elections, Fine Gael and Labour were more than happy to jump into bed with that party at the very first meeting of the authority. With Sinn Féin being excluded from top council positions all over the 26 counties, it is obvious who the real opposition party is in this State." ENDS
Sinn Féin Councillor for Ligoniel, Eoin O'Broin has slammed the sectarian attacks on cars travelling to Ligoniel last night. In all seven cars were damaged when bricks and bottles were thrown at them by loyalists. Speaking today, on the fourth day of a loyalist blockade of Ligoniel, Cllr O'Broin said:
"These attacks are purely sectarian and completely unacceptable. Last night at least seven cars were damaged when bricks and bottles were thrown at them by groups of loyalists at the junction of the Ligoniel Road and Crumlin Road.
"No doubt Nelson McCausland and the Orange Order will attempt to distance themselves from these attacks but they share responsibility through the heightening of sectarian tensions this weekend and their condoning of loyalist blockades of nationalist communities.
"I am calling on unionist political leaders to step away from aggressive and abrasive tactics and put an end to these protests. While everybody has the right to protest it cannot be used in order to stoke fear and promote sectarian tensions."ENDS
The four Sinn Féin councillors on Donegal County Council have today walked out of the authority's AGM after it became clear that they were being excluded from all committee positions and places on development boards. Cllrs Pearse Doherty, Tony McDaid, Thomas Pringle, and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn accused Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and IFF of conspiring to silence the 10,000 voters who had supported Sinn Féin in Donegal. They also accused the other parties of "Being worse than the DUP".
The leader of the Sinn Féin group on Donegal County Council, Thomas Pringle said:
"The establishment parties in Donegal have clearly learned nothing from the six counties. The more Sinn Féin are excluded, the more determined we are to represent our electorate. We will not be silenced. What happened here today was as bad as anything experienced in the bad old days of unionist dominance in the six counties".
"At the point that we walked out, 61 positions had been decided and Sinn Féin councillors did not receive even one. This contravenes the spirit of the 2001 Local Government Act which sought inclusivity and accountability. Furthermore, in the case of appointments to the Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN), an important cross border body, it was made clear in communication to the council that the body sought gender balance and multi party involvement in the appointments. Fianna Fáil took three of the appointments out of four and not one woman was selected"
Cllr Pringle concluded
"Sinn Fein won nine seats on councils on Donegal. We gained almost 15% of the vote in the county. Cllr Pearse Doherty has a mandate of over 65,000 votes from the European Parliament election. Cllr Pádraig Mac Lochlainn and I topped the polls in our respective county council electoral areas. Following today, all of our councillors in Donegal will be even more determined to deliver on our contract with the people. We will fight for more accountability and less cronyism in our council chambers. We will make sure that the voice of the 10,000 people who supported us is heard".ENDS
Sinn Féin Councillor for Ligoniel, Eoin O'Broin, has stated that unionist and loyalist politicians need to bring an end to the two day old blockade of Ligoniel. He was speaking following the revelation that the protest will intensify over the weekend.
Speaking today Cllr O‚Broin said:
"For two days now this loyalist blockade has continued. We are now told by the protestors that it will happen again today and twice daily on both Saturday and Sunday. This is unacceptable.
"The nationalist community in Ligoniel has been severely disrupted by these protests. It has also created a real sense of fear and isolation. The motivation behind this blockade is purely sectarian.
"Unionist politicians and community leaders in Ballysillan have the capacity to bring this protest to an end and should do so with the utmost of urgency. In particular I am calling on the MP for the area Nigel Dodds to personally intervene."ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly member for Mid Ulster, Geraldine Dougan has welcomed the news that £480,000 is to be given to the Southern Board's Wraparound scheme to aid those with disabilities.
Mrs Dougan said:
"The wraparound scheme was launched in October 2001 to aid those with disabilities. Since then it has organised services and established a specialist child development clinic in each Trust area, improving services for disabled children and their families."
"I welcome news of this additional funding which will allow the Wraparound scheme to continue to make positive impacts and improve the quality of live for children with disabilities and their families". ENDS
Commenting on a threatening statement issued this morning by the Orange Order in Belfast, North Belfast Sinn Féin councillor Eoin O'Broin has said 'that he fears that the Order is putting in place a plan in conjunction with unionist paramilitaries to try and force the Parades Commissions hand'.
Cllr. O'Broin said:
"This mornings statement from the Orange Order is clearly threatening and comes in the wake of UDA organised blockades of Ligonel over the past two nights. I do fear that the Order is putting in place a plan in conjunction with unionist paramilitaries to try and force the Parades Commissions hand.
"The recent Parades Commission decision to buckle under threats from the Orange Order, unionist death squads and unionist politicians and force an unwanted parade along the Springfield Road has obviously given succour to those within the Order who believe that they can use the threat of violence to ensure the passage of parades through nationalist communities.
"The decision to block roads in Belfast on Monday harks back to the days of Drumcree when Orange Order inspired violence was unleashed year on year across the six counties and of course was directly responsible for the murder of the Quinn children in Ballymoney.
"The Orange Order in Belfast are clearly intent on heightening tensions at a time when many other groups are working tirelessly within interface communities in this city in order to secure a peaceful summer. This decision seeks to undermine much of that good work.
"It would suit the Orange Order better if instead of seeking to blockade nationalist communities in Belfast they began the process of entering into meaningful and constructive dialogue with them." ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP, accompanied by Michael Ferguson MLA and Councillor Paul Maskey, this morning met David Randall Interbrew's Supply Chain Director who has responsibility for the Glen Road Brewery and its future.
Speaking after their meeting Mr. Adams said:
"We expressed in frank terms our dissatisfaction with the manner in which Interbrew has dealt with the Glen Road site and the staff who work there. And we told Mr. Randall of the grave disquiet, which exists throughout this island, at an Interbrew strategy which appears only interested in how much of its products Irish people drink, as against its responsibilities to workers and their families, and the community they come from.
Most of our discussions focussed on what happens next. Sinn Féin‚s objective is to ensure the future viability and sustainability of brewing on the Glen Road and to protect the jobs that exist there.
We questioned Mr. Randall at length about his company‚s preparedness to facilitate a sale of the site as a going manufacturing brewery. For example what brewing and distribution contracts would be available to a potential buyer, and for how long? We also raised with him the understandable fears of workers about their redundancy arrangements in the event that the brewery is closed or sold off to someone else.
Michael Ferguson and Paul Maskey told him of their discussions yesterday with the British Economy Minister Barry Gardiner. And I relayed to Mr. Randall the Taoiseach‚s strong support in a meeting with me yesterday for a continuation of brewing on the Glen Road. We have agreed to remain in close contact."ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Human Rights Issues Caitriona Ruane has demanded that Paul Murphy give an explanation for his refusal to allow the Human Rights Commission access to the juvenile detention centre at Rathgael.
Ms Ruane said:
"In March 2002 the Human Rights Commission produced a report on conditions under which young people were being held by the juvenile justice system in the six counties. It made a total of 170 recommendations aimed at transforming what is a deeply flawed and outdated system.
"Since then however the NIO have repeatedly refused to allow the Human Rights Commission access to Rathgael to monitor progress in implementing the recommendations.
"This is a very serious situation. What are the NIO attempting to hide? Why is the Commission being denied what would seem straightforward access to a facility which has in the past come under major criticism for its practices.
"Many people will find it bizarre that Paul Murphy has allowed this situation to develop to the point where the Human Rights Commission has been forced to take legal action to carry out its duties in the face of opposition from Mr Murphy's department. It is time for Paul Murphy to give the public an explanation for his actions in allowing this situation to develop." ENDS
Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly has criticised today's statement from Paul Murphy regarding the establishment of inquiries into three of the four cases demanded by Judge Cory. Mr Kelly said "while today marks a small measure of progress it has also left many serious issues outstanding ".
Mr Kelly said:
"The British government have been in possession of the Cory report since last October. In early April they published a censored version of Judge Cory's findings. Since then they have refused to hold an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane and today they announced the commencement of the process to set up inquiries into the three other cases.
"However Paul Murphy's statement leaves a range of serious issues outstanding and lacks detail and clarity in a number of key areas.
"Clearly therefore, while some progress has been made there are still serious issues which need to be addressed by the British government before the public can have confidence that these inquiries will have the ability to reach the truth." ENDS
Sinn Fein spokesperson on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Arthur Morgan TD has said that his party has very serious concerns regarding the changes to rent supplement announced by the Government . He described the changes as "reckless and short-sighted"
Deputy Morgan said:
"The changes announced by the Government in relation to the rent supplement scheme are not designed to address the needs of those who currently receive housing assistance in the form of rent supplement. The plan announced by Minister Coughlan and Minister of State Noel Ahern is merely designed to transfer responsibility for the housing needs of these people to underfunded local authorities. Why is the Government not announcing a major Social Housing Building Programme to address the needs of these people and the needs of all those currently on local authority social housing waiting lists? This measure is designed to take the heat off Noel Ahern and Mary Coughlan, both of whom have shown gross incompetence in their handling of the housing issue. They have shown complete disregard for the fact that changes brought in relation to rent supplement in the last 2 years have already contributed to the increasing levels of homelessness and have forced vulnerable people to remain in dangerous and unsuitable housing situations.
"The implications of the announcement is that people will be denied rent supplement after 18 months on the misleading basis that local authorities, which simply do not have the funds, will be able to address their housing needs. It is only logical to assume that If local authorities were in a position to address the housing needs of these people they would surely have done so before now. These changes will lead to increase levels of homelessness.
"The Minister spoke of •332m being spent on rent supplement payment to landlords in 2003 with no assets accruing to the state. Let us be clear, there is nothing in the plan outlined by the government that will change that situation. Under this scheme local authorities will be renting accommodation from private landlords. The Government is well aware that the best solution to the housing crisis in this state, as demonstrated in other jurisdictions, is investment in the construction of social housing with the aim of increasing significantly the percentage of social housing rental stock. The majority of the people currently in receipt of rent supplement should by right be accommodated in social housing. The reason they are not is because the government has failed to invest in social housing.
"The plans announced by the Government are reckless and short-sighted and will ultimately do nothing to address the housing needs of the people of this state."ENDS
Upper Bann Sinn Féin Assembly member John O'Dowd has accused the Black Perceptory of 'creating a deliberate smokescreen after the Order sought to march down William Street in Lurgan to reach the train station'.
Mr O'Dowd said:
"The Loyal Orders are all aware that a parade through the William Street area of Lurgan is not acceptable. Despite this the Black Perceptary has sought to create a smokescreen by chartering a train and then demanding the right to march along William Street to reach the station to board the train and head off to Bangor for their parade. In previous years the Loyal Orders have chosen to use buses to get to parade venues.
"The issue however is not the use of the train as some within the Loyal Orders and the unionist media have sought to portray. The issue is the parade and the route it takes and the venue that it disperses at before the marchers board the train.
"I have met with the Parades Commission and have asked them to review the current determination which ends the march directly at the top of William Street. It is the view of the local community that the parade should terminate further up the town as to allow for a break in the parade before the loyal orders proceed down William Street to the train station.
"It is crucial that the good community relations which have been maintained within the Lurgan over the past number of years are not put under strain by what many local nationalists see as a cynical move by the Black Perceptory to force a parade through a nationalist area of the town." ENDS