Responding to comments made this afternoon by Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern indicating that he sees it an inevitable that Sinn Féin will serve in the Irish government in the future, Sinn Féin Assembly group leader Conor Murphy said:
"The Minister is simply acknowledging the reality that, with our increasing electoral mandate, Sinn Féin will serve in an Irish government in the future. However, any participation by Sinn Féin in a coalition will be determined by our party membership and by whether such a course would best advance our agenda of political, constitutional and social change."ENDS
Commenting on reports that the solicitors acting for the British soldiers involved in the Bloody Sunday inquiry are to once again take the tribunal to the High Court over a point of law, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the issue of truth Philip McGuigan said:
" Previous to and during the Saville Tribunal into the murders of civilians on Bloody Sunday the British military through their legal teams have time and again sought to stall the work of the inquiry.
" If the most recent reports are true then it seems that again even at this late stage the military solicitors directed by Whitehall are once again going to take the tribunal through the courts on a point of law.
" If the approach of the British military establishment to the Bloody Sunday Tribunal is anything to go by then it is very clear that the British are not capable at this time of engaging in a honest and open way in any process of truth recovery.
" Perhaps this is the real reason why Paul Murphy has sought to place the British in the lead in terms of constructing the terms for such a process in the future." ENDS
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy commenting on the announcement to reduce the number of civil servants to provide greater expenditure on front line services has said that there are concerns that politically driven cuts in civil service numbers will not deliver better services.
Mr Molloy said:
"It is vital that commitments to increase overall expenditure are maintained. We need to see greater investment in our infrastructure and greater investment in front line staff. Ian Pearson's announcement today will be judged against that benchmark.
"However, I share concerns that politically driven job cuts will actually impact on services. It is vital that where job cuts are identified that there is clear evidence that it will not impact on services and will generate real savings that can support expenditure in front line services.
"It is also important that while Ian Pearson talks about moving 5,000 civil servants out of government departments over the next 5 years that we ensure that there is proper training and support to help civil servants finds alternative employment. It is also important that employees transferred into another body such as Agri-Food and Biosciences bodies that their rights are fully protected.
"Our economy remains over reliant on public sector employment. Changes of this scale will undoubtedly have major consequences for our economy. However, if savings can be transferred to front line services - and not spent on expensive consultants - then it is vital that there are more resources for more nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals, as well as more teachers and classroom assistants.
"It should also being recognised that central to these proposals are the introduction of water taxes and huge increases in rates. In short we will be paying more. It is vital that there is clear evidence that we will be getting better services and not merely allowing the British Treasury off the hook. People should not lose sight of the fact that through water taxes and rates increases we will be paying for borrowing under the Reform and Reinvestment Initiative and an expansion of Private Finance Initiatives despite growing evidence that they do not deliver value for money.
"We are being asked to pay more and more with out any guarantee that we will be getting more and more. Yet 10 years into the peace process the British government has failed to deliver a genuine peace dividend. It is vital that we now see the colour of the British governments money in terms of living up to its commitment to the peace process." ENDS
Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has voiced concerns that housing is dropping down the priorities of British direct rule ministers.
Michelle Gildernew said:
"With Budget Proposals for the six counties due to be released in less than a week the indications are that housing is set to drop down the agenda. We must not let that happen.
"In Fermanagh we have seen unprecedented rises in the cost of housing - this is a real issue for young people trying to set up home on their own, particularly those with young children.
"The direct rule minister with responsibility for housing, Ian Pearson, seems to be happy to let housing drop down the agenda in the six counties. However for thousands of people unable to get affordable social housing it remains a number one priority.
"Housing is also a key concern to people who have seen up to three years slippage on home improvements to kitchens and bathrooms. Receipts from housing benefits go into finance and the general pot while houses are allowed to deteriorate with all the social implications that entails. Money needs to be spent on maintaining housing executive stock to higher standards. Direct rule ministers shouldn't be allowed to bleed housing dry.
"It is clear that housing standards important to the health and well being of our whole population but particularly for older and younger members of our community. Damp can be a killer to the elderly and to children and leads to unnecessary and unwelcome visits to the GP and hospital. The increase in respiratory diseases is something that we must combat with every means at our disposal and that underlines the need for warm, dry, well-maintained housing.
"We can't allow housing stock to rot. While other governments are making housing a top four priority it looks as if we are expected to accept further neglect at the hands of a direct rule minister. It is imperative that social housing should be provided and maintained." ENDS
A decision by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to reconvene its research committee as a matter of urgency, following revelations that the sugar industry may have unduly influenced its research and reports, is to be welcomed according to Sinn Féin's health spokesperson, John O'Dowd MLA.
Mr O'Dowd said,
"The relationship between excess sugar consumption, obesity and Type 2 diabetes is one which health professionals have identified as one of the growing health problems within society today.
"I welcome the fact that the FAO is urgently investigating recent claims that a key consultation into how much sugar we should be eating was secretly funded by the sugar industry. Since its publication, this consultation report has been used by the sugar industry to fight any suggestion of a link between sugar and health concerns.
"It is clear that surreptitious attempts were made to prevent an upper limit being placed on the amount of carbohydrates and sugar which people should have as part of their diet. Obviously had the report stated that sugar should not form more than ten per cent of a person's carbohydrate intake, there would have been massive repercussions for the sugar industry and for those involved in food processing and manufacturing.
"This move by the FAO to reconvene the research committee will hopefully lead to limitations being recommended for sugar consumption and towards more in-depth research on the impact of processed foods on the body." ENDS
A cross party delegation from Belfast City Council this morning departed for a 2 day lobbying trip to Brussels. The intention of the trip is to lobby for the extension of the Urban 2 funding.
Speaking before his departure, Belfast Deputy Mayor Joe O'Donnell said:
" While in Brussels we will be lobbying to try and secure extra funding for Urban 2 beyond 2006 and the general extension of the Peace Programme. Belfast like many other areas across the six counties has received a welcome boost as a result of peace funding and the impact on disadvantaged communities has been positive.
" Consequently, I am concerned about the speculation of a £20 million reduction in such funding. The communities which suffered most as a result of the conflict are in no position to deal with such a blow. I would hope that our trip will result in the EU maintaining their financial support for the peace Process." ENDS
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP today addressed a meeting in Stormont organised by families of those killed yhrough the British governments policy of state sanctioned murder.
Mr McGuinness said:
The British government's response to the demand for an independent inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane has been denial, cover-up and concealment. This is in itself clear evidence that the British state was involved in the wholesale assassination of citizens through a policy of collusion. The British government's declared commitment to a truth process is starkly contradicted by the determination of their efforts to hide the truth about collusion.
The reality is that collusion was a policy employed by the British state in Ireland through which it employed loyalist death squads to wage a dirty war against the nationalist and republican people. That reality is now widely accepted. In fact, the head of the Metropolitan Police, John Stevens, has already said that British state agents were involved in collusion - including involvement in murder. Judge Cory, during his investigation, uncovered reports prepared for the British cabinet. The collusion policy went to the top of the British political system. It went right up to Margaret Thatcher.
British Intelligence recruited, or placed, large numbers of agents in the loyalist paramilitaries.
Loyalist paramilitaries were armed with modern weapons. In December 1987 over 300 weapons were brought into the north of Ireland, with the full participation and knowledge of British Intelligence, and distributed among the loyalist death squads.
British Intelligence updated and organised loyalist intelligence documents to ensure that targeting by the loyalist death squads was, to quote a British intelligence report, 'more professional'.
The British state created an efficient sectarian murder machine and set it loose on the nationalist community in the north of Ireland.
Hundreds of people were killed, and many more injured and maimed, in a vicious campaign of state-sponsored murder.
No member of the Special Branch of British military Intelligence has been indicted for these crimes in which they were centrally involved. No political leaders have been held accountable for this policy. Indeed, the policy of collusion has never been reversed. It remains intact.
The British agencies, which executed this policy, remain in place today.
The truth has to be told about collusion. The families of the victims deserve the truth." ENDS
Speaking today as British Secretary of State Paul Murphy meets with the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern, Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty said that there 'were still serious concerns about the approach being adopted by the two governments at this time'.
Mr Doherty said:
" Since Leeds Castle Sinn Féin have been both publicly and privately making it clear to the two governments that we are concerned about the approach they have adopted, particularly to defending the core fundamentals and principles which underpin the Good Friday Agreement.
" Nationalists and republicans have made it very clear that we are not prepared to countenance a return to the days of unionist misrule. The checks, balances and protections which are a core element of the Agreement were designed to prevent unionist abuses of power. They cannot be diluted.
" The vast majority of political opinion on the island is pro-Agreement. It is entirely unrealistic, in an effort to appease DUP rejectionists, for the governments to expect others to acquiesce to an anti-Agreement position. If progress is to be made in the time ahead the two governments need to make it clear to the DUP that the onus is on them to accept the core elements of the Good Friday Agreement." ENDS
Commenting after the DPP decided to drop charges of collecting information against a West Belfast businessman Bill Tierney, Sinn Féin Assembly member Michael Ferguson said that the case once again highlights the nasty anti-republican cadre which still dominates the core of the PSNI.
Mr Ferguson said:
" Bill Tierney and his family have been put through 16 months of hell. He was remanded in custody and his business was forced to close. One of the Diplock judges at an earlier bail hearing branded Mr Tierney a highly dangerous man, a remark widely reported in the press.
" These bogus charges followed a failed attempt by the PSNI Special Branch to recruit Mr Tierney as an informer. When this attempt failed they colluded with the DPP and created a bogus against Mr Tierney resulting in his imprisonment.
" It will be interesting to hear what the SDLP and others who defend the PSNI Special Branch day and daily have to say about this case. It is obvious to any impartial onlooker that Mr Tierney has been victimised as the result of the work of a nasty anti-republican, anti peace process cadre which continues to dominate the PSNI from within.
" This case and others like it demonstrate in a real and tangible way the distance which still must be travelled before we reach the stage were we have an acceptable policing service and an impartial criminal justice system." ENDS
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has welcomed proposals from the European Commission to extend PEACE funding until 2006. It is proposed that EU funding of €60 million for the PEACE Programme and €15 million for the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) will be provided per year for 2005 and 2006.
Speaking today from Brussels, Ms de Brún said:
"Through its Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation and its contribution to the International Fund for Ireland, the EU has given practical support to peace building, reconciliation and social inclusion here.
I commend the European Union for its continued support for the peace process in Ireland and I welcome proposals for an extension to Peace II and IFI until 2006 based on an understanding that peace building and conflict resolution is a long term process.
I am disappointed that the British government has not sought the same amount of money as in the previous period and call on them to ensure that the community activity and cross-border element is protected.
All actors must now work together in an open and transparent fashion to make best use of the Peace II extension and to secure a third peace programme (PeaceIII). I pledge to do all in my power to make this happen." ENDS
Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has called upon the incoming European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security Mr Rocco Buttiglione to voluntarily step down from his designate post after making a number of discriminatory comments recently. Ms McDonald said that "people will not have any confidence in an EU Justice Minister who believes in injustice".
In recent weeks Mr Buttiglione reactivated plans to create detention centres in North African countries to deal with asylum applicants to EU member states. Sinn Féin, along with others opposed the plans. In recent days, Mr Buttiglione commented that homosexuality was a sin and marriage is so that women can have children.
Speaking today, Ms McDonald said:
"Mr Buttiglione's recent remarks are both outrageous and offensive. The very fact that Mr Buttiglione is an incoming European Commissioner with the portfolio of Justice, Freedom and Security will make citizens very uneasy. People will not have confidence in a EU Justice Minister who believes in injustice.
"I have been tracking the comments made by Mr Buttiglione over the past number of months and he has been consistent. At every available opportunity he seems intent on making inflammatory statements. Sinn Féin opposes Mr Buttiglione‚s views on the role of women, sexuality and the issue of asylum. What we require is a progressive European Justice Commissioner who can promote a socially inclusive EU. Unfortunately, Mr Buttiglione does not seem to be the right person for the job.
"Sinn Féin is calling upon Mr Buttiglione to voluntarily step down as Commissioner-elect. He has already admitted that he cannot reconcile his own personal views with professional ones. I am calling upon him to be replaced with someone progressive and open-minded." ENDS
Sinn Fein Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has said that the biggest ever review of research comparing organic to conventional farming highlights the positive contribution of organic farming to biodiversity.
Ms Gildernew said:
"Organic farming increases biodiversity at every level of the food chain - all the way from lowly bacteria to mammals. This is the conclusion of the largest review ever done of studies from around the world comparing organic and conventional agriculture. Organic farming aids biodiversity by using fewer pesticides and inorganic fertilisers, and by adopting wildlife-friendly management of habitats where there are no crops, including strategies such as not weeding close to hedges, and by mixing arable and livestock farming.
"Mixed farming particularly benefits some bird species. Lapwings, for example, nest on spring-sown crops, but raise their chicks on pasture. Intensive agriculture has been blamed for the 80% decline in lapwing numbers in England and Wales since the 1960s.
"It is vital that we explore all avenues in seeking to develop new strategies to support a viable and sustainable future for rural communities and for the farming industry.
"Sinn Féin believe that building on the clean green image of Irish produce should be a element in any strategy to build exports and support higher returns. Central to this is the demand that Ireland remain GM free. However, there are also potentially very significant progress that can be made in developing niche markets such as organic produce that will also bring added benefits to our rural environment that would appear to be entirely compatible with the countryside management ethos that is central to the CAP reform proposals." ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has strongly criticised what he termed the "collective punishment" of the Traveller community on Dunsink Lane by the local authority, and called for the immediate removal of the concrete barrier blocking access to their homes.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Whatever the motivation or intention of the local authority, the practical effect of the barrier is the collective punishment of the entire Traveller community on Dunsink Lane for the actions of a minority of people from both the settled and Traveller community, who are using the Lane as an illegal dumping ground and are engaging in other criminal activity. This is wrong, and is a violation of this community's rights.
"The local authority's bad decision has been compounded over the past number of days by a provocative show of force by the Gardai, and by the refusal of either the new Minister for the Environment and Local Government or the Ministers with responsibility for Justice and Equality to get involved to reduce growing tensions in the area.
"I am calling on the local authority to admit their wrongdoing, immediately remove the barrier and engage properly with the Traveller community on Dunsink Lane. Failing any positive response from the County Council I would urge the relevant Government Ministers, with whom I and my party colleague Arthur Morgan TD tried to raise this issue last week, to immediately and cosntructively intervene so that tensions may be eased in the immediate term, and a satisfactory resolution to the issues found in the short term. In the longer term, some kind of mediated Traveller-settled community reconciliation process may be required to reestablish positive relations in the local area.
"Finally, I would also urge people from both communities to work together to end the practice of illegal dumping and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable." ENDS
The campaign group An Fhirinne will tomorrow (Tuesday 12th October) visit Stormont to meet with the various political parties.
The campaign group was established by families of those killed by the British government through their collusion policy to try and uncover the truth surrounding the killing of their loved ones.
Tomorrows meeting will be followed up by a similar lobbying trip to the European Parliament in early December.
The group will be available for a photo opportunity on the steps of Stormont at 11.45am.
They will then hold a meeting in the Long Gallery which will be addressed by Martin McGuinness MP.
This meeting is also open to members of the media and will commence at 12.15pm.
Sinn Féin Environment Spokesperson, South Down MLA Willie Clarke has called for a wider debate on global warming and said that Kyoto must only be the first step in addressing global warming.
Mr Clarke said:
"It is almost 7 years since the Kyoto protocol was signed in the early hours of 11 December 1997. Next year the treaty should at last come into force after Russia signed up to it. Yet we need to begin looking ahead to the successor to Kyoto. Every year almost 7 billion tonnes of carbon is released into the atmosphere. Before the industrial age, the CO2 level was steady at around 280 parts per million. When the Kyoto protocol was drawn up in 1997, the CO2 level had reached at 368 ppm. In 2004, it hit 379 ppm.
"Yet the reality is that Kyoto will not even come close to solving the problem of climate change. It is, as the UN Environment Programme director Klaus Toepfer said in a statement last week, 'only the first step in a long journey'. Most prediction of major climate change - rising temperatures and rising sea levels, and more frequent floods, droughts, storms are based on a concentration of 550 ppm. On current trends, this figure, is likely to be reached in the second half of this century.
"The Kyoto protocol involves modest reductions of less than 5%. The US does not support it, developing nations do not have to make any cuts and it expires in 2012. Many argue that we need to set the bar higher and that only drastic cuts in global emissions of CO2, of two-thirds or more, can stop the concentration of the gas rising ever higher and stave off ever more severe climate change.
"Progress on achieving long term targets rely on greater pressure on the US, which emits eight times as much CO2 per head of population as China and 18 times as much as India, and on abandoning Kyoto-style piecemeal negotiations on individual national targets in favour of a global plan to cap concentrations of critical greenhouse gases. Setting more ambitious targets to cap the concentration of green house gases requires a real commitment and will require major changes to the manufacturing process, to the way that energy is generated, as oil and natural gas supplies dwindle, and to our lifestyle. The time is ripe for a wider public debate on global warming and our response to it." ENDS
Sinn Féin Councillor for Dublin City Dessie Ellis has accused the Dublin City Council and Fingal Council, and other state bodies of "creating inter-communal tensions in Finglas" and called upon them to "immediately remove the barrier at Dunsink".
Councillor Ellis made his call as members of the travelling community protested against the blocking of an access road to a halting site in the Finglas area. Dublin City Council says they erected the barrier to counter illegal dumping in the area.
Speaking this morning, Cllr Ellis said:
"I am calling upon Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council to immediately remove the barrier at Dunsink. It is a draconian and shortsighted attempt to deal with the problem of illegal dumping in the area. Furthermore, local people were not notified that the barrier would be erected. The City Council is responsible for inflaming inter-communal tensions in the Finglas area.
"Let me be clear about this, illegal dumping in the area is a matter for the whole community and cannot be attributed to one group of people. To block off a whole community of people is irresponsible and foolish, and has led to great inconvenience to the local people. A number of local children have not gone to school for fear of not being able to return home safely.
'Sinn Féin believes that this barrier must be removed and a consultation process begun with the local people to discuss the wider issue of illegal dumping and other matters in the area. I would also question the legality of such a measure. The City Council must act now to regain the trust of the local community.
"Blocking off local communities is wrong and must cease. It is only a few short months since green mesh screens were erected at a halting site on the N32, so that visiting EU dignitaries did not have to see inside the site. This type of approach to local communities is indicative of the attitude that prevails within certain sections of society. People deserve better." ENDS
Sinn Féin Equality Spokesperson, South Down MLA Catriona Ruane commenting on the updated statistics published by National Statistics Online has said that action is required to tackle the higher levels of unemployment that exist within the Catholic community.
Ms Ruane said:
"People from the Catholic community are more likely to be unemployed than Protestants. That is a simple indisputable fact. Action is required to tackle the unemployment differential between the two communities.
"The unemployment rate for Catholic men is 9 per cent compared with 5 per cent for Protestant men. Among women, the unemployment rates are 6 per cent for Catholics and 3 per cent for Protestants. A higher proportion of Catholic than Protestant working age men and women are classified as economically inactive. Overall 24 per cent of Catholic men were economically inactive compared with 18 per cent of Protestant men.
"If we look at the number of people who are classified as economically inactive, at the 'official' unemployment figures and also at the levels of long-term unemployment and long-term illness and incapacity the picture is far from rosy. All of these indicators, and others such as the Noble index of deprivation and indicators of poverty and ill health all correlate. The statistics show clearly that unemployment, ill health and poverty are a bigger problem for the Catholic community.
"There is also unemployment within the protestant community but the truth is that there is a structural pattern to the differences in unemployment that stem from structural patterns of discrimination. It is time that unionists acknowledged the reality of this differential and stopped trying to pretend that it doesn't exist.
"If we are going to tackle the social and economic problems created by the patterns of economic activity throughout the Six Counties then we need to be honest about what is happening. Ignoring the true extent of the problem will not help us to put in place the long-term solutions that many of these long standing problems require.
"There are clear commitments within the Good Friday Agreement to eradicate the differential between the communities but nothing has been done to make any impact. The governments must act, and they must act now." ENDS
Speaking this morning in Belfast Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP said that "the political negotiations were fast coming to decision time, particularly for the DUP".
Mr McGuinness said:
" Since Leeds Castle our negotiating team has remained in constant, often daily contact, with the two governments.
" This contact will continue this week, however we are fast coming to decision time, particularly for the DUP.
" Are the DUP prepared to accept a comprehensive deal which is based on the core principles of the Good Friday Agreement or are they going to continue to attempt through the two governments to erode the power sharing fundamentals of the Agreement as they attempt to reintroduce unionist rule.
" The fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement include the broad principles of power sharing, equality, all-Ireland institutions and the checks and balances, the protections, which are central to this. They were designed to prevent the sort of abuses we had previously under unionist governments and which continue to exist in local councils under unionist control These fundamentals are not up for negotiation
" I have often said that I believe that the DUP and Sinn Féin will do a deal. So why not do this deal now. The DUP claim to be the confident and assertive leaders of unionism. So let us see some of that confidence. It is time for the DUP to decide if they accept power sharing, equality, the All-Ireland architecture and the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement or not." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice issues Gerry Kelly has demanded that the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy give an explanation about the ongoing delay in publishing the terms of reference for the proposed inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane.
Mr Kelly said:
" Given the track record of successive British governments in concealing and covering-up their role in the murder of citizens through the state policy of collusion there is obvious concern at the continuing delay in publishing the terms of reference for the proposed inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.
" Since the murder of Pat Finucane successive British governments have failed to allow the sort of independent inquiry which is acknowledged as the only mechanism which can reveal the truth to proceed. The time for full disclosure from the British government, its departments and agencies about their role in this killing has long since past.
" However the approach of the British government to this case in recent weeks has served to reinforce fears that the British policy of concealment is set to continue. I am demanding that the British Secretary of State Paul Murphy either publishes immediately the terms of reference for the proposed inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane or gives a public explanation of his failure to do so.
" It is only when these terms of reference are published that the Finucane family and those of us who support their demand for a full independent judicial public inquiry can assess whether the inquiry proposed will have the capacity to uncover the truth about British state involvement in this murder." ENDS
Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin has said that anti-Agreement unionists would be 'delighted' at SDLP indications that they are considering boycotting any future Executive.
Mr McLaughlin said:
" Many people have been quite underwhelmed in recent weeks as the SDLP have sought to portray themselves as defenders of the Good Friday Agreement. This is the same party who supported legislation which allowed a British Minister to sanction or suspend a member of the Executive outside the terms of the Agreement and who arrived at Leeds Castle proposing 10 unelected individuals to head up the Departments.
" Now we have the SDLP threatening to boycott any future Executive. Anti-Agreement unionists will I am sure by delighted at this suggestion. Such a move would hand additional Executive power to the DUP and if the SDLP choose what would be seen as an easy option it would be to the detriment of the nationalist community, the Agreement and the Peace Process.
" Sinn Féin will continue to engage with the governments and the other parties and defend the Good Friday Agreement in the face of ongoing efforts to diminish its power sharing core by anti-Agreement unionists. Sinn Féin will not be running away from this task." ENDS