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Latest Statements

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


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Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson Gerry McHugh has welcomed the exploratory talks between the UFU and IFU on developing a common way forward on the introduction of EU directives on Nitrates.

Mr McHugh said:

"Sinn Fein have been at the forefront in arguing for a common way forward on agricultural issues across Ireland. There needs to be a strong single voice for farming and fishing communities on this island, especially in Europe. This is one of the reasons that it is so exciting and important that Sinn Féin will be able to offer representation from across Ireland after the EU election in the heart of Europe.

"Sinn Féin believe that should be a reassessment of the application of the Nitrates Directive in light of evidence that nitrate levels in Ireland are currently within the 50 mg limit for the water supply and ground water.

"These exploratory talks between the IFU and UFU show that there is growing acknowledgement of the importance of adopting a common agenda in the key issues facing our farming and fishing industries.

"I particularly welcome the recognition from the UFU that an All Ireland approach to Europe can represent the best way of challenging and influencing the way that EU directives are implemented, and CAP and CFP reform in order to deliver a better future for all of our Irish agriculture and fishing industries.

"There are many key decisions to be taken in the coming months that will impact on the long-term viability of Irish farming, not least the Nitrates directives and the Phosphates issues next year, but also on CAP reform and the impact of enlargement and the global market where it will be vital that our interests are represented with a single strong voice within Europe."ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP, speaking at the launch of the party‚s campaign for the European elections, said: "Sinn Féin is asking voters in all parts of this island to return an all-Ireland team of MEPs to Europe. Our message is simple - a vote for Sinn Féin is a vote for an alternative, for a working voice in Europe, it is a vote for the peace process, it is a vote for neutrality, it is a vote for equality and change."

Mr. Adams said:

"Sinn Féin is the only all-Ireland party standing candidates in all five constituencies on the island with the ability to win seats on both sides of the Border. By electing Sinn Féin representatives, the people of Ireland can have truly national representation in the EU Parliament for the first time. Sinn Féin is working to bring about real change, in the peace process, in local communities and in presenting a viable alternative to the present direction of the European Union.

We want a Europe of equals. We take the same approach to the European Union as we do to the peace process and building for Irish unity. We will engage, campaign and bring forward alternative policies. We will take on those vested interests who want a federal Europe to act in the interests of big business.

The last five years have in many ways been a real learning experience for Irish people in relation to the EU. The government‚s decision to ignore the wishes of half a million voters and re-run the Nice Treaty was blatantly anti-democratic. The government failed to listen to the people and failed to address the many concerns that were raised about the direction of the EU.

"The Irish Presidency of the EU was another real opportunity to put issues raised by the Irish people on the European agenda. The government could have acted to protect neutrality. They could have acted to demand that Irish is recognised as an official EU language. They could have acted to address a wide range of concerns about the growing lack of democracy within the EU. But the Irish Presidency is almost over and the government have spent the entire time transfixed by the effort to secure a deal on the proposed EU Constitution, even if such a deal means a further dilution of Irish sovereignty.

"Our message to voters is simple ˆ a vote for Sinn Féin is a vote for an alternative, for a working voice in Europe, it is a vote for the peace process, it is a voate for neutrality, it is a vote for equality. If voters choose to put their trust in us, they can be assured that we will bring our agenda for change to the European stage."ENDS

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Sinn Féin EU candidate for the North West Pearse Doherty speaking at the launch of the party's EU candidates in Dublin today said: Sinn Féin is for engagement with the EU and has supported many EU measures that promote and enhance human rights, equality and the all-Ireland agenda. But unlike other establishment parties in this state we will not adopt a wholly uncritical attitude to any and all developments in the EU, regardless of their impact on Ireland."

Mr Doherty said:

"Sinn Féin wants to build a Europe of Equals - a real partnership of equal sovereign states, co-operating in social and economic development in Europe and beyond. We are for engagement with the EU but we believe that you have to look at the many complex developments in the EU on their own merits.

"We have supported EU and other Europe wide measures that promote and enhance human rights, equality and the all-Ireland agenda. We argued for the inclusion of the European Convention on Human Rights in the Good Friday Agreement. We support the incorporation of the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights and the European Social Charter in EU law. These measures are an example of the EU at its best.

"But Sinn Féin has never been afraid to stand up against EU measures damaging to Irish interests. We oppose moves towards an EU superstate with its own army. We oppose any further infringements on Irish sovereignty, or attempts by this Government to curtail further our neutrality.

"Sinn Féin's priorities are:

-to bring our agenda for change and demand for Irish unity to the European stage,

-to create an economically and socially just EU, not an EU super-power,

to make Irish a working and official language in Europe,

-to protect Irish neutrality,

-to bring an all-Ireland approach to Europe on issues such as agriculture, funding and social policy,

-work for the reform of EU institutions, particularly the Commission and the council,

-to rebuild the Peace Process.

"Sinn Féin MEPS will be part of an active, radical team in Europe. We won't second-guess the concerns of the Irish people. We will consult and debate at local level and in elected forums and report back to communities across Ireland through our councillors, TDs MLAs and MPs.

"The bottom line for Sinn Féin is that democracy is built upon the sovereignty of the people. We support co-operation at EU level where appropriate and necessary, Sinn Féin MEPs will not only engage critically and constructively with EU policy, we will also challenge the persisting democratic deficit in EU decision-making as well as the democratic deficits here on this island."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Representative for Dublin South East, Daithí Doolan, speaking today in Pearse Street, has called on Minister for Education Noel Dempsey, "to refurbish the historic Christian Brother's school in Dublin's Pearse Street. This is the Christian Brother‚s school which was attended by two of our greatest patriots, Padraig and Willie Pearse. Yet in recent times it has fallen into disrepair. In light of the refurbishment that is taking place in the surrounding community, it is important that this unique school also benefits from government funds."

Mr. Doolan said,:

"I have visited the school and spoken with parents, pupils and teachers and one thing is clear, the conditions in which pupils are forced to learn are wholly inadequate and it's time that this government invest in the education and future of young people here in the inner city.

In any other country this school would have been returned to it‚s former glory, providing education in this unique building, but this government and in particular the Education Minister appears to want to let a historic institution fall into further disrepair and in turn undermine the future of our young people. It appears that Fianna Fail would rather forget our past in order to cut corners in government spending.

Mr. Doolan concluded by calling on the Minister "to do justice to Padraig Pearse's memory and the future of young people in Pearse Street and immediately release funds to repair and upgrade this school." ENDS

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Speaking today during a canvass in Belfast Sinn Fein EU candidate Bairbre de Brún has called on the EU to "develop a comprehensive global justice agenda‚. The West Belfast MLA said that one of her key priorities if elected will be to promote such an agenda as a Œkey element in future EU external relations policy."

Ms de Brún said:

"Developing a comprehensive global justice agenda which can see the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals on global poverty reduction by 2015 must become one of the main objectives for EU external relations policy.

"It is not acceptable for the EU to act as an economic superpower, imposing a free trade agenda that hurts the developing world. Instead it must use its considerable economic power responsibly by pursuing policies that eradicate the exploitative trade relationships that prevent the developing world from establishing independent sustainable economies.

"Sinn Féin believes that the EU must: strengthen its commitment to Developing Country Debt Cancellation ˆ with an urgent priority on debt cancellation for countries with a high HIV/AIDS prevalence; establish a permanent EU monitoring group to review members‚ implementation of the Monterey and Barcelona Commitments on aid increases, aid harmonisation, the untying of aid, and an increased proportion of EU aid to poor countries; reverse the present imbalance in EU military v. development aid spending; and redirect a significant portion of the •160 billion presently spent annually by EU states on defence towards the estimated •100 billion cost of cutting global poverty in half by 2015.

"It is also crucial that the EU argue for the reform of the International Financial System to strengthen representation of developing countries in international economic decision making and adopt the EU as Currency Speculation (Tobin) Tax Zone.

"Taken together these measures would ensure that the EU plays a leading role in tackling global poverty and inequality." ENDS

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Sinn Féin will open its national campaign for the final three weeks of the European Parliament elections on Monday 24th May at 10.30am in Buswells Hotel, Molesworth Street, Dublin. This will be followed by launches in Belfast, Cork, Galway and Wexford. Attending the national press conference in Dublin will be Gerry Adams MP and the party's five candidates:

Bairbre de Brún MLA - Six Counties

Pearse Doherty - North West

David Cullinane - South

John Dwyer - East

Mary Lou McDonald - Dublin

Speaking prior to the launch Sinn Féin Director of Elections Pat Doherty said:

"Sinn Féin is the only party standing in all five constituencies on the island and next week we will demonstrating our all-Ireland strength with EU launches in Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Galway and Wexford. Our message in this campaign is simple - a vote for Sinn Féin is a vote for an alternative, working voice in Europe, it is a vote for the peace process, it is a vote for neutrality , it is a vote for change."ENDS

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Speaking today during a canvass tour of Newry and South Armagh Sinn Féin EU candidate Bairbre de Brún MLA has called for a "demilitarised Ireland in a demilitarised EU".

Ms de Brún said: "The continued British military presence in the north of Ireland, and particularly in border areas like South Armagh is a glaring symbol of the British governments failure to deal with their demilitarisation commitments under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

"However, problems of militarization are not only found here. There is a growing trend supported by some for a greater military role for the EU on the world stage. The draft EU Constitution directs states to contribute forces to a common army and to increase domestic military spending. The draft Constitution also makes provision for EU military intervention as part of counter-insurgency campaigns and privileges NATO states over neutral states.

"The net result of these proposals undermines Irish military neutrality and clearly increases the level of militarization in the EU as a whole.

"At a time when many of us here in Ireland are working to bring about an end to conflict and a complete demilitarisation of society, such proposals run contrary to everything we are trying to achieve locally. Sinn Féin wants to see a demilitarised Ireland in a demilitarised EU". ENDS

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Sinn Féin North-West EU candidate Pearse Doherty commenting as OPEC oil producers met in Amsterdam today to discuss the soaring price of petrol, said that the current fuel situation "highlights the need for the Irish Government to properly invest in alternative energy sources for the people of this country."

Mr Doherty said:

"This week householders in Ireland were told that ESB was increasing the price of electricity, because of rising fuel prices. Car owners already have to deal with increasing prices at petrol stations. The people of Ireland wouldn't have to deal with these ever-increasing expenses, if the Government got its act together and properly invested in an alternative, environmentally friendly energy source.

"Ireland is failing to meeting the targets set under the Kyoto Treaty, and in 2003 was named as one of the worst offenders in Europe for not reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We have to start looking at producing safe, clean energy. If we remain dependent on outside sources for energy, we will always be subject to marketing trends, which at the moment seem to be spiraling upwards." ENDS

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East Belfast Sinn Féin Representative Cllr. Joe O'Donnell has said that an overnight bomb attack on homes in the Bloomfield Court area will raise fears that ongoing tensions within the unionist paramilitaries will lead to further violence.

Cllr. O'Donnell said:

"There has of course for sometime been tensions between the various unionist paramilitary groups in the East of the city. At the start of the week this spilled over into renewed violence with the killing of a man. Last night homes were bombed in the Bloomfield Court area.

"This increase in internecine loyalist violence also comes at a time when attacks on nationalists have also increased and a series of threats have been issued against Sinn Féin members.

"There is obviously a growing fear that this level of violence will increase and that it will ultimately lead to an increase in attacks on vulnerable nationalist and republican communities.

"I would appeal to people within the unionist community to make every effort in the time ahead to ensure that the issues which have given rise to this latest spate of violence are addressed speedily and that we continue to build upon the good work done last year to ensure that the interface communities can enjoy a peaceful summer." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew has slammed the British Direct Rule Minister Ian Pearson after he branded striking Civil Service workers as 'dishonest and disgraceful'.

Ms Gildernew said:

" Ian Pearson the supposed Labour minister has sat back and allowed this dispute to escalate over the past 23 weeks. He should be sitting down with Nipsa and attempting to find an equitable resolution to this strike instead of shouting insults from the sidelines.

" Exactly how Mr. Pearson believes that this outburst will help resolve this dispute is beyond me. It seems that he is increasingly alienating civil servants instead of doing his job and building bridges and engaging in constructive dialogue.

" I have to say with this sort of leadership at Ministerial level then we would have to be pessimistic about this dispute being resolved in the short term." ENDS

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Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Féin's EU election candidate for Dublin in closing the press conference to launch the party's citizenship referendum campaign said, "The Government is quite "prepared to risk massive social damage for their own perceived short-term electoral advantage". She encouraged people to reject the referendum saying, "The Government underestimates you, the people. They underestimate your commitment to building an Ireland of Equals. Now that the referendum is being forced on us, we have the opportunity to send McDowell and the Government a very clear and powerful message by rejecting their racist, ill-conceived and cynical proposal."

Ms. McDonald said, "It is quite clear from the evidence of a growth in hate crimes on both sides of the border which have resulted in injury and deaths, and an increase in racist incidents including the targeting of pregnant non-national women since the referendum was proposed that this Government is prepared to risk massive social damage for their own perceived short-term electoral advantage.

"They obviously believe that they can distract attention away from the real concerns of people with exaggerated and false scaremongering. They are doing this in the vain hope that the Irish electorate won't see through this cynical and callous ploy. Sinn Féin believes that this Government are underestimating the Irish electorate. We have witnessed a growing demand for and a commitment to the building of an Ireland of Equals ? we have seen demands for equality of access to healthcare and housing, for recognition of the rights of people with disabilities, a more equitable tax system and a fair immigration system.

"In calling for a NO vote on June 11th we want the electorate to send a clear and unequivocal message to the bombastic and dictatorial Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, that we will not be brow-beaten into changing the Constitution to serve his cynical agenda."ENDS

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Speaking at the Sinn Féin citizenship referendum campaign launch Sinn Féin local election candidate Daithi Doolan said the Government had provided no evidence to support the rushing of the referendum. He accused Michael McDowell of "deliberately distorting the facts" and of "making it up as he goes along" to suit his own ideologically-driven position.

Mr. Doolan said,

"Ever since the referendum was proposed by the Minister for Justice one thing has been very clear. The Government has failed to provide any solid evidence to support it and when challenged they have constantly shifted their rationale for bringing it forward. First we were told it was because the Masters of the Maternity Hospitals had demanded it to prevent the collapse of the maternity services, but the Masters were quick to reject the Ministers claims. Then the Minister said it was a phenomenon of so-called citizenship tourism that was snowballing out of control. No sooner had his own Department's statistics disposed of this myth than he changed his position again. The next reason he gave was that we had to bring our laws into line with the EU but it transpired that there was no such request from anywhere in the EU. Then it was the Chen case, which, it should be pointed out, has not been finally concluded, so therefore the Minister is asking us to vote on a case on which there has been no outcome. It is clear that the Minister is making the stuff up as he goes along as he has done on other issues. It's a reflection of his arrogance and his dismissal of the intelligence of the Irish electorate that he is trying to railroad through this referendum.

"The Minister is not, as he may like to think, the most intelligent man on the island of Ireland. His judgement is not infallible. But he also is not above distorting the facts to fit his agenda. His use of aggregate statistics to bolster his arguments is disingenuous to say the least. As he has often done in other policy areas, he has also ignored other evidence and other facts that contradict his arguments. But the most fundamental distortion is in the false notion that immigrants are a net drain on resources. International evidence has shown that immigrants make a net contribution. Moreover we know that our economy needs immigrants and their children to slow the ageing of our population, a demographic trends which demonstrably does drain resources. It is time that the Minister told us the truth about immigration, because the Irish people are fed up to the teeth with his lies." ENDS

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Opening the Sinn Féin press conference to launch the Party's campaign against the citizenship referendum Mitchel McLaughlin, party chairperson, urged the electorate to reject the Government's "racist referendum" which he said was not only in "violation of the Good Friday Agreement" but also was a "betrayal of the 1916 Proclamation."

Mr. McLaughlin said, "We are urging people to vote NO to the Government's flawed, ill-conceived and what we believe is ultimately a racist referendum. We are unequivocal in that opposition. We are opposed to both the content and the processes involved. We were the first party to declare that opposition. And we utterly reject the Government's contention that this proposal is either necessary or desired. We stand by the 1916 Proclamation which declares that we should "cherish all the children of the nation equally". This referendum and the dishonest arguments put forward by the Government are a fundamental betrayal of that proclamation and indeed are also against the spirit and intent of the Good Friday Agreement.

"When the Government first put forward its referendum proposals Sinn Féin expressed serious concern that any interference with the Good Friday Agreement would be seized upon by elements opposed to the Agreement and whose declared intention is to see it wrecked. We stated that the anti-Agreement Unionists would use the Government's referendum, which directly alters aspects of the Good Friday Agreement, to argue that renegotiation of the agreement was possible. It has become very clear now that our analysis was exactly right. No sooner had the ink dried on the Government's referendum proposals than Ian Paisley's DUP were out of the blocks declaring, quite understandably from their point of view, the Good Friday Agreement up for renegotiation.

"Notwithstanding the ethical and moral issues surrounding the citizenship referendum itself, the Government, in bringing forward this proposal during an extremely sensitive and difficult time in the peace process has opened up a can of worms that won't easily be dealt with. They have given ammunition to those who are seeking to destroy the Good Friday Agreement, they are, through arrogance, ignorance and short term political thinking, ensuring that efforts to get the peace process back on a solid footing are made all the more difficult.

"Former US Congressman Bruce Morrisson speaking in Dublin on Wednesday, hit the nail on the head in terms of the Good Friday Agreement when he said not alone was it bad enough for nationalists to have had to give up the territorial claim to the whole island of Ireland through the changing of Articles 2 & 3 but if we follow through with the citizenship referendum on the basis of Britain's arguments in the Chen case then we will be forfeiting to a British Parliament the right to decide on who can and cannot avail of Irish citizenship in the Six Counties. That in anybody's book is a retrograde step that is way outside the intent and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

"The 1916 Proclamation, with its commitment to full equality for all children of the nation was a document well before its time. It was a document so progressive, so inclusive and so radically democratic that we are regretfully still only trying to live up to its promise and expectations. But we must not give up on its promise of a fully inclusive society.

"Sinn Féin has a clear vision for our future. It is a vision we have taken from the Proclamation of Easter Week and from the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil. It is what drives our equality agenda and it's what informs our position on this issue." ENDS

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Speaking at the same press conference Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh said the Governments citizenship referendum was a "diversionary tactic" designed by the Government to take the spotlight off its "appalling record" and "the real crises that people are dealing with day in and day out." He went on to say that the Government's campaign was being "led by a Minister who has shown himself incapable of responsibly managing immigration law reform and whose modus operandi is to curtail democratic debate and suppress dissent".

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "There are many, many crucial pieces of legislation that need to be brought forward and implemented. We need legislation to recognise the rights of the disabled. We need legislation to give people a right to housing, universal healthcare and universal childcare. We need legislation to reverse double taxation and need fundamental tax reform to share the wealth. These are the priorities for the Sinn Féin legislators in Leinster House. These are the areas of most concern to the ordinary man and woman in the street. These are the areas where this corrupt and cynical Government should be directing its energies having failed to do so in the last seven years.

"But instead Minister McDowell and his cheerleaders in Government have decided to deflect mounting criticism by attempting to shift the blame on the weakest and most vulnerable sectors of our society, immigrants. And in doing so they are debasing our political system and have deliberately or otherwise promoted and exacerbated the growing trend of racism that is emerging across this island. In doing so, they have violated the Anti Racism Protocol for Political Parties.

"There is no crisis in relation to our citizenship law. The real reason for introducing these measures is to divert attention away from the appalling record of this Government and the real crises that people are dealing with day in and day out. It is a diversionary tactic to avoid dealing with the crisis of our crumbling healthcare system; our housing crisis and the crisis in our education system.

"The irony of all of this is that we have no problems issuing a passport and citizenship to somebody who has never set foot on this island and who has no intention of ever setting foot on this island but because their granny may have once sipped some green beer on March 17th while wearing a kiss me quick leprechaun badge. That Michael McDowell wants citizenship to be based on blood ties exposes as nonsense his claims to be either a liberal or republican. His referendum proposal is more appropriate to a cross-burning than constitutional change.

"But lets look at the Ministers chaotic modus operandi in managing immigration law reform. We have had three immigration bills in less than two years and another planned which has not yet been published. This is a piecemeal ideologically-driven approach when fundamental evidence-based root and branch reform is needed to create a modern positive, compassionate, human-rights compliant and anti-racist immigration system.

"This will be made worse by his proposal to amend Article 9, which will create internal contradictions with Article 2 that will need to be resolved in court. It will lead to the type of constitutional mess we have witnessed before when ill-considered and rushed amendments have been made to the Constitution. But the Minister is not concerned. He is too busy chipping away at our rights with an ideological chisel.

"The Minister's reform modus operandi has also been to curtail democratic debate and suppress dissent. On all three occasions when he proposed to change the law he failed to consult with affected sectors, ignored the Human Rights Commission and others recommendations, and sped the bills through the House to avoid proper democratic scrutiny and debate, and to prevent civil society from mobilising against his plans.

"He said this time he would consult and in fact he said he had consulted with the political parties. However, his idea of consultation was to call me in at 10 minutes notice, tell me what he planned to do and send me packing. He did this twice. At no time did he seek dialogue on this issue.

"This referendum process represents an anti-democratic pattern now established by the Minister for Injustice and Inequality and his Government." ENDS

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Commenting after a PSNI press conference today attempted to portray the current policing arrangements as acceptable, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the issue Gerry Kelly said that 'no amount of PSNI spin will deflect from the reality that we do not currently have an acceptable policing service'.

Mr Kelly said:

" The current policing arrangements do not enjoy the support of the nationalist community. The Oversight Commissioner recognised this fact in his latest report. No amount of PSNI spin alters that fact. However the onus is on those who have delayed the new beginning to policing, especially the British government, to fulfil their responsibilities and deliver the acceptable policing service demanded by the Good Friday Agreement.

" The issues which remain to be resolved are well known and have been identified by Sinn Féin in the past on a number of occasions. These include:

  • Special Branch
  • Demilitarisation of policing
  • Disbandment of the Full Time Reserve
  • Human Rights training and culture
  • Plastic Bullets

" Progress has been made in recent years on the policing issue in our discussions with the British government. Sinn Féin has of course secured amending legislation on policing and amending legislation on justice issues. We now need to see legislation brought forward to transfer powers on policing and justice, as Patten recommended and was agreed in principle by the British government. This is a critical issue in terms of achieving democratic accountability and one which continues to be frustrated by the British government's suspension of the political institutions." ENDS

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Sinn Féin South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey speaking at the launch of the Sinn Féin EU election campaign website in the ITEXP internet café on the Ormeau Road in Belfast has said that the site is a vital tool in reaching out to a broader audience.

Mr Maskey, who launched the website with Bairbre de Brún and Party Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"This website is the latest and most high-tech way of bringing the republican message to an audience at home and across the world. It will help us advance our struggle to achieve our objective of a united Ireland, an Ireland of equals, and a Europe of Equals.

"We have always recognised the absolute importance of explaining our struggle to a wider audience, of winning hearts and minds.

"Republicans, throughout the years of repression and censorship, found innovative ways to get our message across. Thankfully, we have come a long way from the days when republican prisoners, naked except for a blanket, told the world the story of their resistance by smuggling out notes scratched on cigarette papers.

"The Sinn Féin website was relaunched last year and fast became the most popular political party site in Ireland. We average over 1 million hits a month from 72 different countries.

"People will be able to access our policy documents, the press statements, video footage and photo gallery and the site fully navigational in both Irish and English." ENDS

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Speaking at an Amnesty International debate in Belfast this evening, Sinn Féin EU candidate Bairbre de Brún MLA called for "a strong EU wide human rights agenda".

"Human Rights and human rights abuse goes to the heart of the conflict here. Sinn Féin's peace strategy and our support for the peace process and Good Friday Agreement are about bringing an end to all forms of human rights abuse, no matter who is responsible. This means creating a political environment without armed groups, armies or paramilitary police forces, and with adequate safeguards and institutional protections for the human rights of all. This is the logic contained within the Good Friday Agreement.

"Human rights abuse is not a problem confined to here.

"13 of the 15 established member states of the EU tolerate domestic human rights violations according to Amnesty International ˆ particularly impunity for excessive force by police, and allowing degrading conditions of detention.

"The European Union must lead by example on the protection and promotion of human, civil and political rights. Sinn Féin believes that the elimination of human rights abuses within the EU must become a higher priority objective of EU policy.

"Sinn Féin supports the establishment of an EU Human Rights Agency; incorporation of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights into the next EU treaty, including full enforceability; the introduction of human rights-proofing of all EU law and policy; an end to the blockage at Council of the proposed Framework Decision on Combating Racism and Xenophobia; Common Migration and Asylum Policies that are fully compliant with human rights instruments, that bring rights protections up to the highest standard, and that make the EU more open, inclusive and anti-racist; and the development of an EU framework on corporate accountability with a strong human rights dimension.

"Sinn Féin wants to play an active part in building an Ireland of equals in a Europe of equals. Promoting and protecting human rights is a crucial aspect of this, and needs to be mainstreamed throughout all aspects of the EU. This is a key element of Sinn Féin's EU agenda." ENDS

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Sinn Féin East EU candidate John Dwyer commenting on the Education special in this week's Irish Farmers Journal, which shows that students tend to choose local third level institutions, has said that the "report shows once again how essential it is to have third level institutions in every county, to prevent students from outside Dublin and larger urban areas being excluded from further education."

Mr Dwyer said: „The Irish Farmers‚ Journal points out correctly that rural students need colleges on their doorstep. County Wexford for example, has no third level institutions at all, and it‚s not a coincidence that the county also has the lowest third level participation of all the counties across Ireland.

"The Journal's investigation shows that students don‚t stray far from home, when seeking education, mainly because of the cost of living away from home. But in Wexford, the only choice students have is to travel to either Waterford or Carlow.

"This report shows once again how essential it is to have third level institutions in every county, to prevent students from outside Dublin and larger urban areas being excluded from further education.

"It is also imperative that the third level institutions offer courses that are relevant to the local economy in which they are based. Many apprentices in rural areas for instance, are falling between the bracket of student and worker. They need full-time resourced training colleges, so that they can go on to contribute to the community in which they live."ENDS

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Foyle Sinn Féin MLA's Mitchel Mc Laughlin and Mary Nelis who attended the 'Justice for Asbestos Victims Group' Awareness Launch co-sponsored by Sinn Féin at the Assembly Long Gallery this moring praised the asbestos campaign group for trheir tenacity.

Commenting on the launch The Sinn Féin Representatives said,

"The legislation which comes into effect tomorrow will deal with the 1.4 million non-domestic properties which contain asbestos but falls far short of dealing with the other 3 million properties that contain asbestos and increase the vulnerability to disease and death. Indeed, it is expected that 100.000 people will die as a result of exposure to asbestos.

Sinn Féin has written to British Secretary of State, Paul Murphy calling for the establishment of an inter-departmental working group to enure that there is information available across all departments and available to everyone ensuring good practice across the board in dealing asbestos victims."

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Speaking during the course of today's Statements on Iraq in the Dáil, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin strongly criticised the Government saying they had "facilitated the invasion" and called on the Irish people "to protest peacefully" at the forthcoming visit of the US President. A motion on Iraq tabled by the five Sinn Féin TDs was published today and Deputy Ó Caoláin urged the Government to debate it and to reverse the plan to hold the EU-US Summit here. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs cannot now stand up with any credibility and issue verbal condemnations of any aspect of the brutal occupation of Iraq by Anglo-American forces given that they facilitated the invasion and they continue to facilitate the occupation. The people who said 'No' to the invasion and the war were right. Bush and Blair and the Irish Government were wrong.

"As our motion states, the only way forward for the people of Iraq and the region is a speedy end to the occupation. The transition must be managed by the United Nations and any associated UN peace-keeping force must be led by troops from the Arab nations. That's what the Irish government should be promoting at the UN and in its EU Presidency.

"I call on people to protest peacefully at the visit to Ireland of US President George Bush. That visit should not be taking place. The Irish Presidency should require that the EU-US Summit be held in Washington and that it should bring to the US capital the demand of people throughout Europe for an end to the illegal occupation of Iraq and to the Israeli attempts to destroy the Palestinian nation." ENDS

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Full text of statement on Iraq by Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin follows

The Government has scheduled these Statements on Iraq but has presented no motion that would define their position in exact terms. This is quite deliberate. In their usual fashion they want to have it both ways. I challenge them to put down an amendment to the motion in the name of the Sinn Féin deputies published today and to use Government time to debate it instead of staging these statements which are a face-saving exercise to mask the discredited international policy of this administration.

The government is led by a Taoiseach who was content to repeat in this House the totally spurious justifications advanced by the US and British governments for the illegal invasion of Iraq. He was content to allow Shannon Airport and Casement Aerodrome to become military bases for a belligerent power. The same Taoiseach then claimed that he agreed with the more than 100,000 people who marched on the streets of Dublin and Belfast to oppose the war, to oppose his collaboration with the war and to demand that Irish neutrality be respected and sovereignty restored to our airports and to our territory.

The Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs cannot now stand up with any credibility and issue verbal condemnations of any aspect of the brutal occupation of Iraq by Anglo-American forces given that they facilitated the invasion and they continue to facilitate the occupation.

The millions who demonstrated throughout the world against the Anglo-American invasion correctly predicted that it would lead to a nightmare for the Iraqi people, thousands of whom would be killed. They warned that it would lead not to the Iraqi people liberating themselves from the brutal Saddam Hussein dictatorship, but to a Western military occupation which would create a vicious cycle of brutal repression and brutal resistance. They warned that it would lead to human rights violations on a mass scale. All those things are now happening.

The people who said 'No' to the invasion and the war were right. Bush and Blair and the Irish Government were wrong.

Even before the invasion happened last year the Anglo-American alliance had been discredited in the eyes of the world and exposed as liars. The British government's so-called dossier on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was proven to be a concoction thrown together to provide propaganda cover for the invasion.

In a reply to a letter of protest from the Sinn Féin TDs the British Ambassador in Dublin, Ivor Roberts, relied upon the discredited dossier and claimed that Iraq had "continued to try to produce nuclear weapons". What was presented as hard information from British intelligence had already been exposed as a sham well before the invasion. And since the invasion not a shred of evidence has been found to support the wild claims about weapons of mass destruction. And these were the very claims the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs used to justify their support for the invasion.

The news of torture of prisoners in Iraq by the British and US military should come as a surprise to no-one in this country. All the techniques of torture that have been exposed including hooding, sensory deprivation humiliation, beatings and attacking with dogs were used by the British Army in the Six Counties in the wake of internment without trial in 1971. Britain was convicted of inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners by the European Court of Human Rights in a case brought by the Irish Government. What we are seeing in Iraq is nothing new ? they are the tried and tested methods of occupation used by Britain in Aden , Cyprus, Malaya, Kenya and in our own country. We, above all nations, should be loudest in our opposition to the disastrous revival of Western military occupation and Western imperialism in the Middle East and Gulf region.

How then can the Irish government justify the Irish Government's support for the military occupation of Iraq which is imposing on the Iraqi people the colonial methods tried and tested in many countries by Britain and the US?

There is growing evidence that US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld himself ordered the brutal methods to be used on prisoners. It does not seem to concern this government in the slightest that Donald Rumsfeld was so assured in his sense of ownership of Shannon Airport that he was photographed addressing his troops there as if he was in a US Air Force base in America itself.

The current political and military chaos in Iraq is happening not because the people of that ancient civilisation are not able to govern themselves. It is a direct result of this disastrous intervention by Western powers. It will have as yet unmeasured consequences throughout the region and throughout the world. We see the results in Palestine with the Bush administration giving free rein to its main ally in the Middle East, the Israeli government, to slaughter the Palestinian people with impunity.

As our motion states, the only way forward for the people of Iraq and the region is a speedy end to the occupation. The transition must be managed by the United Nations and any associated UN peace-keeping force must be led by troops from the Arab nations. That's what the Irish government should be promoting at the UN and in its EU Presidency.

I call on people to protest peacefully at the visit to Ireland of US President George Bush. That visit should not be taking place. The Irish Presidency should require that the EU-US Summit be held in Washington and that it should bring to the US capital the demand of people throughout Europe for an end to the illegal occupation of Iraq and to the Israeli attempts to destroy the Palestinian nation.

The Aerodrome in Baldonnell which this Government has allowed to be used by the occupation forces, was named after a great humanitarian and a great Irish republican, Roger Casement. In the month of his execution in 1916 he wrote of the imperialist war then at its height: "These artificial and unnatural wars, prompted by greed and power, are the source of all misery now destroying mankind?" The Irish government should either cease its co-operation with the occupation of Iraq and close Shannon and Baldonnell to these forces, or else remove the name of Roger Casement whose memory has been dishonoured by this Government's abandonment of independent foreign policy.

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