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


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Local Sinn Féin Councillor Billy Leonard has described the attack in the Coleraine home of an elderly lady as "grotesque" and says that this incident is the "latest in the line of intimidation against this family."

He added:

"This family and particularly the elderly lady who is waiting on an operation should not have been subject to this grotesque ordeal. Yet againloyalist paramilitaries in Coleraine have shown themselves as incapable of accepting nationalists and republicans in this area.

They need to realise it is time for even them to accept that many others are working towards human rights for all, a fair deal for all and a society in which incidents such as this are a thing of the past.

Unfortunately the loyalist paramilitary time-scale in Coleraine is not as good as everyone else's."

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Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel Mc Laughlin MLA speaking after meeting the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the Irish Embassy in London today said:

"Our objectives in these intense discussions with the two governments have been two fold. Firstly, to get the DUP to come on board a comprehensive agreement. Secondly, to ensure both governments remain faithful to the Good Friday Agreement.

"These points are particularly important today given that Ian Paisley is responding to the outline presented by the two governments. In response to this it is important that the governments insist that any agreement reached must be bedded in and aimed at the delivery of the Good Friday Agreement.

"That is our clear message to the two governments today." ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle will meet tomorrow (Thursday 25th November)in Dublin to be briefed by the party negotiating team on the current state of the political negotiations.

Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin will be available to speak to the media at 12 noon in the Sinn Féin Head Office, 44 Parnell Square, Dublin 1.

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Sinn Féin representative for Dublin South East, Councillor Daithí Doolan has demanded that Government threats to shut down Dublin City Council if the city's budget, which include a massive increase in bin charges, is not passed must be lifted immediately. Councillor Doolan said the Council must be allowed to run the City and what is required is greater autonomy and resources for Local Government not more diktats from central government.

Councillor Doolan said:

"For the last number of years the run up to Christmas has become synonymous with the thorny issue of bin charges and government threats to shut down

Dublin Council if the city's budget is not passed.

"Sinn Féin opposes bin charges and our ten Councillors on the City Council will be voting against the adoption of the budget which contains a massive increase in bin charges.

"What is clear is that the City Council has completely failed to tackle the waste management crisis which we face. What is also clear is that the issue of bin charges has absolutely nothing to do with a waste management strategy and is merely a device to raise finance through a crude form of double taxation. A senior Dublin City Council official has admitted that even if the money could be got from other sources that bin charges would remain.

"Sinn Féin has put forward a number of recommendations regarding the financing of local government. These include rates on government buildings and a bed tax on hotels in the city.

"Minister Roche needs to remove threats to shut down Dublin City Council and allow us to get on with governing the city." ENDS

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A Sinn Féin leadership delegation including party President Gerry Adams, Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness, National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin and Fermanagh & South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew will meet the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern this morning (Wednesday 24th November) in London.

The meeting will take place at 10am in the Irish Embassy in London.

The Sinn Féin delegation is available to speak to the media.

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Sinn Féin South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey, who intervened to restore order during disturbances involving students in South Belfast last night, will be available to speak to the media today, Wednesday 24th November, at 11am at the corner of Palestine Street and Agincourt Street.

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Sinn Féin Representative for Dublin South East, Councillor Daithí Doolan has today called on the public, "to lend their support to the campaign to keep Bewleys open which is being launched this morning outside Bewleys on Grafton St."

Speaking this morning Councillor Doolan said:

"Following the establishment of a broad based campaign group it was agreed last weekend to publicly launch the campaign outside Bewleys itself. It is planned to have a carnival like atmosphere. The events will kick off at 11am today and will include music, street theatre and poetry.

"I have written to the Minister for Environment, Heritage & Local Government Dick Roche in an attempt to to keep the cafes open. It is clear that the minister has a responsibility to protect the jobs and heritage that are at stake here. For generations Bewleys has been linked with Dublin, both at home and abroad, and it is time for all of us to rally round and keep the cafes open."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan said he was, "very confident that today‚s events can ensure that outside interests will realise that it is well worth investing in and keeping it open and serving the public for generations to come."

The public launch of the Campaign to Save Our Bewleys today 11am-1pm Bewleys Grafton Street. ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment Arthur Morgan T.D. today urged the Government to remove provisions for random drug testing from the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill 2004. Speaking during Committee stage of the Bill Deputy Morgan pointed to threat which poorly drafted provisions for random drug testing posed to the rights of workers and the fundamental problems which would arise if the provision was passed into law.

Deputy Morgan said

"The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill 2004 attempts to deal with the matter of drug testing of employees in 24 words. In other jurisdiction legislation in relation to drug testing is lengthy, specific and comprehensive in order to avoid misuse of the provisions and in order to protect the rights of workers.

"The provisions in this Bill do not specify that the employer must have reasonable suspicion that the person is intoxicated. Currently the Gardaí must have reasonable suspicion prior to testing a driver for intoxication. The former Minister for Transport was proposing that a provision for random testing would be included in the Road Traffic Bill and sources close to the Minister were quoted as saying there was also a possibility that the Bill may be referred by the President to the Supreme Court because of the inclusion of random testing.

"The provisions in this Bill do not restrict the practice of drug and alcohol testing to person in safety sensitive jobs nor does it specify the level of the intoxicant e.g. the Railway Safety Bill Part 9 contains very specific provisions in relation to alcohol. Also important to note that there is no evidence that testing has a deterrent effect and may only have a legitimate role in safety critical jobs.

"The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has concluded from its examination of this Bill that Section 13 (c) is not compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights. It is clear that this provision are open to abuse and have very serious implications for the rights of workers. Sinn Féin is opposing the inclusion of this provision in the Bill" ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin has described the Health Bill as "the wrong remedy for the wrong illness". He said it removed democratic accountability and concentrated energy on bureaucratic change rather than on delivery for patients and real reform. The process of changeover to the Health Services Executive has "descended into chaos".

Speaking in the Dáil on the Second Stage of the Bill Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"This Bill will not provide one extra bed in our hospital wards. It will not reduce by one hour the waiting time of a single patient in any of our chaotic Accident and Emergency units. It will not lead to the employment of a single extra nurse or doctor or paramedic. It will not extend radiotherapy services to the regions. It will not restore a single service that has been lost to local hospitals. And, above all, it will not address the scandal whereby money can buy superior healthcare in this State and where public money subsidises the private health business while public patients suffer.

"What this Bill does, and what the process of bureaucratic change is doing, is diverting vital energy away from the real delivery of services. This Bill is the wrong remedy for the wrong illness. We have a Bill to establish an all-powerful quango, appointed by the Minister for Health and Children and subject to no direct democratic accountability.

"Before the Bill was even published the changeover process had descended into chaos.

"This long-promised and long-delayed legislation was only published late last Friday and we are being asked to debate and pass at Second Stage a major Bill of 82 sections in the space of three days. It is to be rammed through the Oireachtas by Christmas in a desperate effort to hide the shambles that is the so-called health policy of this Government.

"This Bill is a mess and should be withdrawn and redrafted." ENDS

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Donegal Sinn Féin Councillor Pearse Doherty has called for one mobile phone rate for all mobile phone users on the island. Councillor Doherty was speaking before mobile phone bosses were due to get a grilling today about Irish call charges when they appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural resources.

Speaking in Donegal today he said:

"Living in close proximity to the border often results in involuntary 'roaming' charges being imposed on unsuspecting mobile users because of a competing stronger signal from the opposite side of the border. Mobile phone signals do not recognise borders and therefore short of turning the phone off when travelling there is no option but to pay. That is unless the mobile phone service providers cease to exploit their customers on either side of the border.

"While I welcome O2's all Ireland rate I do not think that it is acceptable that their customers who avail of this rate have to pay an extra fee of €7.50 per month.

"The major providers of mobile phone services operate on both sides of the border and there is no rational reason why regulators North and South cannot get together and devise a formula for a single competitive tariff for the 32 Counties.

"Irish people per head of population provide more profit to the companies than any of our european countreparts, in fact we are one of the highest in the world. Therefore I am calling on all mobile phone bosses to stop exploiting Irish customers and to provide, without delay, a real all Ireland rate for mobile phone charges." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today accused Defence Minister Willie O'Dea of "delivering another body blow to Irish neutrality and of further undermining the United Nations in his rush to boost efforts to militarise the EU". Ms McDonald made her comments after Minister O'Dea committed Irish troops to front-line rapid reaction forces under the direction and command of the EU.

Speaking today, Ms McDonald said:

"The decision of Defence Minister Willie O‚Dea to commit Irish troops to front-line rapid reaction forces under the direction and command of the EU, is another giant step towards the militarisation of the EU and is a body blow to Irish neutrality.

"The building up of EU military strength is also being carried out at the expense of the United Nations. For some time now the UN has been grossly under funded, and this combined with the creeping militarisation of the EU, has directly weakened the capacity of the UN to effectively deal with international crises and to prevent genocide. Instead of channelling the necessary additional resources into the UN, the European Union has been busy building up its own military capacity.

"Furthermore, when troops are deployed to EU led missions they become unavailable for any actions the UN may wish to lead and manage directly. Minister O'Dea, by his actions, is actively playing his part in undermining the UN at the expense of a strategic, insular and regional military alliance." ENDS

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The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture and Food, Martin Ferris TD, has called on the Government to ensure that all farmers who are owed money from the failed Tralee Beef and Lamb processing plant are fully compensated. The company failed in October 2001 owing over €4m, €2.6m of it to farmers.

Deputy Ferris said: "It is now three years since Tralee Beef and Lamb was placed in liquidation and farmers are still awaiting compensation. I fully support those farmers who are protesting in Dublin today at the role of the bank in this matter, and am again calling on the Government to intervene in order to ensure that justice is done. I am also reiterating previous requests to the Department of Trade and Enterprise to conduct a full examination of all of the circumstances surrounding the failure of the company." ENDS

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West Dublin Sinn Féin Councillor Felix Gallagher today called on the Government to provide much needed basic services for the Mulhuddart area of West Dublin. He said "Mulhuddart in West Dublin has a population of approximately 10,000 people yet there is no GP, no dentist, no chemist, no post office, not even a bus shelter. This is an area crying out for investment and it is time for the government to act."

Speaking in Dublin today Mr. Gallagher said:

"Mulhuddart in West Dublin has a population of approximately 10,000 people, yet we have no GP, no dentist, no chemist, no post office, not even a bus shelter. It is a testament to bad planning that this sprawl of housing can be built yet the necessary services and infrastructure fail to materialise.

"There is a high rate of unemployment in this area and as a result many people cannot afford cars. The reality of this is that people have to rely on the bus service, which is completely inadequate to travel approximately 3 miles to Blanchardstown, to avail of basic services. The journey takes over an hour in rush hour traffic and can often be a daily task. This is made even worse due to the lack of a bus shelter.

There is also an urgent need for a second primary school in the area. Tyrellstown School Action Group held a pre-enrolment day on Saturday 20th November, in order to highlight the demand for a new Educate Together Primary School in the area. It is a sad reflection on local TD, Brian Lenihan, who is the Minister of State with responsibility for Children, that new communities have to go to these lengths to ensure their children can be educated locally. I am giving my full support to the committee and will lobby for lands to be made available to accommodate a school. I am also calling on the Government to provide much needed basic services in the Mulhuddart area."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has voiced concern that the Fuel Poverty Strategy due to be launched today is weak and falls far short of what is required to tackle the problem of fuel poverty.

Ms Gildernew said:

"Fuel poverty is at epidemic levels across the north - it affects 1 in 3 and each year over 1300 older people die because of cold weather. Speaking to many people working within in the sector it is clear that there is deep anger at the way the department has gone about trying to develop a strategy to tackle fuel poverty.

"Sinn Féin will be not be attending the launch of this strategy in Dungannon in a direct effort to get the department to look again at its response to this crisis. The publication of a weak strategy that falls far short of what is required is a missed opportunity.

"The reality is that fuel poverty levels here are higher than in either the rest of Ireland or in England. We have also seen oil prices rise by 60% in the last year, gas prices up twice in the past 12 month - 11% was the last increase and rising coal prices. Rising energy prices are forcing more and more households into fuel poverty yet the departmental response is weak.

"There are no extra resources being targeted at fuel poverty. This a key issue. The failure to commit the required resources and the failure to deliver new money shows that, clearly, the political leadership, will and determination to fight fuel poverty is lacking. Without real targets for eradicating fuel poverty based on committed resources fuel poverty will not be eradicated.

"Sinn Fein in our response to the consultation called for a Ministerial Task Force, inclusive of sectoral interests, to tackle fuel poverty, to give the issue political importance and drive. Instead we will have an inter-departmental group chaired by a part-time direct rule minister that is civil service driven. There would be no outside representation on this. Instead an unresourced Fuel Poverty Advisory Group is being proposed.

"The most vulnerable members of our community are most at risk from fuel poverty. Older people, people with disabilities, young parents, long-term sick and low-income families are being put at even greater risk because there is no political will to prioritise funding to tackle fuel poverty. What is needed is a radical response. This isn't it." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Meath County Councillor Joe Reilly has today claimed that the state has "completely and utterly failed the people who continue to languish on local authority housing waiting lists".

Cllr Reilly was speaking after it emerged that only 315 homes in the state were built to provide social and affordable housing under the "Planning and Development Act 2001", which stipulated that up to 20% of all private housing developments had to cater for social and affordable housing. The figures were provided between January 2002 and June 2004.

Speaking today, Cllr Reilly said:

"This state has completely and utterly failed over 48,000 families who continue to languish on local authority housing waiting lists. The latest figures provided, show that a paltry 315 houses were built to accommodate families most in need of homes. Let me say to Minister Ahern ˆ this is unacceptable. Thousands of families continue to remain in limbo, whilst this government pretends that this state has no housing crisis.

"In my own county Meath, a mere 16 social and affordable homes were built in the space of 18 months. Up to 1000 people are currently on the housing list in the county. These figures clearly illustrate the serious shortage of affordable housing in the Meath region.

"What is required is a refocusing of 'Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2001' and a strict adherence to the criteria where 20% of all private housing developments must cater for social and affordable housing units. This government has a duty to provide housing for the most vulnerable people within our society. Sinn Féin will continue to prioritise housing as a fundamental human right." ENDS

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Ahead of budget day 2005 Sinn Fein's candidate in the recent E.U elections Pearse Doherty has called upon the Government not to use the budget as a political instrument for their own re-election but instead live up to their responsibilities and put an emphasis on social need and equality.

Cllr. Doherty said "Sinn Fein firmly believe that the taxation system should be based on the ability to pay. We have seen tactics in the past where the Government have claimed not to have increased taxes while in fact they have used the budget to camouflage an array of tax increases in the form of stealth taxes. Stealth taxes is the worst form of taxation as the impact of this is felt by low to middle earners"

Doherty went on to call on the Minister of Finance to increase the tax credit to bring minimum wage workers out of the tax net. He concluded "It is ridiculous that people on a minimum wage are required to pay tax while in the wake of recent revelations that absolutely no income tax was paid in 2001 by 242 people earning between €100, 000 and 1 Million Euro. It is scandalous that the government allows these people to avoid paying any income tax while minimum wage workers are taxed.

It is only just and fair that these people on minimum wage of €273 a week are taken out of the tax net" ENDS

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Deputy Mayor of Belfast, Cllr Joe O'Donnell this morning reacted angrily to the British Governments proposed axing of the Worktrack program before Christmas.

Cllr O‚Donnell said;

"I am saddened but not surprised by the scrooge like attitude of the British Govt. towards these workers who are attempting to re-enter the labour market despite the different obstacles that are placed in their way. Indeed, this is reminiscent of the scrapping of the ACE schemes by a similarly minded government.

"The news of the impending end of Worktrack in the run up to Christmas will come as a great shock and disappointment to both providers and workers alike. This disappointment is only added to when you consider the fact that no consultation was undertaken with either the providers or workers before the final decision was made.

"This announcement makes a mockery of the British Govt's stated intention of 'getting people back to work' - what they are now doing is forcing people back onto benefits and the subsequent poverty trap which that entails. The erroneous claims that these cuts are a result of falling unemployment does not take into account the fact that WorkTrack is designed to target areas of high social and economic deprivation where unemployment figures are substantially higher than average.

"The British Govt. has not proposed any alternative to the WorkTrack initiative and they intend to squander the advances of the last 5 years which have seen 600 people go through this scheme in Belfast alone. I am calling on them to at least have the decency to let WorkTrack run to its original 2006 review date if they do not have the foresight to extend it in the long term." ENDS

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West Belfast Assembly member Michael Ferguson has said that revelations yesterday at the inquest into the death of PSNI Constable George McKee that he was drunk immediately after ending the night shift in Andersonstown barracks raises serious questions for the PSNI and their political backers.

Mr Ferguson said:

" Yesterday at an inquest into the death of Andersonstown barracks based PSNI member George McKee it was revealed that he was drunk when he crashed into another car in Donaghadee immediately after leaving the night shift in the West Belfast base.

" Sinn Féin have long been highlighting the canteen culture which exists within the PSNI. Local people familiar with drunken on duty PSNI members will not be surprised at the revelations at yesterday's inquest.

" However the entire episode does raise very serious issues for the PSNI and their political backers. Is alcohol freely available within their barracks? Is it normal practice to drink on duty? Is it normal practice to allow PSNI members who have consumed alcohol while working to drive home in this case through heavily populated areas in West Belfast?

" This sort of canteen culture can have no part in an acceptable and accountable policing service and must be ended and ended for good if we are to see a new community based policing service delivered." ENDS

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Lagan Valley Sinn Féin Representative Cllr. Paul Butler has said that people in Lisburn will have been stunned by a statement from the PSNI that they have not established a motive for the murder of young James McMahon in the town one year ago.

Cllr. Butler said:

" It is a well known fact that James McMahon was murdered by the UDA in Lisburn. There is absolutely no doubt about that. The UDA exists primarily to intimidate and kill Catholics and is riddled with PSNI Special Branch agents and informers.

" The PSNI are insulting the intelligence of nationalists in Lisburn by pretending that the murder of James McMahon was anything other than a random and blatantly sectarian murder and indeed many will question the motivation behind this move by the PSNI.

" This sort of approach to unionist paramilitary violence it has to be said is fairly typical of the PSNI. They are never so reticent in pointing the finger at republican organisations even when there is no evidence to back up their claims particularly at sensitive times within the political process." ENDS

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South Belfast Assembly member Alex Maskey has revealed that former Sinn Féin Councillor Sean Hayes was last night visited at his home in the Markets area and informed by the PSNI that a death threat along with a recognised code word had been telephoned into the BBC offices in Belfast.

Mr Maskey said:

"Sean Hayes was visited late last night by the PSNI who informed him that his name along with that of three other republicans in Belfast, Dungannon and Warrenpoint were issued with death threats in a phone call to the BBC. The PSNI informed Sean that the threat was from the Red Hand Defenders and was accompanied by a recognised code word. He was informed that he would be killed within 48 hours.

"The Red Hand Defenders has of course in the past been a flag of convenience used by the UDA. It is deeply concerning that this UDA cover name has once again resurfaced only a week after the British Secretary of State proclaimed that the UDA was on cessation once again." ENDS

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