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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 Dublin Spokesperson on Economic Development, Councillor Daithí Doolan, has today, "welcomed Dublin City Council's call to Minister Noel Ahern to continue funding the Community Worker's Co-Op".

Speaking from City Hall after the motion was passed, Cllr. Doolan said, "the Community Workers Co-Op have been involved for many years in essential work , they work with communities ensuring that communities remain active on the issues that concern them. They have been a vital voice for those who are often ignored by the powers that be. They have played a very full and active role in challenging government policy and ensuring that anti poverty and social inclusion were kept centre stage on the political agenda."

In conclusion Cllr. Doolan called on Minister Ahern, "to immediately reinstate the funding". ENDS

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Speaking as the Irish government met to discuss the latest report from the IMC, Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly said that 'if the Irish government oppose sanctions then they will stop them happening'.

Mr Kelly said:

"I have read with interest the Taoiseach's remarks yesterday on the issue of the IMC and sanctions against Sinn Féin. The Irish Cabinet is meeting today to discuss this. In Sinn Féin's view it is not good enough for the Irish government to say it opposes sanctions. The Irish government created the IMC along with the British as a sop to unionists. The sole purpose of the IMC is as a vehicle to be used to sanction and exclude Sinn Fein from the process.

"If the Irish government are serious about what they are saying then as co-equal partners in this process it has to challenge the British government on this issue. If the Irish government is really serious about sanctions then it must block their introduction.

"Confrontation, exclusion, and criminalising an entire section of people are not the way forward. They haven't worked in the past and they will not work now.

" It the two governments want to see progress then they need to pull off this confrontational approach. If they are determined to subvert the Sinn Féin mandate then we will robustly and assertively defend ourselves, our mandate and the process." ENDS

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Sinn Fein will tomorrow (Wednesday 9th February) launch an exhibition celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the foundation of Sinn Fein.

The exhibition will include historical artefacts, photographs and images depicting the history and development of Sinn Fein over the past 100 years. The exhibition will travel around Ireland over the next year.

The exhibition will be launched by Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams in the Edinburgh Suite in the Europa Hotel, Belfast at 11am.

The media are invited to attend.

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Sinn Féin Dáil group leader, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin, described the motion put down by Fine Gael for Private Members Business this evening as "every negative‚ and offering nothing in terms of moving the whole peace process forward".

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "This is a very negative motion from Fine Gael. They seem to be returning to the failed agenda of their former leader John Bruton.

"The motion offers nothing in terms of moving the whole peace process forward. The fact that they have struggled to find a set of words, withdrew their original motion and have now rushed to produce a substitute motion, best illustrates their complete failure to understand the complexities of the issues that face us all in terms of trying to resolve the outstanding difficulties.

"Their narrow-minded and blinkered anti-republican agenda has well and truly exposed. In fact it stands in marked contrast to their lack of concern on other issues. Where was Fine Gael's outrage and indignation at the failure of Paul Murphy and the British Government to provide information in relation to the role of their forces in the Dublin/Monaghan bombings and other acts of collusion in this state?

"The Sinn Féin amendment focuses on the Good Friday Agreement. That's the basis for us all to move forward.

"We will defend the mandate of our party which has the support of over a third of a million voters on this island. They are decent people who want peace and justice and we will not let them be maligned by a party that has done little or nothing to advance the cause of justice and equality for all people on this island.

"The Agreement says that all the parties have a responsibility to work together to implement the Agreement. That's the context in which we will all collectively solve the issue of arms and armed groups. That is not the sole responsibility of Sinn Féin." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Meath Councillor and by-election candidate Joe Reilly has today called for an "imaginative approach" to the rail link between Dublin and Pace, Co Meath. Cllr Reilly made his comments after last night's meeting of the Meath County Council.

Iarnrod Eireann presented yesterday's Council meeting with a feasibility study into the reinstatement of the rail line between Clonsilla, Dublin and Pace.

Speaking today Cllr Reilly said:

"I want to welcome the current discussions around the Dublin-Meath rail link. Sinn Féin has consistently called for the reinstatement of the rail link between Dublin and Pace. An efficient public transport system is required to service the population in Meath.

"The cost of the rail-link has been estimated at approximately 156 million euro. Sinn Féin is calling upon the government to fund this venture. 156 million euros out of the government budget is not a huge amount of money.

"I believe that Iarnrod Eireann and the government need to look outside of the box. Extension of the line to as far as Kells should be considered as areas of substantial population growth in recent years. In fact, Meath is the fastest growing county in the state in population terms.

"The feasibility study indicated that the project was 'economically viable'‚ particularly in relation to environmental benefits, time and accident savings. In an era of heavy reliance on private transport, it is incumbent upon this government to provide the people of Meath and those visiting the county, with a first class rail-link." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Fingal County Councillor Felix Gallagher has given an enthusiastic welcome to a Feasibility Study on the opening of the Railway Line from Clonsilla to the M3 Interchange at Fairyhouse.

Cllr. Gallagher said "This report clearly states that the opening of this line is economically viable. It is now up to all politicians and members of community to use this report to lobby the Department of Transport to have it implemented. The report indicates that four trains per hour during peak times will be available. This means capacity for up to 5,000 passengers per hour during rush hour. The benefits in terms of reduced congestion for the Clonsilla and Hansfield areas will be immense. It is projected that as many as 2 million passengers will be carried by 2016."

Gallagher did however express some concerns -- "A number of blockages remain in place, not least getting the endorsement by the Department of Transport. This project is also reliant of increased capacity at Connolly Station or the opening of Spencer Dock. I am also dismayed that none of the land of the old line is in possession of Ianrod Éireann, this will mean up to €35 million of public money will need to be spent to purchase the land alone. Also I am disappointed that the study was limited from Clonsilla to the Fairyhouse area. I would have preferred if it had gone all the way to Navan, as this would have a much greater impact on reducing congestion on the N3." ENDS.

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Sinn Féin Regional Development spokesperson, Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney has said that unless the proposed consultation by the DRD Road Service on the road route between Belfast and Derry comes up with a motorway then they are wasting time and money.

Mr McCartney said:

"The DRD Road Service are carrying out a consultation on what is the best way of connecting Derry and Belfast by road when everyone knows that a motorway is needed. Rather than wasting money on this consultation that, given the terms of reference, will deliver less than is required what we need is a commitment that a motorway will be built.

"At a time when the Dublin Government are proposing a motorway between Dublin and Derry to service the North West region it is sad to see such deeply flawed proposals from DRD Road Services. This proposal is for an extension of the dual carriageway between Randalstown and Castledawson and the inserting of strategic overtaking lanes along the rest of the route. This is totally unacceptable.

"In order for the North West region to develop to its full potential it needs to have a first class infrastructure that will service business, tourism and industry and this includes a motorway. The DRD Road Service should consult with the Dublin Government to explore ways in which they can extend the proposed Dublin-Derry motorway to Belfast to connect the these three key Irish cities." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Fleming has said that he supports the Finucane family in their efforts to thwart the British Government changing the law to limit the power of any further inquiries.

Councillor Fleming stated,

"The family of collusion victim Pat Finucane have travelled to London today to confront the British Government over their attempts to change the law over any future inquiries.

"Geraldine Finucane recently gave the annual Bloody Sunday Lecture at the Guildhall and articulated the lengths in which the British Government have covered and frustrated the many families who strive to get the truth as not only how but why their family members were executed.

"It is obvious that the British Government have much to fear from the truth of their dirty war in Ireland being exposed. This would show that there was an institutional policy of collusion between the British forces and Unionist death squads that can be traced to the highest level of government.

"In order to protect themselves the British Government are now proposing that any further inquiries, like the ones called for by Judge Peter Cory over collusion, would have limited remits.

"Sinn Féin support the campaign by the Finucane family to have full disclosure over what happened to Pat Finucane and the hundreds of others who died as a result of the policy of collusion. ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew will lead a party delegation including Cllr Gerry McHugh, head of the Sinn Féin National Agriculture Department to meet with British direct rule Health Minister Angela Smith and Chief Medical Officer Dr Henreita Campbell, today, Tuesday 8th February at 3pm to discus health issues related to the lifting of the Beef Ban.

Speaking today Ms Gildernew said:

"Sinn Féin is determined to push ahead and challenge any obstacle to the lifting of the Beef Ban her in the north. To do this it is important to challenge the opposition that exists particularly within the British Health Department.

"It is vital that we have in place a robust testing regime that ensures that animals are tested quickly and that results are both reliable and processed quickly and that any contamination is removed immediately from the food chain. It is vital that testing can build public confidence and the development of markets for our beef products.

"The European Food Safety Authority are happy with the protocols on traceability and the testing of animals which are in place here. They are also content that the risk associated with beef from the North is equivalent to that associated with other European countries.

"The biggest difficulties come from widespread criticisms of the UK testing regime, particularly from the European Food & Veterinary Office (FVO). However their report gives the North a clean bill of health. Both The Food Safety Authority and the European FSA are content with our testing and monitoring regimes.

"We are meeting Angela Smith and Dr Henreita Campbell to ensure that they appreciate the confidence that exists already about the testing protocols. We will also be mapping out what Sinn Fein believe is the way ahead in terms on discussions between all of the key stakeholders, the department of health and DARD to ensure that can make early progress on lifting the beef ban.

"To meet any concerns about the sampling it is vital that the Six Counties has the required capacity in place to test animals over thirty months. Clearly handing over control of the testing to the Food Safety Authority should also be considered." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today urged Health Minister Mary Harney to seek a meeting with Direct Rule Minister Angela Smith to urge a ban on smoking in the workplace for the Six Counties.

Ms McDonald said that the "Irish Government has a duty to protect not only the rights" but also the health of citizens living in the Six Counties‚.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"I am calling upon Minister Harney to seek a meeting with Angela Smith to discuss the practicalities of extending a smoking ban to the Six Counties, thus ensuring an all-Ireland ban in the workplace. It is an opportune time for Minister Harney to promote the benefits of the recent legislation.

"As the ban nears its first anniversary in the 26 Counties (March 29th), Sinn Féin considers the ban a success. A recent survey in the south of the country found that 70% of people believed that the ban enhanced their pub experience. The positive response to the legislation should provide the catalyst for its extension in the Six Counties.

"The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (Six Counties) is currently carrying out a consultation process with regard to smoking. However the British Government‚s commitment to the consultation is questionable. To date there have only been 17 responses to the consultation process and many health professionals are unaware that it is happening.

"The Irish Government has a duty to protect not only the rights, but also the health of citizens living in the Six Counties. Minister Harney must provide a commitment that the health of citizens in the Six Counties is as important as for citizens in the rest of the country. Therefore I am calling upon Minister Harney to seek a meeting immediately with Angela Smith to discuss this serious matter." ENDS

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Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Cllr John O'Dowd MLA, has criticised the NIO health minister Angela Smith over her failure to ensure that the Department of health maintains an accurate figures for the number of patients contracting hospital acquired infections.

Cllr O'Dowd MLA said:

"I had recently asked the minister to provide me with details on the numbers of patients who had contracted hospital acquired infections, such as MRSA, and to provide details on the extent of the additional costs to the health service of treating patients who had contacted such infections. I was shocked to read Angela Smith's response which stated that there is no accurate estimate for the number of patients who have contracted MRSA or other such infections. Indeed, she also stated that at present 'it is not possible to estimate the cost to the health service of treating those who contract hospital acquired infections'.

"Given that figures released last year by the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre demonstrated that the MRSA superbug has played a part in 116 deaths in the Six Counties between 1997 and 2003 and that in 2003 alone, MRSA had contributed to the deaths of 30 patients in hospitals, this response from the NIO health minister is unsatisfactory. Furthermore, CDSC figures also show that based upon positive MRSA laboratory reports the level of infection has quadrupled between 1998 and November 2004.

"Angela Smith also referred to the fact that a strategy for the control and prevention of healthcare associated infections will be due out for consultation later this year. Rather than waiting for the outcome of that consultation, I believe that there are several steps which the health minister could implement immediately which would have the support of patients, professional hospital staff and trades unions.

These are:

· Stipulating and introducing minimum safe staffing levels to ensure effective hospital cleaning. It is a fact that more cleaners and more cleaning hours would lead to cleaner hospitals.

· Ensuring that cleaning services are be based on quality, not cost - which means an end to market testing and bringing cleaning services back in-house rather than contracting out to private agencies

· Giving hospital cleaners better pay and conditions, and ending the two-tier workforce in healthcare, and

· Providing hospital cleaners with up-to-date equipment and improved training, including on-going training on infection control.

"Prevention is better than cure. This is not about good or bad cleaners, it is about having enough people to do the job well and for Angela Smith to release the necessary finance to make this happen. No one wants to be treated, work, or visit friends and relatives in a dirty hospital. I would urge the minister to bring cleaning staff back in house and make them part of the infection control team, to give them proper training and then fairly reward them for a tough job that many people would run a mile from. That is the best way to deal with hospital infections." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Equality Spokesperson, South Down MLA Catríona Ruane has expressed concern that the British government is acquiescing to unionist attempts to "rewrite, redefine and undermine the equality agenda" after NIO British direct rule Minster John Speller announced an extension of the review into labour market statistics under pressure from unionist politicians.

Ms Ruane said:

"Whatever about perception the fact remains that John Speller has buckled to unionists pressure. Sinn Fein is concerned that is the outworking of the long-term strategy of unionists to rewrite, redefine and undermine the equality agenda.

"Any assessment of equality of opportunity must be based on objective fact and objective fact alone.

"The reality is that 10 out of 15 of the most disadvantaged wards are nationalists.

"Within the Catholic community a greater percentage of children live in workless households, more pupils leave school with no qualifications or no GCSE's. Only 61.2% of the Catholic population of working age are employed compared 71.2% of the Protestant population.

"It is same across many other sphere's of life from ill health to housing.

"There is a statutory equality duty on government to target resources on the basis of need. That is not being done and will result in the unwarranted and discriminatory skewing of resources even further away from nationalist areas.

"While I recognise that there has been progress in tackling poverty across all communities and many important battles have been won any attempt to target resources on the basis of perception and not on the basis of evidence should be resisted. Representation in the workforce has improved but again Catholics, women and nationalists are still severely underrepresented at higher levels within the civil services where policy decisions are taken, within the judiciary and in many other areas of employment.

"Sinn Féin believes that the British government is not just in default in failing to live up to commitments to tackle inequality both between and within the communities but that they are complicit in undermining the equality agenda." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader and health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said that PD ministers in the FF/PD Coalition government should attend to their business as ministers and spend less time "indulging their antipathy to Sinn Féin". Pointing to what he termed "pending industrial relations melt-down in our hospitals" he said the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney in particular needed to "deliver on her promises to urgently address the scandalous situation in Accident and Emergency units".

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "It is time that Progressive Democrats ministers in the FF/PD Coalition Government spent less energy indulging their antipathy to Sinn Féin and more time on their jobs as Ministers. This applies in particular to Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney who is presiding over pending industrial relations melt-down in our hospitals.

"Stoppages are threatened by thousands of personnel in the health services, including nurses, public health doctors and consultants. These disputes arise directly out of the failure of this and previous Health ministers to address key issues including;

· the Accident and Emergency crisis

· uncertainty over staffing levels and location of staff under the new Health Services Executive, the cornerstone of Government health "reforms" and

· the renegotiation of the consultants‚ contract to ensure greater equity for public patients, now more than two years overdue.

"Minister Harney took over the Department of Health and Children with great fanfare last September, promising to urgently address the scandalous situation in Accident and Emergency units. The Minister acted as if she had come from the Opposition benches and had not shared collective responsibility for this crisis over the past seven years. The situation is now no different from when she took over.

"With the Departmental responsibilities of her colleague, the President of the PDs, and Minister for Justice Michael McDowell equally shambolic, it is time these Ministers shaped up or shipped out." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams speaking in Belfast today said: "It is time Irish politicians got down to the real job of repairing the damage to the peace process and of making progress. It's time to move on."

Mr. Adams said:

"The peace process is in severe difficulty. The process came to a shuddering halt in early December when the DUP refused to share power with republicans. That's the political reality.

"Can a way be found out of the current deteriorating crisis? If the governments and the parties believe this is possible then how can this be achieved?

"Attempts to put the process back together aren't being helped by mixed messages coming from Irish government ministers. They can't have it both ways - either the government believes that dialogue is the way to sort out the current mess or it doesn't. Either they oppose sanctions or they don't. Either they want to calm the situation or they don't.

"The accusation which is explicit in all of their statements is that Sinn Féin is not serious about the peace process. This is nonsense and they know it.

"I firmly believe that it is time to move on and republicans are willing to play our part. If the governments want to continue to have a row then Sinn Féin are mandated by our electorate to stand up for them. But when the row is over the outstanding issues will still have to be tackled.

"Republicans are not prepared to allow all of the work and progress of the last decade to be cast aside. The reality is that life for the people of this island, particularly in the north, has been transformed over the last ten years.

"The people of Ireland have put their hope in their political leaders to sort this mess out. Its time Irish politicians stopped attacking each other and got down to the real job of making progress. Its time to move on.

"The issues which negotiations tackled in December are the same issues that we need to find closure on now - implementing the Agreement, sorting out the issue of policing, restoring the political institutions and addressing the issue of armed groups." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has this morning pledged her support to two local charities in their campaign to put pressure on the British Government to introduce a smoking ban in the Six Counties. Ms de Brún said that the "British Government must implement a ban without delay".

Both MacMillan Cancer Relief and the Ulster Cancer Foundation have joined forces to urge people to demand a smoke free environment in the workplace.

Speaking today, the MEP and former Assembly Health Minister said:

"I want to pledge my support for the campaign by local cancer charities, to demand the immediate introduction of a smoking ban in the workplace.

"Many people are unaware that the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety is currently undertaking a consultation process on smoking in the workplace. MacMillan Cancer Relief and the Ulster Cancer Foundation are to be praised for helping to draw attention to this matter and to help ensure that people have their say. Consultation periods are an important component of the democratic process.

"As the ban nears its first anniversary in the 26 counties (March 29th), Sinn Féin believes that it has been a complete success. A recent survey in the south of the country found that 70% of people believed that the ban enhanced their pub experience.

"In the face of irrefutable evidence about the effects of passive smoking I believe that the British Government should implement this ban without delay.

"A ban on smoking in the workplaces will eventually come into force in the 6 Counties. There is now a clear international trend that we cannot afford to ignore here. When countries across several continents can follow the lead set down in the south of Ireland, there is no reason for us not to do so in the Six Counties.

"One thing is patently clear - when such a ban eventually does come into force people will be asking why we didn't have the political will to do it earlier. Sinn Féin will continue to press for the ban as a matter of urgency for the well-being of all citizens." ENDS

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Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams addressing the AGM of party members and elected representatives from across Leinster this morning said:

"The Sinn Féin leadership is totally opposed to any return to conflict. It would have devastating consequences for all of us on island.

"Our priority in the time ahead is to defend the peace process, to pursue the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and to uphold the integrity of Sinn Féin and the rights of our electorate, alongside the rights of all other citizens. It is for the two governments to decide where their priorities lie.

"It is the DUP‚s refusal to support last December‚s comprehensive agreement and to join a power-sharing government that began this crisis. It is the two governments‚ acquiescence to the DUP position and their confrontational approach, which is making a bad situation worse.

"The British and Irish governments mishandling of events in recent months has been extremely damaging to the peace process."ENDS

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Senior Sinn Féin negotiator Gerry Kelly today addressed delegates at the Sinn Féin Six County AGM in the Republican centre in Gulladuff, South Derry. Mr Kelly told the large audience of party activists that 'given the Irish government's stated opposition to sanctions their approach to the latest IMC report was an acid test of their role as a co-equal partner with the British in managing the peace process'.

Mr Kelly said:

"The British government at the behest of David Trimble formed the IMC with the sole purpose of being used to sanction and eventually exclude Sinn Féin from the political process. It was formed as a mechanism to try to stop the increasing growth of Sinn Féin across the island and to treat the Sinn Féin electorate differently from those who vote for all other parties. This philosophy is clearly undemocratic in nature and flies in the face of the core principles of the peace process - inclusivity, engagement and respect for democratic mandates.

"It was a serious error for the Irish government to support the establishment of this body and to nominate a member to it. The decision of the SDLP to acquiesce to the establishment and function of the IMC also displayed a lack of political judgement.

"In its short lifespan the IMC has already been used by the British government to sanction the Sinn Fein electorate. This sanction was imposed after the IMC reproduced allegations from spooks, spies and securocrats alleging IRA, a completely separate organisation from Sinn Féin, involvement in a series of events. Credible evidence or impartial sources are not a requirement of the IMC. It operates outside the norms of the basic legal process and removes the requirement for proof or natural justice.

"It has proven to be the vehicle which the securocrats, fundamentally opposed to the process of change, have been longing for since the start of this process.

"The Irish government has recently stated clearly that they oppose sanctions. This is a noble sentiment. However given the history of the Irish government's involvement in establishing and maintaining the IMC nationalists and republicans are justifiably sceptical of this claim.

"The Irish government have a responsibility to defend the rights of Irish citizens living in the British occupied part of this country.

"If the Irish government are genuinely opposed to sanctions against the Sinn Fein electorate then they need to stop them happening and they need to undo the current sanctions imposed against our party. The Irish government are supposed to be co-equal partners with the British in the management of this process. This is an acid test of that status. So far on a number of key issues including suspension and the cancellation of elections the Irish government have rolled over. They cannot let this happen again and at the same time maintain credibly that they are not allowing the British system to dictate the pace of the peace process.

"Indeed if the Irish government position is now opposition to the concept of sanctions then much of the raison d'etre for the very existence of the IMC itself is removed.

"If the next IMC report again demands further sanctions against the Sinn Fein electorate, are the Irish government going to remove their appointed representative from it and repeal the legislation they passed giving rise to it. This is the only option available to them if their opposition to discrimination and sanctions is to be anything more than talk and their position as a co-equal partner in the overall peace process is not to be totally undermined." ENDS

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Sinn Féin TD for Louth and spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government, Arthur Morgan, has described Michael Noonan‚s comments in which he suggested Sinn Féin could be involved in tampering with the e-voting system as "daft". He said it was just another in a "long line of tedious and ridiculous allegations made against the party".

Deputy Morgan, "I think Michael Noonan's hysterically daft comments yesterday indicate the real agenda of those who are currently trying to make capital out of attacks on Sinn Féin. They will use anything ˆ no matter how ridiculous or nonsensical it sounds - to score cheap political points against my party. The linking of Sinn Féin, by Michael Noonan, to the E-voting debacle is just another in a long line of tedious and ridiculous allegations made against the party.

"It would appear now that if a mouse breaks-wind or if a tree is blown over in a storm the IRA and Sinn Féin will be blamed. If a cat is run over on a motorway or an old lady stumbles on a footpath then, if we are to believe the 'reds under the beds brigade' of Fine Gael and the PDs, surely the IRA and Sinn Féin was involved.

"Yesterday's man, Michael Noonan, and his colleagues may think they are being very clever but the public are not as gullible or stupid as Fine Gael thinks and they can certainly see through all of this bluster and nonsense.

"Fine Gael is just a tired, hackneyed and directionless political party, stumbling around in the dark while groping embarrassingly for the next saucy headline." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today said that she is committed to challenging inequality against women within the European Union.

Ms McDonald also said that she "will await with interest" plans to tackle gender inequality within the EU. According to an EU Commission report women face a 15% pay gap in relation to their male counterparts.

Ms McDonald made her comments after EU Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimir Spidla pledged to unveil the plans next week in a new EU Social Agenda for 2006 - 2010.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"I would welcome any initiatives put forward at national or European level which seek to improve conditions for women within society. The EU Commission report that women are paid 15% less than men is an absolute disgrace and reinforces the reality that women are discriminated against in employment.

"However, it is clear that women are discriminated against within wider society also. Households headed by lone parents and by older women remain at high risk of poverty and structural inequalities continue to trap many women in low paid, part-time employment.

"One of the initiatives mooted is a European Gender Institute - responsible for guarding the implementation of EU laws on equality between men and women. Sinn Féin will judge any such proposal on the basis of its scope, limitations and ability to seriously address this issue.

"At a minimum, Sinn Féin is demanding equal pay for women. On a broader level, we are calling for measures which ensure women are not discriminated against on the basis of their gender. Both myself and my colleague Bairbre de Brún MEP will continue to challenge discriminatory attitudes to women both inside and outside the European Parliament. Gender equality remains a priority for Sinn Féin." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy has welcomed the unanimous support of the Sinn Féin Assembly team to his motion supporting the industrial action announced this week by trade unions opposing the introduction of water charges.

Coming of the decision of the Sinn Féin Assembly team, Francie Molloy, who head the party's campaign against the introduction of water charges said:

"Sinn Féin unanimously back the industrial action initiated by the trade unions in opposition to the proposed water charges.

"It is important that across the political spectrum we put aside our differences and concentrate on how we can stop the plans to impose these unfair water charges. Our focus must be on stopping these British government plans because their impact will be devastating.

"The current proposals will hit those least able to pay hardest - Those most vulnerable would be the elderly both single and married couples. Single parents that are employed and pay for childcare while at work will also have difficulties with separate water charges as will people that care for close relatives and in many cases do not declare their unpaid voluntary care work.

"This is in essence another form of taxation - the backdoor stealth taxes that have become the trademark of Tony Blair's British Labour Party. It is a regressive form of taxation. It should not be down to people to pay for the investment that successive British governments have failed to deliver.

"This is an issue that unites politicians, trade unionists and community activists from across the spectrum." ENDS

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