"The government must take their head out of the sand and respond to the Irish public's very real concerns on this.
"For months now Sinn Féin has been calling for a debate in the Dáil on this issue of crucial national and international importance. But the government - in its typical arrogance - has refused. Their Nice campaign guarantee that they would defend Irish neutrality was clearly just another in a series of broken promises. We therefore also continue to call for neutrality to be enshrined in the Constitution and in legislation.
"Sinn Féin fully supports the anti-war movement, the peace camp at Shannon Airport, and the national anti-war mobilisation on February 15. We look forward to playing our part, together with the other progressive peoples of the US and Europe - and, indeed the world over - on this most important issue." ENDS
Sinn Féin TDs, Dáil advisers and members of the Ard Comhairle held a day long meeting in Dublin today to plan the party's programme for the upcoming Dáil term and begin preparation for next years local government elections. Speaking following the meeting Dáil group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said:
"Despite the huge crisis in health, housing and across rural Ireland the government are in a politically strong position and have as yet not been met by concerted opposition.
"The next six months must see more effective co-operation among the opposition parties to put the government on the rack.
"Over the last number of years Sinn Féin has experienced rapid growth right across the country, but particularly in the 26 counties.
"The election of 5 Sinn Féin TDs and the fundamental realignment of the opposition within Leinster House has already impacted on the body politic. This morning we examined the role of the opposition and its failure to effectively challenge the government. We need to use the strengths within the opposition to make the government accountable and challenge the political direction of this right wing coalition.
"Over the next six months Sinn Féin will be campaigning in the Dáil and in communities across the island. We will be challenging the government on the crisis in the health service, growing numbers on the housing list, the decline of rural Ireland and strengthening the Peace Process. We will also be continuing with our work of building Sinn Féin and preparing for Irish Unity." ENDS
Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin has said that there is no-one in government in charge as the State experiences yet another crisis in hospital Accident and Emergency departments. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"The response of the Minister for Health and Children Micheál Martin to the latest crisis in A and E is deplorable. As patients are treated in ambulances in the car parks of Dublin hospitals, and as people wait for hours overnight for treatment in A and E departments, all the Minister can do is repeat figures for the amount of money spent on the health services. It is glaringly obvious to all that the resourcing of the services is both insufficient and ill-deployed and is not having the desired effect where it matters most - at the front line where people need treatment.
"I understand from my colleague Sinn Féin councillors in Dublin that some 30 people were left waiting for treatment overnight until this morning in the Mater Hospital A and E department. The Minister should order the Health Board to take over beds in the adjacent Mater Private Hospital to relieve the current crisis.
"The Dáil should be recalled to address the worsening situation in our health services. All TDs were elected last May with a mandate to urgently address the crisis in health yet the Dáil does not return until 29 January and there is no-one in Government on top of the situation. The Taoiseach is in Mexico and the other most senior Dublin-based Minister, the Tánaiste Mary Harney, has remained silent.
"The Minister for Health must also answer to the Dáil on the recently highlighted changes in medical training rules for A and E units which could lead to closure or severe reduction of services in hospitals outside Dublin, thus putting more intolerable pressure on the system. Having highlighted and campaigned against the effective withdrawal of A and E services at Monaghan General Hospital over the six months since July 2nd 2002, I am concerned that once again unaccountable influences are dictating the configuration of services within our hospitals throughout the State.
"This latest crisis once more demonstrates the need to completely restructure our grossly unequal, two-tier, public-private health service." ENDS
Sinn Féin Councillors Christy Burke and Nicky Kehoe have called on the Minister for Health Micheal Martin to open up the Mater Private to public patients to help alleviate the immediate backlog of people awaiting treatment.
They also called for long term patients in the Mater Public to be facilitated in respite care where appropriate, as a stop gap measure, to free up beds to shorten the disgraceful waiting lists.
Councillor Burke said:
"The situation at the Mater Hospital last night, where three of the city's eleven ambulances were in the yard treating patients, was unbelieveable. This is just another example of the third-world nature of the Irish public health service. A service that continually fails the needs of the Irish public.
Councillor Kehoe added:
"Sinn Féin is calling on the Minister for Health to open up the private clinic in the Mater to public patients as an emergency measure to help alleviate the spiraling crisis in the Mater Public.
"We are also calling for long-term patients in the Mater Public, where appropriate, to be facilitated in respite care, as a stop gap measure, to free up much needed beds to shorten the disgraceful waiting lists.
"These proposals must be seen as an emergency response to an out of control situation and not as a long term solution. The public health service needs a complete overhaul." ENDS
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Community Affairs Seán Crowe TD has called on workers to give "careful consideration" to the new partnership proposals and to see if they tackle inequality and promote social inclusion. He also questioned why basic rights like union recognition, compliance with labour legislation and the issue of statutory redundancy were on the negotiating table at all.
Deputy Crowe said:
"Workers voting on the new partnership proposals will have to give them very careful consideration particularly in the context of how it affects them and the wider context of tackling inequality and promoting social inclusion. It seems that this is not a real agreement about social partnership. It is only a wage contract and a weak one at that.
"Employer recognition of unions, compliance with labour legislation and fulfilling of statutory redundancy rights are all basic workplace rights. Why were they on the negotiating table in the first place?
"The minimum wage increase is too small. Why was there no immediate proposal to take low paid workers completely out of the tax net?
"The housing proposals are very weak and a much more solid response based on the analysis of the three Bacon reports as well as the NESF report on social and affordable housing and last year's NESC report prepared specially for the partnership talks are needed. We need targets for reducing waiting lists, homelessness and traveller accommodation. A real partnership agreement would have also dealt with the issues of healthcare, the dire state of primary schools, childcare and tax reform.
"The wage increase elements are barely leaving workers in a stand still position and might not even cover inflation and the cost of the new barrage of stealth taxes introduced by Charlie McCreevy in last December's budget.
"The deferral of full payment of benchmarking until 2005 will severely water down their real value to workers and is a lot to ask public servants, who were promised action on low wages some years ago.
"I would call on workers to take their time and not to rush into an agreement that will not deliver on equality and social inclusion." ENDS
Cruinniú idir Uachtarán Shinn Féin Gearóid Mac Ádhaimh agus an t-Aire Éamonn Ó Cuiv I mBaile Átha Cliath.
Bhuail Uachtarán Shinn Féin, Gerry Adams leis an t-Aire Éamonn Ó Cuiv I dTeach Laighean inniu. Is I gcomhthéacs go bhfuil an t-Aire Ó Cuiv ag taisteal go Béal Feirste ar an Déardaoin seo chugainn agus ós rud é go mbeidh Gerry Adams anonn I Londain gur tapú ar an deis.
D'árdaíodh ceisteanna éagsúla I gcaitheamh na cruinnithe. I measc siúd labhair Gearóid Mac Ádhaimh leis an t-Aire fa choinne na ciorraithe a fógraíodh le deirneas sa Bhille Airgeadais. Duirt an t-Uasal Mac Ádhamh gurb cúis imní é do lucht tacaíochta Shinn Féin agus gníomhaí agus gluaiseacht na Gaeilge go gcuirfí bac forbairte ar chuid mhaith de na tograí atá á thógáil ag pobal na Gaeilge, ar Phlean Straitéiseach Foras na Gaeilge, ar TG4 agus ar Phlean Forbartha na Gaeltachta.
Sna sé chontae, a dúirt sé, don chéad uair ó bunaíodh an stát chonnacthas dúinn go mb'fhéidir go mbeadh muid in ann tógáil níos leithne a dhéanamh ar thionscnaimh le cur chun cinn a dhéanamh ar Ghaeilge a leathnú mar theanga phobail I dtaobh grúpaí pobail, cúrsaí oideachais agus neart ábhair eile atá ag bláthú an t-am ar fad. Don chéad uair in stair na tire bhí aitheantas éigint tugtha don Ghaeilge mar thoradh ar socrú Aoine an Chéasta. Ach anois tá imní ar an bpobal go bhfuil na cosa á ghearradh muna dtagann an dá rialtas aniar aduaidh ar an scéil.
Pléadh ábhair a bhaineann leis an t-athbhreithniú atá tosaithe ag an t-Aire Ó Cuiv I leith teorannacha na Gaeltachta agus an stádas dhá theangach atá á lorg ag cathar na Gaillimhe. D'árdaigh Lucilita Bhreatnach, Oifigeach Chultúir Shinn Féin freisin gur cóir breathnú ar áiteacha ar nós ceantar Thamhlachta (I mBaile Átha Cliath) agus Iarthar Bhéal Feirste ina measc le aitheantas a thabhairt don phobal Gaeilge atá ag fás sna réimsí éagsúla laethiúil agus gur cóir freisin stádas ar leibhéal áirithe a thabhairt sna cásanna seo freisin taobh amuigh den lár Ghaeltacht.
D'fháiltí ionadaithe Shinn Féin le fógra na maidine go bhfuil leas phríomh fheidhmeannach faoi dheireadh á fhostú ag Foras an Gaeilge I mBéal Feirste. Tugadh le fios dúinn go bhfuil sé mar sprioc ag an Rannóg go mb'fhéidir na heochair phostanna eile san Fhoras a fhógrú taobh istigh de cúpla seachtaine.
Dúradh linn freisin gur cosúil go mbeidh na leasuithe ar an mBille Teanga ullamh taobh istigh de choícíse rud atá muid go léir ag súil leis.
Responding to reports that Shannon airport is benefiting financially from the build up to the war, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
"It is disgraceful that potential financial gains to a war in Iraq are being used as a justification for the use of Shannon airport by US warplanes. The use of Shannon is wrong, is against our position of neutrality and should end immediately. It is imperative that a situation is not allowed to develop whereby the economic viability of the airport becomes dependent on such sources of finance."ENDS
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP and Dáil Group Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD will meet Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte at the party's Falls Road office tomorrow afternoon, Monday 13th January. Speaking prior to the meeting Deputy Ó Caoláín said:
"We welcome the opportunity to meet with Pat Rabbitte on this his first visit to Belfast as party leader. Among the items for discussion will be the urgent need for all pro-Agreement parties on the island to work together to bring an end to the current political crisis and save the Good Friday Agreement.
"We will also be seeking Labour Party support on the issue of northern representation in the Oireachtas and the need to develop the all-Ireland approach enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement.
"With the transformation in make up of the opposition in Leinster House following the last election we will be seeking to discuss possible areas of co-operation in order to put the demand for equality in health, housing and education centre stage."ENDS
Sinn Féin Human Rights and Equality Spokesperson. West Belfast MLA Bairbre de Brún has described the need for the two governments to fully implement the Human Rights and Equality elements of the Good Friday Agreement as a fundamental part of the current talks process.
Ms de Brún said:
"Equality and Human Rights must be at the heart of any successful implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Resolving the failure to implement these areas of the Agreement is a central component of restoring the momentum of the Agreement and overcoming the present impasse.
"Sinn Fein has put Equality and Human Rights high on the talks agenda. We want to see substantive movement in the coming weeks on social and economic equality, the rights of vulnerable communities, language rights, victims and the process for taking forward a Bill of Rights. These will be discussed in the coming days as we face possibly the most crucial period in our history.
"Sinn Fein have raised these issues in detail, and we now need to see what progress can be made in implementing these key areas of the Agreement that to date have witnessed little progress. We will carry this forward in our discussions this week.
"We need to see timetabled monitored measures to eliminate the differential in unemployment rates between the two communities and we need to see economic development targeted towards areas of greatest need. We also need to see the protection and vindication of human rights and particularly the rights of vulnerable communities. The Human Rights Commission needs sufficient powers and funding to enable it to effectively carry out its remit and we all need to work on the process for taking forward on a Bill of Rights.
"The clearest way to see progress on these and other measures needed is for the two governments and all the local political parties to reaffirm the commitments made in the Good Friday Agreement and to work together to ensure the lull implementation of the rights and equality agenda. This is the task facing us now." ENDS
Sinn Fein TD and Environment spokesperson Arthur Morgan has criticised coalition Environment Minister Martin Cullen for his "short sighted comments about Government failures to act on the Kyoto Protocol on climate change". Deputy Morgan said:
"Minister Cullen's claim that there is 'no get out of jail card' after his and previous governments spent years ignoring international commitments on green houses gases is pathetic. He seems to have forgotten that it is the job of government to govern and it was Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats who spent years ignoring their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"We need real commitment to an environmentally sustainable future for Ireland, not the piecemeal approach currently being adopted. Yes we need to investigate the best way to introduce energy taxes, but with this government there is always the fear that it will be the weakest and least well off who end up being penalised not those who are actually creating the greatest amount of emissions.
"There is a need for a comprehensive approach to this problem. For example if minister Cullen has suddenly had a conversion to environmental principles will he commit himself to adopting a zero waste strategy for waste management and will he call on Finance minister McCreevy to rescind the decision in the budget to withdraw Tax relief for wind energy producers or raise the targets for generating electricity from renewable resources.
"We need a fulltime environment minister with real vision and commitment not a short-term short-sightedness." ENDS
Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin MLA speaking following a day long meeting of the party's Ard Comhairle in Dundalk - the first of the new year - said there was deep concern expressed at todays meeting at the lack of urgency being placed by the two governments on the resolution of the current political crisis.
During the day long meeting Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness updated the Ard Comhairle on yesterdays meeting with Tony Blair at Downing Street and ongoing contact with the Irish Government. There was also a detailed discussion on the ongoing talks and the democratic imperative that the Assembly Elections go ahead in May. Mr McLaughlin said:
"Today republicans gathered in Dundalk from right across the country. There was deep concern expressed that given the narrow window of opportunity which exists to resolve the current political crisis that such little urgency was being placed on it by the two governments.
"It is now three months since the British government collapsed the political institutions at the behest of the UUP.
"It is not good enough for Tony Blair to merely acknowledge that the British Government have failed to implement the Agreement. What is urgently required is a plan to implement the Agreement and resolve all the outstanding issues.
"Sinn Féin believe that these issues can be resolved and that the Good Friday Agreement represents the best way forward."
The Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle also passed a motion of support for the IFA mobilisation in Dublin today. ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Rural Development, Martin Ferris TD has claimed that An Post's proposal to end door-to-door deliveries may be in breach of an EU Directive on the provision of postal services. The Deputy for Kerry North says that he intends to raise this in the Dáil and in a submission to the Commission for Communications Regulation.
Deputy Ferris said; "If, as seems to be the case, that customers in rural areas are to be given a different standard of service depending on where they live, then the proposal is in breach of Article 5.1 of Directive 97/67/EU which guarantees ' -- an identical service to users under comparable conditions.' It also negates the commitment made to provide "- fair and non-discriminatory treatment.'
"Apart altogether from this being a further attack on the quality of life of people in rural communities, it is also clear that the Government's penny pinching will ensure that users of the postal service will be given different and unequal treatment depending on where they happen to live. That is an unacceptable practise in any public service funded from people's tax."ENDS
Speaking today in Belfast in advance of his meeting with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said:
"The ability of the Sinn Fein leadership and the two governments to devise a plan to sort out political crisis' has happened quite a few times in the last four years.
"Maybe it can be done again but even if we do that, the bar which the unionists have raised is very, very, very high indeed. I don't see any sense at this time of any section of unionism running into the elections prepared to engage on a pro-Agreement axis.
"It is my belief that these issues can be resolved. That the Agreement can be implemented. However can this be done in the immediate time ahead? I don't know.
"The Sinn Féin leadership will continue to engage with the two governments and the rest of the parties. The onus however rests with the two governments and the British government in particular. We must see in the time ahead their plan to implement the Agreement in all its aspects." ENDS
The Minister for Health and Children Micheal Martin has been urged to act to avert the closure of Accident and Emergency units throughout the State following the coming into effect of new training rules imposed by the College of Surgeons. Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD said this latest development "could see more hospitals in the same predicament as Monaghan".
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"Changes in training rules now being implemented by the College of Surgeons, as signalled by the Irish Medical Organisation, have been in the offing for a long time. Yet the Minister for Health and Children Micheál Martin has not acted to ensure that all existing Accident and Emergency services are maintained. On the contrary he has presided over a situation where in Monaghan the hospital has been off call for the past six months with accident and emergency cases being diverted to Cavan and Drogheda.that existing A and E units are not closed or curtailed?
"Minister Martin must act to avert what could be a devastating blow to A and E services throughout the State. He is the responsible Minister and he cannot continue to hide behind the professional bodies or the health boards." ENDS
Sinn Féin Foyle MLA, Mitchel Mc Laughlin has claimed that according to Census figures up to 200,000 people eligible to vote are missing from the Electoral Register.
Mr. Mc Laughlin is calling for an urgent investigation into the apparent discrepancy between the declared population of voting age in the recent Census Report and the number of electors registered to vote.
The Sinn Féin MLA said:
"A comparison between the latest census figures and the most recent electoral register would seem to indicate that there are around 200,000 people eligible to vote according to the census figures that are not on the register. This is a very worrying disclosure and is something that cannot be ignored. This critical issue should be of concern to all parties, as these missing voters must cover every political opinion.
"I intend approaching the Ombudsman's Office and the Equality Commission to request an investigation into how this discrepancy occurred and what steps can be taken to rectify the situation"
"The figure of 200,000 votes cannot simply be explained away as people failing to register nor is it entirely due to the new registration requirements. What we have is 200,000 people that have been disenfranchised and this will obviously have a major effect on the electoral process and is something that all parties should be concerned about. These figures require an urgent investigation to ascertain exactly how this situation came about."
"Another area of concern is the fact that there appears to be a higher percentage figure for registration in constituencies and wards that could be described as unionist than in similar nationalist areas. But I do not want to labour this point, as it requires detailed investigation." ENDS
Speaking before his meeting in London on Wednesday with British Prime Minister, Tony Blair the Mid-Ulster MP and Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator, Martin Mc Guinness said:
"The next six to eight weeks will probably be the most critical period the north has seen in the last thirty years. It is crucial that politicians here adopt a positive agenda and collective approach over the coming months to end the political impasse.
I would caution that the political process is entering a critical time ahead of the Assembly elections in May and urge all parties to move forward together. The elections must go ahead, any suspension would effectively be a suspension of the democratic process and would be very damaging indeed.
I think all of us at the heart of this process know the best way to go forward is to try and resolve our problems over the course of the coming six to eight weeks and to move forward together with a very positive agenda into those elections.
Politicians here must develop a positive and constructive frame of mind. It's going to require, I think, a collective approach over the course of the next couple of months that I believe will be the most critical period that we have seen in the course of the last thirty years." ENDS
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD has demanded that the Government take urgent action to address the crisis in farming. Deputy Ferris was speaking as farmers began a mass protest to draw attention to the fall in income and the threat to the survival of thousands of family farms and rural communities.
Deputy Ferris said; "The fact that farmers feel that they must embark on an action such as this is an indication of the depth of the frustration being felt by thousands of farmers whose livelihoods are under threat. While Minister Walsh may claim that most of the factors underlying the crisis are outside of the control of his Department, the cuts in the various agricultural and rural development programmes contained in the Estimates are an indication of the Government's lack of commitment to maintaining rural communities.
"I have raised this on numerous occasions in the Dáil and will continue to press for radical action to be taken to ensure that not only does farming remain a viable option for those wishing to remain on the land, but that real effort is made to ensure the balanced development of those communities currently facing economic collapse and social isolation." ENDS
Speaking after it was reported that the Minister for Finance attempted to have water charges introduced state-wide in the budget Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment Arthur Morgan TD said:
"The reported attempts by Charlie McCreevy to impose water charges state-wide in the last budget provide yet another example of this government making ordinary people pay through the nose for the mess that he and his colleagues have made of the economy. It is clear that Mr McCreevy again sees the pay packets of the ordinary man and woman in the street as his own personal gravy train into which he can dip his increasingly scrooge like and greedy tentacles.
"We have already seen since the budget that people in general are less well off and in many cases actual incomes are in decline as a result of inflation, increases in VAT and the rise in costs of essential services like electricity, gas and health care.
"But this is not enough for greedy McCreevy. Not content with the fact that people already pay for services like water and refuse collections through their general taxation he is determined to make them pay twice. These water charges are nothing to do with improving water quality and sewage treatment - nor are they designed to protect resources. These are nothing more than unconvincing excuses to impose further taxation by stealth. Sinn Féin will continue to resist vigorously all attempts to introduce these unjust service charges.
"Charlie McCreevy will have to find other sources of revenue to balance his books. Perhaps he could start with his friends in the stud farm industry who pay little or no tax or those in big businesses whose Corporation tax was reduced from an already lowly 16% to a ridiculously low 12.5%." ENDS
North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly speaking about this mornings pipe-bomb discovery at Holy Cross Primary School.
Mr. Kelly said:
"The New Year has only begun and already we have a disgraceful attack on children by some faction of the UDA.
"I have no doubt that this attack is a cynical attempt by the UDA to draw attention away from the fact that they are involved in an internal feud.
"Unionist politicians and community workers must do all in their power to end such attacks. We have, in recent days, seen Unionist politicians be highly outspoken in their calls for loyalist to end their feud. Unionists need to be as vocal in their calls for attacks upon nationalists to end". ENDS
Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew has accused the PSNI of 'arming themselves with all available weapons of repression'. Ms. Gildernew's comments come after demands from the PSNI Chief Hugh Orde to be allowed to fire CS Gas. Ms. Gildernew said:
"Since the formation of the PSNI the current Policing Board has presided over the issuing of a new and more lethal plastic bullet. Now it is reported that they are to be lobbied by Huge Orde to be allowed to fire CS Gas.
"To many within the nationalist community who have direct experience of the PSNI and their predecessors in the RUC this development is undoubtedly worrying.
"The vast majority of PSNI members have exempted themselves from the Human Rights oath and those who abused Human Rights in the past moved en-block into the new force. With this sort of background and make-up it is not surprising therefore that the PSNI is continuing to arm itself with all available weapons of resistance."ENDS