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


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Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has said that "concrete initiatives must be forthcoming if we are to address the crisis on our roads". Ms McDonald was speaking as a road safety conference was due to take place in Dublin today, attended by the Transport and Justice ministers, the Garda Commissioner and officials from both the National Roads Authority and National Safety Council.

Speaking today, Ms McDonald said:

"Today's conference on road safety whilst welcome is long overdue. So far this year, 292 people have died on our roads and the carnage shows no signs of easing. The most disturbing element of these statistics is that many of these deaths were preventable. That it has taken this long to organise a road safety summit is an absolute disgrace.

"Sinn Féin has long called for a multi agency approach to this epidemic and today‚s road safety summit must produce a practical way forward - concrete initiatives must be forthcoming if we are to address the crisis on our roads.

"That many of these accidents are happening during weekend nights shows where resources are needed. The Minister for Justice needs to make the funds available so that the Gardai can adequately tackle this unacceptable situation. The apparent over emphasis in placing speed cameras and patrols on motorways and dual carriageways, which are acknowledged as the safest roads in the country, makes no sense when the majority of accidents are happening on other national and secondary routes throughout the country.

"The fact so many young people are involved in these accidents also indicates that we need to address the problem from an educational point of view. All young people before leaving school should be fully versed in the rules of the road from the perspectives of a pedestrian, a cyclist and a motorist and where possible be given practical tuition.

"Sinn Féin also reiterates our call for the implementation of initiatives throughout Ireland to improve road safety, including the standardising across the island of road safety measures, road signs, speed limits and a one points system to cover the whole island." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Assembly group leader, Newry Armagh MLA Conor Murphy and South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane speaking at a Press Conference in Belfast today after two days of talks at Stormont have said that a comprehensive agreement involving the DUP is only possible if they engage on a realistic basis and move away from their anti-agreement position.

Mr Murphy said:

"Over the last week we have made progress across a range of issues.

"But what is clear is that a comprehensive agreement involving the DUP is only possible if they engage on a realistic basis and move away from their anti-agreement position, and in particular their attempt to undermine the all Ireland, power sharing and equality aspects of the agreement.

"If they are unwilling to do so there is an onus on the pro-agreement parties and the two governments, particularly the British government to move on.

"We remain in detailed discussions with the two governments on a range of issues including policing and justice, Human Rights, Equality and Demilitarisation." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MP Martin McGuinness has warned the British government against any dilution or further delay in the initiation of a full independent international public inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane.

Mr McGuinness said:

"The issue of collusion has been on the agenda of every discussion with Mr Blair since we first met in 1997. The British government has been left in no doubt that the collusion cover up must end. The British government must not dilute or further delay a full independent international public inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane.

"Successive British governments have gone to extraordinary lengths to cover up the involvement of their military, intelligence and police agencies in the murder of citizens. Tony Blair and his colleagues know that Pat Finucane's killing is only the tip of the iceberg. Pat Finucane and hundreds of others died as a consequence of an administrative practice which oversaw British agencies arming, training, providing target lists and information for unionist paramilitaries who then carried out countless murders.

"Collusion and specifically the killing of Pat Finucane are serious matters about which the British government cannot continue to hide the truth." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has hit back at critics of the decision of the former Health Minster Bairbre de Brún to site the new maternity hospital at the RVH.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"British Direct rule Ministers had run away from this decision for seven years. No decision effectively meant no new hospital.

"Bairbre de Brún took the decision based on clinical evidence and the needs of mothers and babies.

"The decision to place the new maternity hospital on the Royal Victoria site was the right decision that was supported by the majority of health professionals and organisations. Bairbre also took the decision to site the new regional cancer centre on the City Hospital site - is anyone now saying that that this was the wrong decision?

"Bairbre de Brún took the advice based on sound medical advice. Others opposed that decision based on a clearly political and sectarian agenda, others for constituency concerns.

"The reality is that any introduction of a DUP veto into the workings of the Good Friday Agreement would mean that instead of sound decisions taken on the basis of sound evidence that we would get decisions taken on a political, or worse, a sectarian basis." ENDS

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Ballyfermot Sinn Fein Councillor Tony Smithers has achieved a significant victory in the battle to reform the City Council‚s plans for a major new development in Cherry Orchard. At a meeting of the City Council last night he successfully sought the inclusion of 10% social housing in the plan.

At the start of August the Dublin City Manager revealed details of the plan for 5,000 apartments and houses in Cherry Orchard with no provision whatsoever for any degree of social housing.

From the beginning Tony Smithers queried the detail and advisability of the plan, highlighting concerns as to whether the type of housing envisaged could provide sustainable community living.

Smithers pointed out that Cherry Orchard remained an area without basic amenities and community infrastructure. There are no shops, no post office, an inadequate bus service and the only public park remains unfinished. The Sinn Fein Councillor argued that these problems needed to be tackled immediately to improve the quality of lives for those people currently living in Cherry Orchard and that to proceed with such a large scale housing development without addressing such issues would be folly.

Last month the City Manger attempted, in public, to defend the lack of social housing provision in the Cherry Orchard plan by stating that the area already had enough social housing. This, despite the fact that, as Tony Smithers has pointed out, Ballyfermot is "bursting at the seams with local people seeking housing".

At a meeting of Dublin City Council on Tuesday, 21 September, held to discuss aspects of the Dublin Draft Development Plan, including the proposals for Cherry Orchard, Tony Smithers spoke vehemently to alter the proposals to include a percentage of social housing. "We have sat here for the past few weeks debating and arguing over rezoning issues and attempting to address in some way the chronic housing crisis afflicting this city. Here is an opportunity to do something practical and provide social housing for those who so badly need it."

Smithers argued for 15% the plans housing to be allocated to social housing. Following a debate on the issue and with support from councillors from all parties the Council agreed that 10% of housing in the plan should be for social housing. This amounts to 500 homes and is a significant victory for the people of Ballyfermot and indeed of Dublin, which still faces a huge housing crisis.

Councillor Smithers said: "This is great news and it is only the beginning. The Council have agreed that a charter be drawn up for Cherry Orchard which effectively means its back to the drawing board with this plan. There was no consultation involved in the process which led to the plan and this inevitably resulted in a deficient plan. With proper consultation I belive we can now get this right." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness speaking after meeting the two governments in Stormont today has said that the core principles of the Agreement including power sharing and the All Ireland architecture cannot be undermined.

Mr McGuinness said:

"All of the work and progress of Leeds Castle was clearly in the context of the core principles and safeguards contained in the Good Friday Agreement including the fundamentals of power sharing and the All Ireland architecture.

"The focus, therefore, should be on moving forward on the basis of these fundamental principles and on resisting any attempt to dilute them.

"There is a particular obligation on the two governments, along with all of the pro-agreement parties, to do this.

"Rigorous accountability mechanisms already exist. Sinn Fein is not opposed to improvements in the efficiency and transparency of the institutions. But, we will not accept or sign up to anything which undermines the core elements of the Agreement." ENDS

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Sinn Fein Health spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has said that the Human Rights Commission's discussion paper on investigating deaths in hospitals is a welcome contribution to the wider debate on health care.

Mr O'Dowd said,

"Deaths in hospitals are a very sensitive issue for relatives and medical staff alike. What this report highlights are a number of failings within the system which obviously need to be addressed, such as:

  • The absence of an automatic requirement for an investigation into a death in hospital
  • The need to review guidelines and regulations governing internal reviews by Health and Social Services Trusts including the ability to access completely all patient notes and records and
  • Coroners' powers in relation to the investigation of such deaths, and their ability to make binding recommendations as a result of the same.

"Any debate around this issue should have the prevention of avoidable hospital deaths as a result of negligence, individual error or systemic failure as its main focus. It is vital that pubic confidence in our health services is maintained." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEPs Bairbre de Brún (6 counties) and Mary Lou McDonald (Dublin) have this morning said that the "EU Working Time Directive must be implemented in full throughout the EU if workers rights are to be protected".

Ms de Brún and Ms McDonald were speaking after the European Commission decided to impose limitations on those member states that have refused to implement the Working Time Directive, which states that employees should not work longer than a 48-hour week.

Speaking today, the Sinn Féin MEPs said:

"We are disappointed that the European Commission has merely tweaked the EU Working Time Directive and has refused to remove the opt-out clause. This clause has allowed certain member states exemption from the Working Time Directive.

"Sinn Féin also echoes the concerns of a number of trade unions who had criticised the proposals as not being strong enough in the protection of workers‚ rights.

"Sinn Féin also expresses concern that time spent on call that is not worked would not be counted as working time. The restrictions placed upon Œon call‚ workers means that they are often restricted to one particular place in case they are required by their employer at short notice.

"Sinn Féin supports the revision of the EU Working Time Directive to remove the individual opt-out.

"Sinn Féin is in support of the protection of workers rights throughout the EU. It is our view that any directive, which caps the amount of hours in a working week, is a forward thinking and sensible measure. However, governments must ensure that adequate resources are provided to meet the effects of the EU Working Time Directive." ENDS

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Sinn Fein Environment Spokesperson, South Down Assembly Member Willie Clarke has expressed shock at a speech by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair where he refused to rule out the possibility that a new nuclear building programme might be necessary if Britain is to meet its carbon emission reduction targets.

Mr Clarke said:

"The views expressed by Tony Blair in his recent speech on climate change are very worrying. If this is evidence of the British Government's long-term strategy to tackle global warming then they should go back to the drawing board. For many years Irish people living on the East Coast of Ireland have had to live under the shadow of nuclear catastrophe and Sellafield in particular has been the major source of radioactive pollution in the Irish Sea.

"In the latest incident to occur at the Cumbria based plant workers had to be put on alert after radioactive liquid escaped in one of the main plants that helps to cut radioactive discharges into the sea. A small amount of radioactive liquid was detected around a pump and the plant had to be evacuated. As recently as last month the European Commission began legal proceedings in the European Court of Justice against the British Government for their failure to comply with strict EU inspection rules on nuclear waste.

"Tony Blair's vision of a how to reduce carbon emissions is based on background analysis which looked at some 25 different scenarios for meeting the target of a 60 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.

"It not just irresponsible it is totally is unacceptable that the British Government is looking at reducing carbon emissions through the use of a new nuclear build programme The key priority must be in the production of safe renewable energy and.

"The legacy of Sellafield and similar power stations will last for generations and the emphasis must be placed on phasing out nuclear power as a source of energy. The British Government has ignored the overwhelming evidence that has been amassed over many years that nuclear power plants pose a very real threat to the health and well being of the environment and the general public." ENDS

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Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty, has described the Western Health and Social Services Board's (WHSSB) proposal to move the Out of Hours Service from Strabane Health Centre to Altnagelvin from January as completely flawed, and in a written submission as part of the consultation on the proposal he has called on the WHSSB to bring forward new proposals to the full Board meeting on the 30th September.

Mr Doherty said:

"There deep concern that the WHSSB Out of Hours Emergency Medical Services (OOH) proposals would reduce the access to this crucial element of Primary Health Care for huge numbers of people in the Strabane area. The proposals as they stand would locate all out of hours services for the people of Strabane, Derry and Limavady at a centralized site at Altnagelvin, from 1st January 2005.

The proposals will mean that:

  • Rather than access the OOH Centre at Altnagelvin, the first point of contact for many people will be the A&E at Altnagelvin. This will create an extra burden for A&E services - something that the provision of enhanced primary care services was supposed to prevent
  • There will be a on people on fixed incomes and benefits and the elderly as well as on those with physical and mental disabilities and those families with dependent
  • The logistical and financial burden for people with no access to private transport will prevent many people from seeking the medical attention they require
  • Increased isolation from OOH services for people living in rural areas of Strabane District
  • Areas where there exist high levels of ill health and deprivation, such as Strabane will be further disadvantaged.

"The consultation claims that only 4-5 patients make use of the service on a nightly basis. This means that 1,865 patients use this service locally each year. The WHSSB must balance its financial considerations with the fact that some of these people may not be alive today if they had not got access to this local service.

"Sinn Féin believes that the proposals, in relation to Strabane, are contrary to overarching governmental imperatives like Targeting Social Need (TSN) and equality directives like Section 75.

"The current proposals, in relation to Strabane, are deeply flawed. Per head of population more people in Strabane District seek Primary Health Care Services than anywhere else in the North, and Strabane tops the multi-deprivation league in a wide range of poverty related measures. I have argued that the WHSSB should be seeking to enhance Primary Health care Services in the District instead of proposing to strip a vital component of these services away. " ENDS

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Sinn Féin representative for Dublin South East, Councillor Daithí Doolan, has today announced that "Sinn Féin will lead a campaign to ensure that last week's City Council decision not to build an incineration on the Poolbeg Peninsula will be upheld despite threats from City Management".

Councillor Doolan said:

"Last week Dublin City Council overwhelmingly endorsed Sinn Féin‚s motion calling for the rezoning of the Poolbeg Peninsula to prohibit incineration by a margin of 32 votes to 5. The City Management has indicated it intends to defy the Council‚s vote and push ahead with the incinerator. Last week's vote can not and will not be undermined or ignored by the City's Management. No amount of threats or bullying can change the Council's decision. This has now become an issue not just about incineration but about democracy itself.

"Sinn Féin has launched a campaign to highlight this assault on democracy by the City Management. We intend to take this campaign to the streets, to go door to door across the constituency and to mount an information campaign. We have also organised a protest and rally which will take place this Saturday in Ringsend and a public meeting next Thursday.

"What Dublin City must now pursue is a Waste Management Strategy that respects the wishes of the majority and implement a sustainable, workable waste strategy. Sinn Féin have provided such a strategy "A Zero Waste Strategy" one that is based on reducing the demand to produce and consume waste, reuse where appropriate and the investment in our fledgling recycling industry. It is a strategy that goes to the source of our waste crisis rather than becoming dependant on landfill or incineration.

"Sinn Féin has called on all parties to ensure that unelected city offiials are not allowed to simply bury or burn democracy along with our waste. This campaign will ensure our mandates will not be ignored." ENDS

Protest Saturday September 25th, 12 noon Ringsend Technical School, Cambridge Road, Ringsend.

Public meeting Thursday September 30th 8pm Ringsend Community Centre, Ringsend.

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Commenting before this morning's expected announcement that 'independent' T.D. Dr. Liam Twomey is to join the Fine Gael party, Wexford Sinn Féin County Councillor John Dwyer has expressed disappointment, but not surprise at Dr Twomey's decision.

Cllr Dwyer said:

"When the people of Wexford elected Dr Liam Twomey as an independent TD, they were seeking two things: a radical voice for healthcare reform, and an independent alternative to the establishment parties. Unfortunately Dr Twomey has been neither of these things.

"When one examines Dr. Twomey's record in Leinster House it really is no surprise that he has now joined the national coalition of the confused:

"Dr. Twomey voted for the Local Government Bill, which removed powers from locally elected representatives and handed these powers over to unelected officials as 'executive functions'. Although supported in his election campaign by the anti-incineration lobby group, Dr Twomey then misrepresented this campaign and proceeded to vote in support of Minister Cullens Environment Bill allowing for a network of incinerators to be established in this country. Dr Twomey supported the Nice Treaty, stating that he believed the governments promises to safeguard Irish Neutrality, which they quickly broke. However, he also voted against the Private Members Bill which would have inserted Neutrality into the Constitution.

"Instead of providing a radical voice and challenging the Minister for Health to provide a proper radiotherapy facility in the South-East for public patients, Dr Twomey went along with Minister Martin's agenda and came out strongly in favour of the establishment of a private radiotherapy unit. His support for this proposal also drew the wrath of the Labour Party, who are now likely to welcome him into the coalition of the confused?

"The crisis at Wexford General Hospital and in our health services has become much worse since Dr. Twomey's election. This of course is not his fault but the people of Wexford are justified to feel disillusioned at his throwing in the towel and running for cover now. The people voted for a strong independent alternative to this government, and not for a sheep in sheep's clothing!" ENDS

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Sinn Féin newly appointed spokesperson on Rural Regeneration, Newry Armagh MLA Pat O' Rawe has welcomed moves by officials in the Department of Regional Development to get to grips with the issue of rural planning and the increasing number of single dwellings in the country side.

Meeting with DRD officials today, Mrs. O' Rawe acknowledged the huge growth of rural planning applications and, while recognising the demand for rural housing, agreed that it was important to care for the countryside, sustain green belts and protect areas of outstanding natural beauty from over development.

Speaking following the meeting, which dealt with policy relating to planning of rural dwellings, Mrs. O' Rawe said:

"With more and more people moving to the countryside it is important that planning policy takes account of the wider issues of development such as environmental impact and sustainability.

"However, it is vital that rural communities have the ability to develop and grow.

"This is about achieving a balance that does not disadvantage the future of rural communities while ensuring that this is done in a way where housing fit's into the rural surroundings. We hope that this meeting has given DRD officials an idea of Sinn Fein's position on planning in rural areas but we will be providing a detailed written response to the departmental consultation. We expect the department to take our concerns and advice on board when drawing up any further policy." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has accused the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform of standing in the way of a rights-based Disability Bill, which he has described as "the only acceptable outcome for this long-awaited legislation."

Speaking following the publication of the Government's Disability Bill 2004 and National Disability Strategy, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Sinn Féin is studying this package closely. Elements of the Bill and of the Disability Strategy will undoubtedly progress the situation of persons with disabilities living in this state, and so are welcome. However, I am deeply disappointed that the Government still has not delivered a fully-enforceable rights-based Bill, because while I recognise that there are elements of enforceability, at the Minister's insistence overall enforceability remains limited.

"People with disabilities are not just service users or dependents in need of care. They are a social group that face systematic discrimination, exclusion and disadvantage because we have failed to create a fully inclusive society. People with disabilities have a right to live as equal citizens, free of discrimination and disadvantage, and the state has a duty to ensure this.Without fully enforceable rights recognised in law, we have every reason to believe that - as in the past - the pace of change will be too slow because there will be too much room for prevarication.

"Inclusivity is a matter of political will. Either the Government of the day is willing to go the distance, or they are not. I hope that with the further constructive input of the Disability Legislation Consultation Group and the opposition parties including Sinn Féin, that together we can make the necessary improvements to this Bill and end up with legislation of which we can all be proud." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has accused the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform of standing in the way of a rights-based Disability Bill, which he has described as "the only acceptable outcome for this long-awaited legislation."

Speaking following the publication of the Government's Disability Bill 2004 andNational Disability Strategy, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Sinn Féin is studying this package closely. Elements of the Bill and of the Disability Strategy will undoubtedly progress the situation of persons with disabilities living in this state, and so are welcome. However, I am deeply disappointed that the Government still has not delivered a fully-enforceable rights-based Bill, because while I recognise that there are elements of enforceability, at the Minister's insistence overall enforceability remains limited.

"People with disabilities are not just service users or dependents in need of care. They are a social group that face systematic discrimination, exclusion and disadvantage because we have failed to create a fully inclusive society. People with disabilities have a right to live as equal citizens, free of discrimination and disadvantage, and the state has a duty to ensure this.Without fully enforceable rights recognised in law, we have every reason to believe that - as in the past - the pace of change will be too slow because there will be too much room for prevarication.

"Inclusivity is a matter of political will. Either the Government of the day is willing to go the distance, or they are not. I hope that with the further constructive input of the Disability Legislation Consultation Group and the opposition parties including Sinn Féin, that together we can make the necessary improvements to this Bill and end up with legislation of which we can all be proud." ENDS

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Sinn Fein Spokesperson on poverty, North Belfast MLA Kathy Stanton, commenting on a report from the charity Help The Aged has agreed that the British government's plans to introduce water charges in the Six counties will push many older people and families on low incomes further into poverty.

Ms. Stanton said:

"The report produced by Help the Aged confirms what Sinn Fein has been saying all along - that those who suffer from the worst forms of social exclusion stand to be victimized even further by these water tax proposals from the British government.

"For decades, the British government has been guilty of failing to invest properly in our services. Now, the NIO are determined to force us to pay for their failures.

"The British government's suggestion of a 25% rebate for pensioners and those on low incomes is totally inadequate. In comparison to other models of managing water services the British government stands accused of treating everyone who lives in the North of Ireland as a second-class citizen.

"Sinn Féin is totally opposed to the introduction of water charges as there is overwhelming evidence that the less well-off will inevitably suffer disproportionately as a result of such stealth taxes. It is clear that what is proposed is a form of taxation that will hit those least able to pay proportionately harder - people on low incomes and particul;arly senior citizens will be pushed further into poverty as a direct result of water taxes.

"We will continue to resist vigorously all attempts to introduce these unjust service charges." ENDS

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South Belfast Assembly member, Alex Maskey, has welcomed the SDLP's renewed focus on the issue of plastic bullets.

Mr Maskey said:

"Since they joined the policing board the SDLP have asserted that outstanding issues could be dealt with through that mechanism. Now they claim that they raised the issue at Leeds Castle. The reality is that they have singularly failed to make any impact on any of the outstanding matters through the policing board and on the emotive issue of plastic bullets they have accepted the continued arming of the PSNI with this lethal weapon. Over the past three years the Policing Board, with full SDLP participation, has spent almost £1 million on 120,000 plastic bullets.

"In contrast Sinn Fein has continued to insist that the use of plastic bullets must be ended. When it became clear that Sinn Fein was making progress on this issue, the SDLP cynically rushed to the media to claim credit. Despite this blatant opportunism, I welcome the SDLP's renewed focus on this issue and their acceptance that it has to be dealt with definitively by the British government. Our collective effort must be to bring the use of this lethal weapon to an immediate end." ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has urged drivers to 'show their support for European Car Free day tomorrow, by using public transport for the day'. But she was critical of the Government, whom she accused of promoting private car use more than any other government before it.

The 22nd September has been designated 'European Car Free Day', and this is the fifth year that the state will officially participate in the event. Free public transport will be available in a number of towns and cities throughout the state.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"Sinn Féin once again welcomes the participation by this state in European Car Free Day, as a small yet significant step towards creating public awareness around issues such as pollution, car-pooling and the availability of public transport as a viable alternative to our spiralling traffic problems.

"However, the government's promotion of the event is laughable given that the chronic congestion in our cities and towns is the result of years of neglect of our public transport infrastructure by successive governments.

"Instead of investing in our bus and rail services we have the Minister for Transport scurrying around the country in his ministerial limousine opening new sections of motorway. Coupled with his ideological drive to privatise public transport, it is clear that this Minister and his Government have done more to encourage private car use than any previous administration.

"Yes, we need new roads, but more importantly we also require much needed investment in our public transport infrastructure if we are to capitalize on initiatives such as European Car Free day instead of it remaining a token feel good gesture.

"Sinn Féin would like to see this scheme extended in future so that as wide a range of people can benefit from this positive venture. Widespread availability of free public transport throughout the state, during the initiative is essential if this scheme is to be successful. I would encourage drivers to make a contribution toward protecting the environment by supporting European Car Free Day". ENDS

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Speaking at a News Conference in Westminster this morning Sinn Féin Vice-President and West Tyrone MP, Pat Doherty outlined the course of events preceding and during the intensive talks at Leeds Castle this past weekend.

Mr Doherty explained:

"In June Gerry Adams set out the Sinn Féin objective for the Leeds Castle talks, which where; a comprehensive, holistic agreement which would conclusively deal with all of the outstanding issues.

"Finding such an agreement was our singular focus in weeks of intense discussion between Sinn Féin and the two governments.

"We expressed privately and publicly our preparedness to face up to the challenges that this major undertaking would present. But we also made it clear that the two governments and the DUP also needed to face up to the challenges if we were to be successful.

"We repeatedly pointed out that if the Leeds Castle engagement was to have any hope of success that closure was needed on a range of key outstanding issues. Our view was that the preparatory work, between the two governments, but particularly between the British government and the DUP that needed doing to achieve such an outcome, had not been done.

"We made it abundantly clear, and were backed by all of the other pro-Agreement parties that any attempt to undermine the core principle of power-sharing and the all-Ireland architecture of the Agreement would be totally unacceptable. But we were also working against a background of persistent anti-peace process activities on the part of securocrats and the NIO and therefore little effort was made to impress the position of the pro-Agreement majority on the DUP.

"Notwithstanding these very deep worries, the Sinn Féin Negotiating Team travelled to Leeds Castle to do our best to find agreement.

"We knew it would be a huge challenge particularly given the anti-agreement agenda of the DUP and their refusal to talk to us. Despite the difficulties this presented, we did some good work with the two governments and made some progress across a range of issues.

"The DUP did not engage and did not negotiate. If the DUP therefore, remain unwilling to accept equality, if they remain unwilling to share power and to accept the all-Ireland shape of the agreement, then there is an onus on the two governments and the British government in particular, to move immediately on the human rights, equality, policing and demilitarisation agendas.

"The most significant message to come out of the Leeds Castle talks was that the Agreement would endure. I believe that many politicians, analysts and even some within the DUP will come to realise that this could be a very significantly defining moment in the Peace Process.

"Because no agreement was reached at Leeds Castle and a truly significant opportunity to make a positive difference to the lives of all the people of Ireland was spurned by the DUP it does not follow, that Sinn Féin is giving up on our peace Agenda. We want an agreement with unionism, including the DUP. But such an accommodation must be on the basis of equality, inclusivity and mutual respect. We are determined to remain engaged and will continue to make progress in conjunction with all of the other pro-Agreement forces that represent majority opinion not just on the island as a whole but a majority in a North of Ireland context also.

"We have arranged to talk to the two governments over the coming days and we will participate with renewed determination in the engagements to be convened by the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowan and British Secretary of State, Paul Murphy scheduled to begin in Belfast today.

"As we resume these discussions at Stormont today it is clear that agreement is only possible if the DUP begin to engage positively and accept that there will be no return to unionist domination; that there will be no dilution of power sharing; that there will be no erosion of the all-Ireland architecture.

"However, if the DUP remain unwilling to engage - unwilling to accept equality and power sharing - then the two governments and the pro-Agreement parties must move on. The DUP cannot be allowed to block progress or to undermine the positive work that was done last week. The process of change must continue."

"In the meantime, the door is open for the DUP to join the other pro-agreement parties in face to face dialogue when it finds the courage and confidence to work as equals with all other democratically elected representatives to build a better future for all of the people of Ireland." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator, Martin McGuinness MP, speaking after meeting with both governments in Stormont today has said that the DUP need to come into the real world of negotiations, engagement and agreement.

Mr McGuinness said:

"The DUP did not engage at Leeds Castle. In the real world of negotiations you talk to people, you engage with people, and you make agreements which others can live with.

"The DUP need to come into this world of negotiations, engagement and agreement. They must understand that they cannot simply make demands; they must understand that there will be no changes to the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement. Equality, power-sharing and the all-Ireland institutions are fundamental to the Agreement.

"On these key issues the DUP will not get their way. There will be no return to unionist rule. There will be no unionist veto. There will be no dilution of the all-Ireland structures.

"We have a unique opportunity to move forward. The DUP can be part of this. But if they remain unwilling then the pro-Agreement parties and the two governments will move forward without them." ENDS

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