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


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Speaking today from London where he is meeting with families of those who had relatives killed through the British policy of collusion, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP paid tribute to the former SDLP leader John Hume who announced his intention not to stand in the forthcoming EU Election.

Mr Adams said:

"I want to pay tribute to SDLP leader John Hume. His decision not to stand again for the European Parliament marks the end of an era.

"The SDLP and ourselves have a different analysis and different objectives. But it is to John Hume's credit that he worked with us in trying to find a peaceful resolution of the causes of conflict on this island and between Britain and Ireland.

" He was vilified, of course, but in a short period the Hume/Adams dialogue, as it became known opened up the possibility of a new beginning. This gave all our people hope and led to an agreement which was endorsed by rank and file unionists as well as nationalists and republicans.

"That period of hope is often forgotten now as the peace process stumbles from one crisis to another. But that hope should be a lasting tribute to the finest hour of John Hume.

"I wish to extend to John and his wife Pat my warmest best wishes for the future." ENDS

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Speaking following his attendance at the launch by the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government Martin Cullen T.D. of electronic voting and counting in this State, Arthur Morgan stated that the launch would do nothing to abate the widespread concerns which exist regarding the system being introduced.

Deputy Morgan said: "There are now widespread concerns regarding the system of electronic voting introduced in this state. A glitzy launch and Minister Cullen's insistence that such concerns are unfounded will not quell concerns.

"A study of the system entitled published by Margaret McGaley and Paul Gibson of the Computer Science Department in Maynooth concluded that '... while an adequate electronic voting system is possible, NEDAP/Powervote is not it'. Zerflow which carried out security assessment on behalf of the department also pointed out some serious flaws in the system.

"Sinn Féin is supportive of the idea of electronic voting using a kiosk type system. However, we are calling for all source code and design to be publicly available for inspection by citizens and especially by Computer Science experts. We are also calling for the Mercuri method to be applied, i.e. a paper copy of the vote, verified by the voter, to be held for the purpose of independent recount and for parallel manual counting be used for a period so that voter confidence is enhanced.

"If electronic voting is to gain public confidence the serious concerns about the system being introduced in this state must be addressed as a matter of urgency. If these concerns are not addressed then any advertising campaign to promote electronic voting will do nothing to increase public confidence and we will face a further decline in voter participation at the forthcoming EU and local elections." ENDS

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Speaking during Taoiseach's Questions in the Dáil this morning Sinn Féin leader in Leinster House, Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin, challenged the Taoiseach to state whether or not he 'actively and unreservedly' supported the militarisation of the EU in light of the appointment of a leading British securocrat from the MOD to head up the EU armaments agency.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The Taoiseach and his colleagues have repeatedly attempted to rubbish claims that his government is co-operating in the militarisation of the European Union. What is his reaction then to the establishment of the EU armaments agency - or the European Defence Capabilities Agency as it is also being referred to? And what is his reaction to the appointment in recent days as head of that agency of one Nick Witney, the Director General of International Security Policy at the British Ministry of Defence?

"In a week when both the Bush administration and the Blair government have been forced to concede inquiries into the web of lies which were used to justify their war in Iraq, does it not speak volumes that a British international securocrat has been appointed to head up this new EU military body? In the words of the Draft EU Constitution does the Taoiseach "actively and unreservedly support" this aspect of the EU's so-called security policy?" ENDS

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Speaking in Westminster to the families of those killed as a result of collusion between British intelligence agencies and the loyalist death squads, Gerry Adams MP said:

"The continuing power and influence of British securocrats is evident in the on-going attempts by the British system to hide its real role in Ireland over three decades of conflict.

The British government‚s refusal to co-operate with a range of investigations into state and state-sponsored violence is symptomatic of a culture of concealment that infects the entire British system. The British state continues to withhold vital inquest evidence in respect of numerous state and state-linked killings in the north.

They have obstructed the Saville Inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday; the refused to co-operate with the Barron Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; and they refuse to initiate independent inquiries in a number of controversial killings, including those examined by Judge Cory. Fifteen years after the death of Pat Finucane his family is still campaigning for the truth about his death and who sanctioned it.

The murder of citizens through collusion with Unionist death squads has been and remains a British state policy in Ireland. Collusion - the control, resourcing and direction of loyalist death squads by British state agencies ˆ was sanctioned at the highest level of the British government. It resulted in the deaths of hundreds of republicans, nationalists and Catholics. Members of Sinn Fein, including elected representatives, were among those killed in a vicious campaign of political terror.

This is a human rights scandal which anywhere lese would have brought down governments. Not so with British state terror in Ireland. Is it any wonder that Thatcher and General Pinochet of Chile are such close friends? They shared the same violent policy towards their political opponents.

The British politicians who sanctioned the policy of collusion have never been held accountable.

Collusion has not ended. The British apparatus, which operates the policy of collusion, continues in existence.

The policy of collusion must be ended, its structures must be disowned and dismantled and there must be full disclosure of the truth about Britain‚s war in Ireland".ENDS

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Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD today called for the immediate publication of the Disability Bill pointing out that disability groups are still waiting for it after two years of consultation.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The Disability Legislation Consultation Group published their proposals in the document Equal Rights a full year ago calling very clearly for legislation which enshrines positive rights that are enforceable by individuals.

"This legislation was promised for the last Dáil session and in the current programme of legislation, according to the Chief Whip, it is the 'flagship' bill. There is consternation in the disability sector that yet again a Bill which is not rights-based and which falls very far short of requirements is about to be published. The Taoiseach stated last week that the further delay in this long overdue Bill was because the Disability Legislation Consultation Group required further time to reply. They have refuted this suggestion and they have said that there are significant gaps between the draft legislation and their proposals for real rights-based legislation.

"This latest debacle comes at the close of the European Year of People with Disabilities - a year in which disabled people had to take to the streets to protest at Government cutbacks! There seems to be a culture of opposition to rights-based legislation of any kind in this Government. Last week we had the national embarrassment of the Immigration Bill - as published - which would have, incredibly, denied people entry to this State on the basis of having a disability or a disease. The Government has had to back down, to some extent, on that as well. We need to see positive, not regressive, action on these issues." ENDS

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Sinn Féin Vice President and MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty said today that his party 'would not rest until justice was secured for its electorate'. Mr Doherty's comments came after the Appeal Court upheld a decision to continue to refuse to give Sinn Féin Policy Development Grants despite smaller parties receiving this money.

Speaking from the court Mr Doherty said:

"Given the composition of the court system in the Six Counties today's decision was not unexpected. However this is not the end of the road. We will continue to fight these discriminatory practices both through political and legal channels.

"We will now consider our legal options and explore the possibility of removing this issue from the unreformed judicial system in the six counties.

"Sinn Féin will not accept the rights and entitlements of our electorate being discriminated against and we will not rest until justice is secured for them." ENDS

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A delegation from the National Women's Council of Ireland, in response to a request, met with Sinn Féin's five TDs to highlight the key issues affecting women in Ireland, and how political parties can promote equality for women and work towards elimination of gender-based discrimination at local, national and European levels.

The meeting took place in Leinster House last night where the full Sinn Féin team (including TDs and political staff ) were briefed on the legislative needs and policy priorities for women in the State.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Party Whip and Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights said:

"We commend the invaluable work of the NWCI and found this a very informative meeting. We will use the insights gained in our pursuit of the equality agenda to which our party is fully committed. Needless to say, gender equality is a key aspect of that agenda.

"In our view, it is incumbent on legislators of this State to establish dialogue with organisations representing women who make up more than 50% of the population.

It is also imperative that the laws and policies in this State meet the needs of this 50% and that proactive measures are also taken to redress the legacy of discrimination against women and their exclusion from public life.

"Our position is that all parties, whether in government or opposition, are obliged to ? at minimum - undertake such consultations and we hope that all parties who have not yet done so will follow suit."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh Cllr Gerry McHugh has welcomed the mid term evaluation of the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund which was published last week.

Cllr McHugh said:

"This evaluation will give DARD an opportunity now to correct the many mistakes which have resulted in farmers and the rural community becoming disillusioned with the rural development programme".

"The report covers all of the rural development programmes from Peace II and BSP along with the accompanying agricultural measures. The report shows that 70% of farms are considered mainly LFA and that the accompanying support for LFA areas has kept the reduction of farms in the LFA areas to the same proportion as that of lowland areas.

"The report states that a rejection rate of 71% in the BSP programme with 5 measures having no approvals and a rejection rate of 56% in the PEACE II programme with four of the nine measures having no approved applications.

"With this rejection rate and the number of measures having no approvals the report questions as to whether some of the money can be spent.

"There is no doubt that the money paid to farmers in the LFA and other areas through schemes such as the Country Side Management Scheme the Environmentally Sensitive Scheme and the various Compensatory Allowance's provide vital assistance, it is also clear that these schemes are easily accessed, I will be calling upon DARD again to make assistance available to farmers and the rural community to access the Rural Development Programme". ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Higher education Michael Ferguson has accused the University of Ulster of displaying 'gross insensitivity to the nationalist and republican community'. Mr Ferguson's comments come after they awarded an honorary doctorate to the former Diplock and Supergrass Judge Lord Hutton.

Mr Ferguson said:

"Hutton has a record over a period of thirty years of representing all that was wrong with the judiciary and the criminal justice system in the six counties.

"In 1973 when, representing the Ministry of Defence at the Widegery Tribunal he justified the actions of the Paras in Derry when they murdered 13 unarmed civilians. He has since stood by the discredited findings of Widegery,

"In 1978, he defended the British government against the allegations of torture against internees, a case taken by the Irish government. Three years later he acquitted a British soldier who drove into a group of teenagers in Derry killing two of them.

"Hutton was a prominent defender of the supergrass system, and in 1984 sentenced 10 men to a total of 1001 years, on the word of supergrass Robert Quigley. All were later cleared.

"He was also the judge who in 1986 acquitted RUC man Nigel Hegarty, who had shot and killed John Downes at a rally in West Belfast after he opened fire with plastic bullets on civilians at a sit-down protest.

"In the early 1990s at the trial of two Royal Marines charged with murdering Fergal Caragher in a shooting incident in Cullyhanna in 1990, he again acquitted the soldiers even though he admitted they might have been lying.

"And it was Hutton who was directly involved in the Brian Nelson affair. A week before Nelson's trial, which risked exposing British collusion with unionist death squads, Hutton and the trial judge met John Major. Nelson was then offered a deal to plead guilty to sample charges and he served just a few years in prison. The result of this was that the families of those murdered through collusion are still trying to seek the truth around the deaths of their loved ones.

"The decision of the Ulster University to give an individual with such a past an honorary doctorate is nothing sort of a disgrace. It is grossly offensive to nationalists and republicans studying at the university and the wider community from where they come. The Ulster University need to reconsider this decision." ENDS

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Speaking during a Dáil debate on the European Parliament Elections (Amendment) Bill 2003, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Local Government Arthur Morgan T.D. called on the government to stop mutating the PRSTV system through the creation of three seat constituencies. Deputy Morgan proposed that that the island Ireland be considered as one EU constituency electing members under a closed PR list system.

Deputy Morgan said: "The criteria for a just electoral system should allow for the election of a true representation of all the groups in society. The bill before the House by mutating the PRSTV system through the creation of 3 seat constituencies does not achieve this goal.

"The steady growth in the number of three seat constituencies at both Dáil and EU level is in contradiction to the original intention and the main purpose of PRSTV system. When originally developed the PR system with multi-seat constituencies was envisaged as a positive system of accommodating minorities. The PRSTV system has been diluted substantially through the selective redrawing of constituency boundaries such as that contained in this Bill and the reduction in constituency size in terms of members elected from nine and seven seat constituencies to five-, four- and three-seaters."

Deputy Morgan went on to outline the primary proposals contained in a comprehensive submission which Sinn Féin made to the Constituencies Commission in relation to the Constituencies for the European Parliamentary elections.

"Sinn Féin is proposing the whole island be considered as one EU constituency electing members under a closed PR list system. This would be the most proportional outcome possible and could help ensure the other already outlined objectives of fair electoral systems such as reducing the barriers to smaller parties, maximising electoral participation while ensuring parliamentary diversity. We would for the first time have a system where vote share translates equitably into seat shares for the whole island."

Deputy Morgan concluded by outlining Sinn Fein's support for the ending of the dual mandate between the EU and the Dáil. He said:

"Sinn Féin supported the ending of the Dual mandate between local government and the Dáil. We also support the ending of the dual mandate between Leinster House and the European Parliament. Both parliaments will be better served by the separation of the positions of T.D. and MEPS. It will allow elected members to devote their full attention to one elected body and it will facilitate better governance at Dáil and European levels. However the ending of this dual mandate should be brought about immediately and not be delayed until after the next Dáil election." ENDS

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Speaking during statements on the Third Interim Report of the Commission to Enquire into Child Abuse Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Seán Crowe TD described as shameful the role of the Department of Education in dealing with the Commission.

Deputy Crowe said, "I would like to begin tonight by joining other members in saying that full credit is due to Justice Laffoy for her role in both the work of the Commission and in bringing the negligence of the Department of Education to light. Her report is a terrible indictment of both the Department of Education and of the religious institutions, who have been allowed, and it is only barely a figure of speech, to get away with murder.

"The Department has failed to provide the support the Commission needed. Instead of being an ally in finding the truth, the Department has been an obstacle, whose files have to be torn from the hands of civil servants. Where there should have been co-operation, there was outright opposition. The Government wasted €650,000 in preparing what was deemed to be an inadequate response last June to the committee's order for discovery.

"Reading the reactions from the survivors lobby groups to the most recent report they seem to be unanimous on one issue, they all believe that the Department‚s position is no longer tenable. The conflict of interest between the Department and the Commission is something members on this side of the House have repeatedly pointed to. It must surely be clear by now that the Department cannot continue to be the body that provides the funding while at the same time fighting the Commission every step of the way when its own role and conduct in the investigation has been such a disgrace.

"The role of the religious orders in this is, with few exceptions, no less shameful than that of the Department. They have fought the Commission every single step of the way, contesting every fact, disputing even what Justice Laffoy refers to as matters 'of indisputable historical fact.' If some religious orders are prepared to co-operate I do not see why the rest cannot when the Government has already made them exempt from paying any more than €128 million.

"Between the religious orders and the Department of Education we have what almost appears to be collusion in making it as difficult as possible for the Commission to arrive at the truth in this matter.

"It is time for Minister Dempsey to go, time for the Department of Education to be taken out of this process. Whatever shards of credibility it had left when Justice Laffoy resigned, it has none now. While the Department remains involved, the Commission will proceed without the confidence of the victims, the body politic or the people." ENDS

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A Sinn Féin delegation consisting of Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Bairbre de Brún today met with the US Special Envoy Mitchell Reiss in the Culloden Hotel in Belfast. Speaking after the meeting Ms de Brún said:

"We met with Mr Reiss this morning as part of our ongoing engagement with the two governments, the other parties and the US Administration. This was Mr Reiss' first visit to Ireland since he replaced Richard Hass as the US Special Envoy.

"We impressed upon him our belief that there is an effort being made to present the current difficulties as a problem of IRA violence and of the parties refusing to share power. This is false. Sinn Féin has set our face against violence, and the parties which refuse to share power are the unionists.

" An added difficulty is the refusal by the governments, especially the British, to deliver on their commitments and we again raised the issue of collusion and the failure to act on the Cory Report at this morning's meeting.

" The Good Friday Agreement was endorsed in referenda by a substantial majority of our people. The Agreement, as the recent Assembly election showed, continues to have the overwhelming support of our people. The governments need to keep faith with that." ENDS

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Speaking during Questions to the Taoiseach in the Dáil today Sinn Féin's Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin called on the Government to challenge the British Government's refusal to co-operate with the Barron Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings. Deputy Ó Caoláin revealed to the house that he had received a response, which he described as 'extraordinary', from the British Government in which they stated contrary to Justice Barron's report that they had provided all relevant information from their files. He also questioned whether or not there had been an investigation in to the files that had gone missing from the Department of Justice relating to the bombings, which he said was a 'national scandal'.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"The Taoiseach will recall that my Sinn Féin colleagues and I, in the presence of the Taoiseach, raised the Barron Report with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair at our meeting in Downing Street on 17 December. The British Prime Minister promised to reply to me in detail. I have since received a letter of less than 200 words from British Minister of State Jane Kennedy. I have the letter here and it actually claims that all relevant information from British files has already been passed to Justice Barron. Does the Taoiseach agree with that extraordinary statement?

"Judge Barron states in his Report that the British Government's representatives told the Inquiry, at a meeting in London, that there are some 68,000 files of possible relevance in the Northern Ireland Office alone. Yet the Barron inquiry received only a ten-page letter from the British Secretary of State in February 2002 and a similar follow-up letter.

"Justice Barron says that no copies of original documents were supplied and that the scope of his report is limited as a result of the shortage of information from the British.

"Has the Taoiseach urged Tony Blair to ensure the release all relevant files? And crucially, has he urged him to instruct all those from the British side who are, or may be, summoned by the Oireachtas Committee to attend its hearings?

"As regards the ongoing, unfolding events in the joint committee's sittings, I note today, again in terms of Mr. Justice Barron's attendance, the line of questioning, what steps were taken by the Taoiseach, his Department and the various Departments with responsibility to try to establish what happened to the missing files? I note from the engagement taking place in the committee shortly before the resumption of business in the House this afternoon that not only were these files missing in original form but the duplicates at another location were also missing, which is an incredible position. Were they stolen, deliberately lost or destroyed? What steps have been taken by the Government to try to discover the files' location? If files relevant to any of the other tribunals or major investigative processes taking place in this State or to any former Member of the House or any other area of interest were missing, would it not be a national scandal? Is it not, therefore, a scandal that we have not been able to establish definitively what happened to the files which were in the care of Departments and other arms of the State? ENDS

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice Issues Gerry Kelly has warned the British government 'not to consider extending proposals to change the burden of proof in certain trials and admit secret intelligence reports as evidence to the judicial system in the six counties'. Mr Kelly's remarks come after the British Home Secretary David Blunkett publicised these proposals while touring in India.

Mr Kelly said:

"Sinn Féin have been at the forefront of arguing with the British government to radically change the ethos and direction of the criminal justice system in the North. Decades of repressive legislation have resulted in hundreds of wrongful convictions and a complete lack of confidence in the judiciary amongst the nationalist and the republican constituency.

"David Blunkett's proposals to hold secret trials and use intelligence reports as factual evidence are extremely dangerous and should be opposed by anyone with an interest in human rights or with a desire to see a fair and impartial criminal justice system.

"I would take this opportunity to warn the British government that their focus regarding the six counties has to be to remove repressive legislation not reinforce it. The first Criminal Justice Bill they produced was not up to scratch. We have since returned to it and hope to see significant improvements in the amended version. Certainly these proposals from David Blunkett can form no part of any future system here." ENDS

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Sinn Fein's EU Candidate for Dublin, Mary Lou McDonald today accused the Government of "passive indifference and inaction on the emergence of a two-speed EU." Referring to the coming February 18 "Big 3 Summit" between Britain, Germany, and France at which they will discuss a range of EU issues including economic growth, immigration and the proposed EU Constitution, McDonald said:

"This is not the first time that such meetings with selective agendas and selective invitees have occurred. Previous meetings led to an agreement between these same states on enhanced cooperation in the area of defence. This is the emerging elitist two tier Europe Sinn Fein have consistently argued against. Unfortunately, we don't have to wait until the proposed Constitution accelerates a two-speed Europe, it is a reality even today."

"And where is the Irish Government in all this? Nowhere.

"The best the Government can commit to is that it 'won't stand in the way' of those states seeking to exercise their dominance via enhanced cooperation. And the Government proved its deference and lack of political will when it stood back while Finland took the lead for the European neutrals in opposing the mutual defence clause in the draft Constitution - an issue that strikes to the heart of Irish foreign policy. That kind of passive indifference and inaction on the emergence of a two tier EU is not good enough. The people of this state deserve better.

"Especially during the Presidency we need our public representatives in Europe to actively campaign against the emergence of a two-tier Europe, and for an EU of equals. This elitist EU power bloc needs to be challenged to stop their end runs around the smaller states, and I urge the Taoiseach to show leadership by using the Presidency to do so." ENDS

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A Sinn Féin delegation led by party Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA Cllr John O'Dowd and Spokesperson on Children's Issues, Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Cllr Thomas O'Reilly will meet direct rule Health Minister Angela Smith today, Tuesday 3rd February 2004, at 4.30pm in Castle Buildings.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Cllr O'Dowd said:

"Sinn Fein will raise a number of issues with Angela Smith. There is widespread concern that the accountability deficit that has opened up is affecting the implementation of key service developments throughout the Health Care system.

"In particular there is concern that many of the key elements of the 'Developing Better Services' policy that focus on the Health Care Structures as opposed to hospital sites, have slipped off the agenda. This is bad not just for our health care system and the development of better services but also for people who rely on these services."ENDS

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Natural Resources, Martin Ferris TD is to question Minister Dermot Ahern on inconsistencies regarding earlier Dáil replies on the possible impact of landslides in the Pollathomas area on the proposed Corrib gas pipeline. Deputy Ferris has placed the question following a report to Mayo County Council which states that had the pipeline been in place at the time of the landslide on Dooncarton Hill last September, it would have potentially caused an environmental disaster.

Deputy Ferris said:

"Last October I placed a number of questions to the Minister regarding the possible impact of the landslide on the route of the proposed pipeline. In his replies, Minister Ahern stated that the landslide would not have impacted on the pipeline in any way. It is now clear in fact that had the pipeline been in place that the landslide might have had disastrous consequences for the area. It is also clear that the Minister was completely reliant on reports from Shell, the company responsible for the pipeline project, and that this is not an adequate basis for assessing the major risks associated with this project". ENDS

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An Fírínne (the victims group campaigning for the truth about collusion between British state agents and agencies and Unionist Death Squads in the killing of citizens) will tomorrow hold a mass picket at the headquarters of MI5 and at Tory Party Offices in central London.

100 relatives of those killed as a result of collusion will be in London to picket, for the first time, the government departments and agencies responsible for the policy of collusion. Hundreds of people were killed, and many more injured and maimed, as a result of collusion in what was a campaign of state sanctioned murder.

Itinerary

2pm MI5 HQ, Millbank

2.30pm Tory Party Headquarters

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Opening Remarks By Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP MLA to the Review of the Good Friday Agreement.

Failte.

The review as set out in the Good Friday Agreement is about improving the delivery of the Agreement. It was never envisaged that it would take place during a suspension of institutions - indeed the British government had no right to suspend the institutions, and had to step outside the Agreement to unilaterally take that power on themselves and I do not accept for one second the British Secretary of States defence of this action.

The reality at this time is that instead of stable political institutions with the people's elected representatives making decisions on important issues, which affect all our lives, across a range of social and economic issues; instead of a fully operational Assembly and all-Ireland institutions leading the delivery of change, advancing the equality agenda and championing human rights based society; we have continuing impasse.

It is almost three months since elections to the Assembly.

Those results show that the Good Friday Agreement continues to enjoy the substantial support of the majority of the people. Those who voted did so in the expectation that those they elected would be part of working institutions.

We are entitled therefore to ask the British Government to explain at this point the inconsistency between their assertion that the Agreement cannot be renegotiated and their failure to restore the political institutions which are the democratic core of the Agreement.

We are entitled also to ask the Democratic Unionist Party to explain how they intend to contribute to discussion on how best to implement the Agreement when they have declared their intention to subvert it.

The answers to such questions will at least allow the emergence of some clarity with respect to both the nature of and the likely outcome of the review. The review was never meant to deal with a process which is on hold so it is vital from the outset that we do not lend to any ambiguity about the purpose or expected outcome.

The review is not a renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. It is an opportunity to accelerate the process of change promised in the Agreement. It is an opportunity to re-endorse the Agreement. And yet we have parties to this review who are either in breach of the Agreement, ambiguous about the Agreement or determined to destroy it. But you are we welcome. Your presence here is implicit recognition of how, despite our differences, we can discuss these issues.

Sinn Féin is bringing a positive attitude to the review and we will proactively listen to the views of the other parties. We submitted a comprehensive agenda for discussion to the governments and have prepared detailed positions across these; including, the political institutions, the suspension powers, participation in NSMC and expansion of the Implementation Bodies, an All-Ireland Inter-Parliamentary Forum and All-Ireland Consultative Forum, the transfer of powers on policing and justice and many other matters.

The Review must address in particular the lack of progress on the equality and human rights front, identify the causes of this and seek a commitment from all to put it right.

It must address the failure of those in Ministerial Office to adhere to their Pledge of Office. It must deal with the need to define the duties of Ministerial Office, to include a requirement to attend Executive meetings or meetings of the North South Ministerial Council.

And of course it should also reflect on what is working well. It must consider for example the improvements recommended by the Procedures Committee and subsequently endorsed by the Assembly, including all the parties here.

Sinn Fein intends also to raise matters such as electoral registration, collusion, including the refusal of the British government to publish the Cory report, and the absence in many deprived areas, both unionist and nationalist working class neighbourhoods, of a real social economic peace dividend. These are matters directly linked to the Good Friday Agreement and which require focus and discussion and action taken.

Sinn Fein is prepared to play our full part in facing up to our responsibilities. I have set a peaceful direction for all republicans to follow and I reiterate that today.

There is also a heavy responsibility on the two governments - and especially on the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister - to provide the essential political leadership required to move the overall process on. As the leaders of the two governments and the joint and co-equal guarantors of the Agreement, it falls to them to marshal the pro-Agreement forces and implement a strategy to do this.That is the unambiguous desire of the electorate in returning 74 pro-Agreement candidates out of a total of 108.

Of course, Sinn Féin has its own responsibilities in this as the largest pro-Agreement party. The electorate has made clear in successive votes since 1998 that they oppose efforts to turn the clock back or to sustain a status quo, which is not an option. There is an onus on the British government to lift the suspension of the institutions and allow the process defined in the Agreement to take its course.

It also means that the two governments have to honour their obligations made in the Agreement, made in last years Joint Declaration and made in subsequent discussions. In order to advance this entire process of change the British government needs to press ahead with all its commitments to secure peoples rights and entitlements. This has not happened. Instead the tactical approach of the last 5 years has encouraged the rejectionists.

This cannot continue.

To be effective this review must defend and accelerate the process of change promised in the Good Friday Agreement And we, sitting around this table must not lose sight of the fact that the Agreement, which as the culmination of an enormous effort by the two governments and the parties to tackle the causes of conflict, continues to hold the promise of a new beginning for everyone.

We should also take encouragement from the fact that we collectively, whatever about our differences, have transformed the situation. There has been huge progress made, not least through the efforts of the people in this room and those who support us on this island. ENDS

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Sinn Fein representative for Dublin South East, Daithi Doolan speaking at a press conference organised by Democracy and Public Services in Europe (DAPSE) called on the Irish government to use the Presidency to oppose the privatisation agenda in the Lisbon Agenda and defend public services.

Daithi Doolan said:

"The draft EU Constitution accelerates the commercialisation and privatisation of the health and education sectors within the EU, something which Sinn Féin strongly opposes. We are concerned that the removal of the requirement of unanimous voting will mean that important matters in relation to education and health will be decided by international trade agreements; the power and influence of member states would be drastically reduced. Such deals would move power away from the Parliament and would become the sole and exclusive responsibility of the EU Commission.

"The drive towards EU privatisation once more reinforces the Sinn Fein view that the European Union is encroaching on more and more areas of national sovereignty and the public sector within Ireland

"Sinn Fein calls upon the government to use the Presidency to oppose the privatisation agenda in the Lisbon Agenda, and to enhance social protection and defend public services. It should push for the EU-wide upwards harmonisation of workers‚ rights and for further EU equal rights instruments including a specific Gender Equality Directive and a Disability Directive."ENDS

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